The History Of Acura CL

The Acura CL is a model of automobile manufactured by Honda's Acura brand from 1997-1999, and from 2001-2003. The CL is often thought to have been a replacement for the Acura Legend coupe. All Acura CLs were built at Honda's plant in Marysville, Ohio alongside the TL and the Honda Accord upon which the Acuras were based. The CL was the first Acura to be built in the United States.

Following the end of the 1995 model year, The Acura Legend coupe disappeared from Acura's line-up when the sedan version was renamed the Acura RL. The coupe was replaced by the Acura CL for the 1997 model year, following Acura's transition to alphanumeric naming of all of its vehicles (with the exception of the Integra, which was kept in production until the 2001 model year).

For the 1997 model year, the CL was offered with either a 3.0L J30 V6 producing 200hp (150kW), or a 150hp (112kW) 2.2L (F22B1) I4 engine. The 1998 and 1999 models featured a 2.3L (F23A1) with 152hp (113kW).

Both the 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder CL offered a "Premium" trim level which offered leather upholstery (with heated front seats in the 3.0), and in the 3.0, an Acura/ Bose stereo. For the 1999 model year, the "Premium" trim level was eliminated, and leather upholstery became standard on all models, as did a trunk cargo net. The alloy wheel design was different on the 3.0 for each year, moving from a five-spoke design (1997) to a seven-spoke design (1998), to a different multi-spoke alloy design for the 1999 model year. The 3.0 premium CL used a six-spoke design for 1997, then moved to a 5-spoke double-prong design for 1998 and 1999. Only the 4 cyl model was offered in a manual or standard shift transmission.

Driver side window concerns

The 1997-1999 CL suffered from repeated failures of the driver side window. The manufacturer replaced the motor both under warranty and after warranty expirations, however no mass recall was ever issued.

For the 2000 model year, the Acura CL's sibling, the TL, was redesigned. The CL, however, was never produced as a 2000 model and instead in March 2000 the completely redesigned Acura CL was released as a 2001 model featuring a 3.2L SOHC VTEC J-series V6. A navigation system was also available along with the Type-S model, denoting Acura's 'Sport' edition. While the regular CL featured a 225hp (168kW) V6, the Type-S boasted a 260hp (194kW) V6 with 17" wheels, a firmer suspension, slightly larger brakes, and firmer seats.

In 2002, the CL Type-S was offered, as a 2003 model, with a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission with a helical limited-slip differential. The 6-speed CL deleted some minor interior features from the automatic, such as a center console light. Also, the heated seats only featured one heat setting (vs. high and low in the auto). VSA and TCS were also not found on the 6-speed car, and as such, a 3-channel abs unit was used. One of the main criticisms of the CL was that a manual transmission had been dropped when the car was redesigned for the 2001 model year. Very few manual transmission models were built; there were 2,691 without navigation and 820 with navigation, for a total of 3,511. Despite such small numbers of manual transmissions, there was still a greater demand than Acura had expected. However, with the CL's sister car, the TL, coming up on a redesign for the 2004 model year, the CL was dropped from Acura's lineup due to declining sales, and to this day Acura has no mid-size luxury coupe replacement. Total Acura CL sales from 2000 until 2003, when the last new model was sold, is less than 31,000 units. The CL's manual transmission survives in the 3rd generation TL and 7th generation Honda Accord.

2003 also saw cosmetic changes to the CL. The 5w road lamps found on the 01-02 were deleted, and non-functional air vents were installed in their place. The grille surround and door handles were now body color, as opposed to being chrome on the 01-02. The side mirrors were also redesigned (with tinted glass), as customers complained about excessive wind noise coming from the mirror seam. Headlights now featured a blacked out interior, and the taillight lenses had a cleared turn signal and reverse light. Type-S's also included updated 17x7" 12-spoke wheels.

Canadian CLs offer daytime running lights and a windshield washer fluid level sensor as standard equipment (USDM CLs do not have these even as an option).

2001-2003 Acura 3.2 CL - 225hp (168kW), 217lb·ft (294N·m)

2001-2003 Acura 3.2 CL Type S - 260hp (194kW) @ 6100 rpm, 232lb·ft (315N·m) @ 3500-5500 rpm

Transmission concerns

The CL shares much with the TL, including the 5-speed automatic transmission installed in the second-generation vehicles (first generation CLs had a 4-speed automatic). Some owners experienced problems such as sudden downshifts from 5th gear to 2nd gear, slipping, flaring and not shifting. One main cause is excessive wear of the 3rd gear clutch pack, resulting in large amounts of debris blocking the flow of transmission fluid. Many owners reported problems with the replacement transmissions as well. Similar transmission-related issues exist in the Honda Accord, Acura MDX as well as the Honda Odyssey.

Due to many failures, the manufacturer extended the warranty on the automatic transmission on some CLs and TLs for 7 years, 100,000miles (160,000km). Many replacement rebuilt units had problems. A class action lawsuit later extended the warranty to 93 months or 109,000miles (180,000km). Despite the conversion to kilometers, the class action settlement applies only for persons and entities residing in the United States.

In addition, there was an unrelated transmission recall for safety reasons. One gear tended to overheat, break and cause the transmission to lock up. Since this failure would cause the car to come to a sudden stop, this might cause accidents.

Further information on the transmission issue is available here and at the official Acura Service Bulletin: tsb/ 2gRL/ b90-009.pdf

Manual transmissions were rare and never affected by the same issues that the automatic transmissions were, and thus, Honda has not extended the warranty on them.

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