1995 Ad

Jay Koblenz

Automotive technology is developing in a new direction. Not only are automakers striving to create safer, better performing cars, they’re innovating to cut costs. Even as the market expands, many brands are holding the line on prices. Even some rather extravagant luxury brands are bringing products to market at lower prices than last year. Meanwhile, more affordable cars are gaining in quality and features that used to be found only at the upper reaches of the marketplace. Value is key in all new products, and that doesn’t just apply to passenger cars.

Trucks are taking a steadily increasing portion fo new vehicle sales, with minivans and sport-utility wagons leading the way. Some of this is a decision to purchase a practical family vehicle and, in some cases, a matter of fashion. But recognizing the trends, the manufacturers are giving buyers more of what they want: comfort, style, features and performance. It’s still possible, but getting more difficult to purchase a poorly designed vehicle.

BMW 7 SERIES

This large sedan represents the pinnacle of BMW engineering. And the new-for-’95 7-Series now raises the standard set by the previous model. Although completely redesigned, styling is intentionally similar to the last model. Longer, wider and taller, the new 7-Series is a substantial automobile. Initially, the 7-Series will be offered in 740i and long-wheelbase 740iL configurations. A 282-horsepower V-8 and 5-speed automatic transmission give the 740s performance that could embarrass a number of sports cars, and the bank-vault body structure, legendary BMW suspension design, and sophisticated traction control system promise handling and responsiveness that belie the car’s 2-ton-plus weight.

Inside this $60,000 sedan is a staggering array of features, including steering wheel-mounted controls for climate control, audio system, cruise control and cellular phone. Later in the year, an even more extravagant V-12-powered 750iL will be added to the lineup, featuring 323-horsepower, more features, and a price approaching six figures.

INFINITI Q45

Because the cost was high and the perceived improvement minimal, the Super HICAS 4-wheel steering that had been part of the Touring Package is no longer available. Otherwise, the Q45 remains as a mildly eccentric interpretation of the modern luxury sedan. It did become a bit more mainstream last year with the addition of a chrome grille, larger headlights and interior wood accents.

With 278 horsepower supplied by a rousing 4.5-liter V-8, the Q45 is among the fastest sedans on the road. For this motive strength, you’ll be charged a gas guzzler tax (included in the price of the car) and continue to pay at the fuel pump. But the quiet and sedate ride will never make you suffer, while the sophisticated suspension will also enable the aggressive driver to keep up a quick pace on any road.

Starting out above $50,000, Infiniti is no longer a bargain alternative to a BMW, but you will receive superb quality backed by an excellent record of dealer service.

CADILLAC ELDORADO

For 1995, this large, plush and very powerful luxury coupe comes into sharper focus. An increase in engine power, subtle but effective styling updates, numerous chassis improvements, and some slick electronics earn a more polished, sophisticated reputation.

Eldorado is exceptionally powerful by any standard, with base models rated at an impressive 275 horsepower, and the performance-oriented Touring Coupe tuned for 300 horsepower. Complementing the 32-valve, 4.6-liter V-8 engine is a new Integrated Chassis Control System that electronically combines the standard anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronically controlled struts, and power steering.

The result is improved cornering, stopping and greater confidence on slippery pavement – without compromising Cadillac’s luxurious ride. Eldorado’s more athletic look is set off by new alloy wheels, extensive power accessories, and leather and wood interior trim for a starting price of $38,220.

LINCOLN TOWN CAR

Lincoln’s big rear-drive sedan enters the new model year with a new grille, headlights and taillights. A driver-selectable steering system no gives you a choice of heavy, medium or light steering effort. Of course, the Town Car is never really sporty. This is the most traditional of the American luxury cars, a rectangular, formal presence on the road, providing what seems like acres of interior space for six adults.

The Town Car rides on a rear-wheel drive, full-frame chassis and is powered by a thoroughly modern 210-horsepower 4.6-liter overhead cam V-8 coupled to a smooth 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. Yet this sedan stands apart from other luxury cars in being proud of being old-fashioned, with plenty of imitation wood trim and layers of chrome. Seats are overstuffed and plush, and the ride is library quiet, giving the feeling of motoring down the highway in a classy living room. This car is aimed at those who want everyone aboard to be comfortable and contented. With prices starting at $36,400, you get a large helping of luxury.

LEXUS LS400

This represents the first remake of the LS400 since its 1990 introduction. Despite being extensively renewed, styling is remarkably unchanged. Closer inspection reveals a 1.4-inch increase in the wheelbase, with more interior space given to rear seat passengers. Yet weight is reduced more than 200 pounds and the 250-horsepower 32-valve V-8 engine gains another 10 horsepower for improved acceleration. As always, the LS400 remains a 4-door sedan with a list of standard features as long as they come. Yet there are still a few costly options to increase the $51,200 starting price.

What is most impressive about this car is simply the level of quality in each detail, from the fit of the glove compartment door to the mesh of its latch. And while you can purchase better performance for less money, few cars combine this level of luxury and performance so effortlessly. This may not be the perfect car, but it has become the benchmark to which the others compare themselves.

ROLLS ROYCE FLYING SPUR

Taking nothing away from its elegant style and lavish appointments, Rolls Royce is injecting more might into its mainstay sedan. By turbocharging the 6.75-liter V-8 engine of the Silver Spur, it becomes a Flying Spur, the fastest Rolls Royce sedan motorcar ever offered. But only a limited number of these examples of supreme motorized craftsmanship will cross the Atlantic. Required wherewithal is $225,000 American.

