COAL: 2003 Honda Accord EX-L V6 – Too Perfect?

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”
― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

By now, my COALs will be hitting somewhat of a tick-tock cadence – A new car for me, followed by a new car for my lovely wife Kristen.

As I mentioned in my previous COAL, I had soft-landed my career from the detritus of the dot-bomb explosion at Stylin Concepts, and we were living in a three bedroom cluster home we had built in 1999. While it seemed like a good idea at the time, in retrospect it was probably the biggest blunder of my life.

Not having any kids when we built it, I overlooked the kind of things that quickly become essential when raising a family: A backyard, a guest bedroom for visiting relatives providing free babysitting, and most of all, lots of space.

I miscalculated on all fronts: My line of work (IT consulting) pretty much mandates a home office, so my three-bedroom house was effectively down to two. And with child #2 on the way, I reluctantly found myself back in the housing market after little more than two years.

Learning from our previous mistakes, Kristen and I built a four-bedroom house that we hoped would meet our needs for the foreseeable future. A bedroom for each kid, plus an office for me. A three-car garage, even though we only had two at the time ( I would get around to filling it later). I had the builder put in rough plumbing for a bathroom and wet bar in the basement, since I was planning on finishing the basement at some point.

New house and two new cars

We tried to think of everything, and I think we did: we still live in this same house 15 years later.

With the housing situation taken care of, it was time to get back to the cars. While Kristen’s previous car was fine, I always felt that I could do better (recall my quest for automotive perfection in the 1990’s). My love affair with Honda/Acura had never really cooled, and with a brand new for 2003 body style the Honda Accord seemed like a perfect (pun intended) choice.

The seventh-generation North American Accord represented a major new styling direction by Honda. To be honest, I wasn’t wild about it, as it was a pretty big departure from the themes that Honda had been using for decades to great success. The nose was droopy, and the rear end made the back of the car look for all the world like a Buick. Apparently Honda agreed, as they reverted to more traditional rear-end styling after the 2006 mid-cycle refresh.

While the styling might have been questionable, everything else was flawless. The 3.0-liter V6 was a jewel: It put out an ample 240 hp, and had that unique Honda quality of sounding far more expensive than it was. The 5-speed automatic was smooth shifting, unobtrusive, and was always in the right gear. It had perfectly sized alloy wheels that provided the perfect balance of ride and handling. The heated leather seats were supportive and comfortable. This car also served as my first introduction to the joys of dual-zone climate control, which was much appreciated, as Kristen and I like to keep the temperature at different extremes.

Ryan (left) and Josh (right). 2003 Accord in background.

I don’t really have much bad to say about the Accord. In fact, I can’t really think of anything bad at all to say. It was exceptionally competent, spacious, comfortable, and engaging. In fact, it was, dare I say, darn near perfect.

Honda Accords make great cars, but apparently they make lousy COALs.

As you can see, one overarching theme in my life has been a Quixotic search for automotive perfection. Indeed, I didn’t even realize it until I started penning this series many moons ago. After searching for perfection for years before finally finding it at the Audi dealership, who know that it was available all along at your closest Honda dealership (at about half the price, to boot)? As Homer Simpson would say, D’oh!

So now that I have obtained automotive perfection for the second time in my life, I must take some time for reflection. The 2003 Accord may have been one of the most perfect cars I ever owned, but it was not the most memorable, or even the most enjoyable. So what exactly makes a perfect car? Is perfection even desirable?

Case in point: why would someone want a painting when a photograph does a much better job of capturing an image? Take the example above: On the right, Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting Church at Auvers. On the left, a photograph of the same building from roughly the same angle. The photograph inarguably has more detail and accuracy and is generally a more perfect representation of the building than the Van Gogh. Yet one is a priceless work of art, and the other is a worthless snapshot.

Maybe perfection is more than simply fidelity? Maybe there is something to this elusive quality of “character” after all? As a technophile, I always mocked people who prefer the “warmth” of LP records over CDs, but maybe they are on to something after all?

I am reminded of the comment storm I started a few months back in a CC Capsule I wrote where I dare suggested that a 1977 Trans Am was no faster to 60 than a modern Prius. Paul quickly produced a 1977 Car & Driver road test confirming the 9.3 second 0-60 time, on par with a Prius, pretty much settling the issue.

Or did it? Even if the holy grail of 1970’s cars, the 1977 Trans Am, is no quicker than a Prius, so what? Given the choice between the two, I would take the TA over the Prius in a heartbeat. I’m sure most readers of this blog would. Perhaps there is more to this perfection business than meets the eye.

Enough philosophy, and back to the Accord. It is said that only the good die young (or sung as in the case of Billy Joel), and such was the case with our perfect 2003 Accord.

While driving the Accord home from a Christmas party in December of 2005, Kristen came up behind a vehicle that was stopped at a green light in an intersection. While sitting there for a few beats trying to figure out what to do, she was smashed from behind by another driver who apparently was focusing only on the green light and somehow did not notice the other two vehicles stopped at the intersection. The Accord was then shoved into the stopped car in front of her, effectively making here the meat in a three-car pileup sandwich.

Luckily no one was severely injured. Kristen walked away with a sore neck and some bone spurs. The Accord, on the other hand, was toast. So now we were down a vehicle, and need to replace it fast. What did we replace it with? The answer, next week, will certainly surprise you!