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If books shouldn’t be judged by their covers, certainly the Acura CL shouldn’t be judged by its looks. Even in racy Type S trim, the CL’s shape can only be described as smoothly sculpted, inoffensive, and unfortunately, similar to a lot of other coupes. Walking past it from the front, a somewhat car-savvy neighbor mistook it for a Toyota Solara, until he noticed the Acura emblem.
But honestly, the CL, and particularly the high-performance Type S we recently drove, is much more edgy and fun than its looks imply.
Top-notch powertrain VTEC
The engine in the Type S incorporates a number of power-gaining enhancements. It has the same all-aluminum 3.2-liter VTEC V-6 as the CL, but with a more aggressive camshaft, revised intake valves and cylinder heads, and a larger fuel injection throttle body, plus additional strengthening ribs for the engine block. A higher volume induction system and a dual-outlet exhaust allow the engine enough heavy breathing to take advantage of the goodies. The modifications together add up to 260 horsepower at 6100 rpm and 232 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm: That’s 35 more horsepower and 16 more lb-ft of torque than the base CL. Despite the performance hardware, the Type S can go 105,000 miles before its first scheduled tune-up.
The VTEC (Variable valve Timing and lift Electronic Control) system on the Type S’s V-6 uses two different sets of cam lobes: one for low and mid revs, and another more aggressive one for high revs above 4800 rpm. The transition isn’t quite as pronounced as with some of Honda’s high-revving VTEC four cylinder engines, but the V-6 does undergo a personality change in terms of the way it sounds. At the 4800-rpm transition, the exhaust note suddenly becomes deeper and more urgent.
The five-speed automatic transmission features a manumatic-type control that Acura terms Sequential SportShift. A second shift gate closer to the driver enables the manual function. Tip the shifter forward to go up a gear, back to go down a gear. A red-tinted digital display near the tachometer shows you which of the five gears you’re currently in.