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Family features.

Family cars are one of the largest and most competitive segments of the automobile industry. Thanks to baby boomers and their growing families, this segment will continue to grow for some time. That is good news for consumers, since carmakers are continually designing new features to make driving safer and easier. Features such as adjustable safety belts and child-proof locks, once considered extra accessories, are now standard equipment on most cars.

"American manufacturers have always been strong in the mid-size segment," says Jim Gorzelany, senior editor of Consumer Digest magazine, "but they were slouches on the little details that consumers wanted-simple things, like cup holders and coin trays. Now, armed with extensive customer research, the domestics are catching up on the details and making cars that are safe, attractive, personal and good values."

"For years the Japanese have imported cars overloaded with standard features because they didn't have luxury of adding options easily," explains Tom Dukes, director of competitive assesment for J.D. Power and Associates, an automotive marketing information firm in Agoura Hills, Calif. "Domestic manufacturers are learning these packages are good marketing tools."

A Perferred Equipment Package (PEP) on a 1992 Mercury Sable GS saved Derek and Tammy Arnold of Pontiac, Mich., about $700. The options group included power windows and doors, cruise control and an AM/FM cassette stereo. "By buying the 451-B Preferred Equipment Package, the Arnolds paid $1,319 rather than $2,019 if they had bought the options individually,- says sales consultant and leasing specialist Charles E. Lewis of Mel Farr Lincoln-Mercury, a BE AUTO 100 dealership in Waterford, Mich. Lewis says option packages can save consumers up to 35%.

Carefully check the option packages features against your personal "wish list." Are you really buying the options you want? if the packages don't match your needs, check a comparable car in another division of the same automaker. Chances are a "sister" car may have just the package or grouping you're looking for

What features should families look for? Child safety locks and adjustable safety belts. And, analysts say anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and air bags should be at the top of everyone's list

"But if I had to pick only one," says Dukes, "it would be the anti-lock braking system. Most people think of air bags first, but in reality, the only time the air bag is used is in an accident ABS will probably be used more often. Its major benefit is that you can still steer your car if you hit a skid and perhaps avoid an accident in the first place." A couple of years ago, ABS was only available on the upper end of the family-car segment, but because of increased demand, ABS is available as an option on many mid-sized vehicles.

Whatever a family's needs, the 1993 lineup includes something for everyone.


The 960 is Volvo's flagship and the only model with an inline six-cylinder engine. (The 760 and all 7-Series Volvos are gone '93 and the new front-drive 850 includes an odd inline five-cylinder engine.) New last year, this engine is an all-aluminum, inline ix cylinder, displacing 3.0 liters. It is a 24-valve design, with 201 horsepower and 197 foot-pounds of torque. The only available transmission is a four-speed electronically controlled automatic.

Among the few luxury cars with rear drive and no traction control, the 960 may prove at a disadvantage in foul-weather travel. For the $35,000 price, you can choose sedan or wagon, with enough standard equipment to preclude any options. There is ample room for five passengers and it features driver and passenger air bags, anti-lock brakes, leather upholstery, heated power seats and climate control. Styling is traditonal Volvo, both inside and out.


Toyota's highest volume entry upholds a reputation for comfort, durability and value. Toss in an extra degree of luxury, style and extra performance, and there's plenty reason for this car's success.

A 2.2 liter, 16-valve four-cylinder engine with 130 horsepower is standard. Optional is a 3.0-liter, 24-valve V-6 that pumps out 185 horsepower. There's a choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed electronically control,led automatic with either engine.

Camrys in Deluxe, LE, XLE and SE trim levels range from $15,158 to the low $20,000s. All have a driver air bag, tilt steering wheel, four-speaker AM/FM stereo and a welld-esigned interior. The SE is the sport model, with V-6 standard and the only way to get a four-speed. Anti-lock brakes are optional. The station wagon, with its cargo area shaped for available seven-passenger seating (using a rear-facing seat), may not be very stylish, but it is a most practical people mover.


The Intrepid is the sportiest of Chrysler's new "LH" cars, right down to the dash with black-on-white round analog gauges. The Intrepid is the only LH with a split-bench front seat option, although the center position has little leg room.

The intrepid, like the Chrysler Concorde and Eagle Vision, has a low hood line for excellent forward visibility, and modern cab-forward design which adds a feeling of spaciousness.

There are two models, base and ES, both with dual air bags and enough room to qualify as full-size cars. Powertrain on both is a 153-horse-power, 3.3-liter V-6 with four-speed electronically controlled transmission. Dodge claims 0 to 60 in 11 seconds. For even more power there's the 3.5-liter SOHC 24-valve V-6 with 214 horsepower. Four-wheel discs are optional on the base and standard on the ES. Anti-lock brakes are standard on the ES and available on the base with rear discs. Prices range from $15,930 for the base to about $18,000 for the ES.


The 626 is all new. As before, it shares a platform with the Mazda MX-6 and Ford Probe, all manufactured in Flat Rock, Mich. The Mazdas are expected to be the first Japanese nameplates to qualify as domestic vehicles.

The 626 is available only as a four-door sedan in three models: base DX LX and the upscale ES. The DX models come equipped with a 118-horsepower, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine coupled to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Standard are a driver air bag and steering wheel. The LX gets air-conditioning, AM/FM/cassette stereo and cruise control. The ES model, powered by a new,' 164-horsepower, 24-valve V-6, offers four-wheel disc brakes, theft alarm, alloy wheels, and leather upholstery. Anti-lock brakes are optional on all models.

