First things first: Aside from cosmetic exterior changes - new grille/front bumper treatment, different wheels covers and a new trim level - the 2011 edition of the Honda Accord Coupe is pretty much the same as the 2010 model.
It still offers buyers the choice of either a four-cylinder engine or a 271-horsepower V-6, and you can still choose either a manual or automatic transmission. While the latter comes with five speeds, the former is available as either a five- or six-speed. My tester this time around had a six-speed manual mated to the V-6. It was also the EX-L Navi model, which is the top of the range.
And it's a little hot rod. At 1,550 kilograms, it's the heaviest version of this model, but the free-revving V-6, coupled with an easy-shifting six-speed, makes it a quick car. I consistently recorded (unofficial) 0-100 km/h times in the seven-eight second range, which is comparable to, oh, the VW GTI and the Ford Mustang V-8.
It may be civilized and refined, but the V6 version of the Accord Coupe is definitely a performance sleeper.
And a word about the transmission. Usually, with a vehicle of this type, I'm a proponent of automatic gearboxes. They just seem more in keeping with the overall character of the car. But in this case, the manual is so user-friendly and easy to get along with, I recommend it whole-heartedly.
I don't think there's a better-designed drivetrain than this on the market; the gears are well-spaced, throws are short, clutch action is silky-smooth and shift points appropriate for the lively V-6 engine. In fact, the manual is just as driveable as the automatic, with the added dimension of better performance.
Curiously, the automatic returns better fuel economy, but, according to Honda's web site, there is no price difference between the two.
Elsewhere, this version of the Accord Coupe has a high level of comfort. Standard kit includes leather interior, heated front seats, fog lights, a rear deck-mounted spoiler and, of course, the navi system.
In terms of creature comforts and overall interior ambience, you could be behind the wheel of an Acura and not know the difference. I found headroom to be at a premium, and back-seat access is typically awkward, with little elbow room once you're back there, but that comes with the territory when you buy a two-door coupe, right?
As for the navi system, I'm still a bit of a Luddite with these things, and would argue that you can get the same driving experience without one, and if you really need something to guide you around, you can pick up an aftermarket unit from Garmin or Tom-Tom that'll work just fine, for a lot less money. Or how about a map made out of paper? Unfortunately, you don't seem to be able to get the Accord Coupe V-6 without the navi system.
I might as well address my other main complaint here: road noise. At any speeds over, oh, 80 km/h, various noises start to seep into the interior. My tester was shod with P235/45R 18 all-season tires, and they made a racket once you got rolling, but Honda's Active Noise Cancellation system doesn't seem to be doing its job and highway noise is disturbingly obvious.
Nor am I much of a fan of the revised look of the Accord Coupe. Because of its larger dimensions, the new front-end treatment seems to work better on the sedan, and were I in the market for this kind of car, I'd have to choose the four-door version over this one, but that's just me. By way of comparison, the Nissan Altima Coupe is an infinitely better-looking car, as is the Infiniti G37 Coupe. Decent-sized trunk though: 338 litres.
That said, the Accord Coupe will deliver better handling than its sedan counterpart, thanks to slightly firmer suspension components and its shorter wheelbase. Torque steer, which is often an issue with front-drive cars with this much power, is well under control, and the car has an overall nimbleness and nice sense of balance. Backing the thing up is a bit of a hassle, however, and parallel parking takes on a whole new dimension of difficulty because of the high rear deck.
Which kind of begs the question: who is buying the Accord Coupe? It's definitely not one of the company's best-selling models, and is in a kind of marketing no-man's land. Is it a performance car? Is it a luxury two-door? In a word, yes.
Thanks to its V6, this iteration of the Accord Coupe will surprise you with its agility and performance, but if you're looking for a stylish two-door that doesn't take up as much room as the Accord sedan, and you don't really care about winning stoplight derbies, the base, four-cylinder model starts at $9,000 less.
2011 Honda Accord Coupe V-6 EX-L Navi
Type: Mid-size, two-door coupe
Base Price: $35,890; as tested: $37,440
Engine: 3.5-litre V-6
Horsepower/torque: 271 hp/251 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.9 city/7.6 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Nissan Altima Coupe, Infiniti G37 Coupe, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, BMW 128i, Audi A5 Coupe
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