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2008 Honda Accord Cpe
G.R. Whale

Introduction
Eight generations ago the Accord was Honda's biggest car but no one foresaw it as a large car. Enter the all-new 2008 Honda Accord, a mid-size sedan that's grown enough to move into the EPA's Large Car segment. Introduced at the same time, is an all-new, two-door Honda Accord coupe.

The all-new, 2008 Honda Accord continues refinement and adds more power, room, safety, and features-to-cost value. Content and engines determine the model designator, though all have the same roomy, functional cabins, array of safety equipment, and driving characteristics.

For 2008, the Accord is available with a choice of four-cylinder and V6 engines, two transmissions, and LX and EX trim levels. Further subsets include a new premium package that adds more convenience bits to an LX, and EX-L models that add leather and luxury features. (The hybrid model and V6 sedan with manual transmission have been dropped.)

The Accord is big on efficiency, be it getting the most power and range from a gallon of gas with the least emissions, making the largest interior available given the exterior space it takes up, or providing the smoothest, quietest ride possible in the lightest weight. Whether moving four people comfortably at 30 mpg or enjoying the long way home, the Accord is up to the task.

Anyone interested in a four-door sedan should consider the Accord, as only very modest budgets and those seeking substantial luxury and high performance couldn't meet those needs with one. Accord is not the perfect car in any single respect but it approaches that point in so many significant aspects you can't talk about family sedans without mentioning it. And if the past is any indicator, there's implicit reliability here.

The 2008 Honda Accord competes with the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6, Saturn Aura, and the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu. The extra space offered by the 2008 Accord means that shopping list might also now include the Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon and VW Passat.

The stylish, two-door 2008 Honda Accord coupe competes directly with the Nissan Altima coupe. Sportiest is the EX-L V6 Coupe with six-speed manual and V6, the only Accord with that combination; it happens to be the lightest V6 model, giving it the best power to weight ratio, and it comes with larger anti-roll bars and low-profile 18-inch tires and wheels. Model Lineup
The 2008 Honda Accord is offered in coupe and sedan forms, with three engine choices.

Accord LX sedans are equipped with a 177-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. The LX Sedan ($20,360) comes standard with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, power mirrors and door locks, variable intermittent wipers, tilt-and-telescoping steering column and illuminated wheel-mounted controls, folding rear seats, and an MP3/WMA/auxiliary input 160-watt sound system. The LX-P Sedan ($21,360) is an LX with a premium package that adds alloy wheels, a power driver's seat, power windows, security system, and chrome tailpipe. LX models come with a choice of five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission ($800).

The Accord EX Sedan ($23,060), EX Coupe ($23,160), and LX-S Coupe ($21,860) get a higher-revving, 190-hp version of the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. They come with five-speed manual or automatic transmission ($800). The EX Sedan is also available with the V6 and automatic ($25,960). The EX-L Coupe ($28,310) is available with the V6 and a choice of five-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission.

EX models add active noise cancellation and an in-dash CD changer, power moonroof, heated mirrors, an interface dial with scrolling, illuminated switch power windows, premium interior accents, driver power lumbar adjust, and 17-inch alloy wheels with P225/50 Michelin tires.

EX-L stands for leather on the seats and steering wheel, but the EX-L Sedan ($25,060), EX-L Coupe ($25,160) also get dual-zone automatic climate control, a 270-watt sound system with subwoofer, heated front seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror, compass and outside temperature display. The EX-L V6 Sedan ($28,060) and EX-L V6 Coupe ($28,310) add four-way power adjust for the front passenger seat. Honda's navigation system is packaged with voice-activation and steering wheel controls, Bluetooth, and XM satellite radio on the EX-L Sedan ($27,260), EX-L V6 Sedan ($30,260), and EX-L V6 Coupe ($30,510).

Safety equipment is standard, with six airbags, including two-stage front airbags, dual-chamber front side airbags, side curtain airbags; active front head restraints, electronic stability control, antilock brakes, and tire pressure monitors. Walkaround
This latest-generation Honda Accord stays true to its roots with contemporary yet conservative design highlighted by a strong character line that slopes down and forward like that of the Acura TL. Honda hallmarks like narrow windshield pillars and a low cowl for good forward visibility remain, and the rear door pillars share the kink popularized decades ago by BMW and becoming ever more frequent.

