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2003 Acura CL Photo
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2002 Acura NSX by Dan Carney (6/10/2002)

There aren’t many cars more ordinary looking than the Acura 3.2 CL. It’s cleanly styled in that bland generic way all current Hondas seem to be styled. Throw your eyes out of focus and rub some Vaseline on the lenses of your Ray-Bans and it could be just another Accord coupe. But even though it’s related to and built on the same line as the Honda Accord coupe it’s much more than that. In fact, with the new six-speed manual transmission version, it’s the best driving mid-size front-drive coupe ever built. The best.

The familiar stuff

Most of what makes up the CL are components straight from the Acura/Honda parts bin. The unibody chassis is derived from the Accord’s and features unequal length A-arms in front and a five-link system in the rear for suspension. The engine is a 3.2-liter version of the SOHC 24-valve V-6 that’s used as a 3.0-liter in the Accord and as a 3.5-liter in the Honda Odyssey minivan and Honda Pilot and Acura MDX SUVs. Mechanically (at least up until now) anything that distinguished the CL from other Hondas and Acuras it shared with the TL sedan.

While it’s possible to get a “regular” CL with an engine that makes only 225 horsepower, the majority of CLs are of the “S-Type” (oops, sorry, “Type-S”) variety with their higher-compression V-6 tuned to make 260 horses. Type-S models also get slightly slower and heavier rack-and-pinion steering, and bigger P215/50VR17 Michelin MXM4 tires on appropriate alloy wheels. On five-speed automatic equipped Type-S models there’s also “Vehicle Stability Assist” (VSA) which modifies throttle and braking to aid stability and an integrated traction control system. But both VSA and traction control are dispensed with on the latest six-speed manual version of the car. They aren’t missed at all.

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