I Drove the Last Manual Honda Accord at Tail of the Dragon and Why Did Nobody Tell Me These Were Good?

Forgive me, but family sedans aren’t really at the top of my automotive priority list. Without a special performance edition like the Toyota Camry TRD or long-gone Ford Taurus SHO, I’ll generally overlook what some consider “traffic” in favor of sports cars and off-roaders. But when I showed up to Pride at the Dragon and met one of our followers and his manual-equipped tenth-generation Honda Accord, my curiosity got the best of me.

The tenth-generation Honda Accord was launched in 2017 for the 2018 model year, and Michael has had his for about six years. While the 10th-gen Accord could be had as a hybrid, or with a 1.5-liter turbo four and CVT, his Sport trim is more interesting. I know, “Sport” usually designates the cost-saving-yet-marketing-friendly blacked out trim and maybe some red accents. In Honda’s case, the 2018 Accord Sport uses a variant of the 2.0-liter turbo four found in the same-era Civic Type R.

It’s not quite the same engine as in the 306 horsepower Type R, given the smaller turbo and different camshafts and pistons. But it still makes a very-healthy 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. And in Michael’s case, it’s paired to a six-speed manual transmission, not the optional 10-speed automatic.

2018 Honda Accord Sport manual shifter
Photo: Honda

Michael offered up the keys and I slipped behind the wheel, navigating the unassuming white sedan toward the exit of Fontana Village. I didn’t want to run the entire Tail, but the “Hellbender” route that runs from Fontana to the US 129 gas station and general store offers plenty of opportunity to feel out a car’s handling prowess. It’s a mix of tighter turns and sweeping curves, instead of the Tail’s constant autocross-esque lefts and rights, and better for a bigger car like the Accord.

He told me to “go right ahead,” and so I pulled out of Fontana and let ‘er rip. Within a few minutes, I was suitably impressed, and that feeling only got stronger the more I pushed. Why did nobody tell me these were… so good?

That Type R engine, despite being “de-tuned” in a sense, is a rev-happy little thing. It makes power seemingly right up until the 6,800 rpm redline. Pairing it to the six-speed is a proper combination, too. Pedals are spaced for easy heel-toe, and while the shifter could be a touch heavier in its throw, it was precise and easy to use while focusing on the overall hustle of Hellbender.

Approaching some big sweepers, I immediately felt confident tossing the Accord in and staying on throttle to pull us through. Yes, we’re on all-seasons. No, there’s no limited-slip differential. It didn’t really matter, though. The big(ish) Honda was happy to play, with beautiful suspension balance that lands on the softer side yet remains composed. It felt light on its feet, helped by the remarkably light 3,280-pound curb weight. Yes, really, a modern Accord that weighs less than a new Toyota Supra or Nissan Z.

2018 Honda Accord Sport manual on Tail of the Dragon
Photo: CJ Bain Photography

Braking was similarly confidence-inspiring, with just a few brief moments of ABS engagement on harder stops. The pedal felt great from first bite to that anti-lock threshold.

There are plenty of cars that require the driver spend time acclimating before starting to push hard. Had I felt an iota of that with Michael’s Accord, I would have backed down immediately and taken more of a crawl, walk, run approach to Hellbender. To Honda’s credit, the entire car feels like a big Civic Si – it’s not raucous enough to be a Type R – even though it’s missing some key hardware like that limited-slip diff or adaptive dampers. It’s simple, it’s light, and it’s very “old Honda” in it’s playfulness.

Honda has since moved on to the 11th-generation Accord, a car that’s been well-reviewed but is also allegedly a bit less of um, this. Sure, most buyers of a fun sedan will end up in a Civic or Integra at this point, but there is something so endearing about a larger sedan that can seat four six-footers in easy comfort while also offering legitimate driver engagement.

I wasn’t on the press car circuit when these Accords were new or hot enough to keep in local fleets. I’m glad to have experienced Michael’s, though, as it’s likely the end of an era in some ways. And damn, it’s good.

2018 Honda Accord interior with manual transmission
Will we ever see an Accord with three pedals? Probably not.
Photo: Honda

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