Performance Up In Domestic Cars

January 19, 1992|By Ken Parker | Ken Parker,Special to The Sun

Proliferation of models is greater among 1992 U.S.-made cars than ever before. Vehicles listed below are sold by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, regardless of where the cars are produced.

The models are so many and so diversified that it is almost counterproductive to try to analyze strengths and weaknesses by model. The car buyer might be well-served to search for the model desired, consult the publications that critique automobiles check for weaknesses, especially in the repair area, and go for it.

Generally, domestic cars have improved greatly in performance and styling. Safety factors are getting much more attention than before, particularly in the braking and air bag areas.

Vehicle drivelines are designated FWD (front-wheel drive), RWD (rear-wheel drive) and 4WD (four-wheel drive).

Cars based on common platforms and mechanical components but sold under different names by various manufacturing divisions or dealer networks are listed together.

CHRYSLER

LeBaron: (FWD) 2+2 coupe and convertible with anti-lock brake option, six-seat four-door sedan mechanically similar to Dodge Spirit, Plymouth Acclaim.

Imperial and New Yorker: FWD six-seat luxury sedans offer optional center console with cassette storage, which reduces seating to five. Dodge Dynasty has less prestige, similar platform and mechanicals.

Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyager, Chrysler Town and Country: similar minivans with varying equipment and trim. All FWD, with driver's air bag. Chrysler has 3.3-liter V-6, four-speed automatic. Others have 3.0-liter V-6, five-speed manual, optional three- or four-speed automatic. Options include anti-lock brakes, integrated child seats, 4WD and two body lengths.

Dodge/Plymouth Colt, Mitsubishi Mirage, Eagle Summit: Subcompact FWD hatchbacks and sedans.

Dodge Daytona: FWD subcompact 2+2 hatchback coupe. Souped up IROC model due midyear, exploiting Daytonas used in the International Race of Champions series.

Dodge Monaco, Eagle Premier: FWD five-seat sedans, to be phased out during or after '92 model year.

Dodge Shadow, Plymouth Sundance: Subcompact two- and four-door FWD hatchback sedans. Shadow also has convertible.

Dodge Stealth, Mitsubishi 3000GT: FWD 2+2 sports coupe. 3.0-liter V-6 engines with three or four valves per cylinder. Five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Anti-lock brakes standard with four-valve engine, optional with three-valver.

Eagle Talon, Plymouth Laser, Mitsubishi Eclipse: Subcompact FWD 2+2 sports coupe. 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, with or without turbocharging. 4WD optional on Talon and Eclipse. Concealed headlights have been replaced by aero lights.

Dodge Viper: RWD two-seat sports roadster with side curtains and Targa bar. Eight-liter V-10 engine, six-speed manual transmission. Available in spring.

FORD

Ford Festiva: FWD two-door four-seat hatchback in two trim levels. A sport package has cloth interior and rear roof spoiler.

Ford Escort/Mercury Tracer, Mazda 323 and Protege: subcompact FWD four-seat, two-door hatchback, four-door sedan, plus wagon under Ford, Mercury nameplates. All have Mazda platform and mechanicals.

Ford Tempo/Mercury Topaz: FWD five-seat two- and four-door sedans. Four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual or optional three-speed automatic transmission. New 1992 options include driver side air bag and 3.0-liter V-6 engine. 4WD option has been discontinued.

Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable: FWD midsize six-seat four-door ,X sedans. 3.0-liter V-6 engines, four-speed automatic transmissions. Driver side air bag. Passenger air bag and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes optional. Slightly larger and with many new information and ergonomic features for 1992.

Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis: Large RWD sedans redesigned for 1991. New modular 4.6-liter V-8 engine, four-speed automatic transmission. New transmission coming on line early in 1992. Passenger air bag. Optional anti-lock brakes with traction control.

Ford Thunderbird/Mercury Cougar/Lincoln Mark VII: Large luxury coupes built on similar platform, all RWD. T-Bird/Cougar have 3.8-liter V-6 engine, 5.0-liter V-8 optional. V-8 is standard on Mark VII. All have four-speed automatic transmission. Anti-lock brakes and limited slip differential optional on Ford and Mercury, standard on Lincoln, which also has self-leveling rear air suspension.

Ford Mustang: RWD four-seat sports coupe, hatchback and convertible. Driver air bag. 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, with 5.0-liter V-8 optional.

Ford Probe/Mazda MX-6: FWD subcompact sport coupes. Probe swoopy hatchback, MX-6 is notchback with folding rear seatbacks for trunk access from inside and increased cargo capacity, with Mazda platform and mechanicals. 2.2-liter four-cylinder Mazda engine except top-content Probe model, which has Ford 3.0-liter V-6. Both made in Mazda plant just outside Detroit. Mazda 626 four-door sedan is built on same platform in same plant.

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