Meet the Eyecatching Eighty-eights

New, Improved, and Coming Your Way This Fall

IF AUTOMOBILES WERE laundry detergent, “new and improved” might be the best way to describe the Class of ’88. Compared with last year’s bumper crop-the Cadillac Allanté Chrysler LeBaron, Chevrolet Beretta/Corsica, to name but a few-this year’s models seem a tad mundane. Most of them are merely updated versions of what we’ve already seen before. You know, 25 percent more cleansing power, and a new box too.

This isn’t to say Detroit has run out of good ideas. Ford is putting a new wrinkle in the luxury car market with a Lincoln Continental trimmed of the wretched excess that’s marred it in recent years and a Mercedes-substitute from Germany called the Merkur Scorpio. General Motors has targeted less affluent car buyers with a trio of striking mid-size models-the Buick Regal, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, and Pontiac Grand Prix. And Chrysler may steal everybody’s thunder if it ever manages to get the Turbo Convertible being built by Maserati out of automobile shows and into dealer showrooms.

The catch phrase for the 1988 domestics is “aerodynamic styling,” which is a ponderous way to describe designs that enable cars to slice through the air with the greatest of ease. The quest for a shape with a low Cd-that’s “coefficient of drag,” for all you non-engineers-has sounded the death knell for the metal rectangles that have dominated the market since the Seventies. Now, the Cd factor dictates cars that resemble lopsided hamburgers on wheels. Oh, well, it’s always something.

Catch phrase number two is “trim level.” It used to be that you picked out a model you liked and loaded it up with options until you ran out of room or money, whichever came first. No more. These days, cars already come partially or fully decked out with options depending on the trim level you choose. And you’ve got a bunch of choices- SEs, SSEs, STEs, LEs, LTs, LSs, LSCs, ERs, GSs, GTs, GTAs, GTSs, GLSs, CSs, CLs, RSs, and so on. Generally, but not always, cars with an “L” suffix are luxury models; those tagged as “GT” and “S” are sports packages.

Without further ado, here are some of the more noteworthy ’88s from Detroit:

Lincoln Continental

This is a Lincoln Continental? It’s almost as if the brass at Ford said, “Look, you’re overweight. You’re out of shape. How about eating less, maybe joining a health club?” The result is a lean, mean luxury machine with an aerodynamic look. Under the attractive sheet metal, the Continental sedan gets a V-6 engine and front-wheel drive for the first time.

Mercury Topaz

Mercury has given its only compact car a full-fledged makeover. The result is a smarter, sleeker, trimmer Topaz that no longer seems to be merely a clone of the Ford Tempo. The Topaz now comes in four trim levels ranging from a two-door GS to a four-door LS Sport, which now includes all-wheel drive as standard equipment.

Oldsmoble Cutlass Supreme

Pity the poor car designer. Between safety regulations, gas economy requirements, and a host of other restrictions on creativity, is it any wonder that most of the cars on the road tend to look like cousins? Which makes the all-new Cutlass Supreme an even greater triumph. This is a truly striking midsize coupe in an era when mediocrity is enough to merit praise. The International Series is the options-laden top-of-the-line job, but even the standard model is sleek, well proportioned, and eye-catching.

Pontiac Crawl Prix

The 1988 Grand Prix has little in common with its wide-tracking, gas-guzzling namesake of the Sixties. This brand-new model is a good-looking mid-size coupe that joins the similarly shaped Bonneville introduced last year on the Pontiac shelf. Very much a car of the Eighties, the Grand Prix features aero styling, front-wheel drive, a V-6 engine, and three trim levels.

Chevrolet Corsica

The folks at Chevrolet struck a responsive chord with the American public when they introduced the Corsica sedan (and its two-door sibling, the Beretta) in March. In fact, it was the company’s most successful new-model launch since 1979. For the most part, Chevy execs have left well enough alone except for a couple of minor changes such as reduced clutch pedal height and a new upshift light.

Merkur Scorpio

Americans who want Eurosedan feel without Teutonic prices finally have a domestic option in Ford’s German-built Merkur Scorpio. Although the 150-mph speedometer may be optimistic, the Scorpio will sting virtually any domestic sedan foolish enough to try to outperform it.

Chrysler’s top-of-the-line luxury sedan, the New Yorker, is braid new inside and out for 1988. The restyled exterior, while hardly eye-catching, is tastefully done, and an optional landau roof adds a touch of class. Under the hood, the New Yorker is the first Chrysler Motors passenger car with the company’s three-liter V-6 engine as standard equipment.

Buick Regal

Buick has given its venerable Regal a much-needed makeover, and the mid-size coupe looks more stylish than ever. The vertical grill offers a traditional-if slightly jarring-note in the clearly contemporary, highly aerodynamic body. The Regal is equipped with front-wheel drive-earlier models were rear-whdel driven-mated to one of three engines ranging upward in size to a 3.8-liter V-6.

Cadillac Eldorado

Cadillac bills its extensively restyled Eldorado as “crisp,” and the description is apt. While the coupe isn’t quite striking, it is elegant and perfectly proportioned. The car also benefits from a new 4.5-liter V-8 engine-it’s the only American car currently in production with eight cylinders and front-wheel drive-that produces 155 horsepower and 0-to-60 times of less than 10 seconds.

