PERFORMANCE UP IN DOMESTIC CARS

THE BALTIMORE 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.

Mercury Capri: Subcompact two-seat convertible from Ford of Australia. Easily operated manual top with hard composite hinged boot. Driver's air bag. Four-cylinder 1.6-liter engine, five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission.

Lincoln Continental: Large six-seat FWD sedan with 3.8-liter V-6 engine, four-speed automatic transmission.

Lincoln Town Car: RWD six-seat sedan, newly designed for 1991 with modular 4.6-liter V-8 engine, four-speed automatic transmission, anti-lock brakes and air bags.

GENERAL MOTORS

Geo Metro: Sold by Chevrolet, FWD, four-seat two- and four-door minicompact hatchbacks, two-seat convertible.

Geo Storm: FWD 2+2 subcompact hatchback with 1.6-liter 12-valve four-cylinder engine or 1.8-liter 16-valve four. Similar to Isuzu Impulse, which offers only the 1.8-liter engine.

Geo Prizm/Toyota Corolla: Twin two- and four-door five-seat FWD subcompact sedans made by Toyota in California. 102-hp standard engine and 130-hp option both have four-cylinder, 1.6-liters, 16 valves. Cars are due for redesign in 1993 model year.

Chevrolet Cavalier/Pontiac Sunbird: FWD subcompact five-seat coupe, convertible, sedan and wagon. 2.2-liter 4-cyl engine or optional 3.1-liter V-6. Five-speed manual or optional three-speed automatic transmission. Standard anti-lock brakes.

Pontiac LeMans: Subcompact 2+2 hatchback and four-seat sedan. 1.6-liter 4-cyl engine, four- or five-speed manual transmission or three-speed automatic.

Chevrolet Beretta coupe/Corsica sedan: FWD five-seat compact, mechanically identical. Driver's air bag, anti-lock brakes. 2.2-liter four-cycle engine, optional 3.1-liter V-6. Standard five-speed manual transmission, optional three-speed automatic.

Pontiac Grand Am/Oldsmobile Achieva/Buick Skylark: Mechanically identical FWD compact five-seat coupes and sedans, redesigned for '92. Anti-lock brakes standard. Base engine is detuned version of GM Quad 4 with two valves per cylinder. Optional engines include high output Quad 4 and 3.3-liter V-6. Five-speed manual or optional three-speed automatic transmission (standard in Buick version).

Chevrolet Camaro/Pontiac Firebird: RWD four-seat sports coupes and convertibles. 3.1-liter V-6 engine standard, 5.0-liter V-8 in two states of tune and 5.7-liter V-8 optional. Five-speed manual transmission with optional four-speed automatic.

Chevrolet Lumina/Pontiac Grand Prix/Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and Buick Regal: FWD midsize six-seat coupes and sedans. All have air conditioning and four-wheel disc brakes. Anti-lock standard on Lumina and selected models of other nameplates, optional on remainder. Five engine and three transmission choices varying with car line.

Oldsmobille Ciera/Buick Century: FWD midsize six-seat coupe, sedan and wagon. 2.5-liter four-cycle engine, three-speed automatic transmission or optional 3.3-liter V-6 and four-speed automatic. Standard air conditioning and new automatic door locks.

Pontiac Bonneville, Oldsmobile 88 and 98, Buick LeSabre and Park Avenue: Large FWD 6-seat sedans, all redesigned. 3.8-liter V-6 engine, four-speed automatic transmission. Coupes discontinued. Driver's air bag. Anti-lock brakes standard or optional, depending on model. Fully equipped.

Chevrolet Caprice, Buick Roadmaster: Large RWD six-seat sedan and eight-seat wagon. Wagon also in Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser nameplate. 5.0-liter V-8 engine, with 5.7-liter V-8 optional. Four-speed automatic transmission. Separate body on full frame construction.

Oldsmobile Toronado, Buick Riviera and Cadillac Eldorado: FWD five-seat luxury coupes. Olds and Buick have 3.8-liter V-6 engine, Cadillac has 4.9-liter V-8. Anti-lock brakes, driver air bag. Fully equipped. Eldorado is new design, as is its sedan version, the Seville.

Cadillac Allante: FWD two-seat convertible/hardtop. 4.5-liter V-8 engine, four-speed automatic transmission. Anti-lock brakes and traction control. Speed-sensitive suspension. Driver air bag.

DeVille/Fleetwood: FWD six-seat coupe and sedan, mechanically identical with varying standard equipment. Anti-lock brakes, driver air bag. 4.9-liter V-8 engine, four-speed automatic transmission. Fleetwood has speed-sensitive suspension and traction control, optional together on DeVille. Rear electronic level control, heated, power adjusted outside mirrors.

Cadillac Brougham: RWD six-seat luxury sedan. 5.0-liter V-8 engine or optional 5.7-liter V-8. Four-speed automatic transmission. Anti-lock brakes, rear electronic level control, heated, power adjusted outside mirrors. Towing capacity, 7,000 pounds with optional trailer-towing package.

Saturn: FWD subcompact four-seat coupe and sedan. 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine.

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