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1997 Acura 3.0CL

by John Heilig


SEE ALSO: Acura Buyer's Guide


ENGINE: 3.0-liter V-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 200 hp @ 5,500 rpm/195 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
TRANSMISSION: Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY: 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, 18.8 mpg test
WHEELBASE: 106.9 in.
CURB WEIGHT: 3,009 lbs
FUEL CAPACITY: 17.1 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY: 15.0 cu. ft.
TIRES: 205/55R16
INSTRUMENTS: Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, water temperature, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT: Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, cruise control, air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with CD, anti-lock braking, dual air bags, power sun roof.

Acura introduced its CL series last year with the 2.2CL, powered by a 2.2-liter four cylinder engine. While the four-cylinder engine showed the capabilities of the car, you knew there was more to be gained from it. And Acura teased us with a 3.0-liter version to play with.

Now, Acura has come out with the 3.0CL and it's an amazing automobile. As you know, Acura is built by Honda, which is a Japanese company. But the V-6 engine powering the 3.0CL is built in Ohio, which s a plus for American designers and auto workers.

Few cars I have driven have begged to be driven fast as much as the 3.0Cl has. It is one of the quickest automobiles I have driven outside of a pure sports car. You expect some kind of performance out of a luxury coupe, but the performance that the 3.0CL delivers is almost mind-boggling.

For example, I was able to traverse some twisty mountain roads at speeds that normally would make me nervous. The engine had very good response, and even with the automatic transmission I was able to accelerate through curves and pick up speed at the exit point of the curves.

The engine is a 3.0-liter V-6 with a rating of 200 horsepower. This is 55 more horsepower than the four cylinder and definitely changes the character of the car. When we drove our "teaser" V-6 in California, it was one of only two hand-built cars, so they didn't want us to strain it too much. this car, however, is a production car, and we put it through all its paces. So far, this engine is not used in any other Acura or Honda models.

As I indicated, the engine is hooked to a four-speed automatic gearbox that leaves nothing to want in the performance end. Acceleration is very good, both away from stop signs and from 40 to 60 mph. The 3.0CL almost felt like a sports car, at least in the performance end.

Part of the performance, of course, is due to an excellent suspension system. Acura, like Honda, uses double wishbones front and back that is compliant enough for a comfortable ride on rougher roads, yet is stiff enough to offer excellent handling.

All this technology┘engine, suspension and gearbox┘is clothed in a beautiful body that was also redesigned for the CL line. It has, as one of my friends says, "sexy taillights," and a raised seam that runs down the center of the hood and trunk lid. This seam gives the CL a look unlike any other car on the road, and it's both interesting and effective. From the front, you might mistake the CL for an Accord, but from the rear it has its own style. Once you recognize the ridge, you know you've seen something different.

Front passengers sit in individual bucket seats, with a console between them. The rear passenger shave a bench, but there's a fold-down armrest that also has a pass-through in case you want to carry skis. It's a good-sized trunk, with a grab net to keep grocery bags from flying all over.

Being an Acura, we had all the accessories in the 3.0CL, including power windows and door locks, an AM/FM radio with an in-dash CD player, digital clock, digital HVAC and cruise control. The cruise control switches were on the steering wheel with a separate master switch that shut the entire system on or off. And there's a tasteful amount of wood trim to give it a "luxury" touch.

A feature I appreciated were labeled horn buttons on the rim of the steering wheel, so you don't have to go hunting for them when you want to indicate something to another driver.

The Acura 3.0CL is, as I said at the start, one of the quickest cars I've driven in a long time. It reminded me of an Alfa Romeo or what a 4-Series BMW coupe might be like. There's comfort, plenty of room for driver and passengers, and it looks unlike any other car on the road. What more could you ask for?