better luck as a two-door.
Styling is very wedge-shaped, with plenty of edges and creases–something like a Mitsubishi Eclipse. In terms of pricing, the Cougar competes with the Eclipse. Prices haven’t been announced, but they start at under $20,000, and reach beyond with options aplenty. www.lincolnmercury.com
Oldsmobile keeps trying to put itself into position to be thought of as competition to Honda and Nissan. Gradually, the GM Division is dropping its larger traditional cars and bringing in more sporty alternatives. The Alero is bringing up the lowest price range. This is replacing the Achieva, a car that never had much success. Prices, which start at $18,000 and move up to $22,000, are lower than last year’s model and start
off below the 1998 Achieva’s $18,340.
The oddest thing about the Alero is that it will compete in virtually the same segment as the Oldsmobile Cutlass, which also stars out at about the same price level. The two cars also share much of the same underpinnings. The Alero is a bit smaller and will offer more variation. You can get either a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine or a 3.4-liter V-6. The only transmission will be a four-speed automatic. Both a two-door coupe and four-door sedan will be offered, each in one of three trim levels. Features like four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and traction control are standard on all models. www.oldsmobile.com
Pontiac Grand Am
This is the Pontiac version of the same car that Oldsmobile will sell as the Alero. There are two very prominent differences, however. First, the Grand Am has much more flamboyant styling, which is intended to appeal to a different sort of buyer. And second, there seem to be more of those buyers out there because the Grand Am has a history of greater sales success.
Although styling retains the same basic theme, the 1999 Grand Am is a bit shorter than before, but with a wheelbase increase of 3.6 inches. It’s also wider and taller. The rear leg room increased, while the front leg room is reduced by an inch.
Engine choices are the 150-horsepower four-cylinder or the 170-horsepower V-6. Both come only with an automatic transmission. Unlike the Alero, the Grand Am does not get four-wheel disc brakers. But it will also start at a significantly lower price than the Alero. The 1998 Grand Am cost from $16,395 to around $20,000.
As before, there will be a choice of two trim level, SE and GT, and two body styles, coupe and sedan. www.pontiac.com
BMW M Roadster
BMW likes to take an idea and expand upon it. When the 73 first arrived, it was an entertaining–if somewhat slow–sports car. That changed last year when the Z3 2.8 was introduced with a pretty potent inline-6, producing 190 happy horsepower.
Still, BMW is caught behind the performance levels of the Porsche Boxster, particularly with a more powerful Porsche on the way. So, add the M Roadster. This takes the 240-horsepower 3.2-liter inline-6 from the rather thrilling M3, and pours it under the hood of a Z3. Imagine 0 to 60