One Year And 18,766 Miles Of Being Couped Up

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
one year and 18 766 miles of being couped up

So here we are, one year after I took delivery of a 2014 Accord EX-L V6 six-speed coupe, eleven months after the first update, and five months after hitting the 12k mark. As fate would have it, at the same time the crew at Automobile was enjoying a free year in a car almost exactly like mine, courtesy of Honda. This, incidentally, is where the true nature of the autojourno biz comes into play: I laid out slightly over $9,300 in monthly payments, insurance, and maintenance to do exactly what the Automobile crowd did for free.

Well, not exactly; I also took mine to a racetrack. A few times.

Nominally speaking, the purpose of my March trip to Putnam Park was so I could drive a Lingenfelter-tuned Corvette ZR1 for R&T and coach Josh Condon, the magazine’s bald but brilliant front-of-book-editor, into a measure of competence driving said 750-horsepower creature in temperatures that never cracked the high side of forty degrees Fahrenheit. Since I’d traveled there in my new Accord, though… why not try it, as well? With just 3,000 miles on the V6, the Accord was broken-in enough to absolutely dust a couple of competently-driven Scion FR-S coupes around Putnam Park — for three laps, anyway. That’s all you get out of the amusingly undersized front discs. Keep in mind that the V6 Accords do get a brake upgrade over their four-cylinder siblings, but that’s like saying Attack Of The Clones is an improvement over The Phantom Menace. It’s just different degrees of sucking. If you want to know how Honda provides this much car at this price, looking at the brake hardware will help you understand.

As mentioned in my previous article at the 12,000-mile mark, the Accord did very well around R&T’s “Motown Mile” during the Performance Car Of The Year testing. In October, I took it to the same Southeastern Ohio roads we used for that article and decided that I preferred it to both the VW GTI and the Subaru STi — with the caveat, naturally, of the brakes.

After a full year, however, I’m still using my old Audi S5 as the yardstick by which I judge the big Honda coupe. In the kind of winter we’re having right now, I’d rather have the Audi, and by a long shot. There’s nothing like ten-below temperatures to expose shortcuts in materials quality, and I’m afraid to say that the Accord has some flaws here. The driver’s seat has been creaky since Day One and in cold conditions it makes a crinkly-crackling noise. I’m going to have that looked at, I think. The fuel door is misaligned, and by not much less than the gap that enraged young Derek last year. None of the body panels really line up the way I’d like them to.

I’ve been to my local dealer twice since taking delivery, in both cases to have the Honda-recommended maintenance performed. It’s much cheaper to have basic service intervals done on an Accord than, say, a Porsche Boxster, but I don’t think that really comes as a surprise to anyone. Come March, I’ll go talk to them about the driver’s seat and the fuel-filler door.

What else can I complain about? Well, there’s a bug in the media interface that causes the display to be a bit garbled when playing music from an Android phone. The Acura TLX I drove late last year had an updated version of the same system that didn’t have the problem, so I suspect that 2015 Accords won’t, either. The sunroof is a bit noisy both closed and open. If, like me, you use your car as an office and a restaurant and everything else, you won’t like the way that salt and other tiny particles clog in the perforated leather. In cold weather, the windows stick shut easily and the clutch feels soft. The headlights aren’t brilliant and you’ll have to drive to Canada to get an Accord Coupe with LED headlights. That, or break into the Ohio factory where they are installed. The center console feels delicate and wobbly, although no more so than what you get in a Camry or Altima.

Against that list of annoyances, the Coupe offers: a strong, clear sound system. Great visibility. Sensibly-located LATCH tethers. Plenty of storage space. Comfortable seats with long thigh bolsters, which really matters when you’re carting a taller woman around. (Or dude, I suppose, but I don’t care about that.) Fast defrosting time. Decent A/C. Legible instrumentation. Big side mirrors. A lot of trunk space. A super-cool “EarthDreams” badge on the plastic intake cover. You get the idea.

Since September or so, I’ve been intermittently commuting to a couple of jobs in downtown Columbus via a 15.6-mile route that is mostly freeway driving. In those conditions, I’m seeing a consistent 24-26mpg. That’s not brilliant, but the S5 couldn’t crack 15mpg in the same circumstances, and it wasn’t much faster in real-world use despite the Accord’s best C/D-test showing of 14.0@103 against the Audi’s 13.4@105.

Experienced drag racers will note the 0.6-second gap in ET against the 2mph gap in trap speed and suspect, correctly, that the Accord is traction-challenged. It’s not just that the Honda spins its front wheels from a dig; even a Yugo GV does that. It’s more that you can be rolling down the road at 40 in second gear and spin ’em easily. Pushed hard enough, the coupe will chirp in third like a 440-powered Chrysler. It’s virtually always possible to spin at least one of the front wheels at any time.

