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2001 Acura 3.2CL

2001 Acura 3.2CL

Acura introduced a new two-door high-performance luxury coupe based on the 3.2TL sedan platform. Only the high-performance 3.2CL Type S version was available at first, but last Friday at the Canadian International Auto Show, Acura unveiled the base 3.2CL
Author's Rating: Rating: 5/5 stars
56 Reviews from

By:   brucec32
Oct 19, 2000
2001 Acura 3.2CL

No homecoming queen, but a bargain that really puts out.

Author's Rating: Rating: 5/5 stars

Pros: Handling, power, luxury, affordability, reliability, spacious for a coupe

Cons: Hondaesque looks, no telescoping wheel, limited color availability

Author's Review
I recently test drove a 2001 Acura 3.2 CL type S after our BMW 540i was in the shop twice in a month, JUST IN CASE it was becoming a hanger queen that would continually require repairs to keep running. The CL is one of the few cars that rival the 540i in performance and luxury, yet doesn't cost an arm and a leg. At a real-world drive out price of about $32,000, it's one of the best auto bargains out there. The CL comes in two models, the standard Premium model, and the Type S, which adds a more powerful engine, sports suspension, vehicle skid control, and other added features. For the relatively small price difference, I see no reason to buy a Premium model. Acura says most models sold will be the Type S, so others agree. This review is of the Type S. The only factory option on these cars is a satellite navigation system, which I have not tried. There are several dealer-installed options like spoilers, mudflaps, etc.


One reason I have switched to luxury brands in recent years is the high level of professional service you seem to get at their dealerships. I simply got tired of the joke that regular dealerships have become. At most luxury brand dealers, the salesmen know their product at least reasonably well. They do not usually engage in high-pressure sales tactics, and they don't embarrass themselves or you with numerous lies that you have to point out to them. This Acura dealer was everything they should be. Polite, QUIET when required, and not in a particular hurry to put you in a car right away. My parents have bought two cars there and were always pleased with the service dept. too. So if service after the sale is important to you, you probably won't go wrong with Acura.


EXTERIOR APPEARANCE: One's first impression of the Acura 3.2 CL type S is "Honda Accord coupe". Not that the Accord isn't a great car, but it is unfortunate that you will be mistaken by many for an Accord driver. The styling has grown on me since its introduction, but it is still not a strong point of this car. With the rear spoiler, the S type (not the premium, which looks weak) is a decent looking car in the right color. I prefer Black or Red, the metallic colors are more Honda-esque than I care for. The wider 215 tires are nice, but I would prefer an even meatier 235mm cross section on a car this size(3500 lbs). An aggressive sporty car should look the part. It also helps hold the car on the road. The wheels are another mistake. They add to the Accord Coupe look. More distinctive wheels would help. But hey, at this price, you can easily afford to add your own. I'm not that fond of the pointy nose look Acura is going for in all their cars. A rounder front would help. But the lines are sleek, and the look is sufficiently menacing when you see one in person. The paint job is nice, and though not up to Lexus standards, it looks fine. I'd give the CL type S a 7 out of 10 for looks, overall.

INTERIOR: This is where the Acura really shines. It just looks nice. I prefer the brown wood grain plastic, available with the parchment interior, to the "black wood" finish that comes with some interior colors. Many reviewers criticize plastic "wood". But I don't really see why. The real wood in my BMW and in my father's Lexus is polished to the extent it looks guessed it...plastic. So it's just not a big factor with me. The standard leather seats are perforated, which looks better, feels softer, and should be more breathable than the standard leather seats on the premium model. The seats are soft and comfortable, though the bolstering on the seats may be too narrow for big people. I'm 6'0", 210 lbs, and it's acceptable though not perfect. Every sporty car I drive is the same, the bolsters are designed for someone who spends more time using their brains than developing a broad back. That's understandable.

The interior guages are well laid-out, the stereo controls are much more intuitive than in my BMW, and the stereo, while not top-notch, does have a great in-dash 6 CD changer. You just feed them in one after the other, no having to access the trunk or glove box to switch CD's. And no clumsy magazines to load. A great feature.

Visibility is excellent, again much superior to the vaunted 540i. I felt totally in control in my high speed, crowded, busy interstate jaunt. Those blind spots are what worry me on the expressway, but this car was great. The cooling/heating system is automatic, and works great. Dual climate control is nice, but a single system is fine with me. Heck, manual systems are fine with me. Most auto systems don't work accurately anyway. Materials in the interior look expensive, except for cheesy fisher price steering wheel buttons that control the stereo. They feel like they'll break soon. Rear seat room isn't a plus, but it's acceptable for your friends or children. Just no long trips with adults back there, ok? The car is reasonably spacious, but I drive a truck also, so it seems cramped in some ways. But all but the largest cars feel a little tight to me. Legroom is fine, headroom is fine(I was confused by others who claimed it was tight), and the seats adjust just right for my driving position. The lack of a telescoping wheel is a minus, but it does save money. The wheel is also a manual tilt, not electric, and the power memory seat feature does not control the wheel. The interior has a pleasing cockpit feel, though some (like my wife, for instance) may prefer a more spacious luxury car. I'd give the Acura an 8 out of 10 for the interior.

DRIVING EXPERIENCE: The 260? HP engine really gets up and goes. It growls when pushed. Acura reports a 0-60 time of 6.57 seconds. This is right up there with the BMW 540i, and quicker than the 3 series BMW's at which it is often compared. This vehicle is very fast, and surprisingly agile. While not a BMW, it goes where you point it and seems composed. Tire rumble is a little louder than some luxury cars, but the ride is smooth at high speed. It was up to over 80mph before I realized it. I did notice some pulsing in the pedal when braking. I'm not sure if this one had warped rotors or it's just an attribute of the car. It isn't a bad thing, but it's just not as smooth as I'm used to. It does stop well, though. It has a Japanese feel to the drive, as opposed to European, if that makes any sense. I was very pleased with how it drives. It's not a BMW, but the difference is so small that for the money, I would purchase a new $32,000 Acura vs. a new $55,000 540i any day. Another 8 out of 10 here.

SAFETY: The Acura has not been crash tested yet, which is a disappointment. I only buy top testing vehicles. How much fun can you have driving if you're dead or crippled? It does have two stage airbags with a passenger presence system that disables the side airbag when called for. The side airbags are nice, but I would like to see a head protection system also on a new design like this. IIHS tests have shown that head airbags can reduce forces on your head over 90% in side impacts. And side impacts are one accident you usually CAN'T use skill to avoid. You never see em coming. Also, coupes have longer doors, which often means they can't resist side intrusion as well, but the vehicle is relatively large, and rigid, so it should test and protect you reasonably well. I'd predict an 8 out of 10 score here, with points off for no head protection system, and probably a decent offset test rating.

RELIABILITY: Acuras are some of the most reliable cars on the road, and if they do break, you have a 4 year, 50,000 mile warranty to rely on. This would be a major factor in choosing an Acura over a BMW, in my opinion. If you don't value the ultimate in driving experience, choose the low hassle, lower cost Acura. 10 out of 10 here.

Who should buy this car? Singles, childless couples, and those who want a little fun with their luxury but don't want to break the bank. If you can stand not having the best looking car in the lot(though it is nice looking) and don't wear a scarf and driving gloves, you'd probably like this car a lot. Toss in great reliability and a great dealer experience and it would currently top my list of cars in the $30,000 near-luxury range.


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