Black Enterprise Auto Guide

Reviews of 36 new vehicles arriving in 1999

( a list of automobile dealers and service stations that have agreed to install the on/off switches for passenger- and driver-side air bags in cars and trucks. As a result of increased reports of air bag-related deaths and injuries, car owners now have the option to have switches installed.

Some manufacturers have implemented side air bags. With its 1999 E-Class sedans, Mercedes-Benz was the first to offer a side air bag that resembles a curtain when deflated. Each curtain bag deploys from the ceiling and extends across the front and rear windows. Mercedes-Benz says that chest injuries are less severe and head injuries less likely. Ford Motor Company also plans to have new side air bags available on all Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Jaguar cars and Ford Windstar minivans by 2000. Volvo is unveiling the Volvo Inflatable Curtain on the Volvo S80 this fall. ..RJ.- –V.L.G.

This represents the return of a nameplate gone since the end of 1996. The car is mostly new and different, yet still carries most of the same styling and features. Beginning around $21,000 and topping out well under $30,000, the G20 allows the less affluent buyer to aspire to Nissan’s luxury marque. And it’s that sense of aspiration that is the main appeal. For about the same price, you could get the larger and more powerful Nissan Maxima. But the G20 carries the more luxurious nameplate, longer warranty and improved treatment at the Infiniti dealership.

Beneath the hood, the 140-horsepower 2.0-liter engine is shared with Nissan’s Sentra SE. It’s enough for moderate acceleration with the manual transmission, although with an optional automatic the car is among the more sluggish in its price class. Handling, however, is toward the head of the class, with a responsive suspension that sacrifices just a bit of ride comfort. Add the optional touring package to be assured of driving fun with grippier tires and a limited slip differential.

Inside this compact sedan there’s room for four. Real luxury is optional and the basic car has more the look and feel of a nice Nissan than a plush Infiniti. More than most cars, the G20 feels like a stepping-stone between the economy and luxury levels.

Buick wants to offer a traditional midsize passenger sedan with a little more oomph. Starting out a little under $21,000, the Regal LS is a roomy sedan with a very snappy 200-horsepower V-6 engine. It’s based on one of GM’s most modern platforms that gives it a supple ride while still enabling sharp handling.

While you’ll spend in the mid-$20,000 range for the Regal GS, the Regal LS, by comparison, is something of a car transformed. You still get the same amount of interior room and comfort. But now the 3.8-liter V-6 is supercharged to the tune of 240 horsepower.

Performance may not be lacking, but the Regal’s primary function is to make getting there pleasant. You can pile on luxury that includes automatic air-conditioning, a new tire pressure monitor and controls for the stereo and climate control on

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