The beauty of the 2008 Honda Accord Coupe first struck us when we saw a picture of the car on an advertisement in an airport last year. Since then, we've seen a few Accord Coupes driving around, and we've been as impressed with the real thing as the photograph. During our review week with the Accord Coupe, we found it to be as exciting as the Accord Sedan is dull. Of course, we had the top trimmed EX-L Accord Coupe with its V-6 engine and six-speed manual transmission, much more fun than the five-speed automatic in the sedan.
Beyond its good looks, our Accord Coupe also had the navigation package and a set of cabin gadgets we've been impressed with in plenty of other Hondas. Like the Accord Sedan, it adds Bluetooth cell phone integration. Although the navigation system and other cabin gadgets aren't as cutting edge as they could be, they still work very well for running errands or exploring unfamiliar areas.
Test the tech: Local knowledge competition
To test the 2008 Honda Accord Coupe's tech, we used a modified version of our local knowledge test we previously tried on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK550. In that test, we gave the navigation system a destination in San Francisco, then drove our preferred route and counted how many times it tried to correct us. With the Accord Coupe, we first drove to a destination using our own route, then drove using the navigation system's suggested route, and compared how long each route took. City traffic would obviously be a factor on each route, but that is part of the test, and we would also use our aggressive city driving skills on each route to minimize our driving time.
Our first run involved a time-honored route, traditionally taken in a taxicab, from Houston's, a bar and grill nearby CNET's old headquarters, to the Dovre Club, a bar in the Mission district. This route would take us from the northeast corner of San Francisco down to a central southern area. While it doesn't cover a lot of miles, it does run through the most congested areas of the city.
For our preferred route, we made most of our way south on just three streets: Battery Street, Gough Street, and Valencia Street, with a quick jog west on Broadway Street to avoid the downtown area. We generally made good time, except for slow traffic on Valencia Street. Gough Street, with its steep incline and stoplights, challenged the Accord Coupe. The car required some finesse on these hill starts--with its V-6 the front tires easily spun free. We practiced giving it just enough gas as we let out the clutch, keeping the car from rolling back and the front tires from spinning. The hand brake is conveniently placed on the console to assist in these maneuvers, but we didn't have to resort to it. This route, according to Google maps, was 5.5 miles, and took us 22 minutes and 49 seconds to complete.
When we got back to Houston's and found the Dovre Club in the navigation system, it gave us a route along the other side of downtown, along The Embarcadero, then a jog down Harrison to the freeway for some more southeasterly distance. The last part of this route took us along Cesar Chavez and then up Valencia Street, ending across the street from the Dovre Club. We slogged through traffic on The Embarcadero, then dealt with more on the freeway. This route was 6 miles, a half mile longer than our route, and took longer, at 24 minutes and 2 seconds.
The second route we tried represented a standard commuter route, going from 24th and Church streets in Noe Valley to CNET's downtown headquarters. For our preferred route, we kept it simple, taking just four streets: Church, 18th, Folsom, and Second. We started off poorly, though, getting stuck behind a slow driver on Church. Eighteenth also proved slow because of traffic, but we got to push the Accord Coupe harder on Folsom Street, using its maneuverability to get around slower traffic and make some time. This 3.5 mile route took us 18 minutes and 9 seconds to complete.
When we plugged our destination into the navigation system, it took us to Dolores Street, a good choice as it has more lanes than Church Street, to which it runs parallel. But then it put us on Market Street for most of the trip, something we consider a very bad choice as you have to share this road with trolley cars, plus a lot of foot, bicycle, and car traffic. The last couple of blocks on Market, before our turn onto Second Street, were especially slow. This route was 3.6 miles, which took us 20 minutes and 14 seconds to drive.
Our preferred routes were faster than the navigation system's for each test, but only by 2 minutes. You could argue that the difference is negligible, but we found some of the roads the navigation system chose, such as Market Street, to be particularly poor. Fortunately, the system in the Accord Coupe recalculates quickly if you go your own way.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.