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1997 Acura 2.2 CL

by Carey Russ


SEE ALSO: Acura Buyer's Guide

It's no secret that luxury-sports coupe sales have been poor in recent years. Possibly some of the blame may be placed on sport-utility vehicles being bought instead, but a quick glance at many of the cars in the class shows another reason - high price. Many of the best-known luxury-sports coupes have become very expensive, and have consequently been priced out of reach of potential buyers.

The Acura CL coupes are an antidote to the high-priced luxury coupe syndrome. The first line of cars from a Japanese luxury manufacturer to be built in the United States, the CL coupes were created specifically for the American market. Influenced greatly by the CL-X show car of 1995, they were designed at Acura's studio in California, and are built at Acura/Honda facilities in Ohio. The two models available are the four-cylinder 2.2 CL and V6-powered 3.0 CL. They fit into the Acura lineup between the sporty Integra coupe and TL luxury sedan. Both are aimed at a segment of the automotive marketplace that is seen as underpopulated by Acura: the affordable sports-luxury coupe.

Market research by Acura revealed that there are plenty of people who want a stylish personal sports-luxury coupe but were put off by the price of the more expensive coupes or the level of refinement and equipment of the lesser-priced entries in the class. The Acura CL was designed for them, with a very high level of standard equipment and refinement.

A week with a 1997 Acura 2.2 CL spoiled me. It was roomy, very comfortable, fun to drive, and combined good performance with great gas mileage. Frugal luxury? Why not, this is the Nineties.

APPEARANCE: Acura's Southern California stylists have succeeded at a difficult task. They have created a uniquely-styled car that still has plenty of manufacturer identity. The small, chrome-trimmed, trapezoidal front grille would identify the 2.2 CL as an Acura product even without the company logo in the center. The graceful, wedge- shaped body is highest over the rear wheels, giving a look of power. A low beltline and large amount of glass in the passenger cabin add more grace to the styling. A pronounced crease in the center of the hood and rear deck, continuing to front and rear points, is most unusual. Large, angular taillights are the most prominent styling feature. Discreet chrome trim and standard alloy wheels add luxury touches.

COMFORT: Make no mistake, the 2.2 CL is a true luxury coupe. It may not have the steep price tag of some cars seen by Acura as competitors, but it has all of the luxury features. Leather upholstery and door trim are part of the Premium Package, and woodgrain paneling, a leather-wrapped tilt-adjustable steering wheel, and power moonroof are standard on all CLs. Windows, mirrors, and door locks are power-operated. The driver's seat is power-adjustable, and the front passenger seat slides forward for access to the rear seat. The front seats are firmly-padded and comfortable. Unusually for a coupe, there is real space for real people in the rear seat. The instrument panel is integrated into the interior styling. Gauges and controls are logically placed and easy to use. The automatic climate control system and 6-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system both work very well. The interior of the Acura 2.2 CL is spacious and airy. A usefully large low-liftover trunk with a lockable passthrough makes the 2.2 CL very practical.

SAFETY: Standard safety equipment on the 1997 Acura 2.2 CL includes dual air bags, antilock brakes, front and rear crumple zones, side impact door beams with shoulder and hip pads, and remote keyless entry with a theft-deterrent system.

ROADABILITY: In ride and handling, the 2.2 CL emphasizes the luxury side of its character without compromising the sporting side. A rigid unibody chassis structure and independent double wishbone suspension at all four wheels give a supple, compliant ride with no harshness and very good front-wheel drive cornering characteristics. The CL is an enjoyable car to drive on the highway or on a back road. It is reasonably quiet and mechanically refined.

PERFORMANCE: The sporting nature of the Acura 2.2 CL is best experienced with the standard 5-speed manual transmission, although a 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic is available. The 2.2-liter, single overhead cam, 4-cylinder engine is strongest at middle and upper-end engine speeds and sounds great. Dual counterbalancing shafts make it extremely smooth, and the VTEC variable valve timing control system makes it very flexible . With 145 horsepower on tap, the 2.2 CL is a well-balanced machine.

CONCLUSIONS: The 1997 Acura 2.2 CL is a true luxury sports coupe, with levels of standard appointment and refinement far above the expected norm for its price.

1997 Acura 2.2 CL

Base Price $ 23,160
Price As Tested $ 23,695
Engine Type inline 4-cylinder, single overhead cam, 16 valves with VTEC
Engine Size 2.2 liters, 134 cu. in.
Horsepower 145 @ 5500
Torque (lb-ft) 146 @ 4500
Transmission 5-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length 106.9 in. / 190.0 in.
Curb Weight 3009 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 20.8
Fuel Capacity 17.2 gal.
Fuel Requirement unleaded regular
Tires 205/55 R16 Michelin MXV4
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc
Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone / independent double wishbone
Drivetrain front engine, front-wheel drive


EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed
25/ 32/28
0 to 60 mph8.9 sec
1/4 mile (E.T.)16.7 sec
Coefficient of Drag (cd)0.32