What's New for 1999
The previously optional Premium package, consisting of leather seats, is now standard.
The Legend is gone. The Vigor has been replaced. 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. Yes, Acura is slowly becoming a new company. Sure, the traditional Acura quality is still there, as are first-rate ergonomics and design. The change occurs with the model lineup Acura is offering.
Acura feels that splitting their models into distinct, function-oriented categories might be what is needed to breathe life into the sales charts. The 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 baby 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 mid-life crisis. Acura's CL offers spirited performance with its VTEC engine choices and double-wishbone suspension. The CL's real appeal comes not from its attractive shape or long list of standard equipment, but rather from the effective marriage of luxury and performance. If any aspect of the long-successful Integra has been retained in the CL, it's the smaller coupe's trademark road manners, which border on magical.
The CL will never threaten an NSX in absolute handling, but it may surprise drivers who think that automatic climate control and canyon carving are mutually exclusive. Highway manners are also excellent, with a comfortable ride that provides plenty of feedback. 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.Balancing out the coupe's responsive road feel is a powerful drivetrain capped by a smooth, torquey 3.0-liter V6 or a sprightly 2.3-liter inline four. Unlike the smaller Integra's raucous 1.8-liter inline four, the CL fires quietly and stays smooth right up to redline where only a hint of engine roar can be heard or felt from within the well-insulated cabin. The extra investment required to purchase the V6 is more than made up for in refinement dividends, though the 3.0CL only comes with an automatic transmission.
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 in-dash CD-player, remote keyless entry, antilock brakes and leather seats 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.
As the first Acura designed, engineered, and manufactured almost entirely in the U.S., the car feels quite " American". From its high-end accouterments to its sporty road manners, the CL takes personal luxury to a level not commonly found on vehicles in this price range. It's also the only Acura, other than the NSX, to be offered solely as a two-door model. Prices for the base CL start higher than prices for the top-of-the-line Honda Accord EX coupe equipped with the same engine, antilock brakes and a leather interior. All of the goodness of the Acura is present on the Accord Coupe, so just keep in mind that other coupes within the Honda division represent a better value.