New Car/Review

1997 ACURA 2.2CL

By Matt/Bob Hagin

acura

SEE ALSO: Acura Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price$ 23,160
Price As Tested$ 23,695
Engine Type2.2 Liter I4 w/PGM-FI*
Engine Size131 cid/2156 cc
Horsepower145 @ 5500 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)146 @ 4500 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length106.9"/70.1"/190.0"
TransmissionFive-speed manual
Curb Weight3034 Pounds
Fuel Capacity17.2 gallons
Tires (F/R)205/55R16
Brakes (F/R)Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive TrainFront-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle TypeFive-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content65 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
city/highway/average
25/31/27
0-60 MPH9.2 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)16.8 seconds @ 83.9 mph
Max towing capacityN/A

* Multi-point programmed fuel injection

(Acura is Honda's upscale brand and was the first of the Japanese luxury lines to hit these shores. That was 10 years ago and times have changed. Acura's new 2.2CL was designed in California and built in Ohio, making it nearly an all-American car. The Hagins - Matt and his dad Bob, tried this "personal" sports coupe with mixed emotions.)

BOB - This new little Acura is a nice car, Matt, but I'm still of the opinion that if a car has room for four passengers it should have at least four doors. Your grandfather always said that coupes were homes for chickens. That's why he always owned four-door sedans.

MATT - Fortunately, you don't belong to the target market that Acura planners had in mind when they designed the CL coupe, Dad. They were looking for upscale Baby-Boomers with discretionary income, looking for style and prestige as well as practicality. The 2.2CL isn't supposed to be an all-out performance sports car, but it's luxurious, especially when it's set up with the Premium Package. With that package, standard luxury equipment includes leather upholstery, a sun roof, a CD player sound system, automatic climate control and almost every other bell and whistle known to the automobile industry. Acura wanted the CL to fit into the large slot between its Integra coupe and its upscale TL sedan. The engine is strictly Honda, of course, and pulls its 145 horses from only 2.2 liters by virtue of using the company's Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control system that modifies the camshaft timing as the engine speed changes. A four-speed automatic is an option, however.

BOB - I'm happy the Acura folks gave us a five-speed model, Matt. I like an automatic when I'm driving in traffic, but I have to admit that the shifting on this car is very smooth - without that "notchy" feeling that some front-drive cars have. And I suppose I really shouldn't complain about the rear seating, either. Once the initial gyrations of getting over the front seats are dealt with, there's plenty of room back there for two real-life adults without giving them permanent leg disorders. The little four-banger engine has more than enough power to provide an "entertaining" ride, and good handling has always been a Honda strong point. The fat 205/55R16 Michelin tires that come as standard equipment help in this department.

MATT - The interior gives the driver and front passenger a "club car" feeling that comes when special attention is given to the location of the controls and how the cockpit "feels" to the average driver. And it sure runs smooth. On the automatic version, even the engine mounts are hydraulically controlled to dampen out the slightest vibration that may be noticeable when the engine is idling.

BOB - Sports cars have gone out of favor with American buyers, according to the market reports I've read, but Acura is betting that there's going to be a resurgence in that niche, at least in the "personal" sports coupe area. It's interesting to me that there's no Acuras anywhere but in North America and Hong Kong. In Japan, however, the same cars carry Honda labels, but since most Hondas are made here, I guess that makes them imported cars over there. And even though the 2.2CL is officially a '97 model, the U.S. government allowed it to be marketed early in '96. I'll never be able to figure out how or why those things happen but since January, the 2.2CL has been so popular that the factory can hardly keep up with demand. I've heard dealers have sold over 10,000 units.

MATT - If we had waited a little later in the year, we probably would have been given one of the new Acura 3.0CLs to try out, Dad. It packs a new V6 engine which develops around 200 horses. The suspension has been beefed up a bit, too, to accommodate the extra 55 ponies. The V6 version only comes with an automatic transmission which will no doubt detract a bit from the car's all-out performance potential.

BOB - And you were the guy who just told me that Acura engineers didn't have all-out performance in mind when they designed the CL coupe.

MATT - That's true, Dad, but a little extra boost at the stop light never hurts.

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