Think of Acura's two-door 3.0CL as a personal transportation module, a respite from the rigors of commuting. It coddles your soul like well-worn house slippers and is an ideal place to relax after a hectic day at the office.

In daily commutes, its lack of noise and quick-stepping acceleration are a joy. Visibility is panoramic, like the proverbial fish bowl, because of the low belt line and thin roof pillars. Although it is not a sports coupe as such, it grips the road nicely in turns and feels unperturbed at freeway speeds. At slow speeds you can steer with one finger, so that it wheels in and out of parking lots effortlessly.

This sport-luxury coupe is designed to slot into Acura's model mix between the youth-oriented Integra and conservative TL sedan. Its appeal lies in the way it combines snappy performance with the highest standard content in its class and a reasonable price. The four-cylinder 2.2CL starts as low as $22,110, while the upscale V6-powered 3.0CL begins at $25,110.

Both are available in standard and Premium trim packages. The V6 model driven here came out last fall, a few months after the 2.2CL. At $26,460, the 3.0CL Premium is so fully equipped that no options are needed. Its list of standard equipment includes heated seats, CD player, moonroof, 8-way power driver's seat, anti-lock brakes and automatic climate control.

One thing immediately noticeable about this coupe is the way the front and rear ends are sliced at an angle, and the large taillights that dominate the back. This style has its roots in the dramatic CL-X show car that was first shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in 1995. While the CL-X's unique shape has been softened considerably in the translation from show car to production, it retains the show car's essence. In order to preserve the visual simplicity of the design, the trunk is not marred with a key slot. It is opened via remote keyless entry or a lever inside.

The CL was completely designed and engineered in America for the American market. Acura's California design studio was responsible for the shape, while engineering was done at Honda's research and development facility in Ohio. Acura is the American luxury division of Honda.

While the 2.2CL has a competitive price, the V6-powered 3.0CL is the most desirable of the two. This all-aluminum, single-overhead-cam (SOHC) V6 has four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing and 200 horsepower. Mounted transversely, this Ohio-built powerplant drives the front wheels. Acura says this engine is the smallest and lightest in its segment and does not need a tuneup for 100,000 miles.

The variable valve timing gives it two personalities. Below 3,500 rpm it feels docile and silky smooth. Above that point, however, the engine acquires a bit of a snarl and begins to move with authority. The 4-speed automatic transmission shifts deliberately without being rough, and is always ready to downshif t at the slightest nudge of the throttle.

Out on the road, the 3.0 covers ground so adeptly that you need to keep a close eye on the speedometer or you will find yourself cruising about 10 mph faster than everyone else.

After you slide into the leather seats you will notice how low the dash is relative to your field of view. You can tell this car is geared toward luxury buyers because the seats are wide and flat, easy to get into but short on lateral support. On cold mornings I was grateful that they were heated.

There were a couple of things I didn't like about the interior layout. When I adjusted the seat so my legs reached the pedals properly, the steering wheel was too far away. At this point it was also a stretch to reach the climate control buttons, and the fact that they were so small made it even harder. The stereo, too, has small buttons, but it was less bothersome.

The gauges were models of readability, and strips of wood trim added a touch warmth o the leather upholstery.

The trunk is nicely sized, and a lockable pass-through from the trunk accommodates long objects, such as skis.

Acura no doubt hopes the CL series will compete with cars such as the Lexus SC 300 and BMW 318i. It heads into this segment with a long list of standard equipment, reasonable price and a sweet V6.


The base price of our test car was $26,460. With freight, the sticker price was $26,895.


The basic warranty is for four years or 50,000 miles.

Vehicles for The Star's week-long test drives are supplied by the auto manufacturers.

Point: The 3.0CL brings 200 horsepower and a slick-shifting automatic transmission to the luxury coupe segment. Its unusual styling may not suit everyone, but it is distinctive.

Counterpoint: It takes a stretch to reach the climate control buttons, and I would prefer seats with more lateral support.


ENGINE: 3.0-liter, V6


WHEELBASE: 106.9 inches

CURB WEIGHT: 3,219 lbs.

BASE PRICE: $26,460


MPG RATING: 20 city, 28 hwy.