2002 Acura CL

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2003 Acura CL

This 2003 review is representative of model years 2001 to 2003.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Refinements make CL more of a genuine sports coupe.
Pros:
  • Handling
  • New close-ratio manual transmission
  • Acceleration
Cons:
  • Rather tight rear seat
  • Long, heavy doors
  • Narrow trunk pass-through opening

The latest Acura CL coupe should help provide this upscale division of Honda with the sportier, more youthful image it desires.

The first CL was a 1997 model designed expressly for the American market and built by Honda in Ohio. But it was only an attractive cruiser, and no knowledgeable car buff took it seriously.

Acura became more serious with the second-generation CL coupe, which arrived for 2001 as a bigger, more powerful model, although it still was equipped only with an automatic transmission. Close, but no cigar.

New Image-Enhancing Gearbox
However, the high-line 260-horsepower CL Type S coupe for 2003 offers a new close-ratio 6-speed manual gearbox with a helical limited-slip differential—along with a 5-speed automatic that can be shifted like a clutchless manual with its "semi-manual" feature.

The base 225-horsepower 3.2 CL coupe comes only with the automatic transmission.

Styling remains virtually unchanged for the 3.2 CL and Type S versions. However, both look a little sleeker and more aggressive with a revamped grille, revised headlights with black accents and a redesigned front bumper intake. Also redesigned are the taillight lenses.

New Items
Wheels have become increasingly important for sporty cars. Thus, the 3.2 CL gets new 16-inch wheels and the Type S receives revised 17-inch wheels.

Other new items include an automatic-up driver-side window and interior titanium look trim in Type S trims with black interiors.

Loaded With Equipment
Both CL trims have a leather interior because they're from the upscale Acura division. Moreover, the $28,200-$30,350 3.2 TL is loaded with equipment. You get everything from heated front bucket seats to a power sunroof. A satellite navigation system is the sole factory option, and it now includes General Motors' OnStar security and convenience system.

Safety features include front side airbags and anti-lock disc brakes.

The $30,550-$32,700 Type S trim gets the higher-horsepower V6 and such things as a sport suspension. The Type S can be had with the manual or automatic transmission for $30,550. (The navigation system raises the price to $32,700.)

The front-drive CL lacks the rear-drive setup many sports coupe buyers want for inherently better balance. Acura knows that and thus notes that the Type S with the manual gearbox is more than 60 pounds lighter than that trim with the automatic—and says the manual enhances steering response and handling by shifting weight distribution a bit rearward.

Sharp Handling
While both versions of the CL are nose-heavy, the car has crisp steering—particularly the Type S. The race-style double-wishbone-suspension helps provide sharp handling and a comfortable ride. The brake pedal has a nice firm feel, and stopping distances are short.

Both CL trims have a traction control system, but an anti-skid system is standard only on the Type S with an automatic transmission. The system monitors wheel speed and lateral (cornering) stability to integrate traction control, anti-lock braking and stability control functions to help a driver maintain control during sudden collision avoidance maneuvers.

Smooth, Responsive Engines
Both versions of the 3.2-liter V6 are smooth and have variable valve timing for good response at all speeds. They never seem as if they're working very hard, and the Type S engine loafs at 2800 rpm at 75 mph in sixth gear. It benefits from Honda racing technology and has such items as a dual-stage induction system and low-restriction dual-outlet exhaust.

Both versions provide an estimated 19 mpg in the city and 28-29 mpg on the highway.

New Gearbox Enhances Driving Fun
The CL is fast with the responsive automatic transmission, but many car buffs will want the manual gearbox, which works with a light clutch and allows faster acceleration and more driving kicks. The long-throw clutch is self-adjusting to ensure consistent pedal height and feel throughout its life.

Awkward Doors
Getting in and out of the supportive front bucket seats is easy, but extra effort is required to enter or leave the rear seat area, where legroom is tight for a tall passenger behind a tall driver. Long, heavy doors are a drawback in tight parking spots.

The dashboard is nicely designed and the cockpit looks very attractive. Too bad the tilt steering wheel doesn't have a telescopic feature, but attention to detail is shown by the dual sunvisor extensions and nice design of the console cupholders.

While large, the trunk has a high opening and manual hinges that steal space. There is only a narrow pass-through area between the trunk and rear-seat area to enlarge the cargo area.

The CL has been regarded as just a nice luxury cruiser for so long that it remains to be seen if the latest version will give the car—and Acura—a sportier image.

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BB05 - 8/1/2014 4:55:55 AM