Track time with Honda Accord Coupe
Back in January 28th, we were invited to try out the 2008 Honda Accord Coupe at the Dubai Autodrome, although we had to keep this quiet until the March 1 local release date of the car. We got 3 laps each with a 271 hp 3.5-litre V6 and a 190 hp 2.4-litre 4-cylinder model, both automatics since that’s the only way they’ll be sold in the GCC region. The awesome photography for our drive was provided by Honda themselves.
This was only my second time on the Autodrome circuit, after 3 laps with a Nissan Altima V6 Coupe on their press day back in November last year, and I could barely remember that. Four Honda Accord Coupes simply had to follow a lead car, incidentally an Accord sedan driven by a track instructor, with no overtaking allowed. The kicker was that the instructor didn’t seem to hold back, as the the other three drivers in my group were seasoned editors from many “leading” local magazines who’ve been around the track countless times.
The first three laps were in a blue body-kitted V6, and while I mentioned that the engine had weak low-end push during the monotonous highway drive to Fujeirah with the sedan, the motor was in its prime at the track, revving high and kicking out tons of power, feeling like a genuine performance car on the straights. Unfortunately, during these initial laps, I was uncertain of the shape of the track, and spent most of the time being tailgated by the editor of CAR Middle East.
The general characteristic of the car is to understeer out of every corner, but with the precise steering and the linear brakes, it was never much of an issue and the car went where it was pointed. I was getting on the power late out of the turns, which is why I was a bit slower than the others, but still managing to keep up with the cars ahead thanks to the strong engine. During this time, I only managed one mild slide of the tail while braking into a turn. Interesting, I don’t think the stability control went off during the whole exercise. I am guessing it only intervenes during total loss of tyre grip.
The next 3 laps in the blue four-cylinder turned out to be a much more interesting affair. After the first lap, with the editor of Performance Magazine behind and the CAR ME guy in front, the instructor in the lead car hinted over the radio that I was a “bit slow.” At that point, I just decided to rip apart the somewhat-slow coupe and give it all I had, not caring if the car went into a wall. I pounded on the buzzing four-cylinder, and braked later and later at every turn, catching up easily.
I then started braking into the turns, letting the rear slide out a few degrees. It was so much fun that I started sliding the rear a bit in every turn, cutting sharper lines into the turns and not caring about following the instructor’s proper long-arcing racing lines. But then I was falling behind coming out of the turns as I was getting on the throttle late. Incidentally, I still think the stability control didn’t interfere, which is actually a good thing even if the tyres were squealing loudly on every turn of the track.
By the last lap, with every turn, I was getting on the throttle earlier than before, understeering heavily but staying within the track, and then braking late into the turns, and sliding around the inner apex on every turn, and then switching to understeer again just by getting on the power right after the mid-point of the turn. Hardly the best way to race, but easily the most fun, with no one tailgating me any more, and no one ahead could pull away from me either.
At the end, my car was ready to move out again for the next batch of journos, while the CAR ME dude’s car had to be put aside to cool down his heavily-smoking brakes. I guess I didn’t destroy the car after all.
It is really easy to control a well-balanced front-wheel-drive car such as the Accord coupe at the highest limits, and a good way to start off in high-speed driving. Initiating mild rear-end slides are easy, and pulling out of these slides are even easier by just pounding on the power. It’s so easy to drive these to the limit that, being a passenger for a “hot lap” with an instructor, it actually didn’t feel any faster.