Black Enterprise 1998 SPRING AUTO GUIDE

Our Picks For The Vehicles This Season

for people and cargo. The ride quality is soft and comfortable. There ore plenty of gadgets and luxury accouterments to amuse and entertain.

A good start, yes. Then pile on one of the most powerful and pleasing four-cylinder engines on the market, handling and ride control that show just how the Germans corned their automotive reputation, and a price aimed directly at the heart of the market. Starting at $21,250, the Passat is already well equipped. The base engine in many ways works better than the optional V-6, so there’s no need to reach toward the upper end of the Passat’s price range.

Styling is distinctive without being weird. It’s different, yet still quite sensible. Thoughtful features abound–from the rubber strip on the door to prevent curb-side scratches to one-south up-or-down front windows. This shores much of its underpinnings with its sibling, the A4, trading in just a bit of sport and style in favor of more room and function. www.vw.com

Ford Crown Victoria
It’s the last of e breed. Except for the frown Vic and its sibling, the Mercury Grand Marquis, the full-size rev-drive family car is -tone, a port of American history. There are still plenty of rev-drive luxury cars, but the only one left of this bulk is Lincoln’s Town Car, a chrome-laden caricature of domestic sedans of the post.

Meanwhile, the Crown Vic lives on largely as a result of its demand for police and taxi cob duties. Those folks go through transmissions frequently, and if you’ve comparison shopped front- versus rev-drive transmissions, you’ll understand why.

As the last bastion of this design it still offers up good interior room, albeit not as efficiently as front-drive competitors. The V-8 is plenty powerful and if you’ve got a big trailer to haul, this will do the job better than anything that isn’t called a truck. Prices start at $21,540 before piling on options that con raise the ante several thousand. The 1998 model was delayed while Ford re-thought the vehicle then gave it a slight facelift, new grille and rear suspension. Still, if you buy your cars by the pound, this is one of the best deals ground. www.ford.com

Honda Passport
Although this is built by Isuzu (where it’s sold as the Rodeo), people are happier owning a Honda, judging by satisfaction surveys. For 1998 the Passport is heavily revised. A facelift is accompanied by new rock-and-pinion steering and a softer, more comfortable ride. Four-wheel-drive models can now be transferred into and out of four-wheel-drive while in motion. (This still remains a part-time system, not for use on dry pavement.)

More power from the standard V-6 engine makes this a rather quick sport-utility vehicle. There are now 205 horses under hood, ready to do your bidding more smoothly than before. This Passport is quiet enough to substitute for a car. However, despite its height, there’s not much head room for rev seat passengers.

If an off-rood adventure is on your agenda, the Passport is more capable of taking you there. But, for a starting price of

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