Should a Flying Spur not be adequately exotic for your stable of motor carriages, you have one brief last chance to own a new Rolls Royce convertible. Twenty-eight years after making its debut as the Silver Shadow, Corniche production ends soon. Rather than exit quietly, the last 20 will be renamed Corniche S and gain the same turbocharged engine as the Flying Spur. Just as that Spur takes sedan honors, the Corniche S is the fastest convertible in the company’s history. Priced at a not inconsequential $315,000, this is the mechanical apex of this exquisitely built motorcar.

MERCEDES-BENZ S-CLASS

For 1995 Mercedes-Benz did something it formerly promised it would never do: The company lowered prices on its flagship sedans. Still, with a starting price of $65,900 and the V-12 flagship coupe model topping out at an unchanged $133,300 (plus gas guzzler tax), nobody will accuse the German marque of being the value alternative. Price reductions are a result of slow sales of these behemoth vehicles, along with higher quality competition from the likes of Lexus and Infiniti.

If flamboyance and the flaunting of wealth is to your liking, these are cars that supply an abundance of technology and comfort. Interiors are rich, although not plush. You get a choice of 6-, 8- or 12-cylinder engines and the only diesel offering in a luxury sedan. Performance ranges from sluggish with the diesel to silken power with either V-8 or V-12 engines. For ’95 a facelift slightly softens the exterior look and in kowtowing to U.S. market demands, you now get five cup holders. For better performance in slippery conditions, these rear-drive cars have traction control standard.

VOLVO 960

Although the changes are not obvious to nonaficionados of the brand, a closer examination shows the 960 to be extensively revised for 1995. A lower, well-equipped price of $29,990 is evident, however. There’s a wider track with more refined suspension upgrades handling. The 24-valve inline-6 engine was redesigned for more low-rpm torque, better suited to American driving styles. The 4-speed electronically controlled automatic allows quick yet smooth acceleration. Styling changes include slimmer headlights, a smaller grille and new bumpers, but the Volvo family styling lineage is firmly intact.

Crash protection continues as a preeminent Volvo theme with further body structure reinforcement added to this already tanklike platform. Standard safety features include dual air bags, anti-lock brakes and daytime running lights. Interior comfort is improved with a more ergonomic dashboard and simplified controls.

In both sedan and station wagon forms, the 960 is a solid vehicle with competence in all levels of handling, comfort and luxury.

ACURA LEGEND

In its second generation, the Legend now starts around $35,000 for the base L sedan and reaches to over $42,000 for a full-boat LS coupe. Slightly smaller than its Lexus and Infiniti counterparts, the Legend is a mid-size, beautifully assembled car offered in coupe and sedan body styles. The coupe IS powered by a highly tuned 230-horsepower 24-valve V-6 that drives the front wheels through either a 6-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. The coupes are tailored for performance before luxury.

The sedans are offered in base L, luxury LS and sport sedan GS trim. L and LS sedans use a slightly more docile 200-horsepower V-6, where the GS employs the more powerful engine and 6-speed transmission from the coupes. L-model Legends include all the expected luxuries in this class, along with a power glass sunroof, premium audio and power driver’s seat with memory. LS models add automatic climate control, leather, Bose audio system and heated seats. In the LS coupe and GS sedan, traction control and larger tires are included.

BUICK RIVIERA

“Huge” is the word that aptly describes Buick’s new Riviera coupe. This is the rare 2-door where six adults fit, although you’ll be more comfortable choosing the optional front bucket seats. Exterior design sets the Riviera far apart from the crowd with sweeping, graceful curves and long character lines creasing the fenders. This is a worthy example of the automobile as rolling artwork.

Unfortunately, the interior design fails to continue the theme with Its long flat dash cover rising high enough to cause claustrophobia, while the large gauges are set too far apart to provide quick information. But the driving itself is a pleasure. Handling is adept and the 3.8-liter V-6 provides quiet acceleration via 205 horsepower. If you need more, an optional supercharged engine adds 20 horsepower to the mix. At a very competitive $30,000, the Riviera includes plenty of standard equipment, such as power front seats, aluminum alloy wheels, AM/FM/ cassette stereo, automatic dual climate control, power everything and remote keyless entry.

MERCURY GRAND MARQUIS

Just one step from being a personal limousine, Mercury’s largest sedan is a throwback to the days when prestige was measured in cubic feet. Marquis is one of the few remaining rear-drive, V-8-powered, full-size sedans in the old tradition. The body is mounted to a separate frame, the suspension is rudimentary and very soft, and the interior and trunk are gigantic. At a starting price of $21,270, this is the bargain alternative to a Lincoln Town Car.

Although the Marquis’ concept dates to the Truman administration, there are extensive contemporary refinements. A remarkably smooth overhead cam V-8 engine is both quiet and powerful, offering sophistication on a par with cars twice its price. Optional anti-lock brakes and traction control plus standard dual air bags add a large measure of safety. An electronically controlled automatic transmission further abets powertrain refinement. Inside, six adults can stretch out in comfort and the trunk swallows loads of luggage. All this luxury is available at prices now common among Japanese compacts.

NISSAN MAXIMA

Slightly less sporty than the previous Maxima, a new model provides a more luxurious ride, a very substantial 190 horsepower engine from its 3.0-liter 24-valve V-6, and a choice of three trim levels. Starting at $19,999, the Maxima GXE comes with a full complement of power accessories and dual air bags. (The motorized seat belts are finally gone.) The sport-tuned SE opens at $21,599 and adds a firmer suspension, alloy wheels, larger tires, rear spoiler and fog lights. At the top of the range is the $24,819 GLE, with automatic climate control, alarm system, keyless entry, CD player, leather upholstery, power driver’s seat and automatic transmission. Automatic is additional on GXE and SE models, and anti-lock brakes are optional across the board.

