Life is about to look up again in the world of American cars.
With auto loan interest rates likely to fall, “pent-up demand” for new cars is expected to assert itself. And the new cars coming from Detroit and from overseas have made the wait worthwhile.
Domestic cars are showing the greatest innovation this year; they’ve finally had enough time to play catch-up with offshore makes. Motown has learned some hard – meaning expensive – lessons. The result is better performance in the city and on the highway, more luxury, better handling and more miles per gallon than ever before.
The marriage of AMC to Renault of France has produced the automobile that was Europe’s 1982 Car of the Year. Naturalized at AMC’s Kenosha, Wisconsin, assembly plant, the car was aptly named to represent AMC and Renault’s new cooperative spirit: the Alliance.
No European car has been sold in AMC dealerships since the demise of the Nash Metropolitan, but the Alliance joins Renault’s 18i and Fuego models in expanding AMC’s formerly unimpressive model range and performance levels.
The Alliance weighs only 1,979 pounds and is available in six levels of trim and equipment. When stripped, it’s the perfect “project” car; almost any form of aftermarket embellishment can be added with grace. In luxurious trim, it’s a compact cruiser with all the comfort of cars several feet longer and twice the price.
A neat feature available on all Alliances except the base model is the Systems Sentry, an electronic gadget that is worth its optional cost. It monitors all the messy functions under the hood such as oil, coolant and brake fluid levels, as well as keeping an unwavering eye on windshield and power-steering fluid levels. In an age of self-service gasoline stations, it can provide peace of mind to know that things are working under the hood as they should.
In February 1982, a select group of the motoring press was asked to visit Death Valley to preview the 1983 Audi Quattro. Here was a $35,000 super-car that had been drawing raves in Europe for a year and a half; this was to be its U.S. introduction. Most auto writers came away from that Audi sojourn convinced that the car is worth at least what Audi is asking for it.
The 1983 Audi Quattro uses unique automotive technology to drive all four wheels at the same time all the lime. It doesn’t ride like a truck or a Blazer or a Bronco. It just goes-around corners or otherwise -and handles like no other car on American roads today.
Expected before the end of the year is a four wheel-drive Audi 4000, with the option costing as little as $800. We can keep our fingers crossed.
Changes come slowly from most European auto makers. Last year, BMW modified its wildly popular 528i to soften the look of the sheet metal and also introduced new engine electronics that resuited in the 528e. The “e” stands for efficiency, something BMW has always been known for.
The news at BMW is in the 3-series car, sold here as the 320i.BMW will introduce the new car late in the 1983 model yearin Morocco.
Buick Regals are the rampaging dominant force in NASCAR stock-car racing, and to capitalize upon this natural performance tie-in, Buick is unleashing an expanded lineup of “T-Types” for 1983.
The T-Type designator is an optional package of essentially cosmetic items available with the Buick Century coupe and sedan, Skyhawk, Skylark, Regal and Riviera models. The most significant of these is the Skylark coupe, which carries General Motors’ potent 2.8-liter high-output V6 power plant. With its special camshaft and tuned exhaust system, the engine produces 135 horsepower at 5,400 rpm.
Buick continues to offer the Regal Turbo, a two-door coupe with a hot 3.8-liter turbocharged V6 under its hood pumping 180 horsepower at 4,000 rpm. A four-speed automatic gear changer is used to put all those numbers to the pavement. In time-honored Buick tradition, there are enough spaces on the order form to option up a luxo-cruiser or a bare-bones turbocar. Let your checkbook be your guide.
When you have a product that is well-established, well-respected and selling even in the worst of times, you don’t play with it. Such is the case at General Motors’ most prestigious division, Cadillac.
Cadillac celebrated its 80th birthday in August, and even in years of depressed automobile sales, Cadillacs have gained ground. Sales of the land cruisers in 1982 are up 7.1 percent over 1981.
A lot of the reason for this is the Cimar-ron, Cadillac’s challenge to the BMW 320i.
GM is bringing in its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine from Brazil for the entire J-car lineup, including the Cimarron. This is a much better performing engine than last year’s 1.8-liter and should give Cimar-ron the performance that its good, responsive suspension has always been able to handle. The smaller engine will still be offered.
All Cadillacs this year will feature fuel injection; for the first time ever, no engines with carburetors are being used. The principal advantage of fuel injection is in performance, but it also optimizes fuel economy and improves general driveabil-ity, responsiveness and cold-start performance.
The Cadillac Touring Suspension first offered last year is available on 1983 Sevilles and Eldorados. It gives the big cars a bit less oceanic handling -tightening up the cornering response and steering precision -without affecting the classic Cadillac ride. Also new this year is the five-speed manual gearbox, which is standard on the Cimarron.
Bose, one of the premium names in audio, is now aligned with Cadillac. It’s so quiet in there that one might as well fill it with quality sounds. The new Delco/Bose Premium Sound System is tuned specifically to the vehicle in which it is installed by way of specially selected speakers and enclosures, direct and reflected sound design and automatic adjustment to conditions of reception, with 100 watts of power at command.
The ’83 Chevrolet everyone is waiting for may not be ready until March. It was first scheduled for a triumphant unveiling in January, just in time for the new season of auto shows here and abroad, but developmental snags have repeatedly postponed the production date. The mystery car is the 1983 Corvette.
It’s profile has been under speculation for three years, long before spy photographers were able to catch its camouflaged likeness over the GM Proving Ground walls. Though graced with new lines, it will still be constructed of Fiberglas. The new ’Vette will be clearly recognizable for what it is.
The car will get “unidirectional” aluminum wheels and tires. The Goodyear tires will be specific for each corner of the car; Corvette technoids are even mulling the idea of four different tires -a different tire in each wheel well -in order to maximize the ’83 car’s new handling characteristics. Performance is reportedly in the low sixes between the magic markers of zero and 60 -a prospect that will help restore the Corvette’s sadly lagging performance image of recent years.
