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Acura 3.2 CL Type S (2001)

SEE ALSO: Acura Buyer's Guide

by John Heilig

MODEL:Acura 3.2 CL Type S
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:260 hp @ 6100 rpm/232 lb-ft @ 3500-5500 rpm
TRANSMISSION:Five-speed automatic with Sequential SportShift
WHEELBASE:106.9 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT:192.0 x 70.6 x 55.5 in.
STICKER PRICE:$30,810 (base)

Acura has completely redesigned the 3.2 CL sports coupe, and in doing so has changed what I always felt was one of the more attractive cars in its lineup. I liked the original 3.2 CL because it had unique "edge" styling. The new design has softened some of those lines into a more pleasing package.

While the new 3.2 CL may have a new style body, it's still a slick-looking vehicle. And it's a better vehicle mechanically. Compared to the previous coupe, the new 3.2 CL is 6 percent stronger in torsional rigidity, 23 percent stronger in bending rigidity, is longer overall, has a wider track for better road stability, and has more interior room. A stiffer body not only reduces body flexing, but it contributes to a quieter ride Unlike the previous version, Acura has introduced two versions of the new 3.2 CL, the "fully featured 3.2 CL" and the high-performance 3.2 CL Type S.

The "base" CL is no slouch, with 225 horses evolving form the 3.2-liter V6 for a car that weighs about 3,500 pounds. But we had the Type S, with a 260 horsepower version of the same engine and the same general car weight. This engine drives the front wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission with Acura's Sequential SportShift, jus tin case you want to drive it like a hot sports car. Trust me, you can.

Acura gets the extra horses out of the 3.2-liter V6 through the use of a dual-stage induction system, low-restriction dual-outlet exhaust, larger diameter throttle body, increased compression ratio, special intake valves, camshafts and cylinder heads. It also had a broad torque curve, from 3500 to 5500 rpm.

Acura (and Honda) have always put good suspensions under their sporty coupes and sedans. The Accord, for example, has an excellent double wishbone suspension system instead of the more traditional MacPherson struts for better overall handling. The 3.2 CL uses a four-wheel independent double wishbone suspension as well, with stabilizer bars and a shock tower bar. The Type S adds firmer springs, increased shock absorber damping rates and a larger rear stabilizer bar for better cornering capability. Both models use large diameter four-wheel disc brakes with ABS to maximize stopping ability. The Type S also uses 17-inch wheels and tires, with V-rated 215/50R17 Michelin tires.

All this is very good, but what kind of car is the 3.2 CL Type S to drive? Many sport coupes look good and have great specs and are killers on the open road, but end up being bears on the road in daily traffic. Not toe 3.2 CL.

We of course used the CL in our daily commute, which also includes a once-a-week trip through some mountainous winding roads coming back from an off-site assignment. This is my "open road" test, where I like to test a car's legs. Sure, any car can go high speeds on Interstates, but how will it hold out on a good road?

It gives me great pleasure to report that the 3.2 CL Type S has excellent road manners. You can drive it with the automatic and cruise around corners and bends in the road in a leisurely manner, or you can use the Sequential SportShift and downshift and upshift when you want to, not when the automatic wants to. Using the SportShift gives you better control, and if you're downshifting you can get into gear faster, and get the engine revs where you want them more quickly. In all honesty, the bends in the roads I take aren't that challenging, at least insofar as shifting is concerned, but where possible they can be fun. Of course, there's always the consideration that there may be a car coming in the other direction. I'd like to try a 3.2 CL on a race track or closed course to see how it performs.

In true Acura style, the seats are comfortable and give great support. Since we drove the CL in the winter, we also appreciated the heated front seats.

Our tester also had Acura's GPS-based navigation system. And while we didn't use it to get directions to remote locations, I was able to punch in addresses on the other side of the country and get an idea of where I would be going if I was really headed there. I have great confidence that had I asked for directions, the navigation system would have gotten us there. The sport coupe market is a tough one. The luxury sport coupe market is getting even tougher, with entries from all the luxury car makers. Coupes are wonderful automobiles, as long as you don't need the practicality of an easy-entry back seat. Coupe designs are always more fun for the designers, which is why manufacturers have such great looking cars.

Acura's new 3.2 CL and 3.2 CL Type S are worthy entries in a tough marketplace. The "old" 3.2 CL was a beautiful automobile. The new car is less unique, but still retains all the performance potential of the vehicle it replaces.