New Car/Review

1998 HONDA ACCORD EX COUPE

by Tom Hagin

honda

SEE ALSO: Honda Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 21,600
Price As Tested                                    $ 22,074
Engine Type              SOHC 16-valve 2.3 Liter I4 w/MPFI*
Engine Size                                 137 cid/2254 cc
Horsepower                                   150 @ 5700 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               152 @ 4900 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  105.1"/70.3"/186.8"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3065 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  17.1 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P195/65R15
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Five-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            23/30/26
0-60 MPH                                        9.9 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     17.5 seconds @ 82.9 mph
Top speed                                               N/A
     * Multi-port fuel injection

The sixth generation Honda Accord, a nameplate first introduced in 1976, has been enjoying solid 1998 sales and has American top seller auto honors set squarely in its sights - but this sales volume will come from the conservatively designed four-door sedan.

The coupe, on the other hand, isn't so cautiously styled, but it will see some good sales numbers. Available in LX and uplevel EX trim, Accord coupe was made expressly for the U.S. market and built only in Ohio. This week we test an EX coupe.

OUTSIDE - For years the Accord coupe was merely an afterthought - a sedan with two less doors. As the new sedan was being cautiously styled in Japan, with a look ostensibly for the masses, the sleek-looking coupe was simultaneously being designed in America. The coupe's sloping windshield and rear glass, along with a pointed nose and triangular rear treatment give it a separate identity from that of the bread-and-butter four-door sedan. In fact, the coupe version we tested shares no exterior sheetmetal with the Accord sedan, save for the headlights and door handles. Engineering feats such as eliminating 15 percent of the old version's separate parts have allowed the company to keep its cost relatively the same, but resulted in a more solid and reliable car.

INSIDE - The new Accord's interior is simple, clean and user- friendly but its tight dimensions will effect only the tallest drivers and passengers. The front bucket seats are soft and comfortable, but lower back support could be better. Lots of storage is available in its center console, glove box and door-mounted map pockets. The dash slants sharply forward, a design that puts the major controls right at the fingertips, and the large gauges are easy to see. A slightly larger trunk is able to swallow long items, thanks to its split folding rear seat. We appreciated the sunvisor extensions and the shoulder belt for the center rear passenger- a rarity on most cars these days. All Accord coupes come standard with a theft-deterrent system, variable-speed intermittent wipers, adjustable steering column, AM/FM cassette stereo, power windows, mirrors and door locks, cruise control, air conditioning and tinted windows. EX models add a power moonroof and a CD player to the standard features list.

ON THE ROAD - While many Accord Coupes will be ordered with a new 3.0 liter V6 engine (the same engine used in some Acura models), the remainder will carry a capable 150-horsepower 2.3 liter four-cylinder unit. This powerplant uses variable valve timing, a single overhead camshaft and four valves per cylinder, along with multipoint fuel injection. Power from the four is more than adequate, with good acceleration and freeway manners, and excellent fuel mileage. Our test week brought us an average of about 26 MPG in mixed city/highway driving. In addition, it meets stringent emissions standards that are legal in all 50 states. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on four-cylinder Accords, while a four-speed automatic is optional.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Honda had handling in mind when it engineered the Accord Coupe. The front suspension is a completely redesigned double- wishbone setup, with a lowered roll center to reduce understeer, along with coil springs, gas shocks, and a thick anti-roll bar to keep the car flat in turns. The rear suspension is a multi-link layout, which replaced a double wishbone design, with another anti-roll bar, coil springs and gas-pressurized tube shocks. The ride is smooth and plush, yet the handling is firm and predictable - a perfect combination of the two. It has larger tires than the previous version which give better grip, with tire squeal appearing only in the heaviest of corners. The standard speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering is just light enough to give crisp turn-in and good road feel, but feels a bit heavy at times. Four-wheel disc brakes and an anti-lock braking system (ABS) are standard on EX models, and gave us short, straight stops under most circumstances, only fading after repeated, high-speed stops.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, side-impact beams and ABS are EX standards.

OPTIONS - Floor mats: $79; Destination and handling: $395.

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