Black Enterprise Auto Guide

Reviews of 36 new vehicles arriving in 1999

or genial automatic transmission.

Despite its truck underpinnings, the Grand Vitara is quiet and nimble on the road. Except for a few odd ergonomic quirks and less than comfortable seats, it looks like Suzuki is ready to get back in the competition. . www.suzuki.com

Can your car withstand a crash?
Insurance companies use vehicle-safety figures to determine auto insurance rates, risk profiles of drivers, and even which cars are most safe for drivers and passengers. But how many of us really know how “crash worthy” our cars or SUVs are?

To determine a car’s safety in an accident, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) uses a frontal crash test. Seat-belted dummies approximating the size and weight of an average man are positioned in the driver and front passenger seats of a car. Then, in a simulated head-on crash, the vehicle smashes into a wall at 35 mph. The dummies are then evaluated for injuries.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety prefers offset crash tests to evaluate how a vehicle will absorb an impact of only 40% its width at 40 m.p.h. into a barrier. But the latest test by the NHTSA is a side-impact crash that approximates a collision between two vehicles traveling vertical to each other at about 38.5 mph.

For more information, contact the USAA Educational Foundation at 800-531-6194.

NISSAN QUEST
After looking a bit old for a while, the three-door Quest had seen its best days. A new Quest features four doors (five if you include the hatchback). It’s also larger, nearly 5 in. longer and 1.2 in. wider than before. The engine is also bigger, 3.3 vs. 3.0 liters with horsepower up to 170.

One innovative new feature is a removable package shelf–two levels of cargo in the rear, including floor space, for carrying a greater variety of loads. A new instrument panel provides quicker access to controls with an audio system mounted above the temperature controls.

One of the Quest’s best features–its versatile seating–is retained. The second-row seats are even easier to remove. Both second and third rows move along on tracks to adjust leg room as needed. You can bring the third row forward when the middle row is removed for a “limousine” seating arrangement. A new SE trim level includes larger tires and a sportier suspension for those who enjoy driving. Pricing should remain in the low- to high$20,000 arena. As before, the Quest is a joint venture with Ford, built in Ohio along with its sibling, the Mercury Villager.

CHEVROLET CAMARO
There is talk of this being the last year for the Camaro and/or its roommate, the Pontiac Firebird. Chevrolet can’t unload these big sports cars even at fire-sale prices. Where else can you get 305-horsepower V-8 for $21,000? Yet buyers are staying away in droves due to low quality and high insurance costs. With V-6 models starting out just over $17,000 and powerful convertibles-complete with rattles–selling for $28,000, the Camaro is a part of American history that may soon be over. Despite higher prices and lower performance, Ford’s Mustang handily outsells Chevy.

But

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