Ominous gray clouds spit water down on the windshield as we wound our way through the Los Padres National Forest toward Pine Mountain Summit. Southern California was experiencing a heavy winter storm, one that might have spoiled an introduction of a lesser car. But, as the Acura staff would have us believe, it was their idea of the perfect conditions to test the redesigned 2001 Acura 3.2 CL and its performance-minded counterpart, the Type S.
Both coupes, but especially the hot Type S, are designed to compete against such luxury performance coupes as the Mercedes-Benz CLK and the BMW 328Ci. It’s a tall order, especially when you consider that Acura plans to lead this class by offering more features than others in its class for a price several thousand dollars less than its least expensive competitor. Then factor in (aside from the Integra) Acura’s less performance-minded bent than its German competition.
2001 Acura CL engine
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Is the new Acura competitive, especially when compared with the Teutonic powerhouses? For the answer to that question, look no further than the CL’s all-aluminum, 3.2-liter, 24-valve, V-6 engine, similar to that in Acura’s TL sedan. The CL version features 225 horsepower and silky, effortless power just as it does in the TL.
Then there’s the Type S powerplant, which has been modified to produce 260 horsepower. To create the Type S version, engineers started with the base engine in the new CL and added a dual-stage induction system, low-restriction dual-outlet exhaust, larger diameter throttle body; then increased the compression ratio and topped it off with special intake valves, camshafts and cylinder heads. Acura engineers say that these enhancements mean a broader torque curve with 232 lb-ft of torque between 3500 and 5500 rpm. On the bits of dry road we found during our test, we experienced some serious get-up-and-go both at low speeds, such as entering a freeway, and at higher speeds, such as when passing at highway speeds.
2001 Acura CL
Each curve was a test of the double-wishbone suspension and the specially tuned features of the Type S. For the new CL, lead engineer Erik Berkman and his team redesigned the front suspension to take advantage of the stiffness in the front subframe. By changing the geometry and adding a shock tower bar to maintain rigidity during cornering, the car’s handling is stiffer and more responsive. The Type S goes one step further, with stiffer springs, increased compression and rebound damping and longer bump stops to achieve a sportier feel. During the redesign, the team opted for larger diameter brakes (11.8" ventilated in the front and 11.1" solid in the rear) as well as shortened the travel in the brake pedal, too.
2001 Acura CL 2Enlarge Photo
To boost its safety image, both an anti-lock braking system and traction control system are standard equipment on the CL and Type S. The ABS function uses speed sensors on all four wheels to determine impending wheel lock-up and apply pressure accordingly. The CL uses a three-channel system to accomplish this, while the Type S has a four-channel mode that kicks in when the system senses high cornering forces. The traction-control system, designed to detect wheel slippage during acceleration, operates slightly differently on the two models. On the CL, the system uses front-wheel braking and ignition retard to regain traction, while the Type S uses these features as well as sub-throttle and fuel cut.
One of the most prominent differences between the CL and the Type S is the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) feature. This system, which is standard on the Type S, is similar to the system introduced on the flagship 3.5 RL for the 2000 model. Complex in its operation, the VSA system uses eight sensors to calculate the expected vehicle response, while simultaneously monitoring the actual vehicle response and intervening if necessary by, for example, applying pressure to a brake, reducing engine power or both. What this means in the real world is that when the VSA system senses the vehicle is about to lose control, it will make adjustments more precisely than the driver can himself – and is likely to do it before the driver even realizes the impending danger.
2001 Acura CL
Other safety features include standard xenon high-intensity discharge headlights, dual front airbags as well as side airbags for both driver and front passenger. Both front airbags have dual threshold deployment, while the front passenger airbag has a dual-stage inflation system. Side airbags are located in each of the front seats and a unique feature of the passenger-side airbag is a sensor that determines the passenger’s size and position. This sensor will automatically shut off the side air if the passenger is in the way of deployment, such as if a child were sleeping and leaning against the passenger side window. All of these safety features are standard on both the CL and Type S.
2001 Acura CL interiorEnlarge Photo
The rest of the details fill out the CL’s bar tab. Leather-wrapped bucket seats in the front and rear, a Bose six-disc, in-dash CD changer, power moonroof, heated power front seats, and a keyless remote with memory settings for the driver’s seat and side mirrors are all standard in a vehicle priced just under $28,000.
The only factory option on either the 3.2 CL or the Type S is the navigation system. The system, a $2000 add-on, provides coverage of the continental U.S. on one DVD and eliminates the hassle of purchasing and installing multiple CDs. The six-inch monitor is a color liquid crystal display with an easy-to-use touch screen.
The new Acura 3.2 CL and Type S will be on sale at dealers on March 1. Pricing for the CL is $27,980 and $30,330 for the Type S.
|2000 Acura 3.2 CL
Engine: 3.2-liter V-6, 225 hp
Transmission: five-speed automatic with Sequential Sportshift
Wheelbase: 106.9 in
Length: 192.0 in
Width: 70.6 in
Height: 55.5 in
Weight: 3470 lb
Fuel economy: 19 city/ 29 hwy
Major standard equipment:
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