The new Maxima is softer in character and weaker in styling than the last model. The soft GLE acts more like an older Buick and the stiff SE provides enthusiast-type handling at the cost of a stiff ride. Both GXE and SE remain unusual in this class by offering a 5-speed manual transmission with a V-6.

MAZDA MILLENIA

Just two years ago, Mazda was poised to joined the luxury market with a new line of cars called Amati, conceived to emulate late the success of Lexus and Infiniti. But Mazda was forced to cancel Amati due to tight finances and a

worldwide recession that harshly impacted the company. Nearly completed, when Amati was canceled, Millenia survives as Mazda’s new flagship.

Millenia is assembled to high standards of fit and finish. The shape is graceful with an interior loaded with unique details. At times, however, some of these design quirks sacrifice function for style.

Base Millenias have a cloth interior, automatic climate control, power driver’s seat, 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter 24-valve V-6 and anti-lock brakes. The S model adds the 210-horsepower 2.3-liter V-6 that achieves better economy than the base engine, sunroof, leather upholstery, remote keyless entry and traction control. Millenia is aimed at the same market as the similarly sized Lexus ES300, with prices ranging from $26,000 to $32,000.

TOYOTA AVALON

Avalon is an all new class of vehicle for Toyota. With the optional front split bench seat, this is the first 6-passenger sedan from in import brand and the first car offered by Toyota that will tit into the full-size category. Few people will want to stay very long in the center seat position, making this a very comfortable and roomy 5-passenger car.

Avalon is based upon the best of the Camry’s underpinnigs, with the same 3.0-liter V-6 engine putting out a slightly improved 192 horsepower via a 4-speed automatic transmission. Styling is conservative yet modern, with a Lexus-like grille in front. By taking the durable Camry as a starting point, the Avalon offers high quality, a supple and quiet ride plus a slightly sporty driving attitude.

A starting price for the XL in the low $20,000 area gives you dual air bags and power accessories, although you’ll pay extra for anti-lock brakes. By the time you get a fully equipped XLS with a leather interior, power sunroof, automatic climate control, keyless entry and a choice of premium audio systems, expect to pay nearly $30,000.

OLDSMOBILE NINETY EIGHT

No longer available as a Touring Sedan model, the Ninety Eight is aimed more squarely at traditional buyers of 6-passenger luxury sedans. The sportier Aurora and Eighty Eight LSS models give Oldsmobile buyers sportier choices.

But improvements don’t stop there. The base engine remains a 3.8-liter V-6, but the engine is almost entirely new. It gains 35 horsepower to reach 205, while also revving more freely for better open-road power. It’s not only more potent, it’s smoother, runs more quietly and even gets slightly better highway fuel economy. Unchanged is the already remarkably gentle shifting 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. If this isn’t enough power, an optional supercharged V-6 adds 20 more horsepower.

At $26,060 this is a very roomy sedan with a mammoth trunk. With dual zone climate control, automatic load leveling suspension and dozens of other creature comforts all standard, you’ll be hard pressed to duplicate this amount of luxury at a lower price.

SAAB 900 CONVERTIBLE

After bringing out a stylish new 900 4-door hatchback last year, Saab is completing its lineup for 1995 with a 2-door hatchback and a class-leading 2-door convertible. Surprisingly, the convertible even comes with the most drivetrain choices. A 150-horsepower, 2.3-liter 16-valve 4-cylinder makes this a snappy performer with the 5-speed manual transmission, less adequate with the 4-speed automatic. Either the 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter 24-valve V-6 or 185-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder make this car downright fast. The turbo comes only with a manual transmission.

Saab 900 convertibles are among the most practical ragtops on the road. There is ample room for four adults and a sizable trunk. The well-insulated top makes it a virtual coupe during foul weather.

Standard features are plentiful with dual air bags, power everything, and six-disc CD player, leading you to believe that this car should cost much more than the $32,995 starting price.

CHEVROLET IMPALA SS

As a trim level of the Caprice, Chevy’s Impala SS takes this family sedan into serious high-performance territory. Starting out with a basic Caprice and the optional liter 260-horsepower V-8 engine, modifications that set the Impala SS apart include a monochromatic paint scheme, more aggressive grille, rear spoiler, rear quarter window inserts, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, 4-wheel disc brakes, suspension upgrades, individual front seats with console and black leather interior trim. Helping grip the road, the Impala SS gets huge P255/5OZR-17 speed-rate performance tires. For ’95, you can also choose from among black, dark cherry metallic or dark green-gray metallic.

This is the car for those who need a fill-size, 4-door sedan, yet desire a sporty, fast vehicle. For just $23,495, the Impala SS will round corners at speeds startlingly close to a Camaro Z28 and nearly match it in acceleration. You may not get the refinement of a BMW, which costs twice as much, but you’ll be able to carry more people and cargo.

HONDA ACCORD

For a decade now, the Accord has been the benchmark against which all other “affordable” sedans are compared. A combination of durability, reliability, high resale value and good well-rounded performance have made this car a perennial favorite. But with newfound competition now offering more performance at lower prices, Honda will finally offer a V-6 engine in the Accord this year. You’ll get a bit more pep than the standard 2.2-liter 4-cylinder engine, but this won’t quite make the Accord a sports sedan.

