Premium midsize car; Built in USA
  • 2-door coupe
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,800 – $3,800*


1998 Acura 2.3CL


1998 Acura 3.0CL


1998 Acura 2.3CL


1998 Acura CL interior


1998 Acura 2.3CL

Pros:
  • Acceleration (3.0CL)
  • Ride
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Acceleration (4-cylinder w/automatic)
  • Automatic-transmission performance

All told, this is a competent, pleasant, and well-constructed coupe, marred only by unsatisfying operation of the automatic transmission. However, most of the CL’s virtues are also available in the appealing but less-costly Honda Accord. That’s no surprise, since the cars share a number of components.

Overview

American Honda’s luxury division introduced a 4-cylinder 2-door midsize coupe in spring 1996, as an early ’97 model. Dubbed 2.2CL, it was the first Acura model to be designed and built in the United States. Also used in the latest Honda Accord, its 2.2-liter 4-cylinder engine developed 145 horsepower. A companion 3.0CL, powered by a new 200-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 engine, arrived in fall 1997. Assembled at Honda’s plant in Ohio, along with the smaller Honda Civic, the CL was based on the same front-drive design as Honda’s Accord. Styling and interior features differ, however. In size and price, the CL was slotted between Acura’s Integra and TL. Both engines were produced in Ohio. Each used a single overhead camshaft, with four valves per cylinder and Honda’s VTEC (variable valve timing) design. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard on the 2.2CL. A 4-speed automatic transmission was standard on the 3.0CL, and optional on the 2.2CL.Dual airbags and antilock 4-wheel disc brakes were standard on both versions of the CL. A standard keyless entry system eliminated the need for an exterior trunk lock. Leather upholstery was included in an optional Premium Package.

Yearly Updates

1998 CL
For 1998, the 2.2CL coupe was transformed into a 2.3CL, by switching from a 145-horsepower 2.2-liter 4-cylinder engine to a 150-horsepower, 2.3-liter four. As before, the 4-cylinder engine came with either manual or automatic transmission. Wheels were newly designed this year, and the grille was revised. Steering-wheel audio controls were installed.
1999 CL
Leather seating for the base model topped the ’99 additions to the CL. This year, both models got leather interior trim as standard, and added a trunk cargo net. Acura skipped the 2000 model year, preparing a redesigned CL coupe as an early 2001 model.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Three powertrain choices were available in 1997: 4-cylinder in the 2.2CL with 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission, and V6 engine in the 3.0CL, offered only with automatic. The 2.2-liter engine, with a single overhead camshaft, made 145 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque. The 3.0-liter V6 was rated at 200 horsepower and 195 pound-feet. For 1998, a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine replaced the 2.2-liter, producing 5 more horsepower and 5 more pound-feet of torque.

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.2/132
Engine HP 145
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 147
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
25/31
23/29
22.2

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.3/137
Engine HP 150
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 152
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
25/31
23/29
ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/183
Engine HP 200
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 195
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic

20/28

22.3

Road Test

Styling is unique; but inside, the CL coupe looks, feels, and behaves like a more robust, better-appointed Accord. Also like the Accord, handling is poised and sporty, while the ride is firm but comfortably absorbent. Because of its bigger tires, however, the CL does feel more athletic than an Accord. Both CL engines run smoothly, but the 4-cylinder version performs best with manual shift. With an automatic transmission, it loses energy. A 2.2CL with the 5-speed accelerated to 60 mph in 9.5 seconds–passable, but no powerhouse. Gas mileage was a bonus, however, averaging an impressive 22.2 mpg overall. The 2.3-liter engine installed in 1998 is about as quick and efficient as the initial 2.2-liter. With automatic, acceleration ranks only as adequate. In contrast, the 3.0-liter V6 delivers brisk acceleration. Unfortunately, with either engine the automatic transmission tends to shift with a bothersome jolt when pushing hard on the gas. In addition, the transmission sometimes seems almost confused about which gear to be in during stop-and-go driving. Four adults sit in reasonable comfort, which is a bonus for a sporty coupe. Of course, the interior is typical Acura/Honda, which means a comfortable driving position, unobstructed visibility, and simple, convenient instruments and controls. The power driver’s seat in a 3.0CL automatically moves fore and aft to ease rear entry/exit, and it can sense obstructions and reverse direction as needed. Cargo space ranks as more than adequate, but there’s only a pass-through opening to the trunk, not a folding rear seatback. Workmanship is top-notch, as expected from Honda’s premium brand. This coupe feels robust even on rough roads and displays good detail finish.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1998 Acura 3.0CL w/auto

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 5
50%
Fuel Economy - 5
50%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 5
50%
Quietness - 6
60%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Front - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Rear - 2
20%
Cargo Room - 2
20%

Other

Value - 5
50%

Total: 45

Specifications

2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.5 190.0 70.1 54.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
12.0 17.1 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.4 35.9 42.9 31.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 CL 2-door coupe

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Front Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 95
Injury 101
Theft 124

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: On V6 models, transmissions may fail due to lack of thread-locking compound on nut for low clutch. Honda/Acura has extended warranty on affected vehicles to 7 years or 100,000 miles. (1999)
Mirrors
Description: Fluttering or whistling noises come from the outside mirrors due to a faulty run channel that must be replaced. (1997)
Seat
Description: The power seat may not move properly because the synchronizer cable comes loose from the seat. (1997)
Seat
Description: The front passenger seat may not move forward when the access lever is pulled because the rear seat access cable comes loose. (1997)
Sunroof/moonroof
Description: The moonroof seal may pop out when the roof is opened. (1997)
Windows
Description: The windows rattle when partially open due to a problem with the guide pin and rear channel. (1997-98)
Windows
Description: Power window fitting may come off end of window regulator cable causing window to quit working. (1997-98)
Speedometer
Description: The indicated speed (on the speedometer) and true speed may not jibe. Speedometers were being replaced under extended warranty. (1997)
Gauges
Description: The tachometer needle fluctuates, and the “D4” light blinks due to a problem with the transmission control module (TCM) that is, in most cases, replaced under goodwill. (1997)

Recall History

1997-98
Description: Ball joints on certain cars could wear out prematurely and, in worst case, separate and cause front suspension to collapse.
1997-98
Description: Electrical contacts in the ignition switch can degrade due to the high electrical current that passes through the switch at startup.
1997-99
Description: Ignition-switch wear may lead to failure of interlock, making it possible to remove key without shifting into “Park.”
1998
Description: Irregularity in transmission cover can limit movement of parking pawl actuation lever and prevent adequate engagement; car could roll down an incline while transmission is in “Park.”

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.