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Feature Story


by Bob Hagin

February 28, 1997

Every year we do evaluations on over 100 cars and trucks. I know what you're going to say and you're right: it's a tough job but someone has to do it. Mostly we get the vehicles from the manufacturers and they're very cooperative about sending them to us.

But there is a short list of machines that we don't get over the course of the year, so in the interest of educating our readers, we herein present these cars and a thumbnail sketch on each of them:

AM GENERAL HUMMER - Not only do we not get to try out this hero of the Desert Storm campaign, we don't even get press information on them. The Hummer is big, homely, sturdy and square. Traditionally its color scheme is khaki and tan, though a few are gentrified for civilian consumption. It's available as a hardtop with five doors or as a two-or- four-door pickup (very small bed, however). Sun lovers can also order it as a convertible. You won't encounter many obstacles that will daunt this giant, and at 6500 pounds it's no lightweight. The only engine available is the General Motors 6.5 liter turbocharged V8 diesel that pushes the Hummer to a top speed of 83 MPH. Price: $52,000 and up.

ASTON MARTIN DB7 - Ford Motor Company owns Aston Martin now and has injected it with much needed capital. Filled with fancy leather upholstery and polished walnut woodwork, the DB7 comes as a coupe and a convertible, dubbed the Volante. Surprisingly, it doesn't carry a V8 under the hood but its supercharged inline six cylinder engine produces 335 very British horsepower. The transmissions available are a five-speed manual or an automatic. Needless to say, it's rear-wheel- drive and I'm told that its steering is a bit heavy at speeds under 70 MPH. Only 200 DB7s are made each year, so get in line. One more thing: have a cashier's check for $146,530 (plus tax) in hand.

GENERAL MOTORS EV1 - Maybe the extension cord isn't long enough but for whatever reason, we didn't get the new General Motors Electric Vehicle 1 to evaluate. Usually electric cars have all the charm and design panache of an oatmeal box, but the EV1 is a very good-looking, aerodynamic coupe. It's offered through selected Saturn dealers in Southern California and Arizona and is targeted towards drivers 35 to 54 years old (not cool for teen-aged Friday night cruises) with an annual income of $145,000 and up. You can't buy one, however, they're for lease only. If you're interested, Saturn has a toll-free information number (1-800-25-ELECTRIC) and when you call, ask them if they would send one to me to test.

FERRARI F50 - As a matter of fact, we aren't on the mailing list of the Ferrari North America public relations department, and we don't get a Christmas card, either. Their F50 is going out of production in '97 so the company better get moving. It's been labeled "The Worlds Fastest Car," which is believable, since its top speed is 202 MPH. But with over 510 horsepower howling from its V12 engine, what did we expect? It holds 28 gallons of gas and I wasn't able to find an EPA-mandated MPG sticker anywhere, so I guess it isn't important. There are only 55 of these Ferrari F50s earmarked for sale in the U.S., but Ferrari dealers aren't having any trouble selling them for $487,000 - with no factory rebate.

DAEWOO - Having been in its country for a year a long time ago, you'd think that this Korean company would give a Korean War veteran preferential treatment. At least that's what I thought when I first got wind that this company first began to ballyhoo the arrival of its Americanized trio of sedans. Its subcompact was even photographed by industrial spies and "leaked" to the press. The company had trouble finding American executives to man the corporate offices and to set up a distribution system, so it recently decided to postpone its entry into the U.S. market. Maybe that's whey we didn't get one to test.

PORSCHE BOXSTER - If you missed out on buying one of those rare Porsche 914 roadsters that mounted a flat-six engine right behind the driver's seat in 1970, you've got another chance. Now Porsche's smallest production car is called the Boxster and it costs a around seven times as much as its $6100 ancestor of 27 years ago. Unlike the 914-6 of yore, the new Boxster can be had with an five-speed automatic for shiftless drivers as well as the prerequisite five-speed manual. Its engine is water-cooled. But like its predecessor, the Boxster is tough to work on - except that with the '97 version, you can change the spark plugs without pulling the engine. All you need to work on the Boxster is a hoist, a box of tools and a plethora of Porsche special equipment. We missed out this year and I hope we won't have to wait another thirty-seven.

I'm sure that next year's list of cars we don't test will be lengthy, just like this one, but it sure is fun to dream about driving them.