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Black Enterprise 1994 auto guide: best values.

It's no longer necessary to trade off innovation for value when looking to buy a new car. The crop of new 1994 models offer better power and handling, and provide greater fuel economy and efficiency on the road. Although the new cars won't cost less, you will get more value for your dollar via quality-built vehicles. And, with the rising value of the yen, American willprove to be an excellent value. One such example of innovative automobile engineering is the 1994 Oldsmobile Aurora (previous page), a new luxury sedan from GM.

CLASSIC

LUXURY

Bentley Turbo R

Imagine a museum-quality living room with the ability to go from 0 to 60 mph in under seven seconds. Surround it all in metal sculpture, and the net result would be something akin to the Bentley Turbo R.

Technically, this is a large four-door sedan,powered by a 6.75-liter V-8 engine. There's sumptuous comfort and dramatic elegance unrivaled by any other vehicle. But it's still difficult to think of the Turbo R as a mere automobile. Its $208,300 cost would purchase a parking lot full of cars.

What the Turbo R offers is craftsmanship. The most minute inspection reveals detailed handiwork, from the matching leather hides to the boxed inlay of the fine-grain walnut veneers.

Despite such old-world artistry, the Bentley also provides complete credentials as a modern sports sedan with speed, agility and the safety of dual air bags.

BMW 540i

After losing prestige to the Japanese, BMW is joining the competition. The company's six-cylinder engines failed to meet competition from the likes of Lexus and Infiniti, so the automaker is finally bringing V-8 power to bear.

Just like the Japanese models, this is a modern V-8 with 32 valves and a match in horsepower with 282 ponies from 4.0 liters. Tied to this engine is a five-speed automatic transmission. The rest of the 540i is aging reasonably well. At around $47,000, this is a sporty machine that lacks the comfort element of its more luxurious competitors.

Cadillac Fleetwood

As the last of its breed at General Motors, the Fleetwood represents transportation as it used to be - a full frame, rear drive and V-8 power. This is often touted as the largest passenger car on the market, so it's not for the faint of heart.

It is, however, for those who like luxury and glitz in large helpings. There's a super cushy ride and an interior larger than some sports fields. For 1994, the Fleetwood gains a new engine with a whopping 260 horsepower.

Despite the distinctly old-fashioned styling throughout, there's nothing arcane about the transmission, standard anti-lock brakes and traction control system. This is really a modern car in old clothes.

Chrysler LHS

A near-identical twin to the New Yorker, the LHS purports to be the sportier of the two. Starting out at just under $30,000 before adding delivery fees, this one gains extra equipment, including front fog lamps, 16-inch aluminum wheels, leather seats and steering-wheel cover, power passenger seat, overhead console, reading lamps, remote entry, climate control, speed-sensitive steering and traction control.

Although Chrysler says the LHS is aimed more at the import buyer than is the New Yorker, it suffers from too much "wood look" trim throughout the interior. The exterior has less chrome and a narrower grille.

Interior room is generous for five, and suspension settings are geared more toward sport than in the New Yorker, although comfort is very much the prime consideration.

Infiniti Q45

After falling behind rival Lexus, Infiniti is revising the Q45. Less avant garde and more in the mainstream of American luxury car desires, the 1994 edition gains a chrome grille, larger headlamps and more aggressive fenders. Inside, wood accents appear on the center console, the leather is softer and in a real effort to please, cup holders are added.

Although the same 4.5-liter V-8 produces 278 horsepower, the Q45 steps out more quickly by starting in first gear rather than second. The ride quality is softened up a bit, although this still remains a bit firmer than the LS400.

Price increases bring the starting level to $47,500 with the mandatory gas guzzler tax, but before adding options. The active suspension model reaches $54,100, tax included. Unaltered is the Q45's ability to provide swift and sure transportation in remarkable comfort.

Jaguar XJS

After dropping its vaunted V-12 last year, Jaguar has brought it back, bigger and more powerful than ever. Both six- and 12-cylinder models are offered now, depending upon your ability to pay $51,950 or $79,950. The lower end of the scale gains a lighter-weight 4.0-liter engine and a sufficient 219 horsepower. If gas guzzling is more your style, the 6.0-liter power plant produces 278 horsepower. Both are available in a choice of coupe or convertible.

Designed more than 20 years ago, the XJS offers old-world style and charm. The metal curves, and chrome brightwork appears to be inches deep. The wood is genuine and the leather aromatic. Although quality and handling are of an era mostly past, the drivetrain is up to modern standards.

Lexus LS400

As the target other brands are shooting at, the LS400 is able to stand pat for a model year. Price increases due to the now yen/dollar exchange rates have caused Lexus to reach $49,900 prior to adding options.

Even at this elevated price, the smooth ride and hushed silence have no equal. The LS400's instrument panel remains unique and easily the most visually appealing and ergonomically functional on the market.

With 250 horsepower from the 32-valve V-B engine, this is one of the fastest sedans on the market not saddled with a gas guzzler tax. guality of fit and finish is so precise that premium-brand German automakers are studying the cost effectiveness of this car closely.

Within a few years, the LS400 may be knocked off its throne as one of the most remarkable products on the market. And its rising price could further reduce the effective value. Meanwhile, this remains the achievement others are trying to attain.

Lincoln Town Car

For those who prefer classic American luxury, the Town Car remains an increasingly rare example. This is huge transportation, easily carrying six adults and mass quantities of luggage. The boxy shape doesn't sacrifice interior dimensions, yet the exterior has just enough curve to maintain modern aerodynamics, for reasonable fuel efficiency and a nearly silent ride.

