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Grand touring.

They had names like Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and Aston Martin; they were the classic Grand Touring cars of the '50s and '60s. Exotic styling, engines, suspensions and names were the calling cards for these fast-moving sculptures. Yet cars like the Ferrari 250 GT and 500 Superfast, Maserati Sebring, Lamborghini Miura and Aston Martin DB4 and DB5 were more than highly strung racing cars licensed for the street

They were high-speed touring machines that balanced athletics and aesthetics. The muscular engines were cloaked in artful bodywork and the interiors tailored like a fine suit; the prices guaranteed exclusivity.

Like spiritual successors to these automotive icons, a new breed of GT cars has evolved, updating the traditional formula of speed, style and temptation. The new GT cars work every mechanical advantage possible, just like its predecessors, while surrounding its well-healed owners with hedonistic features. The new names sound equally exotic: Mitsubishi 3000GT, Dodge Viper and Dodge Stealth, Chevrolet Corvette, Nissan 300ZX and Mazda RX-7. The mechanical hardware is also exotic; twin turbocharging, all-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, electronically controlled suspensions with active aerodynamics and microprocessors that stretch the performance envelope. But as the name "Grand Touring" suggests, there is more than performance involved in a GT car of the '90s.

Styling becomes an exercise in form-follows-function, with the car's skin pulled taut over the drivetrain and suspension, its wings, fins and spoilers strategically placed to pierce the atmosphere. Inside, the low-slung cockpits are designed to keep the driver's attention focused on the thrill of driving. Gauges that watch over the pulse of the vehicle span complex instrument panels, steering wheels and shifters are contoured and positioned for fast work and the driver's seats are form-fitting. It's a businesslike atmosphere., that is automatically climate controlled, swathed in leather and bathed in high-fidelity sound.

Mitsubishi's 3000GT VR-4, for example, boils with 300 twin-turbocharged horsepower, all-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, electronically adjustable shock absorbers, and front and rear spoilers that raise and lower according to speed. Yet inside, leather covers the front seats, a small TV screen displays its automatic climate-control status, and the sound system can be operated from controls on the steering wheel.

Dodge's Viper takes a more visceral approach to high-performance motoring. A massive 8.0 liter, 400-horsepower V-10 engine threatens to make, this one of the world's fastest accelerating street-legal road cars. The multi-adjustable bucket seats are upholstered in leather and a powerful sound system comes standard; luggage space is nearly nonexistent The Viper's primary mission in life is to provide high-horsepower entertainment for the driver and one passenger.

At one end of the GT spectrum are sporting machines that make rapid transit their highest priority. At the other are highly sophisticated combinations of power, style and comfort. All return the kind of performance that makes the term Grand Touring an exhilarating promise.

NISSAN 300ZX

A convertible 300ZX has arrived. Unlike most ragtops, it doesn't do away with the entire top structure. The thick B-pillars are still there, joined by a metal span. This "sport bar" remains because, like the normal ZX, it retains those hideous door-mounted passive seatbelts (and they're unnecessary because a driver air bag is standard!).

To compensate for loss of the roof, the footwells, rocker panels and cross-car beams are beefed up to insure a strong and stable platform. it's a bit heavy, but sturdy. The manual top isn't easy to work, but provides good protection.

Power comes from a 222-horsepower, 24-valve V-6 engine. A 300-horsepower turbo version is available with a hardtop only. Other goodies include lithe handling, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and plenty of luxury. Tariff starts out just above $30,000; add about $7,000 to go turbo or for the convertible.

DODGE VIPER

There's absolutely nothing like it. Consider An open-bodied sports car with 10 cylinders, 400 horsepower and exposed exhaust pipes running along the sides. Jaw-dropping looks. It's successor to the rip-roaring, fire-breathing Cobra of the '60s.

Start with 8.0-liters, a six-speed manual, enough rubber to shoe an 18-wheeler and a suspension lifted right from a race car, and you get the Viper. Bodywork is from a designer's dream. This lustmobile has a $50,000 suggested list price, but dealers are getting a lot more.

There are sacrifices for this ultimate toy. No outside door handles, no roll-up windows, a small cloth roof that tends to blow off at speed. And-lock brakes? Please, this is history, not high-tech. Just look at the opening page of this Auto Guide.

Performance is scintillating. Despite true race car acceleration and handling, the ride is amazingly good. It's a wind-blown and wet good time.

MAZDA RX-7

When the third-generation RX-7 arrived last spring, it was a return to the true sports-car traditon: light fast and simple. Mazda's two-rotor rotary by powerplant generates 255 horsepower.

The stunning shape is a purist's delight. Putting the bulk of the engine behind the front wheels' centerline provides even weight distribution for impeccable handling. The car's light weight means dramatic acceleration, quick cornering and braking. Mazda claims 0 to 60 in under five seconds, on it's way to a quarter-mile in just 13.5 seconds,, and top speed of over 155 mph.

At $32,500, the RX-7 is performance value, complete with a driver air bag, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The touring package, costing an additional; $3,000, adds; a bit more luxury and includes a Bose Acoustic Wave sound system.

LEXUS COUPE

In its second model year, the Lexus Coupe gets a passenger air bag. There are two varieties of this sporty luxury car: The SC300 with 225-horsepower, 24-valve inline six cylinder engine, and the SC400 with 250-horsepower, 32-valve V-8 and the same V-8 as in the LS 400 sedan.