The 626 has a low 32 drag coefficient Prices begin at $14,225 and move to $18,725 before options.


Accord's sedan model is the most popular by virtue of its value and versatility. The coupe trades style for practicality and the wagon looks good, but costs more than rivals that offer much more.

There are three trims levels for the Accord sedan and coupe, each with manual or auto transmission. At around $14,000, the DX includes a driver air bag, tilt steering, height-adjustable front belts and fold-down rear seat Other options, such as air conditioning, are added by the dealer, who will charge whatever the market will bear.

The LX model is more popular, adding air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows and door locks and AM/FM/ cassette stereo. Both DX and LX get a 2.2-liter, 16-valve four-cylinder engine with peppy 125-horsepower output The EX provides 15 more horsepower from the same engine, four-wheel and-lock disc brakes and more sporting suspension. Prices can hit $21,000.


BMW took its middle car, the 5-Series sedan, and added a wagon rear end. The Touring, however, is not based on the more potent 535i, but the 525i, which is the same engine found in the smaller 325i.

With 189 horsepower, this 2.5-liter, 24-valve inline six-cylinder engine isn't pokey, but it needs to be revved to maintain power. This is fine with a 5-speed in the sedan, but the wagon only comes with a four-speed automatic. While power isn't plentiful at anything less than full throttle, the Touring maintains all the other fine BMW attributes. Handling is top-notch with a solid structure that always seems willing to charge into turns. The interior is elegant with walnut trim and artful instrumentation.

Standard features include driver air bag, anti-lock brakes, power windows and locks, AM/FM/cassette stereo, on-board computer, air-conditioning, cruise control and prewiring for a cellular phone. An unusual feature is the dual-power sunroof, all for $38,600.


Legacy gets a driver's-side air bag this year - that's it. Unfortunately, the motorized shoulder belt will also continue, a situation Subaru shares only with one other automotive brand (Saturn).

The Legacy is roomy and comfortable inside, and has a fairly modern, if unexciting, exterior. Base engine for the Legacy is a unique horizontally opposed, 130-horsepower, 2.2-liter, 16-valve four-cylinder engine. With turbocharging added,the engine cranks out 160 horsepower and 181 foot-pounds of torque.

These cars come with either a five-speed manual or four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. As with all Subaru products, four-wheel drive is available on every Legacy sedan or wagon. It's an option on the lower-priced models, but the Sport Sedan and Wagon come equipped with full-time all-wheel-drive system.

Prices start at roughly $14,000 and go to about $22,000.


The GL is now the Taurus base model. It mounts a 3.0-liter V-6 and a four-speed transmission. The LX is the top of the line and both GL and LX are available in

station wagon form, perhaps the most attractive wagon on the market Either model can be equipped with a 3.8-liter V-6 with the same 140 horsepower as the 3.0-liter, but with more torque for better,acceleration.

Taurus's special model, the SHO, gets an automatic transmission option, although the five-speed manual remains standard. If you opt for the automatic, you get a slightly larger version of the 24-valve engine, with 3.2 liters instead of 3.0 liters. Anti-lock brakes are standard on the SHO, optional on other models. A driver air bag is standard on all models.

Taurus remains the leader in family sedans. Front-drive, excellent interior design, ample quiet and comfort, and styling make it a top seller. Prices range from just over 16,000 to $24,000.


Pontiac wants to be the sporty GM Division. With the Bonneville, it is taking to heart the concept of a flashy full-size, front-drive sedan. This fall, the mundane Bonneville SE can be upgraded with a new Sport Luxury Edition (SLE) package. The SLE gets a unique grille, a rear spoiler, 16-inch alloy wheels and Goodyear Eagle GA tires and other odds and ends. It looks more like its expensive siblings without the price tag of SSE or SSEi models. The SE starts around 19,000 and goes to $30,000.

Other changes include anti-lock brakes across the board. All Bonnevilles start with a 3.8-liter V-6 coupled to a four-speed automatic transmission. The top SSEi (and the SSE) adds a supercharger, increasing horsepower from 170 to 205.

With the SSEi, the body gets absolutely flamboyant. Fortunately, the potent V-6 and firm suspension provide nearly as much go as show.


This is a busy model year for Saturn, with two now models. The first is a station wagon and the other an entry-level coupe, the SC1. While the previous model was simple called the Saturn coupe, now it gets the designation SC2. Sedans are now SL, SL1 and SL2; wagons SW1 and SW2.

Another addition to the line is that a driver air bag becomes standard, although the motorized passive seatbelts remain. It will take a redesign of the car's interior to remove those seatbelts, which Saturn will probably do next year.

The difference between models 1 and 2 is mostly the engine. The SL, SL1, SW1, SC1 have a meager 85-horsepower, 1.9-liter, four-cylinder engine. The SL2, SW2, SC2 receive the 16-valve version, good for 124 horsepower. Transmission is five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.

Dealer prices are firm, starting at $9,195 and going to just over $17,000 with all the options.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Black Enterprise 1993 Auto Guide; family cars
Author:Gallant-Stokes, Trudy
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Buyers Guide
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Previous Article:Contemporary classics.
Next Article:Efficient compacts.

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