According to Honda, the various versions of the Accord account for an astonishing 70 per cent of all its cars sold in this part of the world. Don’t believe it? Next time you drive around the streets of Dubai, try counting them. I did, and I was surprised. Certainly, the saloon version is hugely popular, but in its current form, almost invisible, and it is only when you actively seek them out that you realise how many loyal fans there are, which is important.
Honda’s people have assured us that those buyers wanted comfortable, quiet, reliable cars — cars that they could count on day in, day out, to get them from A to B and back again without any fuss or attention. The Accord saloon, then, is their perfect car — quiet, efficient, stealthy. So what are we to make of the rather more extrovert Accord Coupé? Actually, perhaps a little of the great Soichiro Honda’s passion does live on in the cars that bear his name, after all.
Honda likes to describe the design of this ninth-generation car as exhilarating, sophisticated and premium, which is a bit of a stretch. Certainly, the front is cleaner and more dynamic, with a chrome accent under the grille in place of the earlier full frame. The bonnet gets a couple of creases, and the lights sweep up into the top of the wings in quite a pleasing flourish, so yes, it is an improvement, even if you do need to park it next to the old one to really play spot the difference.
Being a proper coupé, this one loses a couple of doors but gains a much tidier rear end and a purposeful stance. In our tester’s bright metallic blue (officially ‘Still Night Pearl’), it is actually quite dramatic a shape, and the boot is huge. There’s a well-integrated spoiler across the top of the lid, and our top-of-the-range V6 version rides on attractive 18in alloys which fill the arches nicely.
And V6 is definitely the way to go. The other engine option is a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine producing 173bhp and driving through a five-speed auto ’box. While it is a decent unit, it needs to be worked hard to get results, which doesn’t really suit the sporty intentions of the Coupé. Instead, we are treated to a 3.5-litre V6 with 276bhp and 339Nm of torque sending the drive to the front wheels through a six-speed auto. It is creamy smooth, very quiet but nicely punchy and very relaxed and long-legged on the highway.
So what of the handling? Honda has ditched its rare and expensive double wishbone front suspension set-up in favour of a much more conventional MacPherson strut arrangement. This is lighter than the previous set-up, and contributes to improving ride and steering response. The steering is also new, now electrically assisted, and certainly no worse for it.
Around town the car is neat and responsive, on the highways it is quiet and stable, and on the few corners we encountered on our test route it proved pointy and accurate. No complaints about feel either, even when putting a lot of power down through the steered wheels.
Out back is another new set-up, an independent multi-link rear suspension designed to reduce noise and improve ride quality. It certainly does that, handling speed humps with aplomb, and providing a good balance between long distance comfort and fast cornering control. Being a new generation of the Accord, it gets a shed-load of acronyms and new tech. Every trim level gets new LED daytime running lights, and rear LEDs are standard on all saloon models.
EX and Sport versions also get LED projector headlights, and a keyless entry/push-button start arrangement. More usefully, the same trim brings with it a system called Honda LaneWatch, which is basically a camera fitted underneath the passenger side mirror that shows an image on the large sat-nav display screen if someone strays into your blind spot. EX also adds Bluetooth, a USB/iPod connection and rear camera to the list.
Most of the secondary controls are accessed through a new central touch screen display that sits below the main one, and very useful it is. This hooks up to your iPod and I found it intuitively easy to use. The sound quality of the in-car hi-fi was also very good, after initially disappointing reception from low-grade radio transmitters.
There’s also the now-ubiquitous ‘Eco’ button on the left of the dash for you to push, and feel good about saving the planet. It lights up a pretty little tree in the instrument panel, but sucks all the life out of the engine. You have to work so much harder to make up the performance deficit that it seems pointless, and you could do yourself and the world more good by walking to the corner shop once a week instead.
The interior of the new Accord Coupé is a big step forward in terms of fit and finish, and a genuinely comfortable place to be. The driver’s seat boasts a host of power adjustments, and proved supportive enough for a five-hour drive. Even the steering wheel in our version was leather covered and beautifully finished.
The engineers have gone to a lot of trouble to improve the aerodynamics of the car in search of efficiency and economy, and it is very quiet on the move. Perhaps too quiet — underneath all of this calm stealthiness is a fine, sporty drive, just waiting for you to give it some gas. Soichiro would approve.