Cars like the Honda Accord have an important position in the automotive landscape. They’re durable workhorses designed to haul families around for many years. If you’re an enthusiast, you might get a dash of spice with a more powerful engine, but that’s about it. For a short time from 2006 to 2007, Honda produced an enthusiast special of its Accord sedan. This is a four-door with a 3.0-liter V6 making 244 HP and 211 lb-ft torque sent through a manual transmission. It was a performance sedan for the family person.
Last time on Holy Grails, reader John B illustrated that the Mitsubishi Galant came in more than one exciting flavor. If you wanted rally-bred performance, you could buy a Galant VR-4, which made 195 HP and 203 lb-ft torque from its 2.0-liter four, or 237 horses and 224 lb-ft torque in other markets. It was a street version of a rally car that borrowed some tech from the racer such as four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, independent suspension, four-wheel ABS, and an electronically controlled suspension system. If you cared more about style, you could pick up the Galant AMG, which sported tuning and styling from AMG (yes, that AMG), netting you a 168 HP screamer with an 8,000 RPM redline.
Today’s grail continues down the path of a sedan for an enthusiast. However, this one is low-key, so much so that it’s a car that’s rarely written about or celebrated – often overshadowed by its coupe sibling. It doesn’t have any big tuning house names behind it or rallying heritage; instead, it’s a regular car in a configuration rarely sold.
There is something to be said about having a reliable daily driver. Having a fun, chaotic enthusiast car is great, right up until it isn’t. For some people, that’s when you need that car to get you to work, or for that car to survive what should be an easy road trip. The pain of owning an unreliable car is one I know all too well. In fact, when I go on road trips, I choose which car I take based on the chance it may not make it. Lately, the BMW 530xi wagon that I bought from the Bishop has been my go-to daily driver. Yep, a mid-aughts BMW is pretty much the most reliable car I own right now. Even my diesel Volkswagens have been finding annoying ways to let me down.
For countless car buyers, the idea of a practical car that just works is alluring. A Honda Accord is a common car, one that easily gets lost in the sea of black, gray, other gray, silver, and white traffic. Can you even remember when was the last time you’ve taken note of an Accord? They’re everywhere, yet invisible. You could rob a bank and if you use an Accord as a getaway car, the police would probably get a description like “gray sedan.” There’s nothing wrong with that! I’m sure the average Accord will be running long after my BMWs bite the dust.
With that in mind, choosing a practical, reliable car doesn’t have to mean getting something that will put you to sleep. For much of the Honda Accord sedan’s existence, you could get the car with a V6 engine or a manual transmission, but not both together. So, for the practical enthusiast buyer, you had to choose between power or the fun of rowing your own gears. Then, briefly, Honda changed that.
Achieving An “Accord” With People
The Honda Accord has enjoyed a long life of 47 years of production and eleven generations. Today, the Accord is among a shrinking number of sedans that haven’t been replaced by crossovers. It’s easy to see why Honda continues to invest in the Accord. Save for a sales dip during the pandemic, Honda has been able to move a couple hundred thousand Accords a year. The Accord didn’t always have this staying power. In fact, the Accord didn’t even start off as a sedan.
As Honda writes, the first Accord launched in 1976 as a three-door hatchback. The sedan wouldn’t show up until 1979. The 1976 Accord CVCC was just 13.5 feet long and was powered by a 1.6-liter CVCC four making 68 HP. Honda notes that while 68 ponies aren’t many to have in the stable, the late 1970s were also a time when you could find V8s making just 140 horses. If you’ve ever wondered about the Accord name, Honda says it does have a meaning:
The name Accord was derived from Honda’s unremitting effort to achieve “accord” between people, society, and the automobile through advanced technology.
Honda also credits the 1976 Accord with giving Honda its necessary first step toward becoming a full-line car manufacturer. The automaker also claims that the Accord carved out a new segment, one that combined economy, value, and a sporty style with performance. In 1976, the Accord set you back $3,995, or $21,852 in today’s money. That got you an aluminum cylinder head, a five-speed manual transmission, front-wheel-drive and standard equipment including an AM/FM radio, a rear window with a defroster, wiper, washer, plus a remote hatch release. A more luxurious LX model came in 1978 and in 1981, the Accord Special Edition sported leather seats and alloy wheels.
The first Accord set Honda on a path of success. The second-generation Accord was launched later in 1981 and Honda says it was notable for being among the first Japanese passenger cars to be assembled in America. Third-generation Accords got a racecar-inspired double wishbone suspension design while the fourth-generation was notable for the introduction of a wagon body to join the sedan and a coupe.
The next milestone noted by Honda came in the Accord’s fifth generation, which launched in 1994. In 1995, Honda added a 2.7-liter V6 making 170 horsepower and 165 lb-ft torque. Meanwhile, the car’s four-cylinder got Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC) for the first time.
Sounds great, right? Well, you couldn’t pair the V6 and a manual transmission together with the sedan. This continued into the sixth generation, which launched in 1998. Honda didn’t offer a manual transmission for any V6 version of the Accord. So, you were left choosing either more power, rowing your own gears, or forcing it to work out through a swap.
Accord, But More
That brings us to the seventh-generation Honda Accord of 2003. This new Accord boasted new modern styling inside and out. Meanwhile, the engines offered a good bump in power. A 2002 Accord had either a 2.3-liter four making 135 HP and 145 lb-ft torque or a 3.0-liter V6 making 200 HP and 195 lb-ft torque. In 2003, the four-cylinder option got kicked up to 2.4-liters, 160 HP, and 161 lb-ft torque while the 3.0-liter V6 earned 240 HP and 212 lb-ft torque.
