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1995 Black Enterprise auto guide.

The entire automotive industry is having a banner year. Sales are up. In fact, automakers expect to sell a record 16.2 million vehicles. All this buying and selling is bringing high profits to the companies that build them and to most of the dealers who sell them.

For consumers, this may be both good and bad. There is a profusion of new products on the market, catering to diverse needs. If you're looking for something special, you're more likely than ever to find it.

On the downside, the competition for merchandise means that discounting is more difficult to find. Some brands are offering less confusing pricing structures, but rebates are becoming rarer.

One area that's really exploding is the truck segment, particularly sport-utilities. While vehicles like the GMC Yukon, above, are becoming more car-like than before, the clamor to own one is causing prices to skyrocket. You'll pay thousands more for a truck with features similar to a midsize luxury car, and get a bit less in terms of comfort and safety. As is usually the case, you pay a price to be trendy.

CHEVROLET CAVALIER

After 12 years, the first completely new Cavalier since its introduction brings higher levels of quality and performance, while keeping the price low. Standard equipment includes dual air bags, a first at this price point, and anti-lock brakes. Starting out at just $10,060, you get a lot of car for the money. For less than $15,000, you can have your choice of 2-door coupe or 4-door sedan loaded with equipment.

Compared with the previous generation, sleek styling will turn heads while ample interior room and a longer wheelbase will appeal to a more practical nature. A more rigid body structure reduces squeaks and rattles, producing a higher quality feel. There is no longer a V-6 available, but the base 2.2-liter 4-cylinder produces a healthy 120 horsepower. Coming this spring is a Z24 coupe version with a noisier, but more potent 150-horsepower1 16-valve engine. A convertible is also on the way, just in time for summer. And, the Pontiac Sunfire is the Cavalier's twin beneath the skin.

DODGE AVENGER

Like its twin, the Chrysler Sebring, the Avenger is a sport coupe that offers attributes of both luxury and performance. This won't go head to head with performance coupes, but it offers greater comfort and a more practical amount of interior room.

The Avenger is powered by a choice of two engines. Base models, starting at $13,341, receive a 2.0-liter, 16-valve 4-cylinder that comes from the Neon 2-door. This is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, although a 4-speed automatic is available. If you upgrade to the $17,191 ES model, you get additional horsepower with the same 2.5-liter V-6 found in a Chrysler Cirrus only with automatic transmission. The ES also gets a firmer suspension for more agile handling.

Standard features include dual air bags, tilt steering wheel, AM/FM stereo and locking split-folding rear seatbacks. You'll pay another $2,199 to add a package full of luxury options to bring the ES to near luxury standards.

PLYMOUTH VOYAGER

With minivans making up a large part of Chrysler Corp.'s profits, the company has high hopes for its new 1996 model. As before, there will be both standard and longer "Grand" versions. A more modern look is achieved by the sloping nose and increase in window glass.

A 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine will be added to the lineup. Otherwise, the drivetrain choices remain unchanged: 3.0-, 3.3- and 3.8-liter V-6 engines, coupled to either a 3- or 4-speed automatic transmission. Both front- and all-wheel drive remain in the line-up. A new feature will be the available driver-side sliding door, an industry first. New options include memory seats and dual-zone climate control. Standard features include dual air bags and anti-lock brakes.

Still untested by BE, it remains to be seen if the new Voyager is a match for the current leader, Ford's Windstar. Prices aren't set, but should start just above $16,000, but rise to near $30,000 when every option is added.

DODGE STRATUS

Having successfully launched the Cirrus at the Chrysler division, Dodge is getting its version of this midsize sedan. Starting at $13,965, the Status provides similar styling and the same roomy interior as its more luxurious sibling, but with less equipment. The base power train consists of the same 2.0-liter, 16-valve 4-cylinder that powers the small Dodge Neon. It can be upgraded to a larger 2.4-liter 4-cylinder or, in the ES model, the same 2.5-liter V-6 that powers the Cirrus. The base engine is available only with a 5-speed manual transmission, the V-6 only with a 4-speed automatic and the middle engine with either.

A fully equipped Stratus ES, at $18,996, includes leather upholstery, power driver's seat, windows and door locks. A fold-down rear seat can be opened from either inside the trunk or the passenger compartment. (Should you opt for integrated child safety seats, the seatback does not fold down.) A sharply raked windshield keeps the image sporty while feeling roomy.

GMC YUKON

For 1995, GMC's Yukon (and its more popular twin, the Chevrolet Tahoe), get two innovations. The first is a vastly improved interior that brings modern ergonomics and sharp styling to this vehicle for the first time. But even bigger news is the addition of a 4-door model with a 6-inch stretch of the wheelbase. For those who want to save money and don't require much traction, there is also a rear-drive model available, although only as a 4-door. Four-wheel-drive models get a revised suspension that, surprisingly, makes them ride better than the rear-drive version.

