2005 Honda Accord V6 EX-L: The Oppositelock Review
Unbeknownst to the youngest generation of car enthusaists, there was a time when Honda stood out from the pack by offering nimble, zippy, fuel-efficient hatchbacks, coupes, and occasionally sedans. Many may recall their late 80s glory, which included such spry offerings like the CRX, Prelude, and even the Civic and Accord coupes to an extent. Claiming to have ventured far from their roots and succumbed to the beige tendencies of a modern car buyer, Honda stepped out for the seventh generation Accord, offering distinct new styling, impressive power increases, and a world-class chassis dubbed the CL9.
Oh wait, I own the watered-down, bloated, US-spec sedan, not the Euro-spec one that I seem to have just daydreamed about. Surely this couldn't hurt its score much?
(Full disclosure: The dealership where this car was found wanted my family to own this car so badly that the sales associate was nearly run over as we left the parking lot. After refusing our initial offer, he promised we could "Work it out." The car is now mine, and has been subjected to years of hooning and general abuse.)
My first car was a 1997 Honda Accord Coupe, which I bought when I was young and stupid. I was overcharged, the car was an automatic, and it shifted with about as much smoothness and precision as a hungover construction worker trying to break rocks with a sledgehammer, then switching to dynamite after it decided it had spent too long between gears. But I loved the car to death, and hoped that moving up to a newer model with the V6 would have given me the same amount of hooning satisfaction I gained with the old one. After five years, I can safely say that I rather would've had five minutes in the old two-door again.
I gotta hand it to Honda; the seventh-generation sedan is pleasing to look at. From the front to the back, there isn't anything repulsive about the car and the lines flow gracefully and smoothly. Soft, rounded corners give the car a very unobtrusive sensation, which means it won't stick out in the parking lot nor flying by a police officer on the highway. The profile suggests your typical everyday sedan, while the roofline contains nothing memorable. The front fascia is clean and the headlights have just enough of an aggressive touch to keep the car from being completely forgettable. It could be worse.
Sit inside this car, and there's nothing to complain about. The seats are supportive and comfortable both front and back, the center stack is well thought out and organized without the buttony overload of the current Accord, and there's plenty of interior room for even the largest of drivers. The sliding armrest of the center console is a brilliant addition that enhances driver comfort further. The fit, finish, and usage of plastics are well thought out to the point where you may not even remember they're there.
Mash the gas pedal to the floor from a standing start, and you get a delightful controlled squeal as the front tires break traction. The engine pushes hard despite its meager 212 ft-lbs of torque, doing a solid job of getting the engine out of the low range and climbing towards redline. It comes alive after 4,000 as the VTEC decides you've finally had enough fake turbo lag and lets it start to wind out all 240 of its horses. It's a good engine, it really is.
Yet with a 0-60 run of seven seconds, it leads one to wonder where all this power is. It's there, but it's lost in an automatic transmission with ratios taller than the coffees I get at Starbucks that you'll find in the cupholder.
I don't like to talk about brakes on Hondas much anymore. They were bad enough as-tested, with average reported 60mph stopping distances beyond 140 feet in most tests. Part of this is due to Honda's decision to use thin rubber (195 for 4cyls and 205 for 6's) and crummy Michelin all-seasons as factory equipment. The other part is just the brakes themselves: after three hard stops they've faded away like the Spin Doctors. I'm on my third set of pads and rotors with this car, giving them an average lifespan of just 40,000 miles. Pathetic.
What the car lacks in getup-and-go, and slowdown-and-stop, it makes up for in hangout-and-cruise. An eight hour ride in this car is more than tolerable. The soft suspension setup cushions bumps, impacts, and road imperfections with ease, requiring only a jarring hole to truly upset the car at all. The chassis will shudder with the right push, but the car is very forgiving and settles out quickly. I've taken this thing up to 75 on dirt roads nearby and never felt like the car was going to lose composure, instead losing chips of its paint from stray rocks.
Engine: 3.0L DOHC 24v V-6
Power: 240 HP / 212 LB-FT
Transmission: 5-speed Automatic
0-60 Time: 7.0 seconds
Top Speed: 149 MPH (tire compound-limited)
Curb Weight: 3,300 lbs
MPG: City 21 HWY 30 (20/28 after EPA update, 22.3 combined observed)
MSRP: $26,700 (2005)
Body roll is one of those things that you have to live with when you choose a car with a less-than-sporting suspension. I can safely say that after five years of dealing with cornering pitch so bad that I've wondered whether the inside wheels were on the road at all, this is one of the boatiest cars to come out of the Land of the Rising Sun. I've taken this thing autocrossing and can assure you this car had no business being there, with the exception of doing Dunkin Donuts runs for interested attendees.
But that still didn't stop me from posting times and learning invaluable car control skills that saved the lives of myself and others.
This torque converter lost three points alone on the horrible, horrible selection of gear ratios. I know they were designed for fuel economy, but with the weight of this car and the powerplant there wasn't any reason to let first gear run up to about 45mph, cap 2nd at 65, 3rd at 90, 4th at 118, and 5th at 219 (car speed @ redline). The uneven spacing is disorienting and unnecessary, but the casual driver won't notice anything wrong with it.
It lost another two on its tempremental first-second switch. Most of the time it's smooth and predictable, but without warning it will occasionally jolt itself up into second with a savage kick through the entire car. Beyond that, it's your average slushbox and generally knows what gear it should be in. Just don't mash the pedal to the floor and expect a quick double (or sometimes even triple)-downshift; this thing will take its sweet time to change after getting the signal from the drive-by-wire throttle.
The six-speaker Honda factory sound system only pumps out a modest 160 watts, but provides enough punch to entertain yourself and your passengers while delivering a surprisingly neutral equalizer curve. Bass is well controlled and doesn't resonate through other interior components, midrange is clear and treble's only ever so slightly on the tinny side. A six-disc changer with XM radio and optional iPod connectivity make this a solid offering, but make sure you're only using the best quality burned discs with the changer. It loves to skip and scratch like a drunk Skrillex if you feed it crap burned from a laptop's disc drive.
Oh, and there's engine noise. It's an audibile hum, and at full throttle it has the power and presence of a fat man clearing his throat in a Denny's during peak breakfast hours.
The aforementioned stereo connectivity is nicely complemented by the inclusion of the HVAC controls in the same unit, keeping the center console clean and with enough buttons to get the job done. On a cold winter morning, front heated seats are a welcome addition. On a hot summer day, the power moonroof keeps the air flowing. On a day where you want to act like an idiot, god bless Honda for the one button that matters most in any car: "TCS OFF." The basic array of gadgets won't win any awards, but it won't get shunned either.
Oh, and there's a proper engine temperature gauge, something they've started to do away with in modern Hondas. I don't care if my engine is "too hot," I care if it's "starting to get hotter than normal" so I can stop before it's too late. Is that too much to ask?
Any enthusiast or fan of a car for more than its rolling breadbox qualities will look past this car with good reason. For it's MSRP, there are many other cars of equal or lesser value that offer similar equipment while giving its driver a lot more to smile about. For the family of four that needs a decent everyday sedan, it'll do the job, but there's still many more in the segment to compete with the Accord nowadays. They used to lead the mid-size race but now seem content with a mid-pack finish; a repeat scenario for the current generation of four doors.
When the only thing you have to compete with is Beige, Off-White, and Sand, Tan will keep the herd flocking to your dealerships. And maybe a few shades of Gray.