The only way to get a five-speed manual is with the SC300. The silken four-speed automatic is available either way. The SC400 has a small front air dam and is available with an optional rear spoiler. The most noticeable differences are the wheels and tires: 16-inch round-spoke alloy on the SC400 and 15-inch flat-spoke alloys on the SC300.

At $40,000, the SC400 gets more standard equipment than the $34,000 SC300. Optional in the six-cylinder engine and standard in the V-8 are leather, driver's-seat memory and more. With its sexy shape, quality and performance, the Lexus is a hit.

CHEVROLET CORVETTE

To better control mammoth amounts of horsepower,the rear tires on the Corvette get even larger this year. Those 285/40ZR-17 hunks of rubber put 300 frothing horses to the pavement

Not enough? Try the ZR1 option. Tires get even wider (315/35ZR-17) in the effort to control 405 galloping ponies. At $34,595, the ZR1 option package adds more than extra muscle: There is a full complement of luxury options as well. That price is added to the base number of $41,195, bringing the cost to over $65,000. And remember, you can't get a ZR1 in the convertible.

Attached to a 5.7-liter V-8(32 valves in ZR1 form, 16 valves with the LT1) is a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic. In the manual, fifth and sixth gears are overdrive. Standard equipment includes power anti-lock disc brakes, driver air bag and a traction control system that slaps you in the foot when its on, but it can be turned off.

FORD MUSTANG

Until an entirely new Mustang arrives for 1994, Ford, is aiming to maintain a high interest level in its sportiest car. Half-way through the '93 model year, the Cobra name returns to the Mustang, bringing with it a boost of around 50 horsepower to the already substantial 225-horsepower output of the V-8. Bigger whells and tires help keep the power on the ground, while a deep front spoiler and side skirts signal that this Mustang is special: Ford plans a small production run of 5,000 units.

In addition to the Cobra - hatchback only - the Mustang comes in three trim levels: LX, LX 5.0L and GT. You can mix and match the combinations in a choice of coupe, hatchback or convertible for every level except for the GT.

The 105-horsepower four-cylinder LX price starts at $11,000. However, the V-8 is mandatory to make this a real sports car; its under $14,000. For rip-roaring fun, it's $20,000 for a GT ragtop.

ACURA NSX

Hard to get when it arrived less than two years ago, the NSX is now available at less than sticker. Exotic styling and prodigious performance distinguish this $65,000 mid-engine masterpiece.

Extensive use of aluminum makes this performance car lightweight Mechanical innovations include the VREC (Variable valve Timing and lift Electronic Control) system. It provides a more flexible power band for advantages at low and high rpm. While a match for exotic cars in performance, the NSX is comfortable and tame enough to use for everyday commuting.

The powertrain position gives the NSX great balance and handling, and traction-control prevents wheel slippage. Standard are anti-lock brakes and driver and passenger air bags. With manual transmission, 270 horsepower provides thrilling acceleration, while the automatic makes do with 252 horsepower for merely great performance.

MERCEDES BENZ SL

Wondrous excess is coming to your Mercedes-Benz dealer. A 600SL is joining the 500SL and 300SL line. Yes, a roadster with a 389-horsepower, 48-valve V-12 engine.

With that much muscle, this stunning automotive work of art won't be priceless. But it will cost a little over $100,000, considerably more than the $97,500 list price of the 500SL

For the rich, but not extravagant, the 300SL starts at just $82,500. Its 3.0-liter, 24-value inline six-cylinder engine puts out 228 horsepower. The 5.0-liter, 32-value V-8 in the 500SL provides a still substantial 315 horsepower. Only the 300SL is available with either a five-speed manual or unique five-speed automatic. The others get only a four-speed automatic transmission.

Performance, luxury and high style come with the price of entry, all in amounts commensurate with the fee.

MITSUBISHI 3000GT

If it's high-tech you want, then Mitsubishi's 3000GT is it. This broad-shouldered 2+2 comes in three versions: the front-drive 3000GT, the more luxurious 3000GT SL with electonically controlled suspension and anti-lock brakes; and the high-performing 3000BT VR4.

In VR-4 trim you get twin turbos, all-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, anti-lock brakes, volume-adjustable exhaust system and front air dam and rear spoiler that raise and lower with vehicle speed. With 300 horsepower on tap and 17-inch rims and tires, the VR-4 eats up the road. The 3000GT VR-4 is fast but at neady 4,000 lb is far from nimble. The base 3000GT and mid-level 3000GT SL provide reasonable entertainment at lower prices (as does the nearly identical Dodge Stealth) with 222-horsepower 24-valve V-6s.

Prices range from $23,659 for the base 3000GT to about $37,250 for the VR-4.

SUBARU SVX

Subaru has always marched to the beat of a different drummer. Consider the SVX. Styled in Italy by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the SVX's canopy-style glass treatment and window-within-a-window design is unique. It does allow open windows at speed, even in the rain, but can be a bother paying tolls and it interferes with peripheral vision.

Inside, the SVX is equally unusual. A suede-like material covers door panels and parts of the dash, and the audio system is hidden behind a door above the center console. Four adults do fit nicely.

Truly remarkable is the drivetrain, with its Porsche-style horizontally opposed six-cylinder, 230-horsepower engine, full-time all-wheel drive and extra-smooth automatic transmission. The ride is comfortable and handling capable. While a driver air bag is included, so are those motorized seatbelts. Priced about $25,000, the SVX is a well-balanced package.
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; sports cars
Author:Geddrey, Damian
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Buyers Guide
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Words:1943
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