The Sacramento Bee's view

Acura-style luxury, rock-solid engineering, pin-me-to-the-seat performance.

What do you think? Maybe $40,000.

Nah, probably more like $45,000, right?

OK, many of us can remember buying houses for what we pay today for cars. But the sticker on the tested 2001 Acura 3.2CL Type S coupe jumped out at me — an entirely easy-to-swallow $30,785 (the only addition to the manufacturer’s suggested retail price being a $455 destination charge).

I did a triple-take. Surely that’s a mistake. This is an Acura luxury performance couple for crying out loud!

No mistake. The all-new-for-2001 3.2CL Type S coupe actually puts luxury, serious technology and road-worthy muscle within financial reach of many buyers.

Is it stripped down, you ask? Hardly.

The lengthy list of standard features includes a Bose AM/FM-cassette-six compact disc changer system with six speakers and anti-theft device, a HomeLink remote-control system, an eight-way power driver’s seat (with heat), a four-way power front passenger’s seat (also with heat), 105,000-mile engine tune-up engineering, keyless remote entry with driver’s seat and side mirror memory and a power moonroof.

In fact, the only factory option on the coupe is the Acura Navigation System.

Some have dissed the 3.2CL Type S for being wrapped in too conservative a skin. I guess that’s what you get when sports car designers go for the over-the-top look every time out.

The 3.2CL Type S exterior look is sufficiently sporty — not the in-your-face strut of a Dodge Viper, but understated and refined.

How does it drive?

Like a rocket sled, if you ask that of it. Acura understandably boasts that the 3.2-liter VTEC V-6 with 260 horsepower makes the Type S version of the 3.2CL the most-powerful six-cylinder coupe in its class.

The V-6 moves the 3,500-pound vehicle around like it weighed half that.

The ride is made even more impressive by a sweetly tuned suspension and a “Vehicle Stability Assist” system that monitors cornering, traction and even braking functions.

The “Sequential SportShift” feature gives one the option of making clutchless gear changes, but the feature seems superfluous given the smoothness of the wide-ratio, five-speed automatic gearbox.

The coupe is a blast for a run up to Reno/Tahoe or just a quick trip to the supermarket. For longer trips, you might long for the more-spacious confines of a midsize sedan. The driver’s seat is, in my view, the most comfortable spot in the vehicle, and there are enough easy-to-reach controls in the fighter pilot-like cockpit to keep the driver alert to everyone’s needs without being distracted.

The back seat of the 3.2CL Type S is a bit of a misnomer. Unless you’re trying to punish the kids by confining them to cramped quarters, the back seat area probably works best as a storage space for light cargo.

One more small gripe: The automatic climate-control system might take you a few tries to master — to get the hang of which ducts are blowing hot or cold air.

Other than that, it’s a gem. Given Acura’s history of dependence, it should run forever and look good doing it. Not all bad for around $30,000.

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