Despite lots of chrome and glitzy instruments, the Town Car is surprisingly modern underneath. The V-8 engine still powers the rear wheels, but the 210 horsepower comes from an overhead camshaft design. The transmission is electronically controlled for almost imperceptible shifts. Starting around $35,000 and reaching almost $40,000, the Town Car supplies just over two tons of American luxury.

Mercedes-Benz S-class

With rather poor timing, Mercedes-Benz introduced its new S-class sedans just as the world economy tilted towards valuing efficiency. Priced at $97,400 for the sedan and $111,900 for the coupe with gas-guzzler tax included, and weighing in at 4,830 pounds for the sedan and 4,785 for the coupe, the S500 is one massive hunk of automobile.

Of course, it's loaded with features, ranging from double-pane windows for a silent ride to a 315-horsepower V-8 that can get even this huge vehicle to respond quickly. A sophisticated suspension even permits the SEL500 to mimic a smaller, sportier sedan on twisting mountain roads. Inside is a Bose system that offers remarkable audio quality even to the rear seat passengers (although the ergonomics of the stereo remain shockingly poor). If overindulgence is still acceptable in your community, this sedan will put you at the top of the heap.

Rolls Royce Silver Spur III

Greater power comes to the most popular vehicle in the Rolls Royce stable as the suffix adds another numeral. The Silver Spur III receives a significant gain in horsepower, and a reduction of 0-to-60-mph time from 9.9 to 9.3 seconds to increase its top speed from 126 to 134 mph. This is no small feat for a vehicle weighing in at about two and a half tons.

Of course, the Silver Spur is no ordinary vehicle. This is the most illustrious example of a four-door motor car on the market. Craftsmanship and style still apply to every visible element of the Spur, while underneath there is an abundance of modern technology. Computers direct the suspension to supply the smoothest ride, while electronics monitor the mechanical condition. Most of all, the Silver Spur, priced at around $189,900, represents a heritage that cannot be found anywhere else in the automotive world.

CONTEMPORARY

ELEGANCE

Acura Legend

To keep up with increasing high-end competition, Acura is adding a new trim level to the Legend sedan. This is the GS model, which now has the same performance enhancements the coupe got last year. They include a more potent, 230-horsepower 3.2-liter engine, coupled to either a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Other standard equipment includes Acura's first front-wheel-drive traction control system, a firm sport suspension and larger 16 inch tires.

Starting at just over $35,000 for a sedan and $40,000 for a two-door coupe, the once-affordable Legend has become an expensive alternative to a host of European and domestic competitors. However, ifs still among the finest examples of well-designed interior ergonomics.

Audi 100S

Sedan pricing will start a bit higher in 94. And while the Audi 100 model is not offered in 1994, the Audi 100S is now the base model. And the wagon becomes more affordable. (Previously, all wagons were Quattro models, starting below $42,000.)

Expect prices to hit $34,150 for the 100S sedan, moving up to just under $45,000 for the Quattro wagon equipped with Audi's uniquely capable all-wheel-drive system. Audio fans will be glad to learn that the excellent Bose system becomes standard in all 100 models. If you're interested in a car with continual traction a tall four wheels, Audi is the original, and your only other choices are now a far more expensive Porsche or a much lower-priced Subaru.

BMW 3-series

BMW's smallest car is adding more configurations. First, there was the introduction as a sedan. Then last year a coupe arrived on the scene. And for 1994, the convertible is available for sun worshippers.

The 318i is the starting point, with a four-cylinder engine that provides marginal acceleration for a vehicle in the neighborhood of $25,000. However, if you're willing to spend $30,000 or more, a six-cylinder engine provides a satisfying 189 horsepower. By the time you remove the top and add all the options, the Bimmer is up to the $38, 800 mark, but you'll have a solid, sleek and sporty ride to show for it. The 325i, V-6 is $29,650. Ride and handling can match or exceed anything else in its class.

Cadillac DeVille

An all-new DeVille hits the scene this tall, based on a stretched version of the Seville platform.

This is a car aimed at an older market; the look is distinctly 1970s, with a half-skirt wheel enclosure and blocky styling. Underneath, however, is a full array of modern equipment. A traditional V-8 starts things off with 200 horsepower, but electronics control everything - from the transmission to the suspension.

The apex of the line is the new Concours model, which gains Cadillac's Northstar V-8 engine with a serious 270 horsepower. Genuine wood trim adds to this car's image of tradition and comfort, while all models gain a safety feature unique to Cadillac: the "airbank" system that in a frontal impact protects all three front passengers with an extra large passenger-side air bag.

Chrysler New Yorker

Just as with the K-carinthe 1970s, Chrysler is adding model proliferation to the LH platform in the '90s. After successfully launching a trio of cars on this chassis (Chrysler Concorde, Eagle Vision, Dodge Intrepid), an increase in length is putting it into the luxury end of the market with the all-new New Yorker and sibling LHS.

With a base price of $25,385, the New Yorker starts out with a 3.5-liter, 24-valve V-6 and four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission, This 214-horsepower drivetrain is matched to a retuned suspension and anti-lock disc brakes. The extra inches add room to rear passengers and the trunk.

Styling is more elegant than the Concorde, with a uniquely rounded rear roof the company says is inspired by the Bugatti of the 1930s.

Lexus GS300

Italian design gives the newest member of the Lexus clan the most distinctive sheet metal among its four-door siblings, suggesting high performance. And for the most part the GS300 delivers, with a robust 220 horsepower.the GS300 is very much at home in the company of luxury, high-performance cars. The refined interior is expected of a Lexus and the quiet comfort is virtually unchallenged. There are even special audio ports in the front door panels for the ultimate in acoustical quality.

With a full complement of equipment, there are relatively few options to add to the base price of $39,900 or so, though a Nakamichi audio system, traction control and leather seating package can raise the cost into the low $40,000 range.

