2008 Honda Accord EX-L Coupe review: 2008 Honda Accord EX-L Coupe

In the cabin
The interior of the 2008 Honda Accord Coupe impressed us with its materials and fit, and we could find very little difference between it and the interior of an Acura, Honda's upscale brand. We like how Honda took a fresh look at designing the dashboard and integrating the navigation system. The LCD goes from a touch screen, as in older Hondas, to a unit set deep in the dash that avoids glare. A big multifunction control knob sits front and center below the LCD, which controls most car functions and cabin gadgets on the screen. It's not always the most intuitive, but it works well enough.

Honda set the LCD deep in the dashboard to protect it from glare.

You can use the knob or a voice command to control the navigation system, or a combination of both. We've raved about this voice-command system before. Most of its commands are intuitive, and it has on-screen help to show you the available commands. When entering destinations, we used voice command until we got to a section where we had to enter place names by letter by letter. It was much quicker to start using just the multifunction knob at that point. One thing we particularly like about this navigation system is its full points-of-interest database, which includes every business address. We entered CNET, and it found our corporate headquarters. We entered Dovre Club, and it found our favorite bar. Route guidance gives adequate warning for turns, but offers no advanced features, such as text-to-speech for street names. The navigation system also doesn't have cutting-edge features such as traffic conditions.

The Accord Coupe's audio system was adequate. We like that it included a subwoofer and an in-dash six-disc changer that can read MP3 CDs, but it doesn't show ID3 tag information for MP3 CDs, and there is no iPod integration option. Beyond the disc changer, it has XM satellite radio and an auxiliary jack conveniently placed in the console. Voice command works well for choosing music--we quickly learned how to ask for specific satellite radio channels. Of course, its voice command doesn't work as well as Ford Sync, which we saw most recently in the Mercury Sable. Audio quality was decent, with good bass provided by the subwoofer, but the highs lacked brightness.

Two sets of buttons on the steering wheel control the two voice-command systems.

The other major cabin system in our Accord Coupe was Bluetooth cell phone integration. Honda has improved this system from previous incarnations we've seen. Unfortunately, it still relies on a separate voice-command system, with its own set of buttons on the steering wheel. We paired an iPhone to it, one of the phones listed as compatible on the Honda HandsFreeLink site, and were able to import the iPhone's address book into the car. Using the multifunction knob, we were easily able to access the phone book and choose a contact to call. In older Hondas, you had to know the number you wanted to call, and use voice command to call out the numbers. You can still do that in the 2008 Honda Accord Coupe, but it's much easier to find an entry in the stored phone book.

Under the hood
Although the cabin electronics in the 2008 Honda Accord Coupe are identical with those in the 2008 Honda Accord Sedan, the driving experience is very different. Both get power from a 3.5-liter V-6 producing 268 horsepower and 248 foot-pounds of torque. But where the sedan's power is held in check by the five-speed automatic transmission, the coupe's six-speed manual lets you use everything the engine has to give. Honda manages to keep the torque steer to a minimum--we felt it mostly during high rpm shifts from first gear to second gear. This stick is the same close ratio transmission used in the Civic Si, and we like its precise feel. Sixth gear offers a good gas-saving option for long freeway runs, while second and third work for sport driving.

With a six-speed manual like this, most other faults can be forgiven.

To really test out the Accord Coupe, we took it along some of our favorite roads, giving it a workout in the twisties. This is a car that can handle the hills, with its V-6 producing enough power to get us through the turns and up the inclines. However, while its steering is responsive, it had more oversteer than we would care for in a sporty car like this. Around the hairpins we had to crank the wheel over a few times to make the turn, but with a downshift to second before the turn we had plenty of power on the other side. The suspension felt tuned more for sport than comfort, as the Accord Coupe stayed relatively flat in the corners. Over rough pavement in the city, though, we felt every vibration.

As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the Accord Coupe with 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, quite a step-down from the automatic Accord Sedan's 19 mpg city, 29 mpg highway rating. During the city driving for our tech test, we observed an average all the way down to 16.6 mpg, but our overall rating was comfortably within the EPA range, at 20.1mpg. It's not a stellar rating, but still better than many other cars with 3.5-liter V-6 engines. The Accord Coupe also gets a worse emissions rating than the Accord Sedan. Where the latter came in at a very impressive PZEV rating from the California Air Resources Board, the Accord Coupe only earns a ULEV II, still good, but not quite as impressive.

In sum
The 2008 Honda Accord Coupe we tested, with the technology package, V-6 engine, and EX-L trim, is a top-of-the-line model and goes for $30,510. Its $635 destination charge puts the total at $31,145. You can also opt for the 2.4-liter four-cylinder EX-L version with the technology package, which goes for $27,360, but the manual transmission in that version is only a five speed. The technology package isn't available at the lesser EX or LX-S trim levels.

Although the Accord Coupe didn't have any over-the-top tech, we really enjoyed our time with it. We think it looks great and drives well, while the technology package offers a lot of useful gear. We would appreciate a better-sounding stereo, but our cabin tech rating is high for the Accord Coupe. We also give it high marks for performance, as we enjoyed the driving experience, only knocking it down some for mileage and emissions that rank below the Accord Sedan's. But we also love its looks and give it top marks for design. Although 30 grand is on the high side for an Accord, few cars give you this much tech and power for the money.

What you'll pay

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