Premium midsize car; Built in USA
  • 2-door coupe
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $4,000 – $7,000*

2001 Acura CL

2001 Acura CL

2003 Acura CL interior

2002 Acura CL Type-S

2003 Acura CL Type-S

  • Acceleration
  • Build quality
  • Steering/handling
  • Navigation-system controls
  • Rear-seat entry/exit
  • Rear-seat head room

Acura’s prior CL seemed like little more than a restyled two-door Honda Accord. This one has a sportier personality that should satisfy demanding drivers. While lacking the agility of a BMW 3-Series, it appeals for brisk acceleration and adept ride/handling balance. Well-equipped when new, CLs make few concessions to pricier European coupes in performance, comfort, or quality.


Honda’s luxury division introduced the second generation of its front-drive near-luxury coupe in spring 2000, as an early 2001 model. Slightly larger and heavier than its 1977-99 predecessor, the new CL retained its general appearance and four-seat layout. The CL coupe was based on the platform of Acura’s TL sedan and parent Honda’s Accord. In Acura parlance, CL stands for “contemporary luxury.”

In base form, the 3.2 CL used the TL sedan’s 225-horsepower, 3.2-liter V6 engine. A 260-horsepower version went into the new performance-oriented CL Type-S. Both used a five-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift gate.

Half an inch longer in wheelbase than the previous CL, the new coupe measured 2 inches longer overall and offered an additional 2 inches of rear leg room. Weight increased by about 200 pounds. Front side airbags and antilock all-disc brakes were standard. A sensor system could disable the front passenger airbags if it detected a child or out-of-position occupant.

Both versions held alloy wheels, but the Type-S rode 17-inch tires rather than the usual 16-inchers. The Type-S coupe featured handling-oriented suspension tuning and an antiskid system. Traction control was standard.

Like the TL sedan, the 3.2 CL coupe came with an abundance of standard features, including heated power front seats, leather upholstery, Xenon headlights, and a power sunroof. Automatic climate control, heated mirrors, and a six-disc in-dash CD changer also were standard. A navigation system with in-dash touch screen was the sole factory option. Rivals include the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz CLK, Toyota Solara, and Volvo C70.

Yearly Updates

2002 CL
Because the 2003 CL coupe was scheduled to arrive as an early 2003 model, changes were few for 2002.
2003 CL
A six-speed manual gearbox became available for the CL Type-S coupe, coupled with a limited-slip differential. When equipped with automatic, the Type-S included an antiskid system. This season’s styling updates included newly-designed wheels, revised headlights and taillights, a body-colored grille surround and outside door handles, and interior trim revisions. GM’s OnStar emergency/communications system became available, as part of the optional navigation system.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Both the regular CL and the Type-S use 3.2-liter overhead-cam V6 engines. In the regular model, the V6 produces 225 horsepower, while the Type-S engine delivers 260 horsepower. Only a five-speed automatic transmission was available initially, but a six-speed manual gearbox became available for the Type-S in 2003.

ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.2/196
Engine HP 225
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 216-217
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
5-speed automatic
ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.2/196
Engine HP 260
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 232
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic



Road Test

While the second-generation CL maintains solid near-luxury credentials, it’s noticeably sportier than previous models. Each version is predictable, crisp, and responsive.

A Type-S with automatic ran 0-60 mph in just 6.7 seconds, and showed equally strong highway passing power. Add quick steering, fine grip and cornering balance, plus a stable high-speed ride, and the Type-S rivals most any competitor for dynamic ability–including the vaunted BMW 3-Series.

The base model is a shade tamer, but still boasts sure acceleration (0-60 in under 8 seconds) and confident road manners. Automatic transmissions in either model can be slightly indecisive in mountain driving, but otherwise smooth and alert, shifting promptly and without jolting. The six-speed’s narrow gates can confuse gear selection in quick shifting.

Acura recommends premium fuel for both models. As for economy, new Type-S coupes averaged 19.5 to 23 mpg, while base models returned 19.3 to 24.5 mpg and a manual-shift Type-S scored 23.3 mpg.

