The Honda Accord may not be a car you’re terribly familiar with if you don’t reside in North America. You may also not realize just how popular it is here. While Honda sells the Accord abroad (and also a modified Chinese-built version called the Crider in Southeast Asia), nowhere has the Accord been more successful than the US of A. This is because when the Accord was introduced for the American market in the early 1980s as an affordable, reliable, American-built Japanese sedan, it was at a time when domestically-designed and produced American sedans were, well, pretty universally... terrible.

The Accord was not terrible. The Accord was good.

It sold like hot cakes. It was the most popular Japanese car by sales in America for fifteen years in a row, from 1982 to 1997. For around ten of them, it was the most popular car in America period. Since then, the Accord has consistently been ranked as one of the most reliable cars on sale in the US (if not the world) and continues to sell very well even in a declining market for affordable family sedans.

The Accord we’re reviewing here is a North America-only spec car, based on the ninth-generation Honda Accord platform introduced for 2013. It’s also a 2-door coupe - a version of the car that as far as I am aware is now produced exclusively in America. Because, realistically, what other country is going to buy an entry-level mid-size family sedan that’s had two of the doors lopped off?

For the 2016 model year, the gen nine Accord gets its first (and likely only) facelift, with much more aggressive front and rear fascias. It also gets Android Auto and Apple CarPlay which, well, that is why we’re here, isn’t it?

The test car

OK, when Honda told me they wanted to lend us an Accord, I sort of assumed it would be a middle-of-the-road EX-L sedan with the four-cylinder engine. After all, that only makes sense - it’s the volume seller and the one most people are going to be looking at.

Well, they didn’t have one of those, and I was on a tight time frame to get the car. What they did have was a brand-spanking-new (literally under 500 miles on the odometer) coupe… with a V6. And in the top-spec Touring trim. Painted in the so-nice-I-seriously-considered-licking-it “deep blue opal metallic” finish that is exclusive to the coupe and new for 2016. I ever so reluctantly agreed that this would just have to do.

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I MEAN I GUESS I'M OKAY WITH THIS

Financially, this specific car is not one that I’d recommend to anybody but devout Honda worshippers - the true Accord faithful. Those praying at the altar of VTEC, but that deign the Civic Si too base and harsh for their refined motoring sensibilities. The reason I say this is that the MSRP of an Accord Coupe V6 Touring is eye-watering: essentially $35,000 when delivery is taken into account. A $35,000 Honda Accord. A $35,000 Honda Accord that doesn’t get especially good gas mileage. Or have a fancy dual-clutch or next-gen automatic transmission. An Accord that is within legitimate MSRP shouting distance of a V6 Acura TLX that does have such a fancy transmission and a marginally more powerful version of this V6. Granted, you can’t get an Acura with two doors these days.

The V6 Touring coupe, then, is Honda’s love letter to a long line of two-door Accords, a version of the car that sells in tiny quantities compared to the far more ubiquitous sedan. Honda doesn’t expect to sell a ton of them, and they don’t make a ton of them. This is the Accord for the person that’s been buying Accords for the last 20 years and wants the best Accord when they show up at the Honda dealership. This is the best Accord.

The cost

The Honda Accord, you might think, is an affordable - but nice! - mid-size sedan. And you'd be right. The base Accord LX with a manual transmission slides in just under $23,000 with delivery here in the US. Not bad! But if you want Android Auto, you can take that MSRP and throw it right out the window, because itsnothappening.gif. Here are the available 4-door trims with Android Auto, summarized.

