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Stately elegance.

Colorful brochures, magazine articles and even your friends all conspire to send you off to the dealership, financing in hand, ready to buy a new car. Your choice is beautiful - it has the right style, size and, surprise, it fits into your budget. Could it be a dream? You rush to sit in the driver's seat but your legs get caught in the passive seatbelt streaming from the door.

Okay, you're settled in. The seat isn't quite right, but k adjusts. You try to Oft the steering wheel, but find it doesn't have that middle position you want Never mind, you'll get used to it You take ft out on the road for a test drive. You go to turn on the radio, but you can't find the "power" button; the sales person helps you. Then, you get so caught up in how to set the volume, you nearly slam into a parked car. You come back sweaty, not only about the near-disaster off.

Welcome to the study of human factors, or ergonomics. When cars are developed, there are thousands of considerations. It used to be that the came first, then the steering and suspension and along the line, the passenger compartment showed up. It's different today: People packaging is a first priority.

Yet compromises are still made. In many cars, it's obvious that styling comes before engineering. Unfortunately, this is more often true of luxury and sports cars because that's where the sizzle sells the steak. Buyers of average cars tend to be more practical and less swayed by the flash.

"The purpose of human factors is to know the capabilities and limitations of

the people," says Lyman Forbes, manager of human factors engineering and ergonomics at Ford Motor Co. Or, simply put, "Make the vehicle comfortable and safe."

Automakers have always made some effort to make potential buyers comfortable with the car, but its only more recently that this has become a serious scientific effort. "The Taurus and Sable were the first cars that went through a complete human-factor continuum (at Ford)," notes Forbes. While there are cars with good ergonomics and those with bad, there is no such thing as perfection. And, there won't be until people all come in the same size and shape. The effort goes toward pleasing the widest range, meaning that if you're extremely large or small, it's going to be tougher finding a good fit. But cars that feature more adjustments help.

One car that has received perhaps the most critical acclaim for its ergonomics is the Lexus LS 400. One reason is that there are many adjustments and, once found, they can be locked into a memory function. "There was a real effort to be in the things that are most important," says Bruce Decker, product development manager at Lexus. The memory system sets the seat, steering-wheel tilt, outside mirrors and even the shoulder-belt height

The task of good ergonomics, notes Decker, is to be able to "operate the car with a minimum of attention diverted from the task of driving. Things should fall naturally to hand." Cars are improving all the time, says Forbes. "Our designers are sensitive to the issue of ergonomics." Anyone who has been in a Variety of cars knows that isn't always true.


Last fall, Mercedes-Benz brought out its big guns, the new S-class sedans - behemoths that weigh in at more than two and a quarter tons. But something was missing: a coupe to replace the 560SEC.

That deficiency in the line ends this fall in grand style, with a choice of two large coupes. The 600SEC will take top honors, replete with 389-horsepower, 48-valve, V-12 engine. It is also likely to set new standards in pricing, probably in the $177,000 area.

Those who find that just a bit out of reach will be able to purchase a nearly identical coupe with a 5.0-liter, 32-valve V-8 engine. The 500SEC with 315 horsepower will be a bit over $100,000.

For such largess, customers expect a lot and they get it Power, handling, comfort, safety and convenience, all wrapped up in a vault-like enclosure that's only a bit understated in style.


This is the longest passenger car sold in America. Most people think of vehicles this size in nautical terms. Almost 19 feet long with a wheelbase over 10-feet this care is buift for riding in grand style. it isn't related to the 1992 front-drive Fleetwood, but is a name change to a revision of the Brougham. (The Fleetwood Brougham is the same car with more standard features.)

The Fleetwood retains its rear-drive layout with a large, 5.7-liter cast-iron block V-8 engine. The 185-horsepower and 300 foot-pounds of torque motivates more than 2 tons of rolling mass, and k tows up to 7,000 pounds.

While the basics are traditional, the execution is modern. The shape appears upfight but the wind tunnel knows if s sleek, you benefit by reduced wind noise. Dual air bags replace last year's motorized belts. Even the stereo gets a nice touch: volume goes up with speed. The car weighs in around $34,000, not so costly by the pound.


All new for 92, there is big new again for this year's Seville: the new Northstar four-cam, 32-valve V-8 engine. A solid 295 horsepower makes k the fastest sedan built in America.

Even ff you want just the base Seville with the plain 200-horsepower engine, there are other new items, including dual air bags and multi-link suspension. Again, it's the STS that receives the latest gadget a Road Sensing Suspension that allows each shock to respond individually. The STS also has Cadillac's most sophisticated traction-control system, which is great for going in snow, although it lacks a manual override.

The front-drive Seville offers ample luxury, including a smooth electronically controlled automatic transmission. All this is yours for around $36,000 in base form. The STS, the real sport sedan with its firmer suspension, will cost about an extra $6,000.

BMW 7401

The Germans are launching a counterattack against Lexus and infiniti. By replacing the aging 12-valve, iron block, 3.5-liter inline six-cylinder engine, the 735 turns into the 740i. The 7-Sedes gains in power, smoothness, quietness, and perhaps even fuel economy. It now has 282 brandnew horsepower.