Not an all-around athlete, the CL produces too much noseplow and tire scrubbing in aggressive cornering. A Type-S can suffer torque steer, too, under full-throttle bursts.

Either CL is taut but comfortable riding over broken surfaces, though lower-profile tires and a firmer suspension make the Type-S jiggle a bit on washboards and expansion joints. Tire roar intrudes on coarse pavement, and Type-S tire slap annoys on patchy surfaces. Wind noise is minimal, and refined engines emit a pleasant, muted snarl under hard throttle. Braking is swift, stable, confident, and easy to modulate, with little nosedive in panic stops.

Carefully assembled from classy materials, the CL cabin is rare among coupes for being airy and roomy (at least in front). Thin roof pillars and a low-cowl dashboard provide terrific visibility, though less so to the rear. Front bucket seats are well-shaped, comfortable and supportive, with plenty of leg and shoulder space; only tall folks may lack headroom.

In back is bucket-type seating for two, but only preteens will agree to ride there for long. Front entry/exit is no problem, but rear access is typical coupe crouch-and-crawl.

Because the CL uses the well-designed TL dashboard, standard climate controls are a stretch for drivers with shorter arms. The optional navigation system governs some climate and audio functions, but it’s less distracting than some.

Interior storage is good, but cupholders are shallow. The roomy trunk features a knee-high liftover and a pass-through portal, but fold-down seatbacks are not available and sickle-shaped hinges steal cargo space.


Model Tested: 2001 Acura 3.2 CL

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.


Acceleration - 6
Fuel Economy - 6
Ride Quality - 6
Steering/Handling - 6
Quietness - 7


Controls/Materials - 8
Room/Comfort Front - 7
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 5

Total: 57


2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.9 192.0 69.2 53.3
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
17.2 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.5 36.7 42.4 33.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

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

Side Impact Test

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


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

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: Automatic transmission problems prompted to company to extend warranty coverage to 7 years/100,000 miles. (2000-02)
Automatic transmission
Description: 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. (2001-2003)
Description: The clutch master cylinder may leak into the passenger compartment and should be replaced. (2001)
Engine stalling
Description: Vehicle may stall or be hard to start after sitting 15-20 minutes, especially during warm spells in colder weather where winter-blended fuel is sold. Replacing the fuel-pressure regulator and powertrain computer should fix it. (2001)
Oil leak
Description: Oil leaks due to aluminum-engine porosity require patching and/or installation of special sealing bolts for the timing-belt adjuster pulley, motor-mount bracket, and transmission-mounting bolts. (2001-02)
Windshield washer
Description: The tubing for the windshield washers deteriorates, causing wiper smearing. The tubing and wipers require replacement. (2001)
Description: The fan(s) for the radiator and/or air-conditioning condenser may run continuously and kill the battery. Both fan relays require replacement. (2001)

Recall History

Description: Gear failure due to heat build-up may result in transmission lockup, which could result in a crash.
Description: Water-pump timing-belt tensioner pulley might be misaligned and could cause timing belt to fail, resulting in engine stalling. Dealers will inspect water pump and replace pump and timing belt if necessary.
2003 3.2 models
Description: The driver’s airbag inflator could produce excessive internal pressure. If an affected airbag deploys, the increased internal pressure may cause the inflator to rupture. Metal fragments could pass through the airbag cushion material, possibly causing injury or fatality to vehicle occupants. Dealers will replace the airbag inflator free of charge.
2003 CL
Description: This recall is related to a series of recalls on these vehicles in which Honda is replacing the inflators within the driver’s side air bag to address a defective condition. In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the driver’s air bag, the inflator could produce excessive internal pressure that could cause the inflator to rupture with metal fragments striking and injuring the driver or other occupants. Owners of all vehicles on which a replacement service air bag may have been installed will be notified. Dealers will inspect vehicles, and where a defective air bag inflator is identified, the inflator will be replaced, free of charge.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


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.

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