  • Accord EX (auto): $27,115. The EX is the most popular Accord trim, and it's easy to see why - it's basically a 'popular equipment package.' You get remote start, 17" alloy wheels, push button ignition, USB audio, an uprated stereo with 6 speakers, 7" touchscreen, a moonroof, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. Plus all of the Accord's standard features, which are not insignificant.
  • Accord EX-L (auto): $29,405. The EX-L, as you might guess, is a luxury package. You'll get an auto-dimming rearview mirror, 10-way power driver's seat (with 4-way power on the passenger side), leather-trimmed seats all around, seat heaters in the front, and a much more powerful 360W stereo with a subwoofer. Navigation and Honda Sensing (more on that later) are an additional $2,000 upgrade.
  • Accord EX-L V6 (auto): $31,480. You're buying an engine, basically. The V6 gets a much more powerful 278HP mill with a traditional 6-speed automatic transmission. Like on the base EX-L, nav and Honda Sensing are a $2,000 upgrade.
  • Accord Touring (auto): $35,415. The daddy Accord. The Accord to end Accords. Honda Sensing and nav come standard, but you also get rear seat heaters, parking sensors, LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic high-beams. And, and: you get the Accord Sport's bitchin' 19" rims.

The coupe trims with Android Auto are all somewhat similar, though varyingly more or less expensive (yeah, it's weird), despite being basically identically equipped. An EX Coupe is about $500 more than an EX 4-door, but a Touring coupe is about $500 less than a Touring sedan (though it lacks the sedan's rear seat heaters). Of note, the EX coupe gets the big 360-Watt stereo, while it doesn't appear on the sedan until you step up to the EX-L.

The one you should get: If you need four doors, the EX sedan is an easy pick and is Honda's volume seller for a reason. The EX-L's extras will absolutely be worth it for some folks, but if you don't care about the stock stereo (i.e., you plan to replace it) or leather seats, there's not much else waiting for you on the other side of that $2300 jump.

If you just want the V6 with none of the techno-frills like Honda Sensing, the basic EX-L V6 coupe or sedan undercut the Touring models by $3,000-4,000 and sacrifice no performance getting there. They also still have those comfy leather seats. The EX-L V6 coupe is even available with a manual transmission - assuming you can find one.

Finally, for the absolute Honda fanboy, the EX-L V6 coupe and sedan both offer major body kit packages, with the coupe's $4,000 HFP package looking absolutely bonkers levels of JDM custom, bro. It even lowers the car and firms up the ride, plus throws in a set of premium 19" wheels otherwise available only as a dealer-purchased accessory. I'm not sure I'd want an Accord that rides any firmer than stock, but to each their own.

The driving part

Holy moly that V6. Few car fans outside the tuner crowd really give Honda much credit for their powertrain performance prowess (there are exceptions, like the legendary S2000), but Honda really deserves a big bag of medals for this V6. Preferably medals stamped from the rotting, melted-down carcasses of inferior engines.

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A transverse V6 is an odd thing to behold.

The Accord’s V6 is a dream. It is civil yet responsive around town, and in the standard shift mode (as opposed to sport mode) on the gear selector, it drives like a car. But the engine revs exceptionally smoothly, idles smoothly (and quietly), and never feels wanting for power unless you deliberately bog it with the paddle shifters. The dual exhaust even gives it a cute little grunt. There is always power and torque just a quick jab of the right foot away, and you don’t feel as though you’re hurting the car when you use it. I wouldn’t recommend Honda’s “sport mode” for city driving, though - it simply holds gears too long and downshifts unpredictably. If you really want to flog it, it works, but it’s pretty jarring when you’re just going down the street to get the groceries.

Taking a bit of a detour up to a BlackBerry Priv event in San Francisco, I found myself on California’s jaw-slackingly beautiful but utterly empty Highway 33. (What a coincidence!) If you’re ever considering a drive up the Golden State portion of the Pacific Coast Highway in a fun car, I’d implore you to try 33 instead. It’s better in almost every way, even if you won’t get those perfect-for-social-media ocean views.

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In this environment, the V6 engine was allowed to be downright raucous with no worries of annoyed bystanders or of traffic or god-awful rented campers and RVs. From around 5000RPM to the 6800RPM redline, it transforms into an entirely different animal. It goes from being a smooth, lovely, enjoyable, and highly usable V6 to a clearly precision-tuned piece of engineering that goads you into putting your foot to the floor at every opportunity. It is, basically, VTEC, yo. With the windows down through a few small tunnels, I gave it a boot-full, and the exhaust wailed like a banshee against the natural concrete reverb chamber, making noises that you’d associate with a Honda Accord like you’d associate fine dining with a Chili’s.

