Sport coupes often demand the driver sacrifice comfort and convenience for sport. The Acura CL minimizes this. It’s an easy car to live with. The CL is designed for drivers who want the comfort and quality of a luxury car but the handling, power, and sporty image of a coupe. The CL achieves all of this with a cabin that’s comfortable, convenient and luxurious, a smooth, quiet ride, agile handling, and plenty of power. Though it won’t draw stares from kids on skateboards, it is attractive and sporty.
Styling revisions distinguish 2003 Acura CL models. Interiors receive some minor revisions, but more important are new safety features: The LATCH system has been added to the outboard rear seats to better secure child safety seats, the driver gets a new dual-stage, dual-threshold front air bag, and OnStar has been added to the optional Navigation system package.
Acura CL is available in two versions, CL and CL Type-S. Both are well equipped. In fact, only one option is available: Acura’s navigation system, called NAVI ($2150), which comes bundled with the OnStar telematics system.
Both models are powered by Honda’s 3.2-liter V6. The standard CL makes 225 horsepower, which is a lot of power for this class. Acura CL comes with standard with a five-speed automatic transmission with Sequential SportShift.
CL ($28,200) comes loaded with luxury features. Standard equipment includes antilock brakes, traction control, front and side airbags, auto-on Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights, remote keyless entry, heated outside mirrors, leather seating with eight-way power for the driver and four-way power for the front passenger, wood trim, automatic climate controls, Bose audio with a six-disc CD changer in the dash, an adjustable steering column and a power moonroof.
Acura updated the styling of the CL for 2003. Up front it gets a revised grille with a body-colored surround and revised headlights with black accents. In the rear, are revised taillight lenses with a clear upper portion and new exhaust finishers.
The CL is a sleek, attractive car with clean lines. It’s starting to look a bit dated in spite of the styling revisions, however.
Measured by finish quality, the Acura CL is a gem. Panels and seams match flawlessly, and the paint had a deep luster. A sunroof and Xenon headlamps come standard on all models.
The Acura CL is very comfortable for long drives. It’s also easy to get in and out when running errands or when dressed up for work or dinner.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive in all circumstances, with fore-aft, height and recline power adjustment for the driver, fore-aft and recline for the passenger. There’s enough side-bolster to keep people of small physical stature firmly ensconced during a spirited drive, and enough space to accommodate those of larger stature. 2003 models get an Auto-up feature added to the driver’s window switch, nice for grand prix starts from toll booths. Both front seats feature seat-position memory; the mirrors are linked to this system as well.
Standard safety features include dual-stage front airbags that deploy at different rates depending on the severity of a crash, and a position-detection system for the passenger-side airbag. Six sensors determine the stature and position of whoever is sitting in the passenger seat; so the airbag won’t fire if a child happens to be leaning against the door.
While the focus in the CL falls toward the front of the cabin, there’s a surprising amount of space in back. The two-place back seat leaves enough room for medium-sized adults, and it’s easy to climb into. The electric sliding mechanism on the front passenger seat works more quickly than any we’ve encountered, yet the seat stops sliding back with any hint of obstruction for improved safety. As mentioned, the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) system has been added to the rear outboard seats for attaching child safety seats.
The trunk is impressively roomy. With 13.9 cubic feet of space it’s one of the largest among similarly sized coupes. Acura engineers claim the CL’s trunk will hold four golf bags. We can’t vouch for that, but we can tell you that the CL will handle more suitcases than two people will need for a one-week trip, with room left for most of a professional photographer’s shooting gear.
The NAVI navigation system uses Global Positioning Satellites and a DVD disc to plot course and provide instructions. A brightly lit touch-screen monitor displays a map or an alpine-type route instruction. The system works well and can provide a lot of help in unfamiliar territory. The verbal instructions can help you avoid missing an exit and the map can help you figure out your location.
OnStar is an excellent complement to the navigation system. Its battery of operators can direct you to the best Italian restaurant in the area and provide assistance when lost. They can unlock your car when you lock the keys in. They can shut the car off if it’s been stolen. And they will send emergency crews out to get you if an airbag is set off and no one responds.