Lincoln Mark VIII

Lincoln's sporty offering, introduced last year, receives only modest changes. A memory seat control now includes the mirrors, and is activated by a remote unlocking transmitter. The leather is softer and there's a new option alloy wheel design.

Otherwise, this 280-horsepower coupe remains a luxurious cruiser ready to battle with sportier pretenders. The sophisticated transmission keeps the engine efficient, and the suspension maintains excellent grip without causing any discomfort to passengers.

With its $38,050 price tag, you're within about 10% of having every option available. The sleek shape is a bit controversial, with a vestigial tire hump on the rear and a somewhat excessive chrome grille. Inside, the tiored instruments can be annoying to some. While the styling may not appeal to all, there's little to find fault with in overall performance and comfort.

Mazda 929

Other than gaining a cup holder, the 929 maintains status quo for 1994, but expect a price increase beyond the current $30,000 price tag. As the top of Mazda's sedan line, the 929 attempts to go head-to-head with the lower-level cars from Lexus, Infiniti and BMW. This is a rear-drive sedan with a 183-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6.

While power is ample, the 929 is a bit on the portly side, making initial acceleration a bit mild. Avant-garde styling is the car's mainstay, even sacrificing passenger room to meet the rounded shape requirement. A tiny trunk, a non-tilt steering wheel and lack of a glove box are shortcomings in this competitive arena. Compared with other imports, the 929 provides the softest ride, clearly aimed at comfort rather than sport.

Mercedes-Benz C-class

Suffering from an image of older technology and bloated prices, Mercedes-Benz is leaving the small car segment. The 190 is gone this fall, replaced by a larger vehicle designated C-class. This is larger by one to two inches in most dimensions compared to the 190, but it's still much shorter and narrower than such popular cars as the Toyota Camry.

There are two varieties of the C-class, the C220 with a 147-horsepower four-cylinder engine and the C280 with a 194-horsepower in-line six. Prices are not set, although they are expected to begin at about $30,000.

Standard features will include dual air bags, anti-lock brakes, climate control, power sunroof, power windows and door locks and cruise control. The option list will include a traction control system and leather upholstery.

Oldsmobile Aurora

The Aurora is intended as authentic proof that Oldsmobile is entering a new era. This is a vehicle like no Oldsmobile before. It's an honest five-passenger, front-drive luxury sedan, intended to sell somewhere in the low- to mid-$30,000 range. Power goes to the front wheels from a 250-horsepower 4.0-liter 32-valve V-8 via an electronically controlled automatic transmission.

A solid structure is designed to moderate sound without insulating the driver from the feel of the road. The Aurora is intended to meet the high standards set by the best import brands and maybe capture that segment of the market for GM.

The interior demonstrates the seriousness of this intent, with ergonomics beyond those of previous Oldsmobiles. Even the optional Bose stereo (not the standard Delco system) provides serious competition to all comers. Only small glitches, like the lack of a secure lock for the folding seatback, show the company's need for experience in this field. However, the performance in ride and handling are more than would be expected from a first effort. The 1995 Aurora is expected to go on sale in spring 1994, and should appeal to those seeking a serious sport sedan.

FAMILY FUN

Buick Roadmaster

A new engine changes the personality of Buick's largest sodan and station wagon. This 5.7-liter V-8 pumps 260 horsepower to the rear wheels, pushing this two-ton-plus vehicle to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds. Tied to a new smoother-shifting, electronically controlled, four-speed automatic transmission, this old-fashioned platform gains an advanced drivetrain. The 80-horsepower boost over last year comes with better fuel economy.

For around $23,999, you got massive amounts of metal, a match for imports costing twice the price. interior room is less generous than exterior dimensions indicate, but there's still ample space for six adults plus luggage. Ride quality is sumptuous, and the "trailer-towing" package enables the Roadmaster to handle with some adeptness. And if you find trouble ahead, just honk the most astonishing horn in the industry!

Eagle Vision

After bringing out a trio of new cars last year, Chrysler is further improving them. Appealing to more individualistic attitudes, the Eagle Vision presents a well-equipped ESi model for less than $19,000, and a completely loaded TSi for an additional 4,000 or so.

Starting out the 3.31 liter V-6 engine gains a little power and more refinement is added to the four-speed automatic transmission. Variable-assist speed-proportional power steering makes driving more enjoyable, while solar-control glass in the rear window helps rear-seat passengers keep their cool Fighting one criticism of the LH cars, Chrysler claims noise, vibration and harshness control have been improved. Those who like a view topside can now also add a power moonroof.

In any form, the Vision provides roomy transportation for five adults, and interior function that rivals anything near its class. Add the potent 214-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6, and the acceleration becomes worthy of the term "sports sedan."

Ford Taurus

After displacing the Honda Accord to become the best selling car in America for 1992, the Taurus is stretching its lead in 1993. For 1994, changes are aimed at maintaining the pace. Dual air bags are standard, while larger disc brake rotors help reduce the need for them. To keep in touch, a cellular telephone has been added to the option list.

The base model is the Taurus GL with a standard V-6 engine and a four-speed, electronically controlled transmission. For an estimated $16,000, Ford offers stylish family transportation. Above an estimated $20,000, luxury becomes part of the package, and for those who want a practical sedan with serious performance, an SHO model starts at around $25,000. Perhaps the best use of the Taurus platform is as the most stylish of station wagons, with a variety of practical features and seating for up to eight.

Honda Accord

While, the Honda Accord for 1994 is completely redesigned and reengineered, this is the same Accord America knows - but better. Honda has been able to combine a satisfyingly well-rounded and contemporary passenger car with newer technology. Exterior shape is drawn from the best of the competition, and combined into a choice of sedan, coupe and wagon that should remain stylish until the next generation Accord arrives.

