Dubai, UAE. crankandpiston takes the new V6 Honda Accord Coupe for a spin, and considers 276bhp from a 3.5-litre Earth Dreams V6, the new grungy look, and why Honda really has its work cut out in the GCC.
The launch of the all-new Accord marks a key moment for Honda. Not only is the 2013 model the ninth generation of one of the company’s longest running lines – debuting as it did back in 1976 – but pressure for the new boy to succeed is enormous. By 2016, Honda is looking to increase sales to 70,000 units in the region, and sees both the saloon and Accord coupe providing 70 per cent of that figure.
An impressive claim, especially when we consider the expected impact of the new Civic, which has just been unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show and will arrive in the region later in the year. More over, mid-size saloon competition for the new Accord includes not only the Volkswagen Passat – which crankandpiston took for a spin across South Carolina, US – but also the Nissan Altima and the Toyota Camry. Given the pull the latter two enjoy in the GCC (scarcely a taxi pulls up on the street in the region without one of these badges on the bonnet), this looks a tall order for Honda.
With the all-new Accord then, Honda has taken an aggressive approach, and one that is all too clear from the looks alone. Developing on from the grungy expression of the preceding Accord, thanks to sleeker headlights and a more imposing front grille, the new model boasts sharpened body ripples, more aggressively styled air intakes in the front bumper, and accentuated bodylines that run the length of the vehicle.
Completing the new look are new high performance LED headlights, a first for any Honda model, and some pretty swanky 18-inch alloys. It’s a look that works, giving the Accord a new air of aggression and character, especially with the Still Night Pearl paint finish on our Coupe test model.
On the inside, this newfound character is a little trickier to find. Despite the two-tone black and white leather seating on this EX Coupe package, it’s traditional Honda in the cabin, with comfort and practicality taking the lead. Finely stitched leather upholstery and carbon effect trim offer a stylish if not overly exciting look, while an uncluttered centre cluster makes navigating your way around the technology available pretty straightforward. This is aided by a new eight-inch intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID) touchscreen, which makes its first appearance just below the SatNav display screen on the dash and again, is easy to use.
Some slightly plasticky surfaces are a little disappointing – especially given the V6 Accord Coupe’s $35k-ish starting price – and the wheel mounted paddle shifts do feel bulky and awkward. As is typical with Honda, room in both the front and back is impressive, and especially so in the saloon model. Head and legroom are never an issue (remarkable considering the Accord’s overall length has dropped by 60mm), and improved Standard Active Noise Control mean the cabin is very civilised. There is bad news for the front passenger though, since electronic seating controls are only available for the driver.
One particularly neat new introduction is Honda’s optional LaneWatch, which uses cameras mounted in the wing mirrors to show the driver potential blind spots on the centre display screen. Simple and very clever, but the fact that the system is only activated when the indicators are turned on might prove a problem for some Middle East drivers, to whom indicators are more a novelty than a day-to-day regularity.
As for power, the new Accord also marks the first time the company’s Earth Dreams moniker (which brings with it a new Econ economy function) has been used on its production vehicles. Customers can choose from a 177bhp 2.4-litre inline four-cylinder unit, but our test Coupe model boasts a slightly beefier 3.5-litre Earth Dreams V6, which produces 276bhp and 250lb ft of torque. The grunt from which is pretty encouraging. Though the full effect of the torque doesn’t kick in until nearly 5000rpm, and all 276 horses won’t be neighing in unison until over a 1000rpm above that, the new V6 still offers decent poke throughout the rev range. Punch the accelerator and there’s enough oomph to push you into the leather with insistence. Changes to the six-speed transmission are equally solid, and in manual mode you’ll rarely falter with shifts despite the slightly clunky nature of the wheel-mounted paddles.
The brakes on our test model are a little tricky to get the hang of at first, with very little feel until the anchors are really thrown out. In fairness though, since our brand new test model has only 40km on the clock, it’s difficult to judge the brakes too harshly before they’ve been fully scrubbed in.
The new bodyshell now boasts 55.8 per cent use of high-tensile steel, which both reduces the overall weight of the vehicle by 26kg and makes the chassis much stiffer. Coupled with a wheelbase 25mm shorter than the Accord’s predecessor, handling – theoretically – in the new model should be improved.
Weighty steering provided a solid connection with the front Michelins, while little lack of body roll meant balance though corners and the occasional roundabout was very promising. On occasion, especially when the throttle was opened early in tighter corner, the front wheels would try to wash wide. Not aggressively, but just enough that confidence to take the Accord by the scruff of the neck was a little dampened.
Certainly the new Accord Coupe is off to a good start, and one wonders how Honda’s latest blue-eyed boy will handle the twisties when push comes to shove. A more in-depth crankandpiston road test (who knows? Perhaps even with a little company…) would, I expect, reflect well on it.
|2013 Honda Accord Coupe|
|Engine:||In-Line-4-Cylinder / DOHC i-VTEC / 3471cc|
|Power:||276hp @ 6200rpm|
|Torque:||250lb ft @ 4900rpm|
|Front suspension:||Macpherson Strut|
|Rear suspension:||Independent multi-link|
|Brakes:||Ventilated discs (front) / discs (rear)|
|Wheels:||18 x 8J front and rear|
|Tyres:||235/45 R18 front and rear|