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A BMW, a Ferrari and a Jaguar are picked as 'MotorWeek' dream cars

If money were no object, if you had just won the BIG lottery, what car would you buy?

The staff at public television's "MotorWeek" may have the answer in their annual Drivers' Choice Awards announced at the Baltimore International Auto Show.

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Actually the staff cheated a bit. They came up with three "Dream Machines" awards this year.

The first is the BMWCSi, which John Davis, host of the nationally broadcast show produced by Maryland Public Television in Owings Mills, calls "the biggest, baddest, BMW coupe yet."

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Mr. Davis said BMW took an $80,000 sporty coupe with a 12-cylinder engine and turned it over to the company's racing people, who filled it with "interesting character." The price tag: $98,500

If that's not your taste, how about the Ferrari F355? It has a lot of new technology, including electric suspension. "If you look at the price of exotic cars, this one is a bargain at $120,000," said Mr. Davis.

Rounding out the trio is the Jaguar XJR. Supercharging a classic shape has resulted in a sedan "that's a gas to drive," Mr. Davis said.

At the other end of the scale, the staff picked the Chevrolet

Cavalier as its best small car.

This is a car that most people regarded as horrible, said Mr. Davis. "It was tinny, noisy and shook, but GM [General Motors Corp.] has rebuilt it and it's solid as a rock."

Cavalier, at about $10,060, is also the least expensive car with dual air bags and anti-lock brakes as standard equipment.

The winner of the best domestic sedan goes to the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique. "They are not sexy," said Mr. Davis, "but they are the most sophisticated family car ever offered to American motorists at a moderate price. Even the cheapest four-cylinder, manual transmission model is fun to drive."

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From the imports, the Nissan Maxima is the staff's choice for best sedan. They cite a mixture of fun, practicality and smart design. Its 3.0 liter V-6 "is one of the sweetest sounding engines money can buy," they conclude.

The only repeat winner this year is the Dodge Ram pickup truck. "The Ram is the most sought after new pickup design in decades," the "MotorWeek" staff concludes in selecting it the best pickup.

The winner in the best sport utility category is the Chevrolet Blazer and GMC Jimmy. "In transforming the compact Blazer/Jimmy from also-rans to sport-ute [utility] leaders, GM hit all the right buyer hot buttons," the staff said. "And," Mr. Davis adds, "it's $2,000 to $5,000 less expensive than its competitors."

The Chevrolet Lumina rides off with "MotorWeek" trophy for the most improved design.

"No other redesigned vehicle leaped as far from its roots as the Lumina," the auto show staff said. Its "tighter structure, extensive safety highlights, zestful engines, capable chassis and correct interior will go a long way in returning Chevrolet as an American family favorite," the staff said in its presentation.

The other winners are:

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* Best station wagon, Subaru Legacy.

* Best Minivan, Ford Windstar.

* Best sport coupe, Mitsubishi Eclipse and Eagle Talon.

* Best convertible, Pontiac Firebird.

* Best luxury car, Oldsmobile Aurora

* Best luxury coupe, Buick Riviera

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* Best high performance car, BMW M3.

The 14 awards covered 19 vehicles: 15 made in the United States, one in Germany, one in Italy, one in the United Kingdom, and one in Japan. They covered 12 domestic brand names and seven imported brands.


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