To put things into perspective, a V6 Accord will shuffle itself from 0-60MPH in just 5.5 seconds, despite being saddled with an honestly not-terribly-responsive 6-speed automatic transmission. The manual will supposedly come nearer to 5 seconds flat, but that transmission also gets pretty mixed reviews, sadly. The autobox is fine, and it does have paddle shifters, but this transmission is likely built for robustness first and performance a far-away second. The engine, luckily, far outshines any of its shortcomings.

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Handling-wise, the Accord is quite nice, but this is not a sports car. The V6 Accord Coupe isn’t unusually heavy, but it isn’t light, either, with this Touring version weighing in at 3554lbs. With struts up front and multi-link suspension in the rear, the Accord feels exceptionally confident and connected in everyday driving, as well as during lightly spirited runs down twisty back-roads. When you really start to push it, the all-season rubber and the damping start to fight you a bit, but the Accord handles with far more aplomb than many cars in this class. But few people will ever drive an Accord in this manner.

The steering inputs are great - direct and with actual feedback, and I love the brakes. They’ve got a bit of a luxury car feel up at the top, but they quickly and progressively firm up as you get on the pedal, my ideal balance of a squishy luxury sedan and sports car. This means that for all but idiots barreling down empty, twisting highways pretending their Accord is a Ferrari (e.g., me), the car is going to feel tight and highly responsive and generally very good. The ride around town can be a bit hard (those giant 19” rims probably don’t help), but I don’t think you’ll find anyone but the older set complaining too much about it. I prefer a bit more road surface feedback to numbness even if it means a slightly less elegant ride, and the Accord is still a great car from the driver’s perspective.

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If I was in the market for a mid-size sedan that I also needed to commute in and that would be capable of carrying around other human beings without ruining their spines or eardrums, but also wanted something fun, the Accord V6 makes a hell of a compelling case. There’s a reason the Accord sells so well and buyers continue to come back: they’re just damn good cars all-around, and make very few sacrifices in any one given area.

Oh, and gas mileage? Well, with the V6, you can kind of kiss your city fuel economy goodbye if you’re going to be having fun. The Accord will readily drop into the mid-teens in aggressive urban driving, though low to mid twenties should be achievable if you watch your right foot carefully and put the car in Honda’s throttle-deadening “eco” mode. On the highway, it’s as advertised: around 30MPG with the air conditioning blasting, with a variance of 10% or so in either direction depending on what you consider “highway speed.”

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The inside part

The Accord, frankly, does not seem quite like a $35,000 car when you slide into it. Probably because it's basically a $30,000 car with $5000 of engine and technology slapped on. Some of the trim, especially around the doors, just isn’t especially nice and little things like the paddle shifters just feel plain cheap. But, the Accord is covered in all sorts of soft touch plastics and subtly varying textures, so it at least tries to play to the whole luxury thing. It just doesn’t succeed quite as well as, say, a loaded Hyundai Sonata. You get a textured faux-carbon fiber inlay in some spots, shiny black plastic around the center console, leather on the steering wheel and shifter, and all of this does make the Accord Coupe feel a fair bit nicer than its $24,000-ish roots would suggest.

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The steering wheel is a nice, chunky leather affair - very softly-textured, fine-grain leather. It’s definitely a step up from leather wheels on many cars in the economy range, though this is obviously a fairly expensive car. The wheel controls work well enough once you get used to them - those nice and big circular d-pads with center buttons being your primary modes of interaction. I definitely prefer this to an endless array of levers or clusters of smaller buttons. Because the Accord has no actual volume knob on the stereo - just a capacitive button - you’ll all but have to adapt to controlling that via the steering wheel. After years of cars with volume knobs, it’s a surprisingly hard mode of interaction for me to get into.