The surprise from Honda is the effort to hold the line on prices. After four increases per year throughout most of the '90s, the base DX model remains unchanged at $14,330. There are increases up the line, however, topping out at $20,550 for the automatic EX sedan and $19,750 for the five-speed EX, with higher wagon prices awaiting later announcement. The new Accord has only a four-cylinder engine with a five-horsepower increase from 140, despite increasing V-6 competition. Yet the Accord still accelerates well, handles very predictably and provides a smooth and quiet ride.

Mitsubishi Galant

In an effort to attract a wider audience, Mitsubishi is taking a less dramatic route. Most of its vehicles suffer from an excess of glitz and an overabundance of electronic gadgetry. To counter a sales slide, a now Galant is going after a larger market.

Styling is quite generic Japanese with a choice of two horsepower ratings. For just $13,600, the base car offers 141 horsepower. You'll have to move up past $20,000 to get the more potent 160-horsepower version. All models get dual air bags and an interior that offers the comfort and roominess found in most Japanese competitors.

Pontiac Bonneville

With its sporty image in mind, Pontiac has created a more stylized version of the sports sedan. While its siblings at Buick (LeSabre) and Oldsmobile (Eighty Eight) provide family transportation, the Bonneville holds more appeal to the driver.

Starting out just under $20,500, the Bonneville provides reasonably sedate transportation for six passengers. But with the $30,000 SSEi, you get all the glitz and glitter Pontiac can muster. Front buckets and heavily contoured rear seats accommodate just four occupants, while a spoiler and extra trim ensure anything but subtlety. All versions are front-drive, powered by a 3.8-liter V-6 and automatic transmission. Upper-level Bonnevilles gain a supercharger, taking power up from a moderate 170 to a robust 225 horsepower.

Saab 900

The styling of the new Saab 900 is evolutionary, combining the five-door hatchback form with a comfortable five-passenger compartment and a cavernous storage compartment. A thoroughly revised platform provides blissful comfort while matching the performance of the most purebred of European sports sedans. Saab has improved every aspect of the 900, while retaining the basic styling instantly recognizable as a Saab.

Under the hood is a choice of a traditional and smooth running four cylinder engine with 16 valves and a peppy 150 horsepower. Those wanting the most can get a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with a substantial 185 horsepower or a 2.5 liter 170-horse power V-6. Unique to the Turbo is a "Sensonic" transmission that replaces the clutch pedal with an electronically controlled automatic clutch system.

A full complement of luxury is included at the starting price of below $23,000 for the 900S; an extra $4,000 or so adds more power and another small helping of luxury.

Toyota Camry

After two successful years on the market, the current Camry gains its first-over two-door coupe model. Those who want the pleasant performance, high comfort and generous interior features of a Camry will be able to find it in a somewhat sportier-looking package. Unfortunately, the sportiest variety of the Camry will no longer be available - the combination of V-6 engine and manual transmission is history. Those who desire more control will have to choose a 125-horsepower four-cylinder engine.

Other changes include the addition of a second air bag and an all-new V-6 engine. The new engine is just slightly more powerful at 188 horsepower, but has improvements in both fuel economy and reduced emissions.

With starting prices above $16,000 and up to $24,000 or so with all luxury equipment, the Camry is a premium-level mid-sized car. The wagon suffers from unfortunate styling, but offers practical features.

Volkswagen Jetta

After a number of delays, the new Jetta - dubbed the Jetta iii - has finally arrived. It's well worth waiting to be sure you obtain a 1994 model; those models will finally be rid of the obnoxious door-mounted seatbelts.

Instead, they will have dual air bags and manual seatbelts with adjustable-height shoulder mounts. The rest of the new Jetta remains much the same as the old. The GL and GLS do have a new2.0-liter,four-cylinder engine delivering 115 horsepower and driving the front wheels in a tidy four-door sedan. A two-door hatchback is also offered. There are improvements in body structure and smoother-shifting five-speed manual and four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmissions.

With a starting price of around $13,000, this is a rather fun and roomy alternative to Japanese imports. This fall, a GLX model arrives with a potent 2.8-liter, narrow-angle V-6 engine producing 172 horsepower, making the Jetta a rousing sports sedan. This one is expected to gain quite a bit of luxury at a price well below $20,000.

Volvo 850

Earnestly trying to break out of its stodgy image, while keeping its reputation for practicality and safety intact, Volvo is attacking both ends of the spectrum with new 850 models. A station wagon brings a number of innovations, while a turbo model packs exotic sports car punch.

Introduced last year as Volvo's first front-drive sedan, the 850 starts out at just over $25,000, with substantial luxury, a 168-horsepower five-cylinder engine and that traditional Volvo solidity While the 240 and 740 depart from the line for 1994, the new range of 850s take over easily. The wagon offers such features as a standard integrated child seat and a remarkable folding seatback. Turbo charging adds 54 more horsepower (222 versus 168) to both sedan and wagon models. (The turbo wagon may be the fastest wagon model sold in the U.S.)

PRACTICAL

VALUE

Acura integra

The third-generation Integra remains the same in many ways. The most pronounced exterior change is the addition of projector headlamps, the latest rage in Japanese car design. Dimensions are very close to the old car, just slightly taller and narrower. The wheelbase is increased, although this doesn't translate into more interior space. The inside is much the same refined Integra as before; the chief improvement is the addition of dual air bags and the elimination of motorized shoulderbelts, which were replaced with manual three-point belts.

