- The Washington Times - Friday, May 3, 2002

Last spring I drove Acura's 3.2. CL Type-S, and I liked it fine. But my recent test drive of the 2003 model is an eye-opener, offering true driving exhilaration.

The 2003 3.2 CL Type-S is now in a whole new performance league.

The styling is superb in Gran Turismo tradition. The performance is heavy-duty: a 260-horsepower engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

The exterior styling of the 2003 CL coupe is borrowed from the past. Acura took elements from its original Legend and from the classic European Gran Turismo coupes of the 1950s and 1960s, giving the 2003 CL a long front hood and short rear deck.

The grille has been revised, surrounded by more body color. I like the clever way the front end of the coupe is sculpted to a graceful point as though it mirrors the Acura A chrome insignia in the center. Headlights with black accents are also part of the revised appearance. The rear end has a new exhaust finish. My tester, the CL Type-S, houses dual exhausts for an exceptionally sporty thrust.

It is amazing the effect color can have on one's mood. The body paint on the CL Type-S lifts my spirits. Even the name of the exterior color is enchanting: Aegean blue pearl.

On the inside, this 3.2 CL is a four-seater luxury performance coupe.

The black perforated leather seats offer comfort for all four seating positions. Slipping into the back seat of most two-door vehicles requires agility. The luxury part of this coupe is the power-sliding front seats that move fore and aft with just a lift on the seat lever.

Conveniently, the power-operated driver's seat returns to its original position.

The two rear passengers sit securely in position during handling and cornering maneuvers, because a bucket-style seat bench holds them comfortably. In the center of this bench is a lockable storage console that can hold lots of stuff.

However, as much as we North American drivers cherish traveling with our beverages, this Japanese automobile does not come with rear seat cup holders. But there is an ashtray.

Room is bountiful in the CL Type-S, even in the trunk. Coupe owners usually find they have to forgo trunk room. Not in the 3.2 CL Type-S. This is a vehicle with a length of 192 inches and a cargo volume of 13.6 cubic feet.

From the driver's vantage point, the cockpit is arranged with every control intuitively placed. The climate and audio controls are cleanly presented, easy to read and operate. I like the circumference of the steering wheel; it's not too large and allows me to keep my hands in the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions while making a horseshoe U-turn.

The Acura coupe comes with comfort and convenience, such as an in-dash six-disc CD player, power tilt/slide moon roof, heated front seats, automatic climate controls, leather-trimmed interior, seat-mounted side air bags, anti-lock brakes and dual front air bags. My Type-S tester also has the optional Acura in-dash screen navigation system that features the OnStar communications system.

The 24-valve, 3.2-liter V-6 engine that produces 225 horsepower powers the 3.2 CL. The Type-S raises the bar on output with its 260 horsepower at 6,100 rpm and torque rating of 232 pounds-feet between 3,500 and 5,500 rpm.

The Type-S is available in a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. This close-ratio manual is a thrill to shift.

The sounds that emanate from the engine through the exhaust are symphonic. Yes, the CL Type-S is that good.

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