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The back of the wheel has paddle shifters. They have sharp plastic molding ridges on the back, but are completely smooth on the front. This makes them feel badly-made - the paddles in my girlfriend’s far-cheaper Mazda 3 feel leagues nicer. The shift lever has a nice leather cover on it, but I find the lever itself feels quite cheap and clunky. Not to mention it is absolutely enormous - to the point of being a bit of a ridiculous 1990s throwback, especially in the “D” or “S” positions. The reason it is so big? Old people. Old people like big, easy-to-use controls, and old people like Honda Accords. I hate that this is a thing. Hopefully the next-gen Accord will ditch this waste of console space for a wheel stalk or at least a smaller ZF-style “mouse” shifter. Either way, it was probably my least-favorite part of interacting with the car. Aside from the infotainment system. Which, yes, this is going to be bad. But that’s in the next section!

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The seats in the Accord are, as far as my spine and buttocks are concerned, insanely comfortable. These are some of the best car seats I have ever had the pleasure of plunking my rear in, and I say that coming from four years of driving an old Mercedes, which have some of the most comfy leather seats known to mankind. I had virtually no back fatigue in the Accord, the driving position was absolutely perfect, and the seat had the “just right” balance of bolstering and cushiness. The driver’s seat on this Touring model is power-adjustable with a lumbar support, while the passenger has to make do with manual controls. Keister-cookers are included as well. No butt air conditioning, though, which I think is a reasonable ask on a $35,000 Accord.

Rear passenger room is ample for a modern coupe, but it’s still a struggle for taller individuals to get in and out even when pushing the front seat all the way up. Once you’re in, though, there’s enough room for two full-sized adults to have actual leg and headroom back there, though probably just the amount sufficient to be comfortable for a taller person, no more. You certainly wouldn’t want to be stuck in the back of this car for hours, but you also wouldn’t come out with scoliosis if you had to, and for shorter people it will likely feel downright roomy. The trunk is absolutely cavernous, because two-door FWD car.

The top-end stereo on this car comes with a subwoofer, and it is loud. I definitely turned down the bass in my test car, but the quality of the audio system itself was actually quite good, and certainly doesn't want for output. Tweeters in the A-pillars provide solid high-end response, and mid-range isn't muddy or distorted even at speed. It's a very solid system.

The technology

Let’s cut to the chase: I don’t like Honda’s infotainment system very much. It’s oddly slow, stutters, frequently hangs when it goes to load a new part of the UI, and is very scatterbrained in terms of layout. With only a few accompanying capacitive buttons, it's also basically 100% touchscreen in terms of interaction, which isn't exactly fun on Honda's UI with its many, many buttons. Basically, it’s just not very good. Android Auto provides an escape from some of this.

This also actually provides me a very good opportunity to give some perspective on Auto in a specific context: if your car’s built-in infotainment system is something you’d prefer to avoid at all costs, just how good is Auto at letting you do that? In the Accord, it was a real toss-up for me.

Honda has added some extra functionality to Android Auto in their vehicles thanks to a secondary infotainment display positioned on top of the dashboard. Some have criticized Honda for going screen-crazy, but I think this secondary display is a great idea. It provides you upcoming changes to navigation (e.g., your next turn and its distance), currently playing song, a compass, and the time. And the music and navigation features work with Android Auto - Honda is somehow feeding the audio track and navigation info from Auto into this display. So you see the song playing in Android Auto as well as the next step in navigation that is happening on Google Maps, regardless of whether you’re in the Auto interface on the main touchscreen. This is definitely very helpful, and Honda is the only carmaker doing this sort of thing with Auto right now. Granted, they’re also the only one with a display setup like this as far as I know.

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This secondary display is showing my current track info on Play Music and my next navigation step in Maps.

