- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

Most people probably don’t equate the Honda Accord with the adjective “sporty.” For seven generations of Accord, in fact, Honda has worked to forge a reputation for reliability, value and utility for this midsize family hauler. Sporty has never been a goal. Typically characterized as conservative in appearance and unexciting in performance, Accord’s core owner base tends to be families and older empty nesters. Obviously there is nothing wrong with that. Historically Accord has been wildly popular, placing it in a neck-and-neck race for sales supremacy in the midsize segment with Toyota’s Camry. The marketplace has spoken.

When Honda introduced the seventh-generation Accord in 2003, however, it had a surprise for drivers who longed for more pizzazz than Accord owners were used to getting. It came in the form of the two-door EX-V6 with manual transmission. Suddenly here was an Accord with not only the solid transportation and durability Accord fans have come to expect, but one that is somewhat stylish and truly fun to drive as well.

For the most part, the EX-V6 is more like its Accord brethren than it is different. Honda didn’t go too far afield in juicing things up. Consequently someone intent on a high-performance coupe won’t opt for the EX-V6 with manual rather than a Nissan 350Z or a BMW 330Ci; however, anyone already thinking about the Accord or Toyota Solara will be pleasantly surprised by the fun-to-drive quotient of the EX-V6.

Accord uses the same independent suspension across the entire Accord lineup. A double wishbone arrangement both front and rear, it is a compromise of handling and ride quality favoring passenger comfort. One advantage the V-6 with manual tranny does have over other Accords is the additional grip its 17-inch alloy wheels and tires supply. Other Accords are stocked with 15- or 16-inch wheels and rubber.

Likewise, the 240 horsepower 3-liter V-6 used here is the same V-6 available on all but the DX version of the sedan. What really does set this V-6 coupe apart from other Accords (as well as the Solara) is its slippery six-speed manual transmission. The short-throw shifter snicks easily through the gears. Honda has managed to engineer a marvelous gearbox for this coupe. Racking up and down the gears is outrageous fun.

Disc brakes on each corner are standard and include an antilock system. Traction control is also part of the package. Inside safety features continue with side-impact and side-curtain air bags joining the mandated dual front air bags.

Opting for the two-door styling isn’t without some sacrifice. The front of the cabin is a two-pod arrangement. Both front-seat occupants have plenty of head, leg and shoulder room. Leather is standard in this model and it covers front seats that are supportive but comfortable. Neatly arranged gauges, dials and switches are placed for driver convenience. The screen for the DVD-based navigation system is in the middle of the dashboard.

The appearance of the interior as a whole telegraphs quality. All the pieces fit snugly and the materials have an upscale look. Very little outside noise filters into the passenger compartment. The overall impression when riding in the Accord is that it should cost more than it does.

The only factory option for the EX-V6 is the navigation system. Buyers can opt for a five-speed automatic transmission instead of the manual, but there is no difference in price. The price of the navigation system isn’t tacked on as an option; however, it is included in the base price of a separate model called the EX-V6NV. It adds $2,000 to the bottom line.

With destination charge, the two-door Accord EX-V6NV rings the register at $28,990. This also includes keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, six-speaker audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD changer, heated front seats and a tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with redundant audio controls.

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