The sedan and coupe come in base DX, mid-level LX, and full-boat EX trim. Wagons are available in LX and EX trim. Accord DX models are well finished but modestly equipped, making the LX – with its standard air conditioning, power accessories and audio system – more popular. EX models add sunroof, alloy wheels, upgraded sound system, the option of leather and slightly more power. Prices range from a sparsely equipped $15,000 into the low $20,000 range, a bit more with a V-6.

CHEVROLET LUMINA

Chevrolet is changing, its pace for 1995, taking what had been a mundane, entry and completely revitalizing it. A new Lumina sedan hits the target square in the bull’s-eye when it comes to value. It retains traditional styling with a long hood and short trunk, but corners are rounded and edges smoothed, completing a modern look. The Lumina coupe no longer exists under that name. It’s been rebadged as the Monte Carlo and moves with a sportier set.

Lumina’s new interior allows for comfortable 6-passenger seating, yet gives the driver a better working cockpit. Instruments are large round dials and controls are within easy reach. A more rigid structure feels solid and dual air bags improve safety.

Engine choices include a 3.1-liter V-6 with an adequate 160 horsepower coupled to either an archaic 3-speed automatic or more sophisticated 4-speed standard unit. Optional is a potent 210-horsepower 3.4-liter 24-valve V-6 with the 4-speed automatic. For just $15,795, standard equipment includes air conditioning.

HYUNDAI SONATA

The Sonata is Hyundai’s second-generation of its largest car – a mid-size sedan, it wishes to compare to the likes of a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. Unfortunately, Hyundai is still suffering from the low-quality image. Although the company’s record is improving, it remains at the bottom or the pile in all quality studies.

Despite Hyundai’s doubtful reputation, the Sonata offers more room and features than any of its Japanese rivals at a comparable price. Offered in base, GL and GLS trim, the Sonata can be equipped as a basic 4-cylinder, 5-passenger transportation for $13,399, or as a fully optioned V-6-powered, leather-lined GLS with a premium audio system, glass power sunroof, and lots of power accessories for less than $20,000.

Hyundai sources many of the Sonata’s major components from Mitsubishi, with both engines and the Sonata’s suspension components designed in Japan.

OLDSMOBILE ACHIEVA

Oldsmobile competes in the hotly contested compact segment with the Achieva 4-door sedan and 2-door coupe. For 1995, GM has put considerable effort into refining the Achieva’s suspension and standard engine. The standard 150-horsepower Quad 4 engine now has dual balance shafts to quiet and smooth this notoriously rough and noisy engine. This effort is only partially successful at noise reduction, although it is quite potent. For refinement on a par with the competition, choose the optional 155-horsepower V-6. This gives the Achieva a personality change, adding performance and quieting the ride.

Improving the Achieva’s ride and handling is a revised suspension designed to emulate the feel of an import. Although the Achieva boasts standard anti-lock brakes and a considerable price advantage compared to its Japanese competitors, there is still no front passenger-side air bag. This mean the Achieva retains its door-mounted seat belt system that compromises both comfort and safety. Base prices start at $13,500.

TOYOTA CAMRY

A face lift gives Toyota’s most popular car slightly modified front and rear styling for what the company calls a “wider, sharper” look. There’s new fabric inside, and the top-of-the-line XLE trim level gains anti-lock brakes as standard. The luxury quotient increases with new options that include a power passenger’s seat and

With prices starting out around $16,500 and completely loaded varieties reaching into the upper $20,000 range, the Camry has gotten a reputation for being on the pricey side. To this, Toyota responds with its fine record of durability, high resale value and a large body of loyal owners.

As a sedan, Camry is a practical, quiet and pleasant 5-passenger car. Coupes are not quite sporty and they obtain more headroom by lowering the rear seat, making children feel like they’re riding in a submarine. The wagon is solid and practical, but leans toward ugly. With a choice of a 130-horsepower 4-cylinder or 188-horsepower V-6, performance is competent in every respect.

LEXUS ES300

This may be the most affordable Lexus made, but it is still a fully equipped, well-engineered luxury sedan. The ES300 is based on the Toyota Camry, an excellent platform from which to create a premium automobile. Like all Lexus models, the ES300 provides the driver and passengers with a remarkably smooth, quiet environment. Interior room is quite comfortable for four passengers, and adequate for five. Despite the ES300’s emphasis on luxury, the little Lexus has a responsive demeanor that makes it a pleasure to drive. This is no sports sedan, but it’s no slug either. An all-aluminum, 188-horsepower 24-valve DOHC V-6 was introduced last year, and it provides significant power and stunning refinement. The automatic transmission is equally impressive.

Like nearly all new Japanese cars, the ES300 is no longer the outstanding, value that it once was. The price has risen dramatically, to well over $31,500. Nevertheless the ES300 offers strong resale value, an excellent dealer network and the unmistakable prestige of the Lexus name.

MERCURY MYSTIQUE

This is the sibling to Ford’s Contour, the other U.S. offering of the company’s new “world car.” Since Mercury is supposed to be the more upscale brand, it starts with a bit more equipment than the base Ford, including a tachometer, split folding rear seat, driver adjustable lumbar support and a driver side storage bin. Styling is a bit more on the bland side, but this remains a modern rendition of the compact sedan. Inside, this is a bit less cheap looking than the Contour with a more straight forward dashboard.

