The 2003 Acura CL coupe has some real competition. As an entry-level luxury coupe, it competes with offerings from Volvo, Saab, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. Despite these vaunted rivals, the CL holds its own rather well thanks to a price that beats the competition, a lot of features and luxury for that price, and solid performance and handling. It may not be a class leader in most of the typically prized categories, but it does beat its rivals when it comes to value, and that makes the CL a car that should be high on the list of vehicles to test drive for buyers in this segment.
Body styles: coupe
Engines: 3.2-liter V-6
Transmissions: five-speed automatic, six-speed manual
Models: Acura CL 3.2, Acura CL 3.2 Type-S
For 2003, the Acura CL receives a number of changes. The most notable addition is the availability of a six-speed manual transmission on the Type-S trim. For the exterior, the CL gets new wheels, updated headlights and taillights, a revised grille, and new exhaust tips. For the interior, Acura has added LATCH child safety seat attachments, a dual-stage and dual-threshold driver's front airbag, and an auto-up driver's window. Cars with the optional navigation system now have OnStar, GM’s vehicle communications service.
The 2003 Acura CL coupe is available in two trims: the base and the sporty Type-S. Both trims of the CL are noteworthy for offering a lot of standard luxury without the high price. For standard equipment, The CL has a power sunroof, high-intensity discharge lights, a reverse tilt passenger mirror that provides curb view when vehicle in reverse, power door mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels, rear defogger, and intermittent wipers. The CL Type-S trim adds a more powerful engine, a sport-tuned suspension, and 17-inch wheels.
The base CL starts off with an in-dash six-disc CD changer, steering-wheel audio controls, heated front seats, two-position memory system for driver seat and mirrors, rear heat/air vents, and a micron air-filtration system. An easy to operate DVD-based navigation system with a smudge-free touchscreen is the only option, and this year it also comes with OnStar, the vehicle communications service. The Type-S trim adds minor cabin trim upgrades.
Performance & Handling
The base CL is equipped with a 3.2-liter V-6 that utilizes VTEC technology to crank out 225 horsepower and 216 lb-ft of torque. The V-6 is solid in every gear, and it can make the zero-60 mph run in under eight seconds. A standard five-speed automatic transmission sends power to the front wheels. This gearbox is easy to operate because of a shift gate located close to the driver and an intuitive shift pattern for the SportShift sequential-shift manual function. For buyers seeking more in the way of performance, there is the Type-S trim. With special engine modifications, such as a dual-stage induction system, increased compression, and performance-oriented camshafts and valves, this 3.2-liter V-6 employed by the Type-S develops 260 horsepower and 232 lb-ft of torque. While the five-speed automatic is also standard on this car, a six-speed manual is a new option. This close-ratio, six-speed gearbox includes a short-throw shifter and a limited-slip front differential. This transmission is designed specifically to allow a driver to apply throttle sooner through turns, a move that will improve handling balance and steering feel.
Speaking of handling, the CL is crisp, stable, and responsive in most situations. There is some tire scrubbing and nose plowing during aggressive cornering. Some torque steer turns up when accelerating hard. For this price range, the CL is a good performer, but won’t compete with offerings from BMW. The ride is firm and comfortable with some agitation over bumps. While there’s not much noise, occupants will hear the tires over rough stuff.
For 2003, the CL is equipped with standard safety gear that includes side airbags, a front passenger seat system that prevents the side airbag from deploying if a small child or adult leans into the deployment path. Also standard are all-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, traction control, remote anti-theft alarm system, child seat anchors, front seatbelt pretensioners, and a stability control system. Traction control and stability control are standard, except on cars with manual transmissions. The CL has not been tested by either the NHTSA or the IIHS. Honda/Acura has a good reputation for safety, and the CL offers a solid list of safety equipment and should do reasonably well for occupant protection.
EPA Fuel Economy
Acura CL 3.2: 17/27 mpg city/highway
Acura CL 3.2 Type-S: 17/27 mpg city/highway
- V-6 engines
- Standard features
- Cabin comfort
- Great value
You Won't Like
- Interior material quality is basic
- Lacks the style of rivals
- Rear seat access
- Rear seat headroom
- Controls on the navigation system
Best luxury coupe in this price range.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Volvo C70
- BMW 3 Series
- Toyota Camry Solara
- Saab 9-3
- Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class