Horsepower is up by two, reaching 142. The high-performance GS-R model gains more with its new "VTEC" (variable valve timing and lift electronic control) engine producing a generous 170 horsepower. However, that model reaches just under $20,000, about a $5,000 jump from the lowest-level Integra.

Chevrolet Caprice

Although the Caprice offers tremendous size and room for the dollar, sales have never taken off. This fall, the base engine gains power, becoming a new 4.3-liter V-8, with a 30-horsepower boost over last year's standard 5.0-liter V-8. If that's not enough, a new option is a new 5.7-liter V-8 with 260 horsepower.

With prices starting at $18,995, the Caprice provides a solid way to get this kind of power and room. By adding a few thousand in options, you can turn it into something of a luxury car, although the styling is still a bit old-fashioned.

In March 1994, the Impala SS name will make its return as an option package for the Caprice. This gets the 5.7-liter V-8 standard and a host of goodies that make it feel sportier, including a monochromatic black paint scheme, new grille, rear spoiler, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, suspension upgrades and a pair of front bucket seats.

Ford Probe

After being completely revitalized last year, the Probe remains essentially unchanged, with the important addition of a second air bag. It keeps the advantages of its affordable performance and sporty looks.

Beneath the skin, the Probe shares its mechanics with the Mazda MX-6, although the Japanese brand receives more exotic looks and a higher price tag. Both are made in Michigan in a shared assembly line.

There are two versions, a base model at $13,685, and the GT priced about $2,200 higher. The lower price tag gets you a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, with 118 horsepower. Extra money gives you a 2.5-liter 24-valve V-6 engine, packing 164 horsepower. The GT is equipped with four-wheel-disc brakes (an option on the base car), and you'll be offered available anti-lock brakes once you've got the discs. Overall, handling is refined and stable, making the GT a performance rival to some rather expensive competitors.

Geo Prizm

A second air bag has been added, making this affordable sedan a safe and comfortable choice for the family. Built in California in a joint venture with Toyota, the Prizm shares some of its components with the Corolla. The main advantage of the Prizm is that prices are a little better at your Chevrolet dealer, starting out at $10,370 and reaching about $15,000 with all the options. A newly available leather interior will make this a uniquely affordable luxury car.

There are two models of the Prizm - standard and LSi. Both start out with a 1.6-liter 16-valve four-cylinder engine with 105 horsepower. An option is a 1.8-liter 16-valve engine with 115 horsepower. The larger engine supplies more acceleration, particularly true with automatic transmission - the bigger power plant has a more sophisticated optional four-speed unit, compared with the optional three-speed transmission. As a result, even fuel economy is superior with the 1.8 liter.

With a clean, uncluttered interior, quiet ride and capable handling, the Prizm has few peers at its price level.

Infiniti G20

With the addition of dual air bags and height-adjustable manual front seatbelts, the G20 finally seems a fitting member of the luxury car segment. As the entry-level carat Infiniti, it retains some of its economy car heritage by virtue of a small four-cylinder engine, but offers the equipment level expected of a car priced in the $20,000-plus territory. By spending a few thousand dollars on an option package, you can now add leather upholstery, power front seats and a keyless remote entry system.

This compact four-door sedan starts with a five-speed manual transmission for sprightly performance. Acceleration can be sacrificed for convenience with a smooth-shifting automatic transmission, although the 2.0-liter engine prefers higher rpm more easily attained in the manual.

A multilink suspension smooths bumps and helps the tires maintain earth contact.

Nissan Altima

For 1994, the one big flaw of Nissan's popular new model is cured; those motorized seatbelts have been replaced. Instead, the Altima offers dual front air bags and manual seatbelts with adjustable shoulder-belt height. Now if Nissan would only remove the unsightly wood grain, the Altima's interior would be completely contemporary.

As a compact sedan, the Altima provides a stylish exterior, satisfying interior ergonomics and sprightly acceleration from a 150-horsepower, 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine. With prices starting at $13,739 and tapping out at about $21,000, it provides an alternative for those who don't quite need the room and expense of the next level of car, such as a Toyota Camry or Ford Taurus. Yet it offers considerably more performance than you'd get from lower-level offers such as a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. For those with a sporty bent, the SE model gives you a firmer suspension and more precise handling.

Pontiac Grand Am

Pontiac's most affordable car gains a driver's air bag, although the annoying door-mounted seatbelts remain. Under the hood, the optional V-6 engine becomes smaller and more fuel efficient while sacrificing a bit of power at low engine speeds.

The Grand Am holds its main appeal as a low-cost way to get some extra style. With prices starting under $13,000 and topping out near $18,000 with options, you get a five-passenger coupe or sedan with a sporty appearance inside and out. There is a choice of three forms of the four-cylinder engine, ranging from 115 to 175 horsepower, plus the V-6 at 155 horsepower. The fastest versions tend to be rather noisy with a harsh ride, leaving the lower-priced models as a more comfortable, higher value choice.

Saturn

General Motors' newest nameplate offers quality service as its most important product. Saturn dealers bring the kind of customer care usually found in luxury brands down to the level of $9,995 to $12,895. The vehicles themselves, offered in sedan, coupe and station-wagon form, are actually quite ordinary.

Although Saturn promised to remove the offensive motorized seatbelts this fall when it added dual air bags, but the company decided to wait another year. Even the recall of all its cars built prior to April 1993 due to possible engine fires has failed to damage a reputation built by dealer care. There is a choice of two four-cylinder engines with either a very modest 85 or adequate 124 horsepower. Operation is a bit noisy, but ride comfort and handling are comparable to imports in this price range. Styling is contemporary and anti-lock brakes and traction control are available.

