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BeN

Way back when...April 1996

A couple of British cars make the cover, with the Rover 200 the featured car along with the Jaguar XK8.



News
Some snippets from the Geneva Motor Show, with the aforementioned Jaguar XK8 being mentioned.

Porsche unveils official pictures of their Boxster roadster, with BMW countering with their Z3M Roadster.

Mercedes too are in on the act, but with an estate version of their E-Class instead of a sports car. It features a huge, class-leading boot.

Aston Martin also showed their hand-built V8 Coupe.

A more detailed report on the Geneva show will follow in an upcoming issue.

The Detroit Show is also featured, with Acura unveiling their Accord-based CL Coupe.

Ford also showed their US version of their Escort. Not a looker by any means.

More on the Detroit Show later.

In the UK, Mazda decided to use a rebadged Ford Fiesta as a base for their new Mazda 121. Other than the badge, they are virtually identical.

European Hotline
The Alfa 145 and 146 get new Twin Spark engines from the 155. Aside from more power, it does give the cars more character. The much criticised gearbox was also improved. These changes certainly made the duo much better cars.

Previews
THe Fiat Brava/Bravo is tested in Scotland (there seems to be a kind of theme with Fiats. Remember the Coupe was tested in Scotland too). Bold looking cars they are, with their curves and slashes. Driving wise, they fare well too, with neat, tidy handling coupled with good steering feel. It also had a nice, ergonomic interior. Coupled with good engines it looks like Fiat had a winner. Then again, they already are, having won the European Car Of The Year 1996.

Ford showed off their wacky Indigo concept. Basing the car's looks on an Indy Car racer, it was widely tipped for production . Unfortunately, that didn't happen, and it became relegated to the collection of past concepts.

The last preview involves the cover star of the Rover 200. A completely in-house effort with limited BMW involvement, Rover aimed to take on  the Megane, Brava/Bravo, Escort, 306 and Astra. While refinement wise it could take on the best, it was to prove a mismatch marketing wise, for the car was far too small.  It was a good car, just let down by Rover.

Roadnotes
Two large estates are featured. Firstly, the Volvo 850 Estate, with its  distinctive vertical tail-lights, and the huge boot, only bettered by the newly-launched E-Class estate. The GLE version tested is slightly less responsive to its turbo-ed GLT brother, so I suppose that's the one to go for.

Our next estate is the Opel Omega. Unfortunately, for such a big car, it was laden with a rather underpowered 2.0 engine that was slightly coarse. It was still decent enough though. It too has a huge boot, and all packaged in a rather stylish body, it is a worth rival to the Volvo and Merc.

Comparision Test
A mini executive shootout, with the Citroen Xantia up against the Japanese offerings of the Mazda 626 and the Honda Accord. This version we get is the Japanese one, which is different from the European version.

Styling wise, the Bertone-designed Citroen easily trumps the two saloons. That's not to say the other two aren't good looking, for they still look rather neat and handsome, but the Frenchie simply looks far more attractive.

The Mazda 626 has a new V6 engine that proved to be a smooth, refined performer, easily the best in the group. The Accord isn't far behind, but the Citroen's antiquated engine puts it last in the performance stakes.

Citroen's unique hydropneumatic suspension results in the best ride quality by a big margin. Honda though, hits back with their double wishbone suspension, making it the best car to chuck into corners. It is mostly neck-and-neck between these two, with the Mazda not really figuring, being afflicted with some understeer and wind noise at speed.

In terms of accomodation and quality, it's the two Japanese that comes up tops. The Citroen having a bit of an awkward driving position. Mostly though, they simply cancel one another out through one aspect or another, with the Mazda most cramped, and the Accord with the smallest boot. Overall, they are pretty much equal, all things considered.

At the end, it's very tough to pick a winner. The Citroen loses out for its gruff and underperforming engine, while the Mazda is simply too dull. Therefore, the Accord claims victory by a narrow margin.

Reviews
The Mitsubishi Lancer previewed in March is tested. Competitively priced, it soon achieved best seller status on our tiny island. It was attractively styled too, with fancy triangular tail-lights reminiscent of the Mercedes C-Class. Performance is decent, while not class-leading, as is ride and handling. But it triumphs in the areas that appeals to practical people (of which there are many in Singapore), value for money, with the car being loaded with rather lavish equipment. In that aspect, it is now the class leader.

