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1997 Acura CL

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1997 Acura CL
Available in 2 styles:  CL 2dr Coupe 2.2 shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

20–25 city / 28–31 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 1 of 12
1997 Acura CL 4.5 11
$ 559-4,747
August 14, 1997

Coupes are just not the preferred flavor of car right now.

Most of us want something with four doors, or something with four-wheel-drive, preferably a sport-utility vehicle or a pickup truck. Coupes, though sexy, just don't fit in with kid-laden lives, and they for darn sure won't haul your boat.

But suppose for a second that you did want a coupe.

Consider the Acura CL, the car that gets my nomination for the most-overlooked vehicle in America.

Introduced last year after the Legend coupe -- in fact, the entire Legend lineup -- was discontinued, the CL is worth a look on several points:

It doesn't look like it came from the same set of cookie cutters that seem to stamp out a lot of the cars with Japanese nameplates.

It comes with an optional 200-horsepower, variable-valve-timing V-6 engine that is among the smoothest available.

It has the trademark Acura fit and finish.

It can be had for as little as $23,000, and a fully loaded six-cylinder version lists for under $27,000.

This Acura has a lot going for it -- though there are some ways in which the CL could move closer to perfection.

First an overview:

When the Legend coupe expired, it wore a price tag of more than $40,000 and wasn't competing all that well with the pricier Lexus SC coupe in the luxury market. But Acura still felt there was a market, perhaps small, but not insignificant, for a luxury-oriented sports coupe.

So designers at Honda's studios in California -- Acura is owned by Honda -- went to work on creating a coupe that would be a step up from the Integra two-door model in price and equipment, but not cross into true luxury-car territory.

The result is the CL, which is the first Acura both designed and built in the United States.

What sets the CL styling apart is the boat tail rear end. The V-shaped rear end is reminiscent of the 1933 Auburn Speedster, considered by many to be a design classic, and on the Acura it is something of a love-it-or-hate-it statement.

I like it because it is different, though it is fair to say the rest of the car's body is more conventional. It would have been interesting to see what the car would have looked like if the people who sculpted the rear end had been allowed to work on the rest of the car.

So its somewhat-split styling is one of those CL drawbacks I mentioned earlier.

And by the way, don't look for a keyhole on the rear end. It spoiled the design, so the only way in is either by a release in the cockpit, through the folding rear seats or the remote button on the key fob. Most people will never miss the key.

Inside, the front seats provide good support and the dashboard is well laid out, if a bit Spartan. There is room enough in the back for two adults, provided they aren't pushing six feet tall. One nice touch is the Bose stereo, which has one of the richest sounds this side of a $45,000 sedan.

When it comes to power, the CL is available in two versions -- a base 2.2 -liter four that produces 145 horsepower, and the silky three-liter V-6.

If you like shifting through the gears, you'll have to opt for the less-expensive 2.2 CL, which is available with a five-speed manual, as well as a four-speed automatic. The 200-horsepower six is only offered with a four-speed automatic. Another of those drawbacks.

Power with the four -- especially when it is coupled to the five-speed manual gearbox -- is more than adequate for most people, though when the four-speed automatic is in place the sprint from a stoplight is a bit sluggish.

With the six under the hood, the front-wheel-drive coupe becomes a real contender: It gets to 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds.

The suspension is set up much the same in both versions of the CL -- a luxury feel with some sporting pretensions. The steering is smooth and accurate, allowing the driver to place the car almost anywhere at a moment's notice. There is very little body roll, which is surprising, given the luxury l of the overall ride.

However, the CL doesn't deliver a sports-car experience, even with the punchy V-6 -- another of those drawbacks.

This is a coupe that is quite content to do a lot of things without much fuss. Step on the gas, and the V-6 responds with barely a moan. Take a fast turn and the car handles well, but provides little tactile feedback to the driver.

Nonetheless, this car will satisfy a lot of people: It looks good, it has power, it's priced right, it's screwed together darn well.

For me, I look at the CL in the same way I look at vanilla ice cream: I like it, but I always wish it had chocolate sauce on top.

Base list price: $26,460

Price as tested:$26,460

Major options: None. (All luxury options, including moon roof are standard.)

Engine: Three-liter V-6

Horsepower: 200

Transmission: Four-speed automatic

Weight: 3,219 pounds

0-to-60 mph: 7.5 seconds

Mileage: 22-27 mpg

Safety: Dual front air bags, anti-lock brakes, side door impact beams

Competition: Ford Thunderbird, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Nissan 240SX, Toyota Celica

    Expert Reviews 1 of 12

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