Subaru Impreza

Subaru's newest offering now has dual air bags and wider availability of anti-lock brakes. There are three trim levels of the Impreza - base (sedan only), L and LS - ranging in price from an estimated $11,500 and reaching around $18,000 with every option. That option list includes a full-time all-wheel-drive system that's more sophisticated than many four-wheel-drive vehicles costing twice as much. This feature makes the Impreza easily the best choice among small cars for foul-weather transport.

Most, however, will be sold with just front drive. All are equipped with the traditional Subaru horizontally opposed 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with 110 horsepower. Imprezas are offered in a choice of four-door sedan or a jaunty sport wagon. The interior supplies good looks and practical features like a cleverly hidden dual cup holder.

Toyota Celica

An all-new Celica arrives for 1994; familiar underpinnings carry completely revised sheet metal. There is still a choice ot a two-door coupe or hatchback body style in two trim levels, ST and GT. The GT-S is gone, as are the All-Trac Turbo and convertible, and only the ragtop is likely to return within a year.

The ST is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with 110 horsepower, up seven horsepower from last year's rather anemic 1.6-liter engine. The GT gets the current 2.2-liter, 135-horsepower engine, basically the same four-cylinder that powers the Camry.

Prices should start at $16,000 for the most basic Celica, while a fully equipped model will come close to $22,000. The Celica identity is intact, but with sleek modern design features such as in-board high beam headlamps. Inside, the Celica gets dual air bags and the usual ergonomically designed Toyota interior.

UTILITY

VEHICLES

Dodge Caravan

In a demonstration of market acuity, Dodge is bringing significant improvements to the Caravan, the vehicle that virtually owns the minivan marketplace (together with its twin Plymouth Voyager and luxury sibling, the Chrysler Town & Country). No other automaker has managed to duplicate the practical aspects of dual air bags, a choice of front- or all-wheel-drive, available ABS, car-like comfort and handling, and room on wheels.

An ergonomically functional interior is further improved for 1994 and the engine choices have been increased again. You can choose a four-cylinder or one of three V-6 engines, including a new 3.8-liter. You can get room and value as low as $15,000, or add luxury and performance up to around $25,000.

Comfort is improved for even the smallest passengers, with a now reclining seatback for the integrated child seat and the convenience of a now optional remote door-locking system.

Ford Explorer

The top-selling sport-utility vehicle in the U.S. gets only minor trim changes, keeping its crowd-pleasing styling and features intact. This is the largest of the "compact" sport-utility vehicles, providing the kind of interior space that families can really use. Offered in two- and four-door models with two- and four-wheel drive, there's a wide selection to please a number of needs.

Prices start at $17,240 for a basic two-door, two-wheel-drive model; adding popular features to a four-door pushes the tab above the estimated $20,000, while the newly introduced ultra-luxury Limited model can leap to just under $30,000 fully equipped. What you get is a road-worthy truck with almost car-like comfort and station-wagon function. Properly equipped, off-road use is also an option, with a part-time four-wheel-drive system and standard anti-lock brakes. The 4.0-liter V-6 is plenty stalwart.

GMC Jimmy

Also known at thousands of Chevrolet dealers as the S-Blazer, the GMC Jimmy is among the original entries into the compact sport-utility wagon market. This will be a short model year for the Jimmy, however; an all-new 1995 model is due next summer. The new version is expected to have more rounded exterior features and a bit more passenger space.

For a preview, take a look at the also-new 1994 Chevy S-pickup truck or GMC Sonoma. With the largest standard engine in its class, the Jimmy is a potent sport-utility wagon in two- or four-door form. It's also affordable, with prices starting at $15,600 for two-wheel-drive models, climbing to over $20,000 when luxury features are added to the four-wheel-drive model. Standard anti-lock four-wheel brakes aid safety, while side-door guard beams have been added for '94. No air bag is expected in the offing, however.

GMC Safari

This identical twin to Chevrolet's Astro Van gains a standard driver's side facial air bag for 1994. While it's not designed to meet full passenger-car safety standards, it does add an element of frontal crash protection. Side-door guard beams also help protect in other sorts of collisions.

The engine, a 4.3-liter V-6, is also modified for a slightly smoother and quieter operation. Offered in 165-and 200-horsepower forms, the Safari is one of the best compact tow vehicles on the market. With Ford rumored to be considering dropping its Aerostar after 1994, the Safari/Astro twins could end up being the last of the domestic rear-drive compact vans on the market.

With prices starting just over $16,000 and a well-equipped passenger model available for around $20,000, the Safari lacks the comfort of its front-drive competitors, but makes a very good workhorse.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

With an impressive combination of passenger-car-like handling and comfort, together with rugged truck toughness, the Grand Cherokee has won the hearts of many. Whether you're a serious off-road enthusiast or just looking for that trendy image, the Grand Cherokee remains a practical purchase.

Starting around $21,000 for a rear-drive model, you get station-wagon room. The to.p line Limited (Wagoneer models are dropped this fall) now gains four-wheel-disc brakes for surer stopping. For that top model with full-time four-wheel drive and the only V-8 engine in the class, the price scale approaches $30,000. Standard equipment always includes an air bag and four-wheel anti-lock brakes. Only Jeep offers a choice of three four-wheel-drive systems.

Jeep Wrangler

Here is an original that has never been bested. With its WW II heritage intact, the vehicle that some aficionados still think of as the only "real" Jeep offers no pretense.

This is not a car. it lacks a cushy ride, the soft top flaps loudly at highway speed, and the rear seat is so abbreviated, R's optional on the base model. What you get for a starting price of around $11,000 is a tough truck ready to tackle the outback from all sides. You can load it up with options until the price tag staggers to $18,000 or more, but it never becomes luxurious.