Features
A look at the Detriot Motor Show 1996. Aside from the cars mentioned earlier, there were several interesting concepts revealed at the show.

The Dodge Intrepid ESX, which made it to production as the Dodge Intrepid MK2. It also featured an early hybrid system, with two electric motors powering the rear wheels, mated to a 1.8 turbodiesel engine.

On a similar theme, Chrysler unveiled the LHX, with a near identical, swoopy, low slung, cab forward styling, meant to replace the Chrysler LHS. It featured knee airbags for both front and rear passengers, something that Chrysler predicts will be standard on all luxury cars in the near future.

Our last wacky concept is the Lincoln Sentinel, which with it's dark black paintwork and glasswork, would not look out of place in Gotham City. It was huge too, at over 5 metres long. The styling certainly was strong, but Ford ruled out the the Sentinel for production.

We move on to the ever popular SUVs with Ford showcasing their best-selling F150, updated for 1996. Ford claims that it is the world's best selling vehicle, which it certainly is.

Toyota too is in on the act, unveiling their third-generation 4Runner. More like a mini Landcruiser, it has now been updated to take on newer rivals such as the Nissan Pathfinder and LR Discovery.

Finally, Lexus showcased their FLV (Future Luxury Vehicle) concept, a sort of a cross-breed of an MPV and SUV, with its long body and high stance. While Lexus never actually made car like that, it was certainly ahead of its time, with the BMW X6 rather similar in concept.

Motorsport
The 45th Swedish Rally was held from 8-11 February 1996, with a certain Tommi Makinen winning his first ever rally in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III. It was a tough fight though, with Ford's Carlos Sainz merely seconds behind. Colin McRae and Kenneth Eriksson's Subarus came home in 3rd and 5th, sandwiching veteran Juha Kankkunen's private Toyota Celica entry.

Ads:
Honda decided to trumpet their Japanese Car Of The Year award for their Civic, with this Lee Iaoocca quote, "In this industry, you either lead, follow, or get out of the way."
DarthBalls

It's amazing how long the 200/25 stayed in production. I still kind of like the MG versions.
Dr. Hfuhruhurr

Re: Way back when...April 1996

BeN wrote:
THe Fiat Brava/Bravo is tested in Scotland (there seems to be a kind of theme with Fiats. Remember the Coupe was tested in Scotland too). Bold looking cars they are, with their curves and slashes. Driving wise, they fare well too, with neat, tidy handling coupled with good steering feel. It also had a nice, ergonomic interior. Coupled with good engines it looks like Fiat had a winner. Then again, they already are, having won the European Car Of The Year 1996.

Including that cassette loader that lifted out of the top of the dash ... until it broke off. Another great decision by the ECOTY judges ...
BeN

Re: Way back when...April 1996

Dr. Hfuhruhurr wrote:
BeN wrote:
THe Fiat Brava/Bravo is tested in Scotland (there seems to be a kind of theme with Fiats. Remember the Coupe was tested in Scotland too). Bold looking cars they are, with their curves and slashes. Driving wise, they fare well too, with neat, tidy handling coupled with good steering feel. It also had a nice, ergonomic interior. Coupled with good engines it looks like Fiat had a winner. Then again, they already are, having won the European Car Of The Year 1996.

Including that cassette loader that lifted out of the top of the dash ... until it broke off. Another great decision by the ECOTY judges ...


Strangely enough, that feature was praised.  

(I momentarily forgot I was admin here, and ended up editing Nick's post instead of quoting.   )
Dr. Hfuhruhurr

Re: Way back when...April 1996

BeN wrote:
Strangely enough, that feature was praised.  

I know, it was only later when people discovered how fragile it was. I remember being driven to a remote end of Manchester airport car park to pick up a rental car, passing the journey with a rant from the driver about Fiat Bravo cassette covers breaking off (including on the one in which he was driving me).

BeN wrote:
(I momentarily forgot I was admin here, and ended up editing Nick's post instead of quoting.   )

I've done that in the Racing forum sometimes ...
boc70

IIRC in a Bremner-penned Car Magazine drive article of the Bravo at the time, CEO Paolo Cantarella was reported as saying to the Bravo's chief engineer "If this car squeaks or rattles, I will physically harm you."  Wonder how that turned out then?
Dr. Hfuhruhurr

I suppose if the cassette cover broke off, it didn't rattle any more ...
boc70

"If the cassette cover comes off, I'll stick it up your..."

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