The Ultimate Underdog!
80k miles - Had to replace the radiator after a few months of ownership (upgraded to metal from the default plastic). Never had any follow-up issues with it.
I felt I needed to write a tribute to this amazing vehicle - so here it is:
This is the ultimate underdog. No one wanted this car in Los Angeles when I bought it. I picked it up at the same price as a Civic that would have had twice the mileage and none of the options.
It is extremely reliable. I drove 20k miles per year, drove aggressively, did 2 multi-thousand mile journeys, and this car didn't have a single problem, other than the radiator cracking in the first few months (but the plastic radiator is something you will see with all cars of this era). I did not bring it to the dealer/mechanic even once. The trick was to change the oil regularly and to use full-synthetic (and learn to do the basic maintenance). By the way, I sold this car to my friend after having driven 50k miles, and he is still driving it happily.
Driving the car:
This car has phenomenal visibility. No car can compare to this. There are virtually no blind spots. This makes driving this car very safe.
This car has bad acceleration (only 150 ft-lbs torque) but excellent handling. Bear in mind this is no M3, but the good cornering saved my life twice - so don't underestimate it. Handling is the only real difference between the CL and the Accord.
The car rides comfortably at 90mph, and doesn't rattle too much at 110-120mph (but it is clearly not built for it). If you like driving at 90+ mph, don't look at Honda's - get a BMW.
It is not quiet (but isn't loud either) - but this may be largely attributed to the tires I used (they lasted more than 50k miles). At both low and high speeds, you can hear the 4 cylinder engine (which can be tiring). The wind noise for a car of this era is not very high.
The mileage is okay, but it has a huge fuel tank - I have done 450 miles on one refill on multiple occasions. In LA driving conditions, I would get about 25 mpg (stuck in traffic), and 32-33 on long trips (approx. 75-80mph). If you start driving faster, at 90-100 mph, the mileage drops below city.
The turning radius is awful due to the handling modifications. But hey - it makes you a better driver.
Upholstery/leather, moon/sunroof, (auto) AC, electric seats and other features were all good, but nothing stood out to be amazing or bad.
Room in the back seats is surprisingly okay for a coupe, but 3 in the back is too many.
The back seats don't fold! But this has to do with the handling improvements, as it adds rigidity to the vehicle.
The trunk is very large for a coupe (same as any sedan).
Excellent paint (no issues, but I lived in a warm climate).
I think the styling is good, but that is extremely subjective, since most people didn't like it. I think the car was simply ahead of its time, since cars have more similar features nowadays.
Note: The '97 model was the first Honda ever built in the United States, and suffered from huge problems (many cars would crash at 60+ mph due to common manufacturing faults). This destroyed this car's reputation - but Honda fixed all the problems in the next production line (i.e. 1998). Also, FYI, this car is based on the fully-loaded Honda Accord of the same year, but has upgraded handling and no foldaway back seats. Incidentally, a basic Accord was 30% more expensive than this CL.
Conclusion: I highly recommend this car!
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 13th July, 2011