Although the base price is $13,855 with dual air bags, you won’t find one without at least one option package. Expect to pay between $15,000 and $19,000, depending upon equipment levels. Powertrain starts off with a 124-horsepower, 16-valve 4-cylinder engine and 5-speed manual transmission. You can add a 4-speed automatic, or upgrade further to a 170-horsepower, 24-valve 2.5-liter V-6. Both engines are sophisticated and smooth, comparable to some of the best imports.

BUICK REGAL

For 1995, Regal evolves into one of the more desirable mid-size, mid-price automobiles on the market. Offered in 4-door door sedan and 2-door coupe models, the latest generation

Regal has always been a handsome, well-equipped car with a palatable price and good quality.

Although long in coming, the Regal is finally with proper three-point seat belts (shoulder height adjustable on sedans), dual air bags, and a completely redesigned interior and dashboard. The interior is more refreshing, although it still lacks the ergonomic excellence found in many competitors.

Together with standard anti-lock brakes, a responsive V-6 engine, and one of the world’s finest automatic transmissions, the Regal offers numerous features and generous accommodations for $17,960. Even lavishly equipped with leather upholstery, automatic climate control, premium audio, keyless entry system, and an even larger, more power V-6 engine, the Regal is quite a bargain compared to the increasingly expensive Japanese models.

FORD CONTOUR

Ford calls the compact Contour sedan a “world car.” Designed as a collaborative effort between Ford’s European and U.S. research/engineering facilities, the Contour, and its Mercury sibling, the Mystique represent a $6 billion investment. For that enormous sum, Ford now has a thoroughly modern, smoothly styled and competitively priced Alternative to Japanese nameplates.

Though a bit tight on interior space, the Contour has much to recommend it. Handling is European firm and responsive, while quality and prices are competitive. Base GL models start at $13,310 with a 125-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual and dual air bags. Mid-level LX trim brings air conditioning, power accessories, upgraded audio and a folding rear seat.

In the top SE model, you get a refined 2.5-liter 170-horsepower V-6, sport suspension, 4-wheel disc brakes, sport seats, alloy wheels and a rear spoiler, starting just under $16,000. Aside from a tight rear seat, Ford is offering a high-quality sedan that’s fun to drive.

CHRYSLER CIRRUS

Cirrus is an entirely new car with enticing styling, generous interior room and well-rounded performance. Chrysler is aiming at the likes of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, but offering better accommodations, more features and at $17,990 a lower price. This is a well-equipped @@door sedan with a Japanese-built 164-horsepower 2.5-liter, 24-valve V-6 engine and 4-speed automatic transmission. Next spring, a 2.4-liter 16-valve 4-cylinder Chrysler-built engine will be available.

Chrysler’s cab-forward design supplies the Cirrus with plenty of interior room. Four adults can be comfortable over long distances and a fifth can squeeze in when necessary. Base LX models include air conditioning, power windows, remote power door locks, dual air bags, AM/FM/cassette stereo, anti-lock brakes, height adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, power mirrors, dual map lights and more. A unique audio option is a dash-mounted 6-disc CD changer. With such features as variable effort steering and a rather sophisticated suspension, this is quite a fun car to drive fast over twisting roads,

MAZDA PROTEGE

This is an all-new sedan for ’95 with such improvements as dual air bags and a more rigid structure. Mazda has created one of the roomiest cars in this class, exceeding many more expensive vehicles, including Nissan’s Altima.

There are three trim levels, with the DX starting at $11,995. DX and LX levels include a 90-horsepower, 1.5-liter 4-cylinder 16-valve power plant. Mazda calls this an “eco” engine because it meets tough emission standards and gets excellent fuel efficiency. For $13,395, the popular LX includes AM/FM/cassette stereo, tachometer, power central locking, power windows, power mirrors, split-folding locking rear seat and height adjustable driver’s seat. You can also add anti-lock brakes. The $16,145 ES gets a larger 122-horsepower 1.8-liter engine, larger wheels and tires, 4-wheel disc anti-lock brakes and sportier suspension settings. Protege is a perfectly competent car in every respect with a quiet, comfortable ride, good handling and adequate acceleration.

SATURN

Still starting out at just $9,995, Saturn dealers offer quality service as their most important product. This distinctive division of General Motors gives customers the kind of care and service usually found in luxury brands. New for 1995 is the inclusion of dual air bags and manual seat belts, finally ending the era of those awful motorized seat belts. The revised interior improves both styling and ergonomics more befitting products trying to compete with high quality imports.

Saturns are offered in sedan, coupe and station wagon form. There are two engine choices, a 100-horsepower 1.9-liter 4-cylinder or the same engine with 16 valves pumped up to 124 horse power. By the time you add a complete array of equipment, including such niceties as anti-lock brakes and traction control, you’ll spend $15,000 or so. You’ll have an economical car with reasonable interior room. Ride quality and refinement is a bit below some competitors, but will rarely cause buyers any remorse. These reliable little cars tend to satisfy their owners.

NISSAN ALTIMA

Altima is Nissan’s example of a pleasant compact sedan with a larger-than-average engine. This 2.4-liter 4-cylinder produces 150 horsepower, less potent than the competition’s V-6 engines but significantly stronger than their base engines – with prices that range from just $14,799 to a very well-equipped $19,889.

There are four trim levels. XE is die bare-bones model with above average equipment, including dual air bags power outside mirrors, tilt steering wheel and remote trunk release. The GXE is the popular model with power windows and door locks. The GLE is the luxury variety, automatic transmission only, with more bells and whistles, such as climate control and power sunroof. The SE is aimed at a sportier set, with 4-wheel disc brakes, rear spoiler, alloy wheels and fog lights.