Although a diesel engine is available in the 2-door, 4-door models get only a 5.7-liter V-8 engine with a healthy 200 horsepower. Interior space is generous, falling short only of the giant Suburban. Six adults can share the space with comfort. For $26,995, 4-door models include air conditioning, cruise control and driver's air bag. Four-wheel-drive models start at $29,195 with options, including leather upholstery and a CD player.

FORD EXPLORER

The most popular sport-utility vehicle in the United States received a major makeover for 1995. The large, boxy shape is a bit smoother around the corners, and there's a smiling new grille. Even more is changed inside, with far improved ergonomics and a fresher appearance.

New standard equipment includes dual air bags and 4-wheel-disc anti-lock brakes. A new front suspension and steering gear improves ride and handling. The drivetrain, however, retains the same 4.0-liter V-6, making the Explorer one of the slower vehicles in its class.

Those who choose 4-wheel drive will discover a new full-time "Controls-Trac" system: You can just set it in 4WD mode and maintain traction regardless of the road surface.

Starting out at $18,985, you get a 2-door, rear-drive station wagon of limited utility. But for a pricey $33,935, you can have the 4WD Limited model with nearly unlimited luxury features, including memory seats, leather seats and climate control.

HYUNDAI ACCENT

Replacing the Excel, Hyundai is coming to market with a higher quality and a more powerful vehicle. As the lowest priced car in the United States, the $8,079 Accent is a 2-door hatchback featuring dual air bags, a 92-horsepower 4-cylinder engine and a 5-speed manual transmission. For $8,979, you can get the Accent as a 4-door sedan. For $12,570, you get all the options, including anti-lock brakes, automatic transmission, power steering, pop-up sunroof, air conditioning, tinted glass and AM/FM/ cassette stereo.

Compared with other cars starting out at his lowly price, the Accent feels rather quick and even nimble. Compared with the Excel, the Accent uses better quality interior materials. The dashboard is more modern and has a more solid feel to the controls. To get this amount of interior room and power at this price, you must sacrifice a quiet interior. The manual transmission is less than slick, although the automatic functions quite as well.

INFINITI I30

Infiniti is fitting a fourth car in its lineup between the compact G20 and stylish rear-drive J30 sedan. Starting out near $30,000, most mechanical components, including suspension and drivetrain, are shared with the Nissan Maxima. The I30 will appeal to those who value the more prestigious Infiniti nameplate and who are willing to pay extra for the honor.

Base versions are well-appointed, complete with a refined Bose audio system, climate control, power assists and tilt steering wheel. A step up adds leather upholstery, moonroof and integrated garage door opener. The Touring model adds a firmer suspension, a rear spoiler and different wheels. A trunk pass-through allows storage of longer items, but cannot be locked from inside.

You get ample midsize car room for five, plus a cushy ride within a cocoon-quiet interior. The Touring model trades some comfort for a tighter suspension, taking good advantage of the 190-horsepower V-6 engine. A 5-speed manual is standard, but the 4-speed automatic will be far more popular.

JAGUAR XJ6

A freshened XJ6 has a familiar look. Its added features include both the modern and traditional. Four round headlights, extending back into the hood, bring back some of the glory Jaguar lost the last time it restyled this car. The grille also maintains Jaguar tradition with bold, straight lines and plenty of chrome. Inside, there is a softer, more curvaceous instrument panel and improved, although still somewhat quirky, ergonomics.

There are now four models: A base XJ6 starts out at $53,450. The Vanden Plas ups the ante to $62,200, with the sporty XJR Supercharged reaching $65,000 and the XJ12 hitting a lofty $77,250. At any level, you get a typically Jaguar-plush ride. With plenty of power and heft, a Jaguar is not to be taken lightly. Although other luxury sedans offer more sensible operation, none duplicates the presence of this British cat.

The standard equipment list is also quite plentiful, including power everything and yards of leather, chrome and wood.

SAAB 9000 V6

After years of resistance, Saab is finally offering a V-6 in its flagship 9000. The Swedish automaker has long believed that a 4-cylinder power plant offers better economy and performance, improving acceleration with turbocharging.

With 210 horsepower, the new 3.0-liter engine becomes one of the most potent of its displacement. Of course, Saab still believes in 4-cylinder power. The Aero still outpowers the V-6 with its extra turbo boost. But even the base engine is turbocharged. Saab calls this one "Ecopower," boosting horsepower to 170 without a major price increase.

A very roomy hatchback model starts at $29,845 with a V-6 sedan costing $38,995. The Aero tops out at $41,300. All provide mammoth cargo room, ample luxury equipment and a cushy ride for five adults. Road handling is superior to nearly any other 4-door vehicle on the market, making this a contender for the title of "most practical" sports sedan

LINCOLN CONTINENTAL

An infusion of power and a host of innovative luxury features bring a complete change to the new Continental. Of greatest importance is the switch from a modestly powered V-6 to a potent 260-horsepower V-8 engine, placing this car among the world's most powerful sedans.