With standard part-time four-wheel drive, a choice of four-cylinder power or a potent inline six, the Wrangler is a vehicle designed for people who take their fun seriously and far from paved roads. Newcomers may opt for the over-styled Renegade package, while old-time Jeepers scan the option list for tow hooks and a winch.

Mercury Villager

Although a driver's air bag has been added to Mercury's interpretation of the minivan, the front motorized seatbelts still compromise safety and convenience. They also disable one important feature of a minivan design: easy access to the rear. Otherwise, the Villager provides an array of state-of-the-art functions.

Starting under an estimated $17,000, standard features include anti-lock brakes, front-wheel drive, seven-passenger seating and a peppy 3.0-liter V-6 engine. With the new Nautica model, topping the price scale around $25,000, you get a full array of fashion and luxury features, including a special blue and white leather interior, a quiet ride, versatile seating and responsive handling.

Oldsmobile Silhouette

GM's radically styled Oldsmobile minivan heads into its fourth year with a slightly less dramatic shape and better proportion, although the steeply raked windshield remains.

Positive changes include the addition of a driver's air bag and the availability of a rather sophisticated traction-control system for better grip on slick road surfaces. Families can now add a dual integrated child seat. The ultimate van convenience is a new power sliding side door. Buttons inside and on the key fob slide the door open or closed. (A safety device prevents the door from injuring youngsters.)

When equipped with the optional 3.8-liter V-6 (a meager 3.1 -liter V-6 is standard), the special edition Silhouette is among the peppiest of minivans for $19,465. Its car-like handling and clever movable seating make this a practical people hauler. It's fairly well equipped near its $20,095 base price, and becomes quite luxurious for another few thousand dollars.

Range Rover

When everyone else on the block owns a Mercedes-Benz and you want to appear above it all, only a Range Rover will do. This is the luxury vehicle for those who disdain luxury cars. With starting prices in the $45,000 to $50,000 range, you get a full-time four-wheel-drive truck loaded to the gills with interior luxury. At the high end, you get an extra-long wheelbase with such extras as an electronically controlled air suspension that can raise or lower the vehicle up to 5.1 inches.

Those who wish to risk denting the expensive aluminum body panels or dirty the pungent leather upholstery will find a V-8 with 200 horsepower (182 in short wheelbase models), able to move the two-and-a-half-ton mass along reasonably well. Highway handling always reminds the driver that this is a huge truck, but with features like four-wheel traction control, the Range Rover's ability to tackle off-road challenges belies its luxury image.

Toyota Land Cruiser

As the only full-size sport utility from Japan, the Land Cruiser provides serious ability to move people and cargo through the most difficult circumstances. At its lofty $34,000 price tag with $7,000 in options still to come), the Land Cruiser can best even the Range Rover in terms of real comfort and interior sophistication, This is the "other" choice of the mud-and-caviar set.

Underpinnings include a 4.5-liter, 24-valve, inline six-cylinder engine with a generous 212 horsepower. The electronically controlled automatic transmission sends power continuously to all four wheels. Four-wheel-disc anti-lock brakes are an option.

This large, heavy vehicle is stalwart enough to tackle the roughest terrain, yet it coddles its occupants. With a standard third seat, the Land Cruiser can carry eight passengers. The driver finds the most ergonomic cockpit available in a truck and the audio system is better than many found in the best luxury cars.

HOT |N RACY

BMW 8 series

After introducing the 850i with its V-12 engine, BMW discovered buyers were reluctant to spend $83,400 for a beautiful package when it offered lower performance than a Lexus SC400 at less than half the price. Thus the company is lowering the price by lopping off a third of the cylinders. The V-8 engine powering the 540i will also be offered in a lower-priced 840i, with cost savings estimated at around $12,000. Horsepower is reduced only mildly, from 296 to 282, while some luxury features - such as the wood trim - are deleted.

This is still a two-passenger sports coupe with a rear seat that's little more than a package shelf. It's a heavy car that doesn't move quickly from rest, although it does provide charming road manners once it reaches speed. Those who want the ultimate, and are willing to pay for it, can obtain the 850CSi with an even more potent V-12. That engine pumps out 376 horsepower, enough to get this 4,200-pound car moving rapidly.

Chevrolet Camaro

An entirely revised fourth-generation Camaro was introduced last year. For 1994, it goes topless, with convertibles in base and Z28 models. They do add extra wobble into large bumps, however, so the coupes are the more rigid variety.

An unfortunate change required by fuel-economy demands means that the wonderful six-speed manual transmission in the Z28 now forces a 1-to-4 shift unless under full throttle. Generous application of the throttle still allows you to shift normally while enjoying the thrill of 275 horsepower.

With a Z28 starting out at $16,779 and the convertible a few thousand higher, the bargain remains the base model, priced just under $15,000. It offers a 3.4-liter V-6 engine with 160 horsepower. It works well with the standard five-speed manual transmission, but things slow down a bit with the optional automatic.

Even the base car comes well-equipped with anti-lock brakes, dual air bags, an integrated rear spoiler, 16-inch wheels and tires, full instrumentation and reclining bucket seats. With slick sports-car looks and a wonderfully ergonomic interior, the Camaro is good old-fashioned American fun with modern appeal.

Dodge Viper

Viper buyers are a special breed. A degree of wealth is necessary for this estimated $50,000 roadster, particularly since this isn't a car anyone will drive on a daily basis. There are no concessions to practical transportation. There are no door handles and the top is inconvenient and lacks protection - to the point of being for emergency use only. There is no side glass, only zip-in plastic windows. You don't get modern features such as anti-lock brakes or an air bag.

What the Viper does is supply thrills. That 8.0-liter V-10 engine produces 400 horsepower for startling acceleration in any gear. Massive 17-inch tires grip the pavement tenaciously.

