GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

Acura CL 3.2L Type-S

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SPECS
 
Years Represented: 2001-2003
Host: GT5
Country of Origin: Japan / America
 
Type: Coupe
Class: Mid-size / Luxury
 
Price: 26,581 cr.
 
Mileage as tested: 22,522.6
 
Construction: unit steel
Length: 165.5" // Width: 70.6" // Height: 53.3"
Wheelbase: 106.9"
Overhang: 4 feet, 10 inches
Track: 61.1" [F], 61.0" [R]
Ground Clear: 6.2"
Weight: 3,444 pounds
Wgt. Dist: 63/37
 
Steering: variable rack and pinion
Lock 2 Lock: 2.880
Circle: 39 feet, 1 inch
 
Layout: Front Engine / Front-Drive
 
The CL in GT5 was given oil change, but no other maintainence, for all specs & testing below
 
Engine: 3.2 liter DOHC V6
Construction: aluminum block & heads
Aspiration: normal
Fuel Syst: PGM-Fi
Valves / Cyl: 4 + Vtec
Bore x Stroke: 3.50 x 3.39"
Compression: 10.5:1
 
Final HP: 260 @ 6,000
Fnl Torq: 232 @ 3,200
 
Credits / HP: 102.33
Pounds / HP: 13.25
Pnds / Torque: 14.84
HP per Liter:   81.2
 
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Differential: limited-slip
 
0-60 mph: 6.900 seconds
0-100 mph: 16.500
0-150 mph: 36.747
 
0-400 M: 15.413 @ 95 mph
0-1000 M: 27.340 @ 124 mph
 
100-zero mph: 5.350 seconds
 
Daytona Lap: 1:01.658
 
Top Speed at Redline
1st: 36.4 mph
2nd: 55.5
3rd: 82.9
4th: 115.0
5th: 148.8
6th: 152.9 mph @ 5,300 rpm  
 
 
 
 

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----------- EXTERIOR / HISTORY -------------

Every once in awhile, it's a good idea to step into the middle of the road. "Middle of the road" is safe. We know it well. It's where most of us travel and stand every day. Not just while driving, but while opinionating, conversing, and dealing. Most of us don't go to extremes all the time. And here, with the Acura CL 3.2 Type-S we've got a perfect opportunity to choose something which is perfectly safe and ordinary. The CL sits directly in the middle of the road, in lots of ways. 
 
It's somewhat of a jack-of-many-trades, yet it's nowhere near mastering any of them. It's 2 door, yet 4 seats. It's sleek and polished, and one of the most powerful front-drives of its time, yet it rarely excels, and requires lots of patience behind the wheel. It's an Acura, which means the CL is technically somewhat on the luxury side, yet the CL tries its hand at performance, as well. And despite its semi-luxurious status, it doesn't cost all that much to get going in a CL. I've driven this car in GT4 and GT5. In the former game the 2003 model (which is new) is priced at 32,420 credits, and I believe the 2001 version is somewhat cheaper. In the latter game, we're talking somewhere between 20 to 30,000 credits for either year, since they can both be found only as used cars. Not much, like I said. 
 
The CL was created by Honda/Acura to replace the Acura Legend coupe. Compared to the Legend, the CL displays a less boxy shape which is sleek and polished. It's got an elongated stance to it, with cramped-looking back seats, but an attempt to give those rear passengers a worthwhile patch of glass to look through.
 
The CL featured that special blend of niceties and drivability which a lot of more expensive autos possessed at its time: leather seats, premium stereo, wood grain trim, an option for GPS, standard antilock brakes + traction controls, heated mirrors, automatic xenon headlights, etc. In 2001, Acura boasted that the CL (which was supposed to compete with Saab, Volvo, BMW, and even Mercedes) would become the best-selling import on the luxury scale in America, quite a bold claim. It's hard to say whether they managed to do this...such things require research, and I don't feel like looking for hard numbers right now. Judging by what I've seen on our streets though, the CL is no more popular than anything it competed with. Other Acuras seem to have done better. 
 
In our games, the CL 3.2 seems to fall directly middle, compared to many others, at first glance. Nothing special, completely ordinary, but some of its numbers seem to hint at good things to come. There were two versions of the CL in 2001-2003: the base model and the Type-S. We are lucky to get the S version, it would seem?  Hmm...
      

----------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN--------------

One of the best things about this car is the number "260", as in 260 horsepower being quoted by the dealer. The base car only made 225, so it's good we've got the Type-S. Not bad for a front-drive. There's a long list of front-drives, many of which we're familiar with, that start nowhere close to 260. The dealer in GT5 wasn't lying, either. My used '03 started with 247 hp @ 6,100, but this got bumped to 260, right on the nose, after a 30 minute oil change.
 