While you can see the hood and the top of the fenders where they meet the hood, the edges are not so visible; the swept-back light housings minimize protruding corners and ease maneuverability but exercise caution until you're certain where they are. Many modern design elements are the result of auto/pedestrian collision standards and the Accord is not immune, even the wiper arm mounts are designed to break away when hit.

Forward lights are aptly described as hawk-like and look fiercer on coupes because they use projector headlamps as opposed to the conventional reflector design on the sedans; V6 models include fog lamps. At the rear the lamp elements appear cut off at the style line rather than extending up to the top trunk seam. This contributes a sense of heaviness and more closely mirrors the princess rear end styling of the Acura RL rather than the taut crispness of the TL.

Following trends, the 2008 Accord is larger than any before, and although it competes in the mid-size market segment it is by EPA interpretation a large car. It is about five inches longer than a Camry or Altima, about the same length as a Maxima.

The coupe has grown similarly from the last Accord coupe but you won't confuse it with a large car. Virtually every dimension save width is 2-4 inches smaller outside than that of the sedan. The coupe is sleeker yet still fits the Accord mold. All coupes use projector headlights, body-color rocker panels and add a passenger side easy-entry feature for rear seat access. Interior
Honda (and Acura) owners will feel right at home in the new Accord, one reason repeat buyers account for a good chunk of sales. It is light and airy, spacious, with thoughtful layout and plenty of elbow room. Everything you touch feels right for the price, everything you need seems to be here, and everyone on board should be comfortable.

LX models provide pleasing design and materials and a variety of storage areas for modern conveniences and old-fashioned vices. Stepping up to an EX with leather adds features, but the basics like seat design and driver ergonomics are shared by all Accords.

The tilt-and-telescoping steering column provides a good range of adjustment to complement those available on the seat so all the masses can find a good driving position. There's a clear view all around outside, to the instrument panel with proven dial-and-needle gauges, and the information display or navigation screen is inset under a shade at the same height as the gauges; glare is controlled and it can be viewed with polarized glasses.

EX-L models come with leather on the seats, steering wheel, shifter and door panels. The EX-L leather appears of high quality and assembly as does the rest of the car. The driver's seat has multiple power adjustments and good support for the long haul or around-town errands.

Our only complaints with the Accord cabin were minor: The lumbar support on all front seats (regardless of power or upholstery) is stout and we occasionally wished for less of it; and the front seats have lots of room around them causing some slender pilots to say the door was too far away for a comfortable armrest or leg brace.

The extra width of the 2008 Accord translates directly into a wider cabin, especially in front. The center armrest was designed to be big enough for two adults to share without awkward glances.

Rear-seat passengers will have few complaints as few do in large cars. Seat cushions and backrest carry right out to the door without wheelwell intrusion, offer space for a six-footer to sit comfortably behind another one, and easy entry and egress. The center seat is better padded than many, and as such it loses a bit of headroom to the outer seats. There are no rear reading lamps.

Three interior colors are offered on the sedans, black, gray, and ivory, while the coupe goes black or ivory only. Although it may show dirt more, the ivory includes wood-look accents where the other colors make do with silver trim pieces, so the ivory interior comes across as more elegant.

Coupe models make use of the larger door panels by adding a return sweep and pull handle to the armrest trim.

Controls for lights and wipers are on stalks. Honda's graphics for the variable intermittent wipers are among the simplest: Rather than bars, lines or dots of differing size, the Accord uses one raindrop for long interval and three raindrops for more frequent wiping. The shifter is right at hand, and the proper handbrake has short travel.

Controls for sound, climate, and navigation are central below the navigation screen and vents. On lower-line models, the big round knob controls volume; on others it is the interface through which you work various menus. Even on fully equipped cars with navigation, the layout is less daunting than the number of buttons first suggests. One row of switches controls audio input (AM, XM, CD, etc.) and another row has six audio presets. Climate controls are to the sides, so you needn't wait to approve the legal disclaimer on the screen before you can ask for heat or air conditioning in extreme weather. Voice activation can handle a multitude of chores without a hand ever leaving the steering wheel.