Altimas compare well to such cars as the Geo Prizm and Protege in interior size and comfort, but with significantly more horsepower. In SE trim, the Altima can be quite a fun car with sports sedanlike handling.

PONTIAC GRAND AM

Year after year, Pontiac scores impressive sales results with this compact sedan and coupe entry. Although mechanically similar to its corporate siblings, the Buick Skylark and Oldsmobile Achieva, the Grand Am stands out with aggressive, more flamboyant styling. Offered in two trim levels, base SE and sportier GT, the Grand Am starts with a no-frills price of $12,900, including driver’s air bag and anti-lock brakes. A passenger air bag is still not offered, and the car unfortunately retains door-mounted, passive seat belts that hinder safety, comfort and convenience.

The Grand Am comes equipped with a newly refined DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine with a choice of manual or automatic transmission. mission. More subdued than in the past, this is still a rather noisy power plant. To achieve more competitive levels of refinement, the optional 155-horsepower V-6 and electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission is required. Modifications to the rear suspension this year give the Grand Am a more sophisticated feel. For around $17,000, you can have a responsive, good handling car.

SUBARU IMPREZA

Subarus have always had a rather quirky but endearing character to them, and the small Impreza coupe, sedan and wagon are no exception. Typical of Subaru, the Impreza is offered with either front- or all-wheel drive, giving this small car a significant advantage in regions where the roads and tie weather are poor.

The Impreza Coupe is a new model for 1995, with the sedan and wagon models continuing. Unique to the Impreza is a 1.8-liter opposed-4-cylinder engine. With 110 horsepower, performance is about average. Later in the year, a larger 2.2-liter 135-horsepower engine will he offered.

Subaru is so committed to the advantages of all-wheel drive that it offers one of two separate systems optimized for either manual or automatic transmission. Standard features include dual air bags and you can add many luxury features, such as cruise control and CD player. Impreza is a quality, although somewhat expensive, compact with unique features. Prices range from $11,195 and reach to $20,000.

CHEVROLET TAHOE

After giving the smaller variety sole possession of the Blazer name, the larger K-blazer has been renamed Tahoe. The new moniker is just the first of a host of improvements. Best of all might be the new interior. The array of cheap plastic buttons of the past is gone, replaced by a sensible and economic layout. Now you get features like a dash-mounted cup holder, two extra 12-volt outlets to plug in anything from a radar detector to a mobile fax machine and simplified climate and radio controls. An optional center console includes a writing pad plus plenty of storage for the working businessperson on the road.

Another big announcement arrives next spring when a 4-door Tahoe arrives, creating a whole new class of vehicle. Meanwhile, Tahoe is offered with two engine choices: a 200-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8 or 180-horsepower 6.5-liter turbodiesel V-8. You can have a 5.7-liter speed manual transmission with the gasoline engine or 4-speed automatic with either engine. At $21,830, this is a tough, affordable luxury alternative to the host of popular compact sport-utility wagons.

FORD WINDSTAR

As a people-hauling minivan, Chrysler got its first real competition when Ford’s completely new Windstar arrived for 1995. While it lacks the variety of a Caravan (no all-wheel drive or short wheelbase), it sets new standards among minivans for its quiet, comfortable ride. It is also the largest and roomiest front-wheel-drive van on the market with a huge interior capable of carrying seven adults with plenty of room for legs and arms, plus a generous cargo area. Standard drivetrain is a 155-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 engine coupled to an electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission. Later in the year, a lower-priced 3.0-liter V-6 arrives.

Ford is touting standard safety features: dual air bags, 3-point seat belts for outboard passengers, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, and sideguard door beams. A long-travel rear suspension soaks up bumps while maintaining a good grip on the road when cornering. With all minivans claiming to be “carlike” these days, the Windstar is now the leader in driving quality.

CHEVROLET S-SERIES PICKUP

After completely changing its compact pickup last year, Chevrolet is continuing to refine this practical load hauler, adding both safety and luxury options. New features include a standard driver’s air bag and daytime running lights. For convenience, switches are now backlit for easier night viewing and a single two-sided key opens the doors and turns on the ignition. New to the option list is a remote keyless entry system. Off-road enthusiasts who desire the ZR2 package with its 31-inch tires and tough suspension components can now get it on both regular and extended cab 4×4 models. For aggressive on-road driving, the SS package includes a sport suspension with low-profile street tires and the high-output 191-horsepower 4.3-liter V-6. That V-6 is the largest and most powerful available in a compact pickup truck, and it comes with 4-wheel ABS.

Standard on the S-Series is a 2.2-liter 118-horsepower 4-cylinder with surprisingly good low rpm torque. Starting at $10,395, this is as roomy and pleasant riding as a compact pickup gets.

CHRYSLER TOWN & COUNTRY

This is the flagship of minivans at Chrysler Corp. with more standard features than its twins, the Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan. While its sisters at Dodge and Plymouth are offered in two lengths, the Chrysler is based upon the longer “Grand” versions. The only notable option is a full-time all-wheel drive system.

People buy Chrysler minivans because of one overriding reason: They’re practical. With the Town & Country concept, Chrysler has taken all this practical goodness and thrown in plush luxury. For those who prefer the traditional analog instruments, the only negative to the Town & Country is the electronic instrument panel.

For a price of about $28,000 the standard equipment list includes just about every luxury feature Chrysler knows how to add to a minivan. Power comes from the company’s largest minivan engine, a 162-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 engine coupled to an electronically controlled 4-speed transmission. Note that an entirely new Chrysler minivan arrives next spring.

