1997 Black Enterprise Auto Guide

The latest in cars and auto trends for the new model year

that experience. Tires grip the road for cornering thrills and beefy brakes keep things under control. For this price, you can find cars that go faster or provide better comfort, but this remains a uniquely capable automobile that exists for fun and always gets that job done.

Fulfilling its promise of high performance in a more affable package, an all new Corvette is making its presence felt. More power and better handling may seem like overkill in a car reputed for its overbearing road presence. But a higher performance level is now more benign, allowing drivers other than trained professionals to take advantage of the Corvette’s prowess. Handling is forgiving and throttle response more graceful than before.

Inside, the excessive, ostentatious and patently ugly dashboard has given way to an ergonomic and attractive panel. Entry and exit is no longer a broad jump, but a mild step. A new suspension and stiffer chassis provide a more sedate ride, while still enabling newly developed Goodyear F1 tires to grip the pavement like barnacles on a ship’s hull. And these tires can survive 200 careful miles without air, negating the need for a spare.

At $38,0GO, the Corvette is in a performance and sophistication league with cars double the price. The only disappointment is that, unlike each prior generation of Corvette, the car has completely lost its leadership in artistic design. Albeit attractive, the shape is simply a rehash of the previous car, a form cast by committee rather than a gifted artisan. But step on the electronic throttle and you are whisked forward so quickly even this unfortunate lapse can be forgiven.

Growing weary of having even low-budget economy cars fly past, Ford has finally given the Explorer an engine worthy of the rest of the vehicle. They did put in a
V8 as an option last year, but that was merely a stopgap with a capable worth 4WD system. The V8 is still the top choice for those wishing to tow heavy loads, but a new V6 is more fuelefficient, nearly as quick and more pleasant to drive for most potential owners. You still get the old V6 with its meager 160 horsepower when choosing a five-speed manual. However, most buyers choose the automatic, which now becomes a smoother five-speed unit. This is coupled to an overhead cam 205-horsepower power-plant, a mere five horsepower fewer than the heavier V8.

The extra power is available in either rear drive or an updated version of Ford’s ControlTrac system. This gives you a computer-controlled fourwheel-drive system that sends power to the wheels with the best traction. A low range provides extra torque for extreme (usually offroad) conditions.

Explorer prices start at $20,610, but move quickly to the high $30,000 range for a completely loaded limited edition. In any form, the Explorer remains the most comfortable and roomy sport-utility vehicle in its class and the new engine now puts it among the best performing, completing a well-rounded package.

Sport-utility vehicles are hot right now, but Mazda

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