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The new ’Vette leads the pack
By Dan Ross |

WE SHOULD ACKNOWLEDGE immediately that there are many more exciting new cars this year than we have room to include. Even choosing the few that we illustrate here was a chore. Looking at all the fun cars, the all-new cars, the glamorous cars and the exotic cars, we had to leave out several that truly deserve attention.

First, a few of the honorable mentions we didn’t include. (Some of this information isn’t in general distribution and relies in part upon thinly veiled sources within the shrouded confines of the automobile companies.) Coming in early 1984 (or certainly by spring at the latest) is the exciting new Jaguar XJ-S convertible. The sensuous lines of the Jaguar lend themselves quite handily to the soft-top treatment, and the car, like the Porsche 911SC Cabriolet (profiled here) that precedes it, should be an instant hit.

Mercedes-Benz will soon unveil an evolutionary change: Contrary to corporate projections of demand for diesel-powered automobiles, the big 500 series cars will be available in the United States with 3.8-liter gasoline-powered engines. The big cars at Mercedes have been singularly devoid of gas motors for some time; these new gas-powered engines will provide premium performance in a car that many people believe is the pinnacle of the automaker’s art.

Also offshore at Nissan, the Japanese are readying the latest wrinkle in the Datsun Z-car lineup. Dubbed the 300Z, it features a 3.0-liter V-6 power plant, with an available edition in turbo-charged trim.

In late 1984 or early ’85, BMW will update the three-series sedan. This year it debuts as the 318i (profiled herein), the replacement for the 320i. The 320i has been available for six years, and, according to BMW, has been in greater demand each year since its introduction. (And this record was made by a car powered by a four-cylinder engine that many observers say isn’t up to snuff in terms of acceleration.) But that will change. The littlest Bimmer is slated to receive a version of the six-cylinder engine from the 528e. This may not thrill those who have driven the 528e, but the 528e’s engine in a new 325e (debuting in the spring) will perform better, and the little car will undoubtedly accelerate with alacrity.

Convertibles have been receiving a great deal of attention lately. What is often mentioned is that Cadillac built the last American-factory convertible (the Eldorado) in April 1976. For 1984, Cadillac is back in the convertible business with a very slick Eldorado Biarritz drop-top. This continues a Cadillac convertible tradition that goes back (in a broken line) to 1916, and the new model should draw attention to the division of General Motors that has probably received the least attention until now.

Although Mitsubishi has established its own dealers in the United States, the Japanese company retains its ties to Chrysler. In ’84, the two companies will share a respectable sports car, the Starion Turbo. A Mitsubishi sportster in the Datsun Z-car mold, it boasts good handling, rapid acceleration and the usual Japanese penchant for fake hood scoops and other glitter. Chrysler took the Starion, removed much of the ersatz scoops and exterior gewgaws, renamed it the Conquest and will begin selling it with Lee Iacocca’s five-pointed star.

And this year, almost any car at Chrysler built to accept that company’s 2.2-liter four-cylinder power plant will be available with the new turbocharged version of that cornerstone Chrysler engine. Everything from the lowly Omni/Horizon commuters to the flagship 600-series E-cars can have the gentle whoosh of the tur-bocharger underhood. This will provide the larger cars with the power that their taut suspensions have always been able to handle and will make the little grocery-getter family sedans much more fun to drive.

And there’s a lot more. Keep your eyes open for the Ferrari Quat-trovalvole, the Audi 4000 Quattro four-wheel-drive street car, the Audi 5000 station wagon, the Volvo 760 intercooled turbo, the Shelby Charger Turbo, the…

Chevrolet Corvette. America’s first true sports car (photograph on page 117) gets a face lift for 1984. It’s available with a wide variety of options, including an exotic computer-controlled seven-speed manual transmission. This is the vehicle Car and Driver has dubbed “the most advanced production car on the planet.” (Almost 14,000 Corvettes were recalled in August because of a minor power-steering pump pulley malfunction, but the overall performance of the car was not affected.)

Pontiac Fiero 2M4. This is the first American-built, mid-engine sports car. It debuts with impressive credentials: space-frame construction, design efficiency and decent performance. “Fiero” is taken from the Italian word meaning “very proud,” and Pontiac has every reason to be. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is standard; hot V-6 turbo awaits!

BMW 318i. This is the sixth year for the baby Bimmer from Bavaria, and it’s virtually all-new, although it retains its traditional look. Among ’84 changes is the new 1.8-liter engine, with mechanical fuel injection replaced by electronic injection, resulting in more miles per gallon. The suspension is improved, and standard equipment is increased.

