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2003 Acura 3.2CL  Type-S

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SAN FRANCISCO: Many of the Acura fans I've spoken with also happen to have, at one time or another, owned a Honda. As you may know, Honda makes and markets Acura as its upscale brand. I think it's impressive when a manufacturer can hold customer loyalty, especially when the owners are ready to move up to a more expensive purchase. Under the skin, Acuras share the Honda virtues of quality, reliability and strong resale value, but that's not the only reason people like them.

For years, I've run into rabid Acura enthusiasts in unexpected places. My former hairdresser was one. Then there's my fiancée, who is incredibly "car smart" and knows his favorite makes and models. And, I can't forget my chiropractor who is such an Acura "die-hard" that it's hard to get an adjustment without hearing about his 3.5RL. These guys are fanatics! Having a 3.2CL Type-S at my mercy for seven days and nights showed me why.

The 3.2CL Type-S and the 3.2CL are the Acura family's mid-size luxury performance coupes. For 2003, these fraternal twins have matured into more capable, well-mannered and sporty athletes. My tester for the week was the 3.2CL Type-S, the sportiest version, with a 260-hp engine and performance-tuned suspension. One of the few options for this agile "speed demon" is a new 6-speed manual transmission that I was lucky enough to experience first hand. The curb weight with the manual transmission is over 60 lbs. lighter than the automatic, which enhances weight distribution, thus improving handling. The reduced weight also boosts performance and the manual version is a half second quicker from 0-60 mph than the automatic at around 6.2 seconds. Go, Acura, Go!

The 3.2CL Type-S is an amazingly fun car to drive with absolutely terrific handling. Of all the cars that I have the opportunity to test drive, there's maybe one out of every ten that I'd really love to keep. The CL Type-S is on that list. The perfectly balanced handling feel seemed just right for me - light but still substantial. I found myself flipping a U-turn in the middle of SF's busy Union St. in order to grab parking with complete confidence and acrobatic speed. Nimble is the best word to describe the Type-S. On the streets of San Francisco, this coupe was zippy and stopped on a dime. Karl Malden and Michael Douglas would have loved a squad car like this.

Given the opportunity, the Type-S can also deliver an exciting, high-performance ride. With 260 horsepower and 232 lb-ft of torque, the

3.2-liter V6 is one of the most powerful six cylinder engines around, and true competition for the big boys. I drove an automatic CL on the Thunderhill racetrack up in Willows, CA recently and I was pleasantly surprised at the superb handling on such a challenging racecourse. Yet, on suburban streets with speed limits of 25 mph, the CL Type-S is happy to cruise in casual grace, respectful of toddlers and seniors alike.

Driving dynamics are one thing, but the CL Type-S was also lovable and livable. The handsome tan interior was done up in perforated leather with taupe trim and black accents on the steering wheel and hand brake. The driver's 8-way power seat with power walk-in is comfy and ergonomically correct. I loved the power walk-in feature, but found it annoying to keep re-adjusting the seat. I'm sure there are a lot of people like myself, who find it a hassle to try and figure out the memory-setting gadgetry. The heated seats do get "hot" and are some of the best ever. A slate-colored control panel and easy-to-read dash give the 3.2CL Type-S interior a clean, well-defined look. The optional DVD Satellite navigation system is centrally located, but regrettably shares its display with the heating and A/C controls. I want easy access to both nav system and the climate control, so I found this very cumbersome to use.

On the inside, this coupe has plenty of space, and provides ample room for four adults. The design and placement of many handy storage compartments was well thought out, with the exception of the minimalist glove box. The trunk was a large and completely useful space with a neat lightweight rubber liner in it.

My only objection to this car is the bland exterior styling. Although I find the driving experience completely soulful, singular and exciting, sadly I cannot find anything unique about the appearance to ring my bell. It's fair to say I generally do not fancy coupes - I think it's more of a guy's look - but I fancy this one even less.

The CL coupe does show a clear lineage to Acura's family tree. The sporty slope from roofline to the front hood extends into a bit of a "snarly" face, and this has Acura written all over it. This model was introduced in 2001 and, although designers have made a few minor body changes for 2003, I would like to have seen a more aggressive statement.

My tester was dressed in San Marino Red, so it's accurate to say this CL Type-S looked flashy. It was so RED, that I never took it over 65 mph on the highway, for fear of attracting unwanted official attention. In black, the CL looks masculine and smart, but Acura's other color choices seem a bit drab. When shopping for a premium car, the buyer usually has a richer, more sophisticated palette to choose from. With my CL's sticker price at $33,180, I would like a choice of rich and luxurious tones. Fancy and intriguing color names mean nothing if they're really just the same old mundane blue, gray, white, and silver. This color thing may be my own personal gripe, but if I could resolve it, I might easily become an Acura owner. Mechanically, this car is right on, it's just missing some of the fine-tuned details that define real luxury for me.

Acura features a very smart package strategy for the 3.2 CL. Almost every option a buyer could possibly want is included as standard equipment. Luxury features such as a great Bose stereo, a power moonroof and Xenon headlights are all on board. The only real decisions to make here are – is it the CL coupe or the Type-S (with automatic or manual transmission), with or without the DVD Satellite with OnStar? The navigation system tacks on an additional $2,150. which was included on my tester. All CLs are covered by a 4-year/50K mi warranty, and Acura's TLC which provides 24-hour roadside assistance.

As fate would have it, stopped at my local intersection today, I found myself behind a Marino Red CL Type-S. Two in a row - I thought that was pretty cool. Then, after turning onto the main drag, I realized there was a third Marino Red CL right behind us. This was complete serendipity to me, and also an awakening. My neighborhood is filled with high-end cars, but here were three red 3.2CL's on one little suburban street. This car is catching on!

P.S. - We'd like to know what you think! E-mail Carol at:

By Carol Green © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

Acura Home Page

Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  A Soulful, Singular and Exciting Coupe
Topic:  2003 Acura 3.2CL Type-S
Word Count:   1254
Photo Caption:  The 2003 Acura 3.2CL Type-S
Photo Credits:  Acura Internet Media
Series #:   2002 - 29

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