America’s only sports car lives.
Chrysler is going after the sports touring car buyer in a big way with this year’s new “E-body” cars. The Chrysler 600-series cars are new sheet metal bolted to essentially the same components found under the K-cars, Reliant and Aries, but with suspension bolsterings intended to reinforce the 600’s sporty pretensions. The 600ES is a sporty car aimed at drivers who want the size of a luxury car with better handling; a deck-lid nameplate is unabashedly modeled after the script formerly used on Mercedes.
The potent 2.2-liter engine is upped by 10 horsepower this year and gives the Charger/Plymouth Turismo twins, as well as the K-cars and 600-series cars, better response to gas pedal prodding.
New in the LeBaron/400 twins and ultimately optional in the 600-series is a voice-actuated reminder system, similar to that found on some Japanese products. It notices when lights are left on, keys are left in the ignition and so on, even when the driver doesn’t. It will be available in English, French and Spanish. And yes, a switch is provided to shut the system off when the reminders become more of anagging relative.
Ford Motor Sports and Special Vehicle Operations are joining forces to provide a variety of new Fords for the street, with technology tested in the fires of motor sports competition in the International Motor Sports Association wars.
The Ford Escort/Lincoln-Mercury Lynx get upgraded high-output engines for 1983 that are much more high-output than the engine that bore the same decal last year. They will offer some of the lowest-cost fun sold in new-car showrooms this year.
The ’83 Mercury Capri has been given a slight redesign to improve its appearance and lower aerodynamic drag. A “bubble-back” rear window now graces the Capri’s tail, most reminiscent of the back light of the Lynx.
The big news at Mercedes-Benz isn’t going to be revealed for a while, but the car that the press has praised as highly as the new Corvette is set to debut in 1983 as a 1984 model.
The “baby” Mercedes (code-named the W201) has been seen in spy photos. It will be shorter, narrower and lighter by hundreds of pounds than the 240D, currently the entry-level Benz. The 190, as it probably will be called, has been given great engineering attention to provide the ride, comfort and handling characteristics of the much larger S-class sedans, because Benz buyers are a picky lot, but it will have better economy in a much smaller package than any previous Mercedes.
Both gasoline and diesel engine choices will be available, as well as four-speed automatic, four-speed and five-speed manual transmissions. Full Mercedes standard equipment will disappoint no one.
Only a four-door is on tap. It’s said that there are currently no plans to spin off a wagon or coupe version. Prices are expected to be in the $15,000 to $20,000 range. This will compete in the Cimarron/ Audi 4000/BMW 320i ballpark and may be the sporty Benz to remind us of old times.
Pontiac’s 1983 models are its best in a while, with one car a milestone blend of the best in European tradition and American know-how.
Pontiac Firebirds will be given the same engine and transmission options as the Camaro Z28, so we won’t recount them here. A unique Firebird, however, is the 1983 Daytona 500 Pace Car edition.
The Pace Car commemorates the 25th anniversary of the NASCAR Daytona 500 stock-car race, and this special Firebird will be a limited-edition model (often, “limited editions” are limited only by the number of special cars a division thinks it can sell) with special paint and pigskin Recaro seats. The Pace Car features red instrument illumination and refinements of the vehicular aerodynamics that are intended to reduce drag to less than that in a standard Firebird.
Like its Camaro Z28 stablemate, Firebirds are still being offered with the removable hatch-panel roofs. In the new body style, this is the only way to go for open-air touring.
The piece de résistance, however, is the new Pontiac 6000 STE (Special Touring Edition), a departure from traditional American thought regarding driving pleasure. Pontiac has distilled the handling of a Volvo and boosted performance almost up to a BMW 528e level and blended them into a new car that will be a benchmark in driving statements.
Powered by the 2.8-liter high-output V6 rated at 130 horsepower, the STE is a quiet yet sporty sibling of the regular-production Pontiac 6000. It has a full range of large, easy-to-read instrumentation illuminated in red (touch of BMW), firm yet comfortable seating fore and aft including rear-seat headrests (touch of Audi) and fold-down rear-seat armrests.
Even in construction, the STE receives special attention. In the assembly process, STEs traverse a “dedicated metal finish loop” to remove any metal imperfections before painting. And in the European tradition, in the trunk of the STE is an accessory kit containing inflation gear for the on-board compressor, emergency flares, a first-aid kit, shop towels and moist disposable towelettes, an ice scraper, a rain parka and a work light that plugs into the lighter receptacle.
Sometime in 1983, Pontiac will introduce its Fiat X1/9 lookalike, an exciting two-seat sports car known in the motoring press as the “P-car.” The Pontiac, Michigan, plant is gearing up to produce it.
The Porsche 944 is the better-performing, more fun to drive, less costly successor to Porsche’s 924 and 924 Turbo. It comes standard with 80 years of Porsche engineering (that’s how long the Porsche family has been in the business, though not always with its own company), at the truly remarkable price of a suggested $18,450. We quote this price only to compare it with the 924 Turbo it supercedes – which often went for upwards of $5,000 more.
Coming from the Porsche works at Zuf-fenhausen is the new Porsche 911 Cabrio, a convertible version of this venerable sports car. Even now, a twin-turbo version reportedly pushing some 400 horsepower is being readied for competition in European road rallying. It isn’t yet known whether even a watered-down version will ultimately be made available for sale in this country.
Porschephiles will have to scramble ifthey hope to get one of only 205 Porsche928 Weissach editions. The special carscommemorating the Porsche test trackwill be available worldwide in this limited edition in gold metallic paint withtwo-tone leather interior and matchingluggage.
Life is about to look up again in the world of American cars.