1999 Honda Accord Coupe Review

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Bob Plunkett Bob Plunkett Editor
June 21, 1999

ALTON, Illinois — On a convoluted course that hugs the Illinois bank of the Mississippi River, a slinky coupe variation of Honda's venerable Accord series revealed to us that it likes to fly down a fast lane and rip through a wiggly set of curves.

Wait a minute — a Honda with a taste for ripped-up asphalt? Well, if the definition of a "sporty" vehicle means sharp throttle response and an aggressive attitude when tackling tight-fisted turns, then, yes, Honda does indeed finally build a sporty Accord.

Talk about turnabout. The Accord, which has worn a "best seller" label for years, had grown so homogenized in style and performance that it evolved into a nebulous entity far removed from the sport side of performance.

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But the current edition of the Accord, as reinvigorated in 1998 with its sixth, largest-ever platform, exhibits athletic characteristics worthy of our attention — and worthy of a slinkier two-door form.

The American influence not dreaded

The new Accord coupe looks completely different from the sedan, and for most eyes that’s a good thing. Cast with an assertive wedge-shaped profile that pitches the nose low and tail high, the Accord coupe displays clean and strong lines and a sharp rake to the broad windshield that gives it a fluid, seamless shape. It’s such a departure from the sedan that the only shared exterior parts between the two- and four-door versions are the side-wrapping front headlamps and side door handles.

The style of the coupe comes from American designers at Honda's California development center. Since the coupe is aimed exclusively at an American audience, Honda did right and designed it here, too. (Production of the coupe takes place in America, too, in Marysville, Ohio.)

Besides its more rakish lines, the Accord Coupe gets a shorter wheelbase (chopped by 1.8 inches) and one of two beefed-up engines — including the coupe's first V-6. The chassis is stronger to improve performance and enhance overall ride quality, too, and on the inside, the passenger compartment measures longer and wider and taller than previous two-door Accords.

An active personality

Sparking its active personality, the Accord coupe draws from one of two high-tech aluminum engines, a four-pack and a six, both larger in size and power than previous plants and outfitted with Honda's sophisticated VTEC wizardry of valve control.

The 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, with a single overhead cam, puts out 150 hp while also hitting as high as 30 mpg. Too, this engine scores for certification in California as a Low-Emission Vehicle (LEV), and, when linked to the optional four-speed automatic transmission, becomes the first mass-produced gasoline engine to conform to the state's strict ULEV (Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle) rule. A notchy five-speed manual shifter, standard with the four-cylinder engine, hones the sporty nature of this coupe.

The EX-only V-6, pushing 3.0 liters with single cam and VTEC controls, soars to 200 hp and connects strictly to an automatic four-speed shifter. It, incidentally, comes out of Honda's Ohio engine plant.

Sharp answers to road questions

We tested out the sporty nature of the Accord on a traffic-free autocross at Gateway International Raceway, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, and found all the right ingredients for a performance-minded personal sedan that just happens to have two doors.

The Accord snaps quickly to a swift clip with satisfying acceleration. Fast rack-and-pinion steering permits an exacting left-right-left maneuver through turns, as big stabilizer bars fore and aft in the responsive double-wishbone suspension system prevent excess body sway and add integrity to the coupe's stability. The four disc brakes of the Accord EX link to an anti-lock system that produces straight-line stops and also permits braking while still turning for maximum control.

The Accord coupes are offered in LX and EX trim. The LX contains a long list of luxury features, including power equipment for windows and door locks, but the EX variation goes further by adding power-operated height and lumbar adjustments to the driver's seat, a compact disc player keyed to six stereo speakers, electric trunk release and automatic cut-off for headlamps, plus the four disc brakes with anti-lock controls and an option of leather seat upholstery.

Expect to pay a minimum of $18,805 for an LX coupe, $21,315 for an EX (destination included; add another $3,415 if you want an EX with a V-6 engine). And expect your pulse to go quicker than in your old Accord, because this one’s ready for fast moves.

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