Acura redesigned its 3.2 CL sport coupe as an early 2001 model that went on sale in the spring of 2000. Only minor changes are evident for 2002. Like its 1997 1999 predecessor, the 3.2 CL is a near-luxury front-drive coupe that seats four occupants. The latest CL is a little larger and heavier than before. It is manufactured in Ohio and rides a platform related to that of the Acura TL sedan and the Honda Accord. Acura claims that the CL accounts for one-third of sales in the luxury coupe segment.
Two different 3.2-liter V-6 engines are available: one for the base model and a more potent version for the performance-oriented CL Type S; both models drive an automatic transmission. In its prior form, the CL had a choice of four-cylinder or V-6 power, and the former engine was available with a manual shift.
Styling is similar to the previous CL coupe, with a low roofline and long tapered quarter windows, wraparound headlights, triangular taillights and a pentagonal grille similar to the one installed on the TL sedan. With a 106.9-inch wheelbase, the current CL measures 192 inches long overall an increase of 2 inches. The 3.2 CL stands 53.3 inches tall, measures 69.2 inches wide and weighs about 460 pounds more than its predecessor.
The extra length translates to about 2 inches of additional legroom inside. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights are standard. Alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires on the base 3.2 CL and 17-inchers on the Type S, which also gets a tighter-handling sport suspension.
The 3.2 CL has front and rear bucket seats that accommodate four occupants. All seats are upholstered in leather, and the front buckets are heated. The driver gets an eight-way power seat with memory-controlled lumbar adjustment, while the front passenger seat is a four-way unit.
Standard features include a power moonroof, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, cruise control, automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, heated power mirrors, power windows and locks, and an Acura/Bose six-speaker stereo with an in-dash six-CD changer. The Type S adds a silver metallic-faced instrument cluster and perforated-leather seats, steering wheel and gearshift knob with a special emblem. A satellite-linked DVD navigation system with a touchscreen display is the only factory-installed option.
Under the Hood
Base 3.2 CL coupes use a 3.2-liter V-6 engine that produces 225 horsepower, while the performance-oriented Type S gets a 260-hp variant of the same power plant. Both engines mate with a five-speed-automatic transmission, which has a Sequential SportShift provision for semi-manual gear changes.
Antilock brakes, traction control and side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard on both models. The Type S comes with Acuras Vehicle Stability Assist electronic stability system to help maintain control during acceleration, cornering and sudden maneuvers.
While both models are appealing, the 3.2 CL adopts a somewhat different personality than the Type S. In the city, at least, the Type S is rather rough riding its tauter suspension pounding over some bumps and holes, which is a touch out of character for an Acura.
Performance on the Type S is eager and energetic and has capable handling skills. Quick, assertive engine response is accompanied by a drawling noise during hard acceleration. Full-throttle downshifts for passing can get awkward, but otherwise, the automatic transmission performs promptly and easily. The top CL maneuvers adeptly, hangs tight through curves and steers with satisfying precision.
Seats are firm but supportive and comfortable. The coupe is spacious up front, but it is snugger in the rear, lacking in headroom and legroom. Visibility is good, except over the drivers left shoulder.