In addition to the usual array of luxury features -- powered and automatic accessories of every description -- the Continental adds a unique memory system. While other luxury cars may retain seat and even mirror positions, the Continental keeps track of many more preferences. A push of a button on the door or the remote key fob sets your seating position, radio presets, steering effort, suspension softness and more.

You can choose a bench seat for six, or twin front buckets. A 6-disc CD changer option is mounted in the center console for easy access, and the new premium stereo fills the large cabin with high-quality sound.

At $40,750 to start, it's a big jump from the previous generation Continental, but it represents a new team of luxury.

HONDA ODYSSEY

Honda's first minivan is based upon its popular Accord platform. Although it's stretched to accommodate up to seven passengers, the drivetrain remains the same. As a result, the 140-horsepower 4-cylinder engine (automatic transmission only) is on the weak side for such a large vehicle. However, Honda does offer a high degree of ride comfort, a cheerful interior, decent handling and a couple of useful innovations.

Foremost are the doors, four of them. They all swing out just like a sedan with windows that roll up and down. The next feature is a third seat that folds completely into the floor. Although this seat holds just two people, it takes just a few seconds to drop it into the floor for dramatically increased cargo capacity.

Two trim levels are offered. The $22,985 LX includes dual air bag, 4-wheel-disc-anti-lock brakes, air conditioning, cruise control, a tilt steering column and seating for six ($23,395) or seven. The EX, at $24,995, seats six with generous options.

KIA SPORTAGE

Kia recently started business in selected areas with its sub-compact Sephia sedan. Now it is the first Korean nameplate to bring a sport utility to market in the United States. This is a compact 4-door wagon, close in size to a Jeep Cherokee starting at $14,495.

Sportage begins with part-time 4-wheel drive, a small, 2.0-liter engine coupled to a 5-speed manual transmission and sporty, rounded styling, Inter-ior materials are cheaper than the competition's, but so is the price. You'll find adequate interior room, but face extensive engine noise at high rpm.

For the first few months, Sportage is available only with a rather anemic 94-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. Later, a 16-valve version of this engine will produce 139 horsepower, enough to help move this vehicle around reasonably well. When that power plant comes onboard, the Sportage will also offer an automatic transmission for the first time. A lower priced, rear-drive-only model will make its debut this spring. A 2-door model is also on the way by the end of the year.

NISSAN SENTRA

Nissan's latest Sentra is available only as a 4-door sedan. A 2-door version is available under a recycled name, 200SX. The most welcome change is the addition of dual air bags and the elimination of those awful passive seatbelts.

Wheelbase on the new Sentra gets a stretch of nearly four inches, increasing rear seat room. While this is roomier than the previous Sentra, it's still a tighter fit than most direct competitors.

Sentras are powered by a 1.6-liter, 16-valve, 115-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, mated to either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic. A new suspension is aimed more at providing a comfortable ride than at sporty handling. There's good pep with the manual transmission, while the automatic slows things a bit.

You can choose from four trim levels, with just the basics for $10,999, and moving up to the GLE with its power windows, door locks and remote entry for $15,249. You can add anti-lock brakes to either of the top two models for $995.

TOYOTA TACOMA

Finally giving its small truck a name other than "compact pickup," Toyota is introducing the Tacoma. An array of models are assembled in the United States, including standard and Xtracab in both rear- and 4-wheel drive. You have a choice of three economical engines. A 2.4-liter, 16-valve 4-cylinder produces 142 horsepower. A larger, 2.7-liter 4-cylinder adds eight more horsepower, and a 24-valve, 3.4-liter V-6 pumps out 190 horsepower. Prices should start near $11,000 and reach into the mid-$20,000 range when completely equipped.

Toyota builds one of the toughest small trucks on the market. A new coil spring double-wishbone front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering provide excellent handling. You also get good ground clearance and a low step-in height in 4WD models. A driver's air bag, adjustable shoulder height seat belts and optional 4-wheel anti-lock brakes provide near carlike safety. Xtracab models include a folding, forward-facing rear seat, complete with 3-point seat belts that accept a child's safety seat.

TOYOTA TERCEL

A new Tercel receives more power in the form of a 93-horsepower twin-cam engine. The lowliest model, at $9,998, starts off with two doors and a 4-speed manual transmission with a 3-speed automatic option. All others offer a more sophisticated 4-speed automatic as an option. New options include power windows and door locks, which add several hundred dollars to the $12,038 price of the top 4-door.

Modern styling and features such as dual air bags bring the Tercel up to date. Anti-lock brakes add $825 to the cost of any model. Interior room is acceptable for four adults, but uncomfortable with a fifth. The driver will find controls and instruments well placed. A center console provides extra storage plus a cup holder, while radio controls are mounted within easy reach. The low hood line and large glass area give the driver excellent visibility. While the Tercel is a mid-pack finisher in performance, comfort and features, it does have a reputation for reliable service.
COPYRIGHT 1995 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Kolenz, Jay
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Buyers Guide
Date:Apr 1, 1995
Words:2850
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