What's New for 2002
Updated last year, the Acura CL is unchanged for 2002.
Acura's target market for the 3.2CL is aging baby boomers who are experiencing life without children for the first time in decades. No longer needing that silly SUV or monstrous minivan, these empty-nesters are supposed to rediscover the joys of coupe life... preferably in a CL.
Well, there are worse places to go for a midlife crisis. Acura's CL offers spirited performance and competent handling in a package that effectively marries the two with a comfortable, well-appointed cabin. Two models are available: the standard CL or, for those who crave a sportier ride with additional power, the performance-oriented Type-S.
Though it will never threaten an NSX in terms of absolute handling or a Bentley Continental R with regard to lavish trimmings, the stoutly bodied CL may surprise drivers who think that automatic climate control and canyon carving are mutually exclusive.
Highway manners are excellent, with a comfortable ride that provides plenty of feedback. Standard 16-inch wheels and antilock brakes provide sure footing under most circumstances (though we've noticed a tendency toward brake fade when using the binders repeatedly), and the variable-assist rack-and-pinion steering is communicative without making low-speed parking maneuvers difficult. A smooth, torquey 3.2-liter 225-horsepower V6 in standard CLs (or a 260-horsepower version in the Type-S model) makes for lively acceleration. The front wheels are driven through a five-speed SportShift automanual transmission.
The extra investment required to purchase the Type-S is worth the cost in drivetrain dividends, which include a dual-stage induction system, low-restriction dual exhaust, larger throttle body, increased compression ratio, special cylinder heads, firmer springs, increased shock damping and handsome 17-inch wheels. The Type-S also gets a Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system to keep the car pointed in the direction you want to go. Be warned, however, that the stiffly sprung Type-S suffers from a somewhat harsh ride on most urban streets.
Unlike American personal coupes that are often overweight and overtly flashy, or austere German sport coupes, which are often spartan to the point of monasticism, the CL's interior effectively blends ergonomic simplicity with the look, if not the feel, of rich appointments. Up front, occupants will find comfortable and supportive leather-faced seats, as well as plenty of legroom. Side-impact airbags are standard. Acura calls the CL a 2+2, so it should come as no surprise that backseat passengers will feel a bit pinched if they are over average height.
Standard niceties include an in-dash six-disc CD changer hooked to an Acura/Bose audio system, heated front seats, remote keyless entry and a power moonroof. The only option on either model is a DVD-based navigation system containing complete mapping of the 48 contiguous states.
As the first Acura designed, engineered and manufactured almost entirely in the United States, the CL certainly doesn't feel "American." From its high-end accoutrements to its sporty road manners, the CL takes personal luxury to a level not commonly found on vehicles in this price range.