Chevrolet Sportside Pickup Truck

Last spring, Chevrolet introduced a new generation of full-size pickup trucks. This fell, they’re adding a shortbed model dubbed the “Sporlside.” Also available beginning in September are an optional 6.2-liter diesel engine and a standard five-speed overdrive transmission. As was true in the past, the truck is available in three trim levels.

Chrysler LeBaron Coupe

Chances are you’ve already started seeing a bunch of these striking coupes. If you haven’t, you will. Introduced in February to great faniare, the LeBaron is still the most attractive car in the Chrysler stable, and the convertible model is the only ragtop offered by the company. The top-of-the-line convertible comes with leather seats. Yep, that’s rich Corinthian leather, for all you Ricardo Mon-talban fans.

Poitiac LeMans

Although the nameplate comes from France and the engineering from Germany, Pontiac’s new subcompact comes to the U.S. via Korea. The LeMans is billed as an entry-level (read cheap), fun-to-drive (read underpowered) model available in two-door coupe, three-door coupe, and four-door sedan configurations. The good news is that the LeMans will go from zero to sixty. The bad news is that it takes upward of a quarter-minute.

Dodge Colt Station Wagon

Brand new for 1988 is the Colt DL station wagon imported by Dodge (and Plymouth) from Mitsubishi Motors Corp. of Japan. Like the rest of the models in the Colt line, the baby wagon is powered by a tiny four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Besides seating five passengers comfortably, the Colt station wagon has more than sixty cubic feet of cargo space.

Ford Mustang

You can’t exactly c all the Ford Mustang an extraordinary car. The exterior falls somewhere short of snow-stopping. The interior falls somewhere close to mediocrity. The engine isn’t quite a world-beater. And the suspension isn’t quite world-class. But when you put the whole package together, you’ve got a very nice piece of work-fast, fun, and affordable. And if that’s not enough excitement, you can plunk down a few extra bucks and take home a Mustang convertible.

Oldsmobile CustomCruiser Wagon

This is a station wagon for people who don’t want to admit we’re well into the Eighties-or who routinely have to transport entire Little League teams. No aero styling on this baby. No way. We’re talking about a car weighing in at two tons and change mounted on a wheel base that’s nearly the size of a 10-foot pole. And the engine’s no lightweight either-a 5-liter V8.

Plymouth Sundancc

The new Sundance RS might be called the Mary Hart of the Plymouth model line-perky but not particularly substantial. What it consists of is a standard Sundance dressed up in a Rally Sport package that includes tricked-out wheels, two-tone paint jobs, bucket seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, message center, luggage rack, and so on. If you choose a Sundance with a five-speed transmission, you can even get a set of gas and brake pedals designed especially for heel-and-toeing.

Chevrolet Cavalier

Nobody’s going to confuse it with a Ferrari Testarossa, but an off-season facelift has turned the formerly plain-Jane Chevy Cavalier into a bit of a looker. Exterior changes include a new grille, bumper, fenders, hood, and body side moldings. As usual, the Cavalier lineup is crowded with possibilities-three models with a total of seven configurations. The most intriguing is the Z24, which offers a V-6 engine and convertible top as options.

Chevrolet Corvette

There isn’t much new about the 1988 Corvette. Which is fine, considering there wasn’t much wrong with last year’s. It still has a-look that causes hearts to flutter-especially the rakish ragtop-and the 5.7-liter engine has the power to stop them altogether. That’s 245 horsepower, 345 pounds per foot of torque, and 0-to-60 times of five seconds.

Ford Econoline Club Wagon

Have you seen the latest generation of vans? Sure, they fit in garages and can hold enough weaponry to free a hostage, but they don’t look big enough to qualify as real vans. If that’s the way you feel, check out Ford’s Econoline Club Wagon. It fits fifteen comfortably and looks as if it could have driven right out of the Seventies.

Cadillac Brougham

Notwithstanding a few changes to the body, nobody’s going to mistake this Cadillac for anything but a Cadillac. At more than 18 feet from front to rear bumper, the Brougham is the longest production car made in America and one of the easiest to convert to use as a limousine. Standard on the ’88 Brougham are a tilt and telescope steering wheel and larger tires. It also may be the only production car in the known universe to sport the vestiges of tail fins.

Buick Riviera

The Riviera turns twenty-five in 1988. In the beginning, it was Buick’s offering for well-heeled buyers who wanted sportiness but not quite sports cars, Later it ballooned into a gargantuan highway behemoth filled with every option in the catalogue. The new Riviera is a tasteful model fittingly billed as a “personal luxury car.”

Dodge Caravan

The newest aspect of Dodge’s miniwagon may be the addition of six colors to the line. Now, wine connoisseurs can buy a Caravan that’s Claret Red on the outside and Bordeaux on the inside. And if you opt for the Grand Caravan SE, which is 14.6 inches longer than the standard model, you can cart a 4-by-8-foot wine rack filled with either-or both-around with you.


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