This trait, along with some completely unfounded complaints about the steering and suspension, was enough for Automobile to give the Accord EX V6 low marks in their four-season testing. “To me, the standard Accord sedan is a much better-executed vehicle than the coupe, which is trying too hard to be something it’s not,” quoth Joey Capparella in the magazine’s wrap-up review. Joe Lorio noted that the Accord’s “extreme-enthusiast specification” was “disappointing”. I’ll have to admit that my first reaction to both comments was less than respectful, but after looking both of these fellows up I think I understand why they wrote what they did a little better.

If you think of this car as an “extreme enthusiast” Accord, you’re bound to be disappointed. This isn’t a Type-R or even an Si. Nor is it trying to be. It’s just a family car with a big motor. That’s a recipe as old as the flathead Ford, you know. If the Accord sedan is the successor to the everyday-sedan retail-purchase throne once held by the ’74 GM A-body, then this is simply a modern take on my mother’s ’77 Cutlass Supreme, which was (over)powered by a 403-cubic-inch V-8. That car wasn’t sporty, it wasn’t extreme-enthusiast, and it could spin its tires at any time. It was popular, but not enormously so. History shows that most people chose a V-6 or a small-block in the Seventies A-bodies, and that most people choose a four-cylinder Accord today.

Mr. Capparella is simply too young to remember the days when high-powered, soft-suspended coupes ruled the American road, and the odd historical astigmatism that the automotive press applies to any discussion of the pre-OBD-II era cloaks that time in vaguely ironic labels of “Malaise” or “Jimmy Carter telling the country to put on a sweater”. The fact remains, however, that hundreds of thousands of new-car buyers once chose vehicles that were spiritually similar to this Accord. Cars that had plenty of room for Mom and Dad and two kids and the groceries but which sacrificed a tiny bit of practicality for a tiny bit of style. Cars that looked pretty boring but which could match anything short of a Corvette when the view through the windshield showed two lanes merging to one up ahead. Cars that didn’t pretend to be able to win an SCCA race or roost a fire road or carry a ton of dirt or tow the Space Shuttle but which somehow were purchased by normal people in significant numbers regardless of those missing pseudo-qualities.

If you think that a CVT-powered four-cylinder Accord is the best Accord, good news: you’ll be able to buy one ten years from now. If you want a little bit of power, or a bit of two-door flair, or the ability to actually choose your own actual combination of synchromesh gears through moving a lever that is actually connected to those gears by a steel linkage, you’d better move quickly. The Accord Coupe isn’t an M3 wannabe or a Boomer-friendly CUV or a four-wheeled expression of self-flagellating enviro-piety, and since it’s none of those, it’s something else: an endangered species.

The i-MID display truncates the song name, as you can see above — jb

Join the conversation
2 of 94 comments
  • DrGastro997 DrGastro997 on Feb 24, 2015

    It's very disappointing to hear that a Honda product has body panels that are misaligned. Japanese makes were known for holding very tight tolerances and holding lines/gaps to perfection even at maximum production. Recall the old Lexus ES commercial. I seriously hope Honda retains their reputation for quality. Mr. Soichiro Honda promised all of us that Hondas built in Ohio will be no different from Hondas built in Japan.

  • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Feb 27, 2015

    Didn't see the last update (where half the Comments were) about the mats), so I'll take care of that first: I knew going in that the mats were sucktastic, so I ordered a set of WeatherTechs long before I took delivery (as my car (in the avatar), one of the rare Touring Sedans, was a factory-order) along with a regular Honda trunk mat (since as nice as the W/T one is, it's not worth the extra $$$, IMHO). My Dad's first Accord was a 4th-Gen 1991 Hampshire Green EX Sedan, and that little sucker became a benchmark for me! Not a creak or peep after 70,000 miles, and the carpet was like the Wilton (??) wool in a Rolls-Royce in comparison to the 9th-Gen Accords. IMHO, Honda started the co$t-cutting with the 5th-Gens in 1994, and I could tell just by feeling the carpet, which wasn't as thick! (The 9th-Gen carpeting IS a little better than the current Civic's, especially M/Y 2012, but only just. Best to get WeatherTechs, Huskys, whatever your preference, but the Honda all-season mats are nice, too (and could be used as a bargaining chip, much like carpeted mats of old), particularly if you live in a more temperate area that isn't getting another Ohio Siberian winter!) As to Jack's notes, Sunday (March 1st) is the two-year anniversary of the day I took delivery, and my car is mostly equaling that benchmark 4th-Gen in many areas! The main rattle in the interior is from the passenger headrest moving around a bit; removing the headrest from the seat and bending the prongs outward a bit usually helps -- every Accord I've had has done this! (Sunglasses in the overhead holder also will make noise.) My seat's bolster rubs against the bottom cushion when I sit down--not a creak--though I may have to start actually doing something active and stop worshipping at the Mc Of D altar so much to address that! ;-) (I've had two full-boat Accord Sedan with power seats, and the seats usually needed some sort of shims by this point to address a wobble, or feeling that the seat would "move" during turns, but these chairs are solid as a rock, though maybe a touch less comfortable than my 2006 (7th-Gen) Accord--I think the lumbar support was better; I remember a "Motor Trend" scribe mentioning a Honda PR flak saying "I'll sell you the entire car with this seat" at the long-lead press preview for the first year of that generation for 2003.) That 7th-Gen was probably the last "best handling" Accord, only because all Accords now have MacPherson struts (although they're pretty good, considering that Honda had teething problems with the 2001 Civic, the first year of struts in mainstream Hondas, and when Honda really lost the plot), and have electric power steering, both of which dull the handling just a hair. The car likes twisty bits, rather than relishes them. Unlike past Accords, there's a learning curve involved with the car to get all handling benefits! (The 8th-Gen Accord, 2008-2012, was just too damn big and porky for a driver to make use of the multilink front suspension to it's advantage in the handling department.) Lighting couldn't be better -- I will never own another car without LED headlights! They have all the benefits of the Xenons without the glare, and Honda's cutoff is perfect! (If you look closely at my avatar, you'll note that there's two elements on the low-beam, but surprisingly, I've only been "flashed" once!) There's a Honda dealer in the Cleveland area who sells a retrofit for these lights for non-Touring Sedans, but surprisingly, nobody's come up with a retrofit for the Honda LED headlights from Canadian Accord V6 Coupes to the US Accord Coupe. I suspect that more widespread use of LED lights will come this fall with the Accord mid model-cycle change. I liked the headlights so much that I upgraded my fog lights to a set of LED plug-'n-play units sold by College Hills Honda in Wooster, OH, which took the "emphasis" of the stock units off the ground in front of the car and projects light forward along with the headlights; not as effective an upgrade as I thought they'd be, but they match the color temperature of the headlights. I might upgrade the high-beams with a halogen bulb with a matching color temperature, just to complete the look. (I've also had a set of 8th-Gen Honda horns from College Hills installed, which have an "American" sound, and not the tinny Japanese sound of the 9th-Gens.) The brakes are a definite step up from my previous Accords! I could probably get several good stops from high speeds out of these, or even track the car, without too much worry -- let 'em cool, drive car home! (Jack, do you know anyone at TRC? I'd love to take a hot lap or three on that track, and I suspect the CAR would, as well!) I knew about thin Honda paint enough that I spent ~$1,200 on xPel Ultimate self-healing Paint Protection Film--hood, mirror caps, back bumper, front fenders, door edges, rockers. Between that and carefully choosing parking spaces, I've had NO door dings and two minor scratches, one on either side of the car, from rocks. (The windshield glass is a little thinner, as seems to be the trend -- I had a chip filled in March, 2014, and a shallower chip in the driver's line of sight couldn't be filled, so it's a bit of a distraction driving into the sun.) I did bump the concrete stanchion of a "Stop" sign in a parking lot, but the damage and R&R of the rocker-panel PPF totaled-out to less than $1,000 damage. My hope and PRAYER is that the Honda V6 is always around and available with a stick in some form, even if I can't drive it; I TRIED to learn stick in an Integra, and if you can't learn in one of them, fuhgettaboutit! (I can start up from a stop, maybe even on an incline, and get into second gear and up to speed, but I cannot coordinate my left foot and right hand in traffic!) If Honda can't do that, for the love of God, improve the Hybrid system such that the battery pack can be resized to allow the seats to flip down and not impact trunk space, for venting for the hybrid pieces to be placed such that factory fogs can be had, and most importantly, that I can get V6 torque and performance in short bursts, as I do now. I don't care how long it's been since the 80s -- I still have memories have turbocharged K-cars blowing up in the '80s, and I know that Honda can do better than giving in to the CAFE crap by taking away my choice to have INSTANT weapons-grade torque! (Oh, and did I mention that, while the variable-displacement system is a little intrusive occasionally, particularly when the car has been sitting out in the cold weather, high-30s mpgs running on summer-grade gas with the cruise set to 80+ with two pax on board and the A/C at full-blast is pretty impressive; notably, this car doesn't yet have direct-injection, which I would presume would take place with the aforementioned MMC this coming fall! I would think this would eke out another mpg or two!! I did get 41 indicated last summer -- at 70mph, "ECON" mode, no A/C; DI could probably get that four-oh number at Vmax with A/C blasting away at meat-locker temps!) Would I buy this car, a first year of a new model, again? Hells-to-the-yeah!!!

  • Dartdude Biden's administration is full of unqualified people. This is what happens when you don't hire on merit. Pothole Pete is living proof of it.
  • Dukeisduke Oh brother, these high-end BEVs are getting ridiculous. Faraday Distant Future, or Faraday Never? I'm betting on the latter.
  • Kwik_Shift After finally seeing a Dodge Hornet in person, I was so underwhelmed that I didn't even want to test drive it.
  • Dukeisduke The new Range Rover Sport SV takes the concept and cranks its wick to 626 horsepower, meaning that when it's not in the shop, this Rangey is capable of hitting 60 mph from rest in just 3.6 seconds.FTFY
  • IBx1 I'm so sick of MPGe; just tell me how far it goes on electricity and then tell me what MPG it gets from that point forward for a plug-in, or give me miles per kWh for an EV.