However, unlike many other front drives: the Honda Civic, for instance, which only starts with about 160 hp, and the Acura Integra (195), there is one thing the CL also has: weight. 3,444 pounds of it. Youch. Some cars from the new Millennium can handle this sort of burden just fine, and surprisingly well, so how about this Acura?  The CL (unlike its two fore-mentioned cousins) definitely drives like a Honda sometimes, definitely has the feel of a Honda, but this extra weight really slows it down, and keeps it from being as spry. More work, but less reward.
 
But that doesn't change our power supply. 260 is pretty good to start with, and easy to build upon. For awhile, anyways. Unlike the 4-bangers in those other Honda products, the CL's 3.2 liter (which is exactly 3,200 ccs) starts way low down into those revs with its torque, and delivers its horses in a smooth, strong manner as the engine nears redline. There is more of a window for power, basically, from this V6, than there is for Honda's spikey 4-choppers. Since the CL is so heavy, RPMs and lost traction rarely catch us off guard, and it's when we're crawling out of those slower areas that we get to experiment the most. Like the Integra, the CL's got that low-down traction which rarely breaks, and we'll talk about this further during the Handling section, of course.
 
Acura offered a 5-speed automatic in 2001 (with no other option) but by 2003, we could now choose a 6-speed manual. This is the main difference between the '01 and the '03 in our game: one has the the auto, while the other gets the stick. And there's little to complain about, one would think (this is a Honda, right?) except there's a LOT to complain about, assuming we've got the '01. This tranny is geared tall, I mean really tall. Forget about getting out of anyone's hair anytime soon, this one will have us lagging all over the place. Upshifts place those RPMs into some deep, dark areas which we'd rather not explore. Scary. Not really something we'd want to choose, during any sort of racing (or driving) situation. The 2003's 6-speed, on the other hand, is much more useful.     
 
Either way, we've got some decent top-end though, and the 2003 also backs this up with some of the better front-drive acceleration I've seen. I managed just over 152 mph during the top speed test in this car, yet the 2003 could also make it to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds. Pretty good for a front-drive. Almost a second faster than an Acura Integra. 100 miles per hour is 16.5 in the CL, which is just over two seconds faster. So we've got flexibility, speed, and decent acceleration in this particular car, and we can get this in the 2001 as well, assuming we equip some more flexible gearing. What about power upgrades?
 
Eesh. Not looking so good. No turbos, for instance. At best, we can make just 420 hp @ 6,900, with 325 foot-pounds at 5,400. And another thing that's not so great is the fact that we must wait a long time before the Acura CL becomes competitive in GT5. In too many early races (Sunday Cup, FF Challenge, Clubman Cup) the CL will simply crush the game. During some others (Supercar Festival) it hasn't got enough. The CL is too new to enter into the Japanese '90s Challenge. Boo hoo. It's not until the Expert-level Japanese Challenge that the CL finds itself amongst welcome company that's not too tough, and not too easy. Middle of the road. In GT4, the CL can be driven and raced more often, but this game's habit of quickly destroying tires (especially on front-drives) might keep things limited to certain events, and then one must search for grids which aren't too tough, most of the time, for reasons we're about to discuss. 
 
     

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----------CHASSIS / HANDLING----------

Not to insult anybody here, but it really is a mystery to me: who would buy and race this car in Gran Turismo? Why would they do so?  What's so special about an Acura CL?  
 
The Civic and the Integra?  They make sense. These two models are often regarded highly on our streets, and at an amateur level on our tracks. The Acura CL?  Maybe our dad or our uncle has one, which is kinda cool. But comparing it to the Volvo S60 T5 Sport I drove recently (a front-drive sedan of similar weight & power), the Acura doesn't stack up in its handling department.  
 
Here is where this car's golden promises fall apart, either way. In real life, some people complained about the Type-S, which they said had a rather harsh ride. I've driven real-life versions though, and I can't really agree. But either way, the Type-S' firmed-up suspension doesn't pull any miracles in the game.  The better Hondas mentioned earlier aren't perfect, but they possess a list of talents which set them apart from many others. They make winning easy and fun, under many circumstances, and they sometimes offer chances for experimentation. The Acura CL 3.2 Type-S does not follow this trend, okay? So let's sit right down and find out why not.
 