So, what about areas where Auto isn’t so hot? Well, Android Auto actually is kind of the pits when it comes to music. You can use voice commands to play specific songs, albums, or playlists in Play Music, but that functionality is far less reliable in third-party apps like Spotify or Amazon Prime Music. Selecting music to play via the app interface is even worse. Android Auto won’t even let you look at your music library - you can see playlists and a few other items, but that’s really it. Basically, Google has decided you can’t be trusted to browse your music while in a vehicle. And yet, every single carmaker will allow you to hook up an iPhone and do exactly that in USB audio mode and browse anything on the device. Google, though, doesn’t think this is a good idea. So you don’t get to do it. This gets maddening after a while and by day two in the car I was fed up and just circumvented the limitation - while at a stop I’d grab my phone, unplug it from the USB port (or open the app switcher - another way to work around Auto’s blackout on your phone’s screen), open Play Music, find what I wanted to play in my library, start playing it, then plug it back in and launch Auto so that whatever I last had playing in Play Music was now on the Auto interface. Yes, this is incredibly convoluted. Yes, it is the only decent way to actually browse your god damn music on Android Auto. There also just aren’t very many music apps supported in Auto right now, and those that are, like Spotify, tend to be buggy and respond far less well to voice commands.

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Spotify in Android Auto remains hopelessly buggy at times.

As a side-note, it would be lovely if Auto could integrate with the car’s built-in FM/AM/XM radios, but I’m guessing Google, in its infinite wisdom, probably wouldn’t trust you to select a station from a list or use a tuner because safety. If anything will sink Android Auto, it’s Google’s borderline obnoxious obsession with nannying you around the interface like a 5-year-old.

Maps, too, aren’t great in Auto - especially on smaller displays. The Accord’s is 7”, and Google Maps’ roadways and traffic lines are drawn so narrowly that they’re very, very hard to see. Zooming in doesn’t really help, it’s just a big beige and gray blob of near-illegible lines. Ultra-intelligent voice entry of your destination is the saving grace for Maps navigation on Auto, because it just works. Want to go get coffee in an unfamiliar area? “Navigate to the nearest Starbucks.” Google understands. Looking for a restaurant? Ask for a suggestion - “Show me some nearby sushi restaurants.” Want to go home? Tell it. The problem is that I honestly found Honda’s built-in nav system far easier to visually parse than Maps. It had much better contrast, more easily visible roadways and traffic information, and more clearly-marked upcoming changes of direction. Google Maps looks super slick and modern on a smartphone or tablet, but on a car, you need a big, chunky interface that makes everything on the road obvious and easily visible. Maps is just not great in this context. It didn’t help that the Accord’s infotainment display is angled such that the sun hits it directly during many times of the day, and during those times, the Honda navigation UI was a hell of a lot easier to see.

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As to everything else? Auto really isn’t any better at handling things like phone calls or SMS than your average, modern infotainment unit. It’s a bit better at voice-dialing, obviously, but that’s about it. Auto is simultaneously a functional analog to and yet the UX antithesis of most in-vehicle interfaces. And so between Honda’s slow, sometimes-confusing, yet option-loaded UI and Android Auto’s much smoother but utterly barren interface, I had a hard time deciding which I preferred using. Bluetooth audio through my phone allowed me to play whatever music I wanted without the Google safety police getting in my way, but it did make entering navigation destinations a real bear (I basically had to stop the car). At the same time, Honda’s maps were a lot more informative to my eyes and made for a better turn-by-turn experience. Handling phone calls on either system was basically the same: unremarkable but functional.

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Honda's system isn't pretty. Or fast. Or very easy to visually parse. But it has lots of buttons and functions - quite the opposite of Auto.