All Accords except the LX sedan include active noise cancellation, but we were hard-pressed to notice the difference between LX and EX. Vibration and engine buzz are kept to a minimum on the four-cylinder engine and are negligible on V6, so all Accords come across as very quiet; with everything off and the windows and roof closed, tire and road noise come in first, but it's never anything more than background. Bottom line: The Accord is smooth and quiet with or without noise cancellation technology.

Trunk space is 14 cubic feet in a fairly useful shape, and the contents need not be heaved waist-high to load in. The rear seatbacks fold for more room. A lock is provided on the pass-through behind the armrest on some models. The DVD-drive on the upper edge of the trunk is somewhat protected by a stout steel band. Driving Impressions
The 2008 Honda Accord is an easy drive with good manners regardless of model, engine or transmission. It comes across as firmer than most Camry models but smoother and softer than the Altima.

The Accord LX 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine matches Nissan's 2.5-liter with a bit less fuss or raucousness, and a good deal more ponies than the Camry's four-cylinder. Since the Accord isn't too heavy, its 177 hp is plenty to keep up with the Joneses, whether you choose the manual or automatic. Every Accord compares well against competitors in terms of mileage and emissions, and runs on regular unleaded.

The EX models get the same basic 2.4-liter engine with some minor changes and a higher rev limit to bring 190 hp, clearly besting the competition (VW's Passat 2-liter turbo is the exception) with no degradation in economy or emissions. With the automatic this engine delivers instant downshifts and response for passing, and upshifts at full-throttle well before redline. The console-mounted shifter has no manual mode, and the detent between Drive and D3 is soft, so we found ourselves checking the dash indicator to make sure we had selected the most economical choice.

The five-speed manual has low clutch effort with smooth engagement, and the shifter offers good action if not the short, crisp movement of the Civic Si. But the manual allows you to get the most out of the engine, which cleanly revs happily right past the marked redline. That lets a 177-hp 2.4 manual keep up with a 190-hp 2.4 automatic. Of course, the 190-hp 2.4-liter and five-speed manual are the most entertaining of the four-cylinder models and will appeal to that segment of the Accord audience that enjoys driving and believes shifting is done with hands and feet, not thumbs.

If you don't know whether to choose the 177-hp or 190-hp version (setting aside trim considerations) ask yourself how often you floor the throttle and run your engine to redline: If the answer lies between never and seldom the 177-hp will prove quite satisfactory.

In terms of fuel economy, all Accord sedans with four-cylinder engines are EPA-rated 22/31 mpg City/Highway with the manual, 21/30 mpg with the automatic. Four-cylinder coupes are rated 22/31 mpg with the manual, 21/30 mpg with the automatic. V6 sedans are rated 19/29 mpg. V6 coupes are rated 19/28 mpg with automatic, 17/25 mpg with the six-speed manual.

On EX V6 models, a new 3.5-liter engine brings 268 hp with a five-speed automatic, matching the Camry V6 and just a shade behind the Altima's Z-car-based engine and continuously variable transmission. It's a smooth engine and quieter than the Altima's, more than adequate for any purpose, and uses the latest version of Honda's Variable Cylinder Management (VCM).

Like GM and Chrysler systems designed to save gas on big V8s, VCM changes the number of engine cylinders working at any given time and load to save fuel. The previous example switched off three cylinders (half the V6) when they weren't needed, but this new one changes between six, four, and three cylinders for more fuel-stretching choices. The system is completely automatic and unknown to the driver except for two things: The Eco light illuminates on the dash when the system is on, and there's a slight hunting sensation as it switches back-and-forth between four and three cylinders at certain speeds, but you'll need to be paying attention to notice that.

Coupes with the 190-hp four-cylinder manual or automatic or the VCM V6 automatic use the same powertrain setups as the sedans. However, the V6 used in the coupe with the manual six-speed transmission is a different engine. While size and output are the same, it uses a different intake system for stronger midrange and no VCM because its intended buyer isn't springing for the sportiest model to save gas by letting pistons coast along for the ride.