It all begins while we're entering turns. Civics, CR-Xs, and Integras love this part. They love entering turns, chewing them up, and spitting them out. The CL, on the other hand, has some major issues with them, especially on-entry. The CL just never seems to get its shit together. Those other Hondas?  We can brake really late with them sometimes. Oh, they may protest and make a lot of noise, but (depending which tires they've been equipped with) they almost always survive. They often THRIVE under pressure. The CL, on the other hand, gets stuck in more of a 'protest' phase, even with soft sport tires. It falters and pushes, its front tires overheating immediately. Swap those sports for radials, and we begin to see how Acura was nowhere near to topping BMW, as they claimed they would do in 2001.
 
And it's not just because this car is front-drive; that's no excuse. Like I said, some other FFs from this class (like that Volvo) do just fine. They enter turns in a grippy way, rather than understeering like sardines in a net. I'm not saying that the Volvo is any sort of a handling maven either, but it does outshine the CL.  
 
The problem with the Acura is the fact that there's so much damn weight up front, but not enough rubber. 3,444 pounds overall, matched with humdrum 215/50R-17s. So if we figure that 63% of our weight is up front, this means those front tires are trying to support over 2,170 of those 3,444 pounds, while the car is slowing. Turn the wheel, and whatever tire is outside is now trying to deal with over 1,100 pounds, all by itself. It's no wonder this car's fronts overheat so easily! Again, that Volvo barely displayed any of this nonsense, when I raced it on soft sport tires during the Turbo Cup at Monza.
 
It's something you'll be dealing with no matter how much you tune, assuming you buy a Type-S. This car's got catastrophically bad handling while it's entering!!!  ... and mid-turn things often (somehow) get worse. Miss a braking point in a Civic?  You'll probably be fine after a half-second or two. In a CL, things can really get ugly, and racing lines which are nothing but understeer can actually begin to compound with pushing sometimes, which does not feel very Honda-like at all. The CL prefers very firm braking zones, with old-fashioned out-in-out racing lines most of the time ... anything else (any sort of experimentation) is usually rewarded with nothing but scrunched faces, and whitened knuckles. One can occasionally perform an out-out-out at a track like Tsukuba or Suzuka, but this assumes the AI is bottlenecked at the beginning of some race, or is driving badly in some way.   
 
But the good news starts to happen as we're exiting. The CL sucks on-entry, but it feels just like any other Honda on exit, minus the front-end underdrifting we'd experience in many lighter front-drives. Often, the CL will begin to tighten its exits as we're steering and throttling out. This is something we can always count on as we're deep in some turn, desperately trying to gain a position. All of this assumes the car has some better tires though. If we're still using radials, the CL might need a bit of babying as it's leaving turns, but it ultimately can chew them up, in a very Integra-like way. This assumes we've also entered the turn well in the first place. If the CL is forced to leave on a bad angle, its superior exit traction will be wasted, most likely, as the car's now edging toward some grass.
 
Sort of a mixed bag, eh?  I wasn't really planning on reviewing the Acura CL at all. It's a tidy, yet messy car, which needs a lot of help!  
 
Summary
Not really comparable to BMW, but much cheaper than BMW, while still offering a lot of similar creature comforts. WE don't get to enjoy these comforts, though. We only get to fight and struggle inside this car, wondering where our 25,000 credits (or so) could have been better spent.
  

PROS---------
 
1). Poor man's luxury car.
 
2). Torquey, powerful, yet smooth engine. More power than we'd find in many other FFs.
 
3). Lots of gears to play with.
 
4). Decent acceleration and top-end.
 
5). Friendly, new-millennium looks, for those who are into that sort of thing. The CL is supposed to be posh, yet doesn't show it.
 
6). Lovely traction out of slower areas.
 
7). A popular find in those used car lots, even in GT5.    
 
CONS--------------
 
1). Terrible handling, even with its Type-S suspension. Let's get right into it. Understeer-galore, and messy to point into turns of all kinds. This is a Honda?   
 
2). Too heavy.  
 
3). Too ordinary.
 
4). Gearbox is too tall, in the 2001 model, anyways.
 
5). Not enough power (no turbos) for a decent career in GT5, In GT4, this car's front-drive / heavy stature will keep it from tackling some of this game's tougher events; even the Clubman Cup can be tricky to win.
 
6). Braking response that feels more at home in a Ford Taurus.  
 
7), No novelty factor. No laughs. Watching a Odyssey in action?  That's pretty fun. An Element?  Downright hilarious. The CL on the other hand performs just as badly as these two, yet isn't as interesting or funny during replays.
 
8). Not very tunable, unless you go maybe for top-shelf parts, and lots of weight-reducing. Again, this is not true of many other Hondas.
 
9). I know this car's poor handling has already been mentioned twice, yet I can't stress enough how truly BAD it is. Stay away from this one, even if you have some experience, unless you're looking for some sort of ultimate challenge, or don't mind losing more than usual.  
 
Published: June 23, 2015  

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