You got that with a curb weight of roughly 3,300 pounds, similar to the outgoing model. For a review, I will pull up a video from the charming John Davis of MotorWeek:
Davis summarizes his review at the beginning by saying:
For many families in the hunt for reliable transportation, the search often begins and ends with a Honda Accord. But besides being reliable this best-selling nameplate delivers the features and finesse of cars costing thousands more. So what could the all-new seventh-generation Accord sedan and coupe possible do for an encore? Well, the answer is simple: More!
Davis went on to say that while the seventh-generation Accord looks smaller than its predecessor, it’s not. Styling did a lot of the slimming down. Designers apparently used the posture of a crouched cheetah for inspiration. The result was a tighter, younger, more organic, and muscular visual.
Six-speed models got wheels from the Acura TL Type-S with new center caps. Highlight features include an optional moonroof, dual-zone climate control, leather heated seats, a satellite navigation system, and side-curtain airbags. From MotorWeek‘s review, it seemed the Accord was a solid vehicle. Sure, it may not have been typical enthusiast fare, but it did the job it was built to do with flying colors. Still, you couldn’t get it with a V6 and a manual. Well, not at first.
In 2006, the Accord got its mid-cycle facelift, which updated the vehicle’s visuals and the engines got mild updates, too. The four-cylinder now made 166 HP and 160 lb-ft torque while the V6 got 244 HP and 211 lb-ft torque. Then Honda did something unexpected, starting in 2006, you were able to pair that V6 with a six-speed manual transmission and have that as a sedan. That sounds like an enthusiast special to me. Reader and Honda faithful Matt Pence gave me three nominations in one email:
I’m a Honda nerd, and my HG nominations show it. First off is a CR-Z 6MT, of which I got bad photos, attached. HPD supercharger kits were available. Second is the 1st generation Insight and Civic Hybrid, when equipped with a 5MT. Third, the 2006 and 2007 Accord sedan V6 6MT, the only time Honda equipped the Accord 4 door V6 with a manual.
I love these picks! I’d love to own a first-generation Insight. It’s one of those cars where the entire model could be considered a grail.
Anyway, Car and Driver felt the Accord V6 + 6MT was an enthusiast special, too. In 2006, the magazine held a thrilling shootout between five sedans, all of them with some sporting characteristics and manual transmissions. Even better, all of the sedans were from regular brands! The shootout was a competition between the Acura TSX, Honda Accord, Mazdaspeed 6, Pontiac G6, and Volkswagen Jetta. I completely forgot that you could buy a Pontiac G6 with a manual transmission.
Anyway, the Honda in the test, an Accord EX V6 with a six-speed manual, finished in second place behind the Volkswagen Jetta GLI but ahead of the Acura TSX, Mazdaspeed 6, and Pontiac G6 GTP. Scoring higher than Honda’s own luxury brand and Mazda is a pretty high mark. Here’s what Car and Driver had to say:
We consider the Accord to be the best family sedan in the business, hands down. But until now, we’ve never thought of it as a sports sedan. Competent, yes. Reasonably entertaining to drive, sure–as family sedans go. But how would it go versus four-doors aimed at a slightly higher performance standard?
There was some head shaking among the test crew when the list of combatants was revealed. After all, the only elements separating this Accord from others with V-6 engines are that six-speed manual and the patches of imitation carbon-fiber trim in the cabin. This Accord gets the same 17-inch wheels as the Accord coupe, but all the V-6 Accords get new 17-inchers, wearing rather wimpy 215/50 Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 all-season tires. Similarly, this Accord has revised suspension bushings, but that, too, is something it shares with the other V-6 Accords.
Could it keep pace with the other players? Oh, yeah. Although those tires held the Honda back in the braking and skidpad exercises, the power of that superb V-6—upgraded by four horsepower for ’06—dragged it into a third-place tie with the handy little Jetta in the lane change, and it was second only to the more potent Mazdaspeed 6 in acceleration runs. It was the only car besides the Mazda to crack the six-second mark in 0-to-60 sprints–5.9 seconds–and it did so without audible drama. THE VERDICT: An unsuspected tiger in a business suit.
Not bad for a car that at the time, had won a spot on Car and Driver‘s 10Best Cars list for 20 of the 24 years the publication had been running it. The magazine’s testers even rated it higher for comfort than the Acura that finished behind it. I haven’t really found any explanation for why Honda tossed the manual transmission in as an option, but by those accounts, it turned a mere fine family car into perhaps a bit of a sleeper.
I could not find published production numbers for the manual variant, but it was sold for just 2006 and 2007, a tiny fraction of Accord production. Enthusiasts estimate that the manuals made up a sliver of total production. Some online searches show that just one sold on Cars & Bids and zero at Bring a Trailer. I found one for sale with a ton of miles and some mods for $5,495. You can find a few of these Accords on Facebook if you look hard enough.
After 2007, your only way to get a V6 and manual in your Accord was to buy a coupe and even that wouldn’t last. Honda killed the coupe in 2017, the V6 didn’t make it to 2018, and the manual transmission option limped on to 2020.
Today, your only transmission choice is some form of CVT. If you could find one, it sounds like you’re getting one of the coolest Accords ever built. This is a sedan that hits 60 mph in under 6 seconds while blending in with the rest of the world. It’s a sedan that will take you from sea to shining sea, take your kids to school, and a car that could probably outlive you.
(Images: Honda, unless otherwise noted.)
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