When Acura announced that it was bringing back the Type S, I was annoyed. Just two weeks after selling my 3.2CL Type-S, the name is making a comeback and I’m too late to cash in. I’ve long thought that the CL Type-S is underrated and underpriced, so hopefully the return of the Type S (now hyphenless) will bring it the attention it deserves.
The 3.2CL was the first Acura to get the Type-S treatment. You do not, I repeat, do not, want the early CLs with the automatic transmission. First off, don’t be lame. Second, those come from the early 2000s, when Honda forgot how to do things like apply lasting clear coats or manufacture automatic transmissions that didn’t grenade themselves after 20,000 miles or next Tuesday, whichever comes first.
So you want a manual. And if you get one, you end up with a surprisingly great car. As the name implies, you get a 3.2-liter V6. It sends 260 horsepower to the front wheels only, but a limited-slip differential helps keep things in check.
You also get a six-speed manual and a VTEC motor, two of the core competencies of early 2000s Honda and Acura products. All of this disguised by a subdued looking Acura coupe.
That means that the CL was great for longer trips, with big comfy heated seats, a Bose stereo, an airy cabin and enough room for four. It also had a big trunk, in large part because of the CL’s mechanical similarity to the Acura TL.
But when you got to a nice road, you pin the gas and get the rev counter above 4,5000 RPM as often as possible. You’ll get a lot of power, a great six-speed manual and feather-light steering that still manages to be communicative. It’s not as fun as a great rear-wheel drive car in the corners, but it’s unbelievable for a 16-year-old FWD coupe. MotorTrend said at the time that the only better sports coupe was an M3, which costed a lot more.
Speaking of which, CLs are cheap. Definitely cheaper than well-kept E46 M3s. They only made a few thousand with manuals, but the reliability problems with the automatic transmissions have depressed the values of all CLs. I was able to find a clean one with 136,000 miles listed for $3,500.
And because CLs were more expensive in their day, you usually don’t have to worry about them being abused like RSXs. They also don’t have the enthusiast reputation, which means CLs are often cheaper than equivalent RSXs. The CL I had found ended up sitting on Craigslist so long that the listing expired. When it reappeared, I bought it for $3,000.
It wasn’t perfect, with an SRS light and eventually a check engine. It probably needed brakes eventually and the alignment was slightly off. I couldn’t justify two cars and wanted a Lexus LS, so I ended up selling it. I got $3,150 out of it despite it having more problems when I sold it than when I bought it.
If I had waited a few weeks—or maybe even if I had written this article first—I could have made a few extra bucks. I really need to get better at abusing my position to make money.