As before, there are two versions, the 740i and 740iL. The added "L" stands for long wheelbase, which stretches this rear-drive sedan out by 4-1/2 inches for rear passengers.

The top model, the 750iL, remains intact with its 296-horsepower V-12 under the hood. The extra weight of the larger engine means it's no quicker than its less expensive sibling, however. The big Bimmer also gets a passenger air bag and, for the V-8 engine, a five-speed automatic transmission. Prices start around $55,000 and climb to more than $80,000.


A new, more elegant clock enhances the interior of this luxurious sporting sedan. With its rear wheels powered by a superbly smooth and aggressive 4.5-liter, 32-valve, 278-horsepower V-8, this is among the most potent sedans available.

There are two models, the Q45 and the Q45a. The small "a" adds about $5,000 to the $45,400 base price and gives this car a "fully active suspension." In addition to dropping fuel economy well below the gas-guzzler threshold, this system produces more positive results by adjusting rapidly to the road, reducing lean in turns and nose dive during braking. If you give up the active suspension, you can get traction control instead.

In addition to refined engine power and hard-charging suspension, the (145 is replete with luxury, including generous space, filled with a choice of wool or leather upholstery and a knockout Bose audio system.


A all-new Mark arrives this January. The Mark VIII, with platform based on the Thunderbird, is aimed directly at the Lexus Coupe and replaces the Mark VII. No price yet, but expect it to come in under the SC400.

Power is supplied by an all-aluminum, 32-valve version of Ford's Modular V-8. this 4.6-liter V-8 is derived from the l6-valve power plant that now powers the Lincoln Town Car. Horsepower is improved from 210 to 280 via a new four-cam cylinder head, which replaces the SOHC heads, and torque is 285 foot-pounds. This is a serious hot-rod Lincoln. Engineers say the car will reach 60 mph in around 7.5 seconds.

The shape is new and sleek, but it keeps the spare tire bulge on the rear deck. Inside, the modern look brings a tiered instrument panel with large analog gauges. Dual air bags are fitted and luxury amenities include a travel computer, full climate control and AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo.


This flagship, due early '93, will share most of the features of its lower-priced sibling, the Concorde, but with some significant upgrades. In addition to its unique styling, with a retro-style bulbous rear window, the most notable change is wheelbase, longer by a few inches. This improves the ride while the cab-forward design gives rear-seat passengers more room.

Standard fare includes driver and passenger air bags, anti-lock disc brakes, automatic air-conditioning and four-wheel independent suspension.

Power goes to the front wheels via a smooth functioning four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. The only engine is a 3.5-liter SOHC 24-valve V-6, producing a healthy 214 horsepower. Expect standard traction control which has, unlike some competitors, an on/off switch.

Pricing? Expect to go a bit higher than $25,000 for this one, which goes on sale in April.


Lexus gives its flagship a host of small changes for 1993 in the "relentess pursuit of perfection." On the outside are new, larger 16-inch wheels and tires. Inside, a second air bag protects the passenger and seatbelts automatically retract when the air bag goes off.

Little things make life with Lexus a bit better, such as the addition of an outside temperature gauge, and an adjustable audible signal confirms you have remotely locked or unlocked the doors, while headlamps automatically go on or off according to darkness. If you didn't believe this car had the best audio system available before, wait you hear it now, with even more power. This is a susperbly comfortable four-door sedan with 250-horsepower, 32-valve, aluminum block 4.0-liter V-8 and four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. It's ergonomic bliss with performance to match, all for around $45,000.


The blue blood of this performer will attract drivers who would have had to settle into the back seat of a Rolls Royce Silver Spirit but prefer to drive! Bentley's racing heritage shows in the model. (Horsepower isn't specified: The company indicates only that, with turbocharging, horsepower is "more than adequate.")

The "R" represents the first post-WWII Bentley that does not share its body with a Rolls Royce. This two-door coupe is the fastest Bentley ever made. Top speed is electronically limited to 145 mph. Its 6.7-liter turbo V-8 drives the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission.

This is rolling artwork priced at $261,800. For around half the price, Bentley is introducing a new sporting sedan this fall; it will be called the Brooklands, named after the racing circuit


This fall the XJ6 joins the modern world: driver air bags eliminate the need for those motorized seatbelts. Accompanying this change will be a new manual tilt steering wheel.

In most other respects, this remains a sedan of refined British heritage. Standard amenities include that distinct Old World charm that makes English cars so appealing. Polished wood and yards of leather and chrome work treat occupants like royalty.

Beneath the bodywork, a 4.0-liter, twin-cam, inline six-cylinder engine produces a healthy 223 horsepower and 278 foot-pounds of torque. It's coupled to an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission.

Ranging in price from around $45,000 to more than $60,000, Jaguar sedans offer an unusual combination of a soft ride and stable handling. There are few cars that can match their ability to soak up rough pavement while keeping passengers isolated from noise and disturbance.
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; luxury cars
Author:Koblenz, Jay
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Buyers Guide
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Previous Article:Profiting through self-reliance.
Next Article:Contemporary classics.

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