2008 Honda Accord Coupe and Sedan

Regis Lefebure

But while the subwoofer and the wheels make their case for a Gen Y buyer, the Accord coupe drives like a much more mature car. Thanks to a standard strut-tower brace and reasonably stiff suspension, this car doesn't mind corners, but it's not begging to find the nearest autocross course, either. Instead, refinement is the name of the game, and once you close that surprisingly heavy door and settle behind the three-spoke wheel, you tend to forget the sporty exterior and sink into the soothing embrace of the Accord cocoon.

All tactile sensations are supremely satisfying. BMW and Porsche could learn a thing or two from the Accord's shifter. It's light, yet it snicks definitively into each gear, which is unfortunately a rare combination--most gear levers with such delicate action commensurately lack feel. Also, unlike recent four-cylinder Hondas, the V-6 Accord doesn't artificially hang onto revs between gears--they drop off naturally, and thus the Accord is far easier to drive smoothly than is, say, a Civic Si.

The Accord powertrain hierarchy starts with a 177-hp four-cylinder and works up to a190-hp engine that assumes the crown of "most powerful Honda Accord four-banger ever sold in the States," but the new 268-hp V-6 is the power champ by a wide margin. Mash the throttle in first gear, and the traction-control light blinks until you're hooked up in second, but the only aural notice of your kinetic drama is a distant growl from the exhaust. If Honda can do active noise cancellation, how about an active exhaust, so that, at 6000 rpm, the V-6 doesn't sound like it's in the next town over?

I guess complaining about overrefinement is missing the point, though. Obviously, Honda knows exactly how to build a raw car--the S2000 is proof of that--but in this case it chose a different direction. What Honda has arrived at should please Accord loyalists while luring new buyers. I suspect that Acura dealers are the only people who will seriously dislike the new Accord--when there's only a 21-hp gap between the everyman Accord and the nearly $50,000 Acura RL, you're beginning to run into a branding problem.

Overall, the Accord coupe brings to mind a recent morning news segment I saw about "glamping," wherein wealthy vacationers travel to the wilderness and stay in tents that look all Oregon Trail and minimalist on the outside but replicate a posh hotel once you step inside the flap. There's a similar schism going on with the Accord--the styling screams that you're roughing it sports car-style, with attendant cabin noise and focus on speed over luxuries, but once you're behind the wheel, it's five-star all the way.

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