My test car also came loaded with Honda’s Honda Sensing driving assist suite, which is actually pretty cool, and probably the most advanced system of its kind in this price bracket. It’s no Tesla Auto-Pilot, but here’s what it can do. First, you get the basic adaptive cruise control - the car speeds up and slows down in traffic on its own (above 25-30MPH, I think) up to the speed you’ve set. You can control the following distance, as well. The car has automatic braking in the event an imminent collision is detected - it may not stop a collision from occurring in some cases, but it will at least reduce the severity of an accident. You get lots of warning bells and flashing lights in your face before it decides to brake for you, though. You get lane-keeping assistance, too - the car will stay in your lane of traffic above 40MPH if you start to drift away from the center, gently pulling you back in. It doesn’t fight you, either, and it actually works quite well. You do need to have your hands on the wheel while it’s on (you can keep them off for up to 15 or so seconds before it yells at you), and the system won’t make rapid changes of direction especially gracefully - it expects you to be steering if the road is curving substantially. But for long, endless highway drives, it’s a great way to make sure you’re safe if you want to look down at the stereo or nav system for a moment, combined with the adaptive cruise control.

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Where a number of the Honda Sensing... sensors... reside. They're not muddy-windshield-proof, I assume.

Taken together, all these features make the Accord an excellent road trip car, and an exceptionally safe one. While I did find the collision mitigation braking warnings came on a little too often, everything else worked splendidly. The car can basically “take over” on the highway for short periods of time, not that Honda advocates such usage. For chronically distracted drivers, I cannot wait until features like this are standard (and on by default) on every vehicle. It’s hard to change selfish behaviors (which distracted driving 100% is), so we should be working to reduce or eliminate the dangers those behaviors create. One thing to note: optical-dependent features like lane keeping don’t always work in the rain very well for a variety of reasons, so if you’re in a very wet climate, I wouldn’t count on this feature. It’s a problem with pretty much all visually-dependent sensing systems in vehicles right now, sadly.

Conclusion

Let’s talk turkey, because unlike some other cars with Android Auto, the Accord does require you to pay a fair bit more than the base model price if you want Auto (and CarPlay) functionality.

The least expensive Accord you can get with Android Auto comes in around $3400 above a base model Accord LX with a stick. If you want an automatic, the cheapest Accord with Auto is a hair over $27,000 with delivery (the EX trim) - not exactly cheap. Prices run all the way up to $35,000 for a fully-loaded coupe like our tester. That said, Honda regularly has lots of buyer incentives and I don’t think it’ll be terribly hard to find a decent lease or financing deal on an Accord EX at your local dealership, so I wouldn’t worry too much about what looks like an intimidating price tag compared to a similar Hyundai Sonata - you’re getting a lot of standard equipment at that level, and the Accord has long been considered a great value in this segment. Still, if you want Auto as affordably as possible in a mid-size sedan, the Accord probably isn’t the place to start - the Hyundai Sonata has it on the base SE trim and undercuts the [much more nicely-equipped] Accord EX by about $5,000.

The Accord, though, is still an Accord: an incredible reputation for reliability comes with that badge, and it’s one Honda has lived up to consistently. The Accord is also regarded as one of the most engaging cars in this class of vehicle to drive, and while it’s not exactly sporty, it exudes real confidence on the road. You can even get it with a stick, an increasing rarity in mid-size sedans here in the US. Granted, you’ll probably have to search pretty hard to find one, and you won’t exactly have your pick of colors.

As for the $35,000 Super-Accord I tested? For the right person, this is going to be a great car. It’s fun to drive, incredibly comfortable, and loaded with oodles of tech. Combine that with the Accord’s dead-to-rights reliability record and it’s easy to see why someone might pass on a marginally more expensive but relatively basic Acura TLX V6 or Infiniti Q50 in favor of a fully-loaded Honda. You get a powerful engine and tons of technology - far more than you’d get on an entry-level vehicle from a luxury brand. You do lose out on fit and finish, to an extent, but many people just don’t care about this kind of thing. The Accord’s luxury comes in the form of all the things it has and can do, as opposed to how nice all those things feel when you touch them.

Either way, it's easy to see why the Accord's pedigree is one of the most well-respected in the automotive world. Honda knows what it's doing, and the Accord generally defies criticism. Even Honda's lackluster infotainment software is now mitigated by Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so the Accord is looking better than ever in its class. It gets an easy recommendation from me, I can say that much.

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