Hello car world I'm Bill Maloney. From my perch overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Newport Beach, California l'm going to call on my 25 years of reviewing new cars and covering motorsports events to bring you a weekly tell-it-like it-is column here on THE AUTO CHANNEL. I'll give you a close, sometimes honest and possibly irreverent look at what's hot and what's not in the world ... I mean world of cars.
THE NEWEST WHEELS FOR '96
The OLDSMOBILE AURORA certainly symbolizes this venerated car makers yeoman-like attempt to update the companies personality THIS sleek four door is certainly not your fathers oldsmobile. In fact its the bright spot . . flagship of the Olds lineup for 1996. Power comes from a 4 liter Vs in this front wheel driver which seats five. It sports daytime running lamps an all new security system and some unique styling cues. The Aurora also features an interesting LIMP Home capability. If for some reason the engine loses its coolant a device cycles the engines 8 cylinders between work and rest to keep them cool enough to reach a service location. For a big, luxury car the 24 miles per gallon highway efficiency isn't based. It's priced in the $35,000 range.
DODGE AVENGER for 1996 is another example of the forward thinking styling-wise Chrysler Corp.. This five passenger coupe with an LH platform mini-look was slated to be "everymans" street hot rod. However it comes with a six cylinder motor. It may be one of the last Mitsubishi built Dodges. The top of the line Avenger ES is powered by a 2.5 liter 163 horsepower V8. It has dual airbags standard as well as side door beams for rigidity and safety. Chrysler calls it a sport coupe. Prices start at $15,000
The DODGE PLYMOUTH NEON subcompacts introduced to rave reviews last year are selling like hot cakes and Chrysler is putting a ton of promotional bucks behind these cars to make sure the buying and driving public knows that these cars are the FUN cars from MOPAR. Now comes the 2 door Neon sporty coupe. For 1998 these will also be an Expresso trim package featuring bolder colors, decklid spoiler, and power bulge hood. The motor is a 2 lifer, 16 valve four banger putting out 132 horses and there's an optional four with 150 ponies. Prices start at around $11 thousand and it is a fun car. So much so that the folks at Plymouth and Dodge have initiated a Neon sports car racing series with the Sports Car Club of America and some serious bucks to be won.
PORSCHE models for 1996 don't seem to have changed much . . .but it you think that you are totally wrong. Porsche probably makes more innovative and high tech updates to their fine line of automobiles each year than any other major car maker. The 911 Carrera Targa with its unique sliding glass roof with sun visor and wind deflector is a first for Porsche. The 3.6 liter air cooled six cylinder motor puts out close to 200 horsepower and there is an optional 400 brute motor available that sports twin turbos . . and the car only weighs 3000 pounds. Every-thing at Porsche for this year is 911 . . until the highly anticipated Boxster arrives.
The Japanese auto makers produce but four true sports car hot rods and the MITSUBISHI 3000 TWIN TURBO GT SPYDER is definitely one hot two seater. The Spyder with the worlds only retractable hard top is a real sportster. The sleek twin turbo model churns out 320 horsepower and the standard non blown model with the 3 liter 24 valve V6 sports 222 hp. The 3000 GT which outsold the Mazda RX7, Toyota Supra and the Nissan 300 ZX is a crowd pleaser in Mitsubishi dealer showrooms. The sporty car has dual airbags, anti-theft system and what Mitsubishi call their homelink system which makes it possible to combine 3 radio frequency transmitter units such as door opener, activator for home security systems as well as home lighting systems in one unit. The 3000 GT prices start around 30 grand but if you want the real thing . . . top down motoring and twin turbos fork over 60 big ones. You will love it.
RANGE ROVER/LAND ROVER makers of those big square and expensive Brinks truck like off road vehicles that you see in the driveways of mansions across the U.S. and which invariably NEVER see much more that a trip to the shopping mall or country club is having a banner sales year what with the debut of the DEFENDER and the DISCOVERY models. The Defender classified as the entry level Land Rover is a 2 door, 4 wheel drive, has a 3.9 liter V8 motor with 182 horsepower and is priced at about $30,000. Not bad to be able to say you own a Range Rover for only 30 grand when the head of the class Land Rover can cost up to $62,000. The Discovery is the down scale version of the Range Rover with 4 doors, 4 liters, all wheel drive and lots more mom. . . 18 more inches to the wheel base than the Defender. It has ABS standard and is priced in the mid 30,000 dollars. The people at Land Rover are not afraid to put their money where their mouth is as they stage grueling round the world endurance events for their vehicles that prove their reliability.
As previously stated CHRYSLER CORP is on a mission ... a mission to bring out all new models at least twice each model year. The Chrysler Sebring was new in early 1995 and now the folks at MOPAR have gone and put a ragtop on this very sleek four passenger open air sportster. The car features a V'6 163 horsepower mill, front drive, cab forward type styling and has front bucket seats rather than the B pillar. The rear seating concept found in the Sebring coupe wherein rear passengers sit high enough to actually see where they are going carried over into the convertible. Priced around $22,000.
As stated CHRYSLER is on a concept war kick and another hot dream machine that will be in dealers showrooms this year is the PLYMOUTH PROWLER. Like the Chrysler Atlantic this also is a retro-car. Whereas the Atlantic is a throwback to very expensive European GT cars the Prowler was planned to represent today's I940s hot rod. Plymouth calls it a true American . . like blue jeans and Harleys. It's a niche car and the public acceptance at Auto show displays has been very affirmative. It has a 3,5 liter overhead valve V6 motor producing 240 horsepower and it's rear drive . . unlike most of the new Chrysler products. It is all aluminum with a stowaway hardtop. Neat personal car. Cost about 30 grand.
First OEO then Suzuki and TOYOTA attempts to create a niche for a mini sport utility. Toyota calls their models RAV. There's a 2 door and a 4 door. Toyota calls these little minis urban cruisers. RAV stands for recreational active vehicle and they are pretty roomy considering that you cold use them as sort of a lifeboat on a Land Rover. There's a 4 cylinder 120 HP engine, all wheel drive, dual airbags. Prices start around $16,000.
And now comes the James Bond car. . the all new and snappy BMW 13 sportscar. it has sleek lines and due to all the "GoldenEye" publicity the entire production run has been sold in advance. It's a roadster with a tiny 1.9 4 cylinder engine with 140 horsepower. It has 2 seats and is being built in BMW's Spartensburg North Carolina car factory. It is priced at 28 grand, that's $14,000, per seat.