The softest-riding Accord is the LX by virtue of 16-inch tires with a larger sidewall, and the mildest suspension calibration. It's also the lightest and best balanced model. Not as mellow as the Camry but gentler than much of the competition, the Accord LX handles bad roads with aplomb and basically goes where it's pointed. Electronic stability control will help get it back in line if you point it wrong. The Accord LX stays relatively flat in the corners, doesn't nosedive under braking, and makes stable transitions working down a winding road or through city clutter. Steering is light, direct, and makes quick work of a U-turn, though there isn't as much feedback about how hard the front tires are working as some Camry versions and all Altima models offer.

Accord EX models receive very slightly firmer suspension calibrations but most of what you'll notice comes from the lower profile tires on 17-inch wheels: lane divider dots, expansion joints, bridge seams, manhole covers and so on. Apart from slightly quicker response to steering and braking, the EX is essentially the same easy-going Accord. Trips of any duration are accommodated comfortably, with a nice compromise between the isolated, creamy Camry and the adrenaline-induced Altima. Enthusiasts could live happily with an Accord sedan serving as a spouse's daily commuter, or they could opt for a V6 manual coupe.

In general the coupe models trade a smidge of ride comfort for greater handling precision and grip. Most of the change comes from larger antiroll bars and lower weight since tire choices mirror sedans.

The closest successor to Acura's defunct CL Type-S coupe, the Accord coupe with a V6 and manual gearbox has a character all its own. The engine snarls and growls under a heavy foot, the shifter and clutch have more weight behind them, and the 235/45YR18 wheel and tire package adds another level to crispness and grip. Apart from normal coupe drawbacks such as a smaller back seat and trunk, its rarity may contribute to the V6 six-speed's dilemma: The last-generation cars often carried a significant dealer markup. Summary
All-new, the 2008 Honda Accord impresses with what you don't see, don't feel, and don't hear. There's no gee-whiz gadget, two-tone animal-on-animal upholstery, or 400-hp engine to get worked up about. There's also next to no learning curve to operate it, no weak spots in the powertrain, no unnecessary or intrusive noise, no bad manners in how it responds to driver direction, next to nothing bad for the environment, and no excuse for not asking directions since you can do that without winding down a window. It's a case where a lack of superlative aspects (and the frequent compromises accompanying them) is a very good thing. In short, the new Honda Accord is a great midsize sedan. It's also available as a stylish, trouble-free coupe

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale filed this report from Santa Monica, California.

Model as tested
Honda Accord EX-L Sedan ($25,060)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Marysville, Ohio; Sayama, Japan
Destination charge
635
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
20360
Price as tested
27895
Options as tested
voice-activated navigation

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Honda Accord LX Sedan ($20,360); LX-P Sedan ($21,360); LX-S Coupe ($21,860); EX Sedan ($23,060); EX Coupe ($23,160); EX-L Sedan ($25,060); EX-L Coupe ($25,160); EX V6 Sedan ($25,960); EX-L V6 Sedan ($28,060); EX-L V6 Coupe ($28,310)
Safety equipment (standard)
two-stage front airbags, dual-chamber front side airbags, side curtain airbags, active front head restraints; electronic stability control, antilock brakes, tire pressure monitors, daytime running lights
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
2.4-liter dohc 16-valve inline-4
Transmissions
5-speed manual

Specifications as Tested
leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, power steering, power disc brakes, power windows/locks/heated mirrors, moonroof, tilt-and-telescope steering wheel w/illuminated controls, heated front seats, power driver's seat, sliding-top console, cruise control, floor shift, active noise cancellation, 17-inch alloy wheels, 270-watt sound system/CD changer, auto-dimming rearview mirror, six airbags, electronic stability control

Engine & Transmission
Engine
2.4-liter dohc 16-valve inline-4
Drivetrain type
front-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
190 @ 7000
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
21/31
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/disc with ABS, EBD, Brake Assist
Suspension, front
independent, coil springs
Tires
P225/50VR17
Suspension, rear
independent, coil springs

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
39.0/56.6/42.5
Head/hip/leg room, rear
37.2/54.3/37.2

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
14.0
Wheelbase
110.2
Length/width/height
194.1/72.7/58.1
Turning circle
37.7
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
N/A
Track, front/rear
62.2/62.2
Ground clearance
3386
Curb weight


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