Yet the excitement doesn't come just from performance. The melodramatic styling is certainly part of the reason, but it's the Viper's brashness and brute emotion that is appealing. There is no pretense here; the Viper never hides its very essence as an American icon.

Ford Mustang

After 16 years, a new-generation Mustang is about to go on sale the first week in December. This is a lower car with a little more width,the sheet metal leaner and more raked. Yet beneath, the body is mostly a refinement of the current generation. For example, the live rear axle is retained, although the front suspension gains a more sophisticated setup, which is derived from the Thunderbird.

Under the hood, four-cylinder power plants are gone; the line starts with a 3.8-liter V-6. And at the heart of the more serious Mustangs will be the 5.0-liter V-8 that's has been around for many years. (A more sophisticated 32-valve 4.6-liter V-8 from the Lincoln MARK VIII is rumored to arrive in another couple of years.)

Pricing is expected to remain below the Camaro, ranging from an estimated start in the $11,000 range with a full-blown GT hitting the showroom at an estimated $16,000. You can also get a remarkably attractive convertible (with a new hardtop option) for a few thousand dollars more.

Lexus SC

Automotive critics often acclaim the Lexus coupe as the car they'd most like to own. With its stunning exterior design, ergonomically superior interior (typically Lexus) and flawless performance, there is little to fault. Rear seat room is bested by some domestic competitors, but remains acceptable for shorter trips.

Under the hood, you may choose a 225-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine that can be shifted with either a solid five-speed manual or silken four-speed automatic. Power-hungry buyers can opt for the 250-horsepower V-8, coupled only to an automatic. It's difficult to imagine a better blend of racetrack handling and luxurious comfort, combined with one of the best audio systems available to home or car.

The only serious flaw is an expected 6.5% increase in price, making the SC300 $38,000, and the SC400 $45,100.

Mazda RX-7

The RX-7 provides ferocious performance. It's capable of surpassing 156 mph and reaching 60 mph in under five seconds.

Mazda has taken the essence of the sports car and brought it to the next level. A twin turbocharged rotary engine sings a fluid song of power, driving its lightweight, agile body wherever the driver directs. The RX-7 is so nimble, it seems to follow your thoughts.

For 1994, a passenger-side air bag eases safety concerns and a softening of the high-performance option package improves comfort levels. There are more practical alternatives to this thrilling performance, but none so direct. Starting out just above $33,000, the RX-7 is the most thoroughbred of its species.

Mercedes-Benz SL

New names are the most conspicuous change in all Mercedes-Benz models. Letters now precede numbers, representing the class and engine displacement, respectively. Two improvements bring the Mercedes-Benz sports car more in line with modern standards. The base model receives a new engine, a 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder. The major bonus is better fuel efficiency, making it the first and only SL to escape the gas-guzzler tax.

The other improvement affects all SL models. Mercedes-Benz has turned to Bose to supply an Acoustimass audio system. This represents the first time the SL receives more than a marginal quality sound system. Unfortunately, the ergonomics of the stereo unit remain basically the same.

In addition to the relatively thrifty base model, starting out in the mid-$80,000 range there is the SL500 with a potent V-8 and the king of the hill SL600 with its near 400-horsepower V-1 2 rolling out the door somewhere in excess of $120,000.

Mitsubishi 3000GT

With competition heating up, the 3000GT receives its first freshening since its 1991 introduction, mostly in the top VR-4 model. Changes include a boost in horsepower, from 300 to 320, and the addition of a six-speed manual gearbox to keep up with the competition and a more aggressive exterior styling. All models receive a passenger air bag, while the pop-up headlamps are replaced with exposed projector types.

Model variations consist of three offerings, the E3000GT, the 3000GTSL and the 3000GT VR-4, starting with a base model priced around $25,000, while the all-wheel-drive turbo tips the scales near $40,000.

This Mitsubishi is a twin to the Dodge Stealth, although the latter is priced several thousand dollars lower for the same equipment levels. The 3000GT starts with a 3.0-liter, double overhead-cam 24-valve V-6 engine that pumps out 222 horsepower. The Turbo is the image leader that is also one of the best foul-weather sports cars, by virtue of its four-wheel-drive traction. The 3000GT VR-4 is equipped with a high-output 3.0-liter, double overhead-cam, twin-turbo-charged, twin-intercooled V-6 engine that delivers 320 horsepower.

Subaru SVX

The SVX never hit the sales charts as hard as Subaru would have liked, despite the LSi's ultra-sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, dramatically potent 230-horsepower opposed six-cylinder engine and comfortable yet capable suspension system, at an estimated $26,500 price tag. Two lower-priced front-drive models, the L and LS, arrive this fall.

Other changes include the addition of dual air bags and the removal of those annoying motorized seatbelts. Intact is the distinctive styling, including the unique window-within-a-window.

Whether the shape pleases you or not, the ride and handling befit a sports car of this class, with more comfort and storage than most. The all-wheel-drive system makes this perhaps the best sports car for seriously foul weather.

Toyota Supra

For around $35,000, the Supra provides all the basics of a grand touring machine: A 220-horsepower inline six driving the rear wheels, a superbly comfortable interior and flashy styling. A sophisticated suspension is supple over freeways and city streets, yet at home on a racetrack.

By adding another $7,000, you graduate to the Supra Turbo, a refined and elegant sports car. With 320 horsepower gripping the pavement with 17-inch tires, this car is setting new standards once only the realm of exotic cars costing more than twice even this immoderate price.

Technology produces incredible performance without distracting from the comfort end of stirring the six-speed manual gearbox or the extremely sophisticated automatic transmission. Excellent ergonomics and a superior audio system befit its Toyota heritage.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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