Quick Take
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AUSTIN, Tex. — Honda would probably just as soon I not call the Acura 3.2 CL coupe a 3.2 TL sedan with two fewer doors. But, (a), that's what it is, and (b), that's not at all a Bad Thing.

The 3.2TL sedan took the near-luxury market by storm last year, with a combination of performance, features and price that no one else could, or would, match. The CL does the same thing except it's playing in an even less crowded marketplace.

Everyone expects this niche to grow. The theory is that as boomers age, they'll start looking for a vehicle with more creature comforts than the minivans and SUVs that have dominated their family-rearing years. The new BMW 3-Series was a huge hit in this segment last year, Volvo and Mercedes have strong entries, and Acura hopes to get their fair share with this new car.

The previous CL was a thinly-disguised Accord coupe, with a choice of four-cylinder or V-6 power. The new car is V-6 only, and comes in two versions, base and Type S, the latter getting increased power, revised suspension and unique trim.

Outside, the X factor

Styling is obviously a prime determinant in the success of any coupe — why suffer the deprivations of a two-door car if it doesn't make some visual impact?

Acura's Erik Berkman, the car's "Large Project Leader," says the underlying concept was "Stylish Performance Coupe." The stylists at the U.S. studio where the car was drawn were supposedly inspired by the great European GT cars of the '50s and '60s — Ferraris, Aston Martins, Bentleys.

And the car came out looking like this? It's not ugly or anything, just Japanese-generic.

They also wanted an Acura family resemblance, primarily through the pentagram front grille. Too bad Toyota and Mazda use the same shape. And forgive me if the taillights remind me of Chevy's discontinued Lumina.

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