New Car/Review

1998 ACURA 2.3CL PREMIUM

by Matt/Bob Hagin

acura

SEE ALSO: Acura Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 23,360
Price As Tested $ 23,795
Engine Type SOHC 16-valve 2.3 Liter I4 w/PFI*
Engine Size 137.5 cid/2254 cc
Horsepower 150 @ 5700 RPM
Torque (lb-ft) 152 @ 4800 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length 106.9"/70.1"/190"
Transmission Five-speed manual
Curb Weight 3095 pounds
Fuel Capacity 17.2 gallons
Tires (F/R) P205/55R16
Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type Five-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content 70 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
city/highway/average
24/31/28
0-60 MPH9 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)16.5 seconds @ 85 mph
Top speed125 mph

* Programmed fuel injection

(Coupes aren't practical for guys like Matt Hagin, but he says they are pleasant to drive. Bob Hagin says the problem is Matt's two toddlers riding in the back seat of the Acura 2.3 CL they are evaluating.)

BOB - These new Acura CL coupes fit into the market niche carved out by upscale baby-boomers between the ages of 35 and 44, Matt. They're plenty luxurious, but not on the scale of the carriage-trade sedans that glide through the financial districts of the country. Those cars are piloted by corporate "drivers" rather than chauffeurs. The CL is more on the order of a "personal" sports car designed to be driven by an up-and- comer who doesn't want to be thought of as stodgy, but is several cultural cuts above the Banzai drivers who use an Integra Type-R pocket-rocket as a daily-driver.

MATT - Unfortunately, I don't fit into either category anymore, Dad. With two little girls who need kid seats, the gymnastics necessary to get all that paraphernalia mounted in the back of a coupe makes four doors a necessity. But it would make a classy second car for a family like ours. It can carry two adults in the back seat with good foot and knee room and the neat automatic slide mechanism that controls the front seats when the doors are opened is fun to play with. The front seats are really comfortable and supportive, unlike the form-fitting but firm seats of a true sports car. If anything, the Acura CL fits the classic perception of a Grand Touring car - a 2-plus-2 coupe loaded with weekend luggage, golf bags and tennis rackets, carrying two beautiful people to a trendy weekend resort.

BOB - An elegant description, Matt, and an accurate one. You won't see a dedicated autocrosser or amateur racer putting an Acura CL on the starting grid. The CL comes with two different engine and transmission combinations and the 2.3 CL we had carries a very sophisticated 150 horsepower four-cylinder engine that has been very well thought out. As an example, it has a long piston stroke and a relatively small cylinder bore, which gives the somewhat small engine great low-speed torque and pulling power. Then to gain power at the top end, the engine has a variable valve timing mechanism that changes the length of time the intake valves are open at engine speeds around 3500 RPM. This system gives good power clear up to the 6500 RPM redline and can still deliver 31 miles per gallon on the highway.

MATT - The other version of the car is called the 3.0 CL and it's powered by a V6 that puts out another 50 horses. In both cases, the engines are all-aluminum, have single-overhead variably-timed camshafts operating four valves per cylinder and are mounted transversely. The V6 can only be had with a four-speed automatic transmission, while the four-banger comes standard with a manual five-speed or an optional automatic. Both cars have independent suspensions front and rear that utilize a neat double-wishbone control system. It makes the handling very nimble, though this is aided by the grippy P205/55R16 Michelin tires mounted on eight-inch-wide alloy wheels. It really handles uneven pavement well. The power steering system "trims" itself based on driver input and the steering load information sent back to an on-board computer by the suspension. There's never any "fight" felt by the driver on rough roads, yet the steering wheel is easy to turn at slow speeds. This really helps while parking the thing.

BOB - This is the second year for these CL twins and one of the few changes for '98 is the growth of the four cylinder engine from 2.2 to 2.3 liters for an extra bit of torque. Acura is the posh, upscale line for Honda and the brand name is only used in the U.S., Canada and Hong Kong. Here the line includes the super-exotic NSX mid-engined rocket, the Integra sportsters, the luxurious TL sedans that carry the same two engines as the CL coupes, and the big 3.5 RL, which Acura considers the luxury flagship of line. As a brand name, Acura has only been in existence for 12 years.

MATT - Back then, I was foot-loose and fancy free, Dad. I was more interested in a car that carried ski stuff rather than baby seats.

BOB - We all have to grow up eventually, Matt.

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