HONDA PASSPORT

Passport’s only unique feature is its Honda nameplate. Honda dealers are moving this 4-door sport-utility wagon out the doors with ease. The odd thing is this is really an Isuzu Rodeo in disguise. Although Isuzu dealers offer the Passport at lower list prices and give it a better warranty, Honda’s superior reputation is working to sell Passports. Regardless of the nameplate, Isuzu builds the Passport, and it,s the dubious quality of an Isuzu you get, not a Honda.

Starting out as a 4-cylinder, rear-drive truck, the Passport is a lethargic station wagon with marginal interior room and modest performance. A step up to the LX gains a more potent V-6 engine with 175 horsepower. This is available in rear-wheel or part-time 4-wheel drive. At the top of the Passport line is the EX, with part-time 4-wheel drive and such standard features as a tilt-up moonroof and intermittent windshield wipers.

Prices begin around $16,000 for a sparsely equipped truck and move up to more than $25,000 when options are added.

A GMC JIMMY

GMC’s Jimmy (twin to Chevrolet’s Blazer) gets its first ever major makeover. Styling is more rounded and aerodynamic than before, with more glass area to improve visibility. Cab width is enlarged about two inches to improve three-across seating. The biggest improvement is in the dashboard, which gains more ergonomic and functional sensibilities, plus a driver’s air bag. Two-door models gain a quite sporty appearance, although the longer-wheelbase 4-doors ride with greater comfort.

Power comes from a 200-horsepower 4.3-liter V-6, the largest and most potent 6-cylinder engine in the class. Transmission choices are a 5-speed manual (2-door only), or a smooth, electronically controlled 4-speed automatic. You can have rear- or part-time 4-wheel drive. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes are standard. Later in the model year, a new option will be full-time all-wheel-drive. An array of suspension packages lets you choose from a luxury-oriented ride to sportier handling or firm off-road performance. Prices begin at $18,274 in rear-drive and $22,205 for a 4×4 4-door.

TOYOTA LAND CRUISER

Toyota is standing pat with its 1994 Land Cruiser, not even offering a 1995 model. Next spring, an extensively revised 1996 model will arrive. Meanwhile, there are enough ’94s to last until then. This is the only full-size sport utility from Japan – with full-time 4-wheel drive and a host of luxury features. The price, too, is well into luxury territory, starting out at $35,298, but surpassing $40,000 when loaded with options. Yet you get more comfort and better performance than with a Range Rover, the only sport utility that actually exceeds the Land Cruiser in price.

Underpinnings include a 4.5-liter, 24-valve inline 6-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 among the options. Interior accommodations can seat up to seven with the optional third seat. An optional trio of locking differentials makes this among the most stalwart of vehicles in the roughest terrain.

A LAND ROVER DISCOVERY

With Americans snapping up anything called “sport utility” these days, Land Rover is bringing over another European model to tap into this monetary spigot. Now that these trucks have become the prestige vehicle to park in your driveway, Land Rover sale are booming as the latest vehicular fashion statement. For $28,900 you get a truck about the same length and about a foot taller than a jeep Grand Cherokee, due to its Vista-roof treatment like Oldsmobile wagons of yore. Drivetrain is 182-horsepower 3.9-liter V-8 and 5-speed manual transmission that gets around town to the tune of 13 mpg. For another $1,100, you get a 4-speed automatic transmission and lose another mile per gallon. Other options include 7-passenger seating, leather upholstery, a rear air conditioner, dual sunroofs and special black paint.

Standard equipment is fairly complete with a full-time 4-wheel drive system, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, dual air bags, power windows and door locks, cruise control and climate control.

BMW 8-SERIES

No high-performance GT coupes surpass the BMW 8-Series in terms of technical sophistication. Yet the original 850Ci could be a bit boring to drive, something the $85,000 price didn’t help. To address sagging sales, BMW added two new models. A significantly more affordable 840Ci with BMW’s magnificent 282-horsepower 4.0-liter V-8 and 5-speed automatic opens the line at $69,900. Next is the more luxuriously equipped 850Ci, adding the 5.0-liter 296-horsepower, V-12, 4-speed automatic, wood trim and additional premium details. At the top of the line is the extravagant 850CSi, a 5.6-liter V-12 super coupe with a stunning 372 horsepower, 6-speed manual transmission and sharply tuned suspension, for about $100,000.

The race-tuned 850CSi is clearly the performance and cachet leader, but the 840Ci now offers a fast and refined alternative to the original V-12 model – with almost no loss in performance and perhaps even more excitement than the 850Ci. It could take months to learn all the electronic wizardry of a car that does such things as automatically shut the windows as you approach speeds above 90 mph.

CHEVROLET CAMARO

Flashy styling, reasonable ride quality and performance unrivaled by anything within $10,000, the Camaro Z28 is the standout sports car of the ’90s. If you don’t want to pay the $18,415 and extra insurance costs of the Z28, a base Camaro offers the same styling, reduced performance but slightly more comfort for a mere $14,750. The difference is either a 6-speed manual with an enviable 275-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8 or 5-speed with the 160-horsepower 3.4-liter V-6. Either can be equipped with a 4-speed automatic. Later in the model year, a third alternative will be a 200-horsepower 3800 V-6 that will make the base car a surprise powerhouse without much additional expense – automatic transmission only.

If you don’t mind more road noise and shudder over bumps, you can also get a convertible. Standard equipment on all models includes anti-lock brakes, dual air bags, folding rear seat and tilt steering wheel. In addition, the Z28 has 4-wheel disc brakes, quick-ratio steering and aluminum wheels.