Mercedes-Benz 190. This is the new M-B that folks have been waiting for. It replaces the entry-level 240D. It’s available in either gasoline-powered (190E) or diesel-powered (190D) editions. As expected, the 190s will come with a heavy standard equipment list, including forged alloy wheels, A/C, electric windows, central locking, stereo/tape and more.

Cadillac Cimarron D’Oro. This special-edition Cadillac is a Cimarron in basic black. Much of the brightwork has been blacked out or accented in gold-tone, including the grille, accent stripes and model identification badges, wheels and hood ornament. The car comes standard with five-speed manual gearbox and a 2.0-liter engine.

Pontiac 6000 STE. This car debuted last year as Pontiac’s fine entry into the Euro-realm of GT sedans. For 1984, the 6000 STE gets a needed tachometer, new digital instrumentation and a sexy black-and-silver color option. This is a five-passenger car worthy of the praise heaped upon Audis and Volvos, and it’s much less expensive.

Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport. The Eurosport package brings a GT flair to Chevy’s neglected Celebrity and includes heftier suspension tuning, larger wheels, tires, special badges and graphic treatments. The sporty accent can be had in two-door, four-door and even station wagon versions, boasting big V-6 power.

Mercury Capri RS. This is the car many people think is better-looking than the Mustang, and now it gets Mustang’s hot horsepower. New for ’84 is a stomach-churning 5.0-liter V-8 with a four-barrel carburetor; also, Capri gets the turbo-four that’s going in the Mustang SVO. The new suspension features four rear shock absorbers.

AMC/Jeep Cherokee XJ. This is the vehicle that struggling AMC believes will produce the company’s first black ink in three years. It’s a neat, downsized version of the full-sized truck, available in Chief, Pioneer and Wagoneer versions. AMC’s own 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is standard and performs as well as the larger six-cylinder.

Porsche 911SC Cabriolet. This is the first Porsche Cabriolet (German for “convertible”) in this country in two decades, and it’s a nice car. The entire ’83 model run was sold before the cars were all assembled. All of Porsche’s regular 911SC standard and optional equipment is available for the soft-topper, except electric sunroof.

AMC/Renault Encore. Encore was a good choice for this car’s name-it’s merely a costume change for a good performer returning for a curtain call. Encore is the hatchback edition of the Renault Alliance, last year’s small-car success story. It is available in GS and LS models, with a suspension tuned for the ride of a much larger car.

Audi 5000S. This year, the only parts of the Audi 5000S not redesigned for aerodynamics were the door handles. The car cuts a very clean hole through the air, resulting in reduced interior noise and increased fuel economy. It’s a comfortable five-passenger luxury sedan that’s meant to be driven like a sports car. A turbo version is due in time for Christmas.

Lincoln Continental Mark VII. This latest evolution of the Lincoln Mark series is based on Ford Concept 90 and Concept 100 show cars. It features an intriguing new electronic air suspension (EAS) developed by Ford and Goodyear. Bill Blass and Gianni Versace contribute designer editions, and a luxury sport coupe (LSC) is available, too.

Dodge Daytona ’Turbo Z. When Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacoc-ca got all those federal millions to rebuild his company, he didn’t fool around. Witness the super Daytona Turbo Z: standard 2.2-liter, turbo, electronically fuel-injected four-cylinder engine, close-ratio five-speed transmission and Performance Handling Package. Hot stuff!

Ford Mustang SVO. This is the enthusiast’s car whipped up by the hotshots at Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations brain trust. It has a 2.3-liter, port-injected, turbocharged four-cylinder power plant and is electronically switchable to take either regular unleaded or premium unleaded fuel. It’ll do 0 to 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds.

Ford Tempo/Mercury Topaz. The Tempo/Topaz twins (introduced earlier this year) were to be the improved cars that would replace the discontinued Fairmont. In performance and styling, they are right on the money, doing a much better job than Fairmont ever did. Both models are powered by a new, computer-controlled, 2.3-liter high-swirl combustion (HSC) four-cylinder engine. And both cars are available in two-door and four-door notchback sedan models. The Tempo is offered in three series; the Topaz in two series. These sturdy, medium-sized cars should offer dependable performance for families or anyone else, for that matter. Five-speed manual and automatic transaxles and a diesel engine are also available.

Plymouth Colt GTS. Would you be interested in a four-seat car with all the amenities, a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, terrific fuel economy-and the acceleration of a Ferrari? Priced (according to insiders) at about $8,000, this is it. Unique twin-stick shift mechanism provides eight gears!

Dodge Caravan. This is the new “garageable” van that people are talking about, intended for buyers of traditional vans, large sedans and station wagons. It features five- to seven-passenger seating and comes with either 2.2-liter or 2.6-liter four-cylinder power. Versions include base Caravan, Caravan Special Edition and Ltd.