I'm tempted to direct you to a four-cylinder Accord Sport with a six-speed manual transmission, because Honda transmissions are some of the slickest shifting devices ever devised by man. And yet I'm seduced by the siren call of the big horsepower just up the food chain. Sometimes, biggest actually is best, and this is one of those cases. Behind the wheel of an innocuous silver Accord, I found myself pulling U-turns on a divided highway just for an excuse to blast up through the gears and listen to that sweet 3.5-liter V-6 running to its 6,200-rpm power peak. Honda's original super car, the Acura NSX, used a 270-hp V-6, and this one sounds like it's clearly related (though, at 278 horses, it's actually more powerful). Increasingly, mainstream family cars are banishing big V-6s from the options list, with the Malibu, Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and Kia Optima all moving to four-cylinder-only lineups. But the Accord shows that a V-6 can be not only practical (34 mpg highway) but also the ideal way to enliven your grocery-getter with a secret helping of soul. [$30,350; honda.com]
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