What's New for 1997
Like many Acura products, the CL is based on a Honda platform, in this case the Honda Accord. The CL's sights are aimed squarely at BMW's 3 Series coupes.
The Legend is gone. The Vigor is gone. The Integra will be departing soon. Acura is in the midst of an image makeover of a scale that hasn't been seen since Chrysler was resuscitated after its near-fatal plunge into mediocrity. Yup, Acura is a new company. Oh sure, the traditional Acura quality is still there, as are first rate ergonomics and design. The change occurs with the model lineup and the type of cars Acura is offering.
Acura feels that splitting their models into very distinct, function-oriented categories might be what is needed to breathe life into their sales charts. The new CL fits into this scheme by offering performance and luxury that is a step up from the Integra coupes, without the frumpiness of a larger sedan. The CL's target market is aging boomers who are experiencing life-without-children. No longer needing that five-door wagon or monstrous minivan, these empty-nesters are supposed to rediscover the joys of coupe life.
Well, there are worse places to go for a midlife crisis. Acura's 2.2CL offers spirited performance with its 145-horsepower VTEC engine and double-wishbone suspension. The 16-inch wheels and antilock brakes provide sure footing when pushed to the limit, and the variable-assist rack-and-pinion steering is communicative without being harsh. The unit-body construction used in the CL, combined with the rear-wheel arch extenders and strut tower bar, creates a car with little flex and twisting over most surfaces.
Unlike American personal coupes that are often overly flashy with blinking gewgaws and too many buttons, or German coupes, which are Spartan to the point of monasticism, the CL's interior effectively blends efficiency with luxury. Niceties such as a standard CD-player and remote keyless entry are well appreciated. There is adequate seating for four, although back seat passengers will feel a bit pinched in the legroom department if they are over average height.
The sheetmetal on the CL is attractive, but it does little to distinguish this car from its plebeian sibling, the Honda Accord. This brings us to our main concern about the CL. Prices for the base Acura 2.2CL start at around $22,500. Prices for the top-of-the-line Honda Accord EX coupe, equipped with the same engine, antilock brakes and a leather interior, top-out well under $23,000. All of the things we like about the Acura are present on the Honda. In our humble estimation, the Star Trek-looking "A" on the hood of the Acura 2.2CL doesn't warrant a $1,000 price hike over the very competent Honda Accord.