The Acura CL is a 2-door coupe that was made by Acura with the intention of being the successor to the Legend. While it never managed to gain the same traction as their other coupes (despite great reviews) it still left a really good mark on the company’s history. Let’s take a look at exactly what the Acura brought to the table with the CL.
At the time of the CL’s release, Acura was already established as the company you go to for a luxury feel at a decent price and this car is no exception. With the expected opulence for the time, incredible engineering and performance, one could easily think that the CL is at least 50% more expensive.
It is quite extraordinary how Acura has managed to keep their prices very reasonable without stripping down much of the general experience or the more upscale feel. The CL comes with all the features you would want: eight-way power heated driver’s seat, keyless remote entry, powered moonroof and an anti-theft system. It also has a six speaker sound system made by the amazing engineers at Bose and it featured a cassette and six compact disc changer (which was quite a feature at the time). The best part is that all of these were factory options and the only real tech extra you could get was the Acura Navigation System.
On the outside, the CL has a more reserved, understated and refined look with more sporty vibes shyly peeking from underneath the covers. This is especially true for the engine powering it. The CL has a 3.2L VTEC J-Series V6 engine capable of pushing out 225 horsepower. This engine does an incredible job of propelling the car forward and it easily makes you feel like the car weighs half as much as it actually does. It’s also really nice that once it’s revved up, the engine makes all the right noises that make a good car fun to play with.
In terms of handling, the CL does just just as good, with a front-engine front-wheel drive (FWD) and a well balanced suspension. Alongside a well tuned “Vehicle Stability Assist” system that monitors cornering, traction and braking, this car has pretty tight handling while still maintaining a remarkably smooth riding experience.
The CL is available with either a 5-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual transmission. Both feel great to use, but there are known problems with the automatic version. It’s reported to start experiencing issues like slipping and gear failures after passing the 40k miles mark. This issue led to recalls and even Acura extending the warranties. Even with this problem though, the CL still manages to be a reliable car and still added to the overall expectations people have of Acura (and in extension Honda) for reliability.
When it comes to safety, Acura didn’t skimp out on much as the CL is filled with both active and passive features. Included in the package is traction control for when driving on slippery roads, front and side air bags for the front passengers and the four-wheel disc brakes have ABS.
The interior of the CL can be considered quite refined for its time. With leather trimming, nicely designed seats and a cleaner dashboard, the CL can even hold its own today. The biggest issue is that the backseat experience is cramped enough to make it difficult for backseat passengers to have any real comfort. This area is much better suited for extra cargo rather than actual people.
Acura also created a CL Type-S later that offered primarily performance improvements. This meant better suspension, braking and drivetrain enhancements. Best of all, the V6 was now able to output 260 horsepower (35 more than on the base model).
In the end the CL offered a great value at a time when entry-level luxury vehicles had not yet started to be a proper thing. The look is great, the fuel economy is excellent and the performance is awesome, even without the Type S engine.