LEXUS COUPE

One of the most lusted-after luxury coupes on the market received a few changes for ’95 including a larger grille opening, new foglights and on 6-cylinder models, new 16-inch wheels. New features include a slide-out cup holder for the passenger and a readout that gives you a choice of seeing the outside temperature or time of day.

The choices are between the 225-horsepower inline-6 of the $40,900 SC300 and the 250-horsepower V-8-powered $48,400 SC400. Only the former is available with a manual transmission. The SC400 gets more standard equipment, but much of that is available on option list of the SC300.

Either engine does a very viable job of propelling these 3,600-pound coupes. The V-8 SC400 has the edge, even without a manual transmission, running from 0 to 60 mph in under 7 seconds. Yet the straight six has a much more aggressive character and loves to rev. With well-rounded performance and exciting styling, this makes an elegant touring car.

A MITSUBISHI SPYDER

Mitsubishi aims at the high-performance GT niche with its extravagant 3000GT VR-4. Twin turbocharging, all-wheel drive, all-wheel steering, electronically controlled suspension, and automatically adjustable front and rear spoilers present technological overkill that appeals to a cadre of gizmo fanatics. Now Mitsubishi has gone one step further, by adding a fully automatic retractable hardtop to their luxury GT, the first since Ford abandoned the concept in the 1960s.

Touch one button, and the Spyder’s windows retract, the trunk opens backwards, the top lifts from the body and folds in two, the top lowers into the trunk, and the trunk closes to form a flush seal with the body. The whole process takes about 30 seconds.

Offered in two trim levels, the Spyder SL starts with a 222-horsepower V-6, 4-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. The Spyder VR-4 has 320 horsepower, all-wheel drive and 4-wheel steering. Prices should start at $55,000 for the SL, perhaps $10,000 more or the VR-4.

PORSCHE 911

After three decades of continuous production, the Porsche 911 remains as one of the world’s most respected and recognized purebred sports cars. And for 1995, the 911 heads into the 21st century with an impressive list of evolutionary improvements. Its teardrop shape, raspy, air-cooled flat-6-cylinder engine, and notoriously wicked handling have always created a love-hate relationship with sports car enthusiasts around the globe. But Porsche has tamed the tricky handling and updated the profile. Then the company added a dose of horsepower and gave it $59,900 price tag ($5,090 lower than last year) to bring unexpected enhancements to its most famous car.

With a platform dating to the early ’60s, the revisions are extensive, including a new rear suspension and invigorated 3.6-liter engine that belts out 270 horsepower. The ride is more quiet and comfortable, yet you still get a 0 to 60 mph sprint in 5.4 seconds. Although the interior remains an ergonomic mystery, the outstanding engineering clearly outweigh the 911’s curious details.

NISSAN 240SX

Nissan introduced a revised 240SX for ’95, dropping the convertible and offering only a coupe. This is a wider, heavier car than before with a 2-inch longer wheelbase. Basic layout and drivetrain, however, don’t change. Powered by a 155-horsepower 16-valve, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, this car stands out as a rear-drive vehicle in a class where virtually all competitors are front-drive. Those who prefer the foul weather traction and efficient packaging of front-drive should look elsewhere, but those who want the feel of rear-drive performance have limited alternatives.

New features include dual air bags and a longer list of standard equipment. For $16,999, you get tilt steering wheel, power windows, AM/FM/cassette stereo, power outside mirrors center console and a fold-down rear seatback. By the time you get the sportier SE model and add all the options, however, you could pay nearly $24,000, more than a fully equipped Camaro Z28.

A sophisticated suspension makes the 240SX fun to drive.

TOYOTA CELICA CONVERTIBLE

Toyota’s Celica was all-new for ’94, although the convertible model was absent. This is being rectified for 1995 with a ragtop that proves to be the sleekest and most attractive the company has offered. As has been the case with Celica convertibles, the car is built in Japan, then sent to the U.S. for conversion. Unfortunately, despite its sleek looks, the Celica lacks an adequately rigid structure. There is substantial cowl shake and shudder over bumps. The power top operates easily enough but doesn’t seem to fit quite right, interfering with the sun visors and developing harsh wind noise at highway speed.

The convertible is equipped like the Celica GT with power windows and door locks, a 130-horsepower 2.2-liter 16-valve 4-cylinder engine and AM/FM/cassette stereo. Acceleration is adequate with the 5-speed manual transmission, but the extra weight of the convertible requires more patience with the optional 4-speed automatic. Prices for this attractive sports car start at $23,998.

PONTIAC SUNFIRE

After 12 years, Pontiac is finally discarding its Sunbird and naming its successor the Sunfire. Sleek new styling is augmented by a 3-inch increase in wheelbase and overall length increase of two inches. Interior room also grows larger, giving occupants more shoulder and leg room. The Sunfire has dual air bags and is the first vehicle in its class to include standard anti-lock brakes. A more rigid body structure reduces squeaks and rattles, producing a higher quality feel, all for a price starting at $11,074.

If you prefer less flashy styling and more ergonomic location of certain controls, the Chevrolet Cavalier offers the same mechanical underpinnings as the Sunfire at slightly lower prices. Either way, you have a choice of a sporty coupe or practical sedan. The only available engine is a 120-horsepower 2.2-liter 4-cylinder with plenty of power off the line. Next spring, a convertible and a 150-horsepower 2.3-liter 16-valve 4-cylinder engine in the form of a GT coupe will be added to the lineup.

COPYRIGHT 1994 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group