performance/luxury car. Mitsubishi badly wants those shopping for a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry to look at the Galant, which gives you a peppy 145-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. It’s available with either an automatic or manual transmission. Step up to a higher trim level and you can have a 195-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6. This is a particularly smooth and silent power plant worthy of a luxury car. Both transmissions shift gracefully.
Styling is modern and sleek and a bit more distinct than the competition. Ride quality is rather soft, and slightly impinges on handling–except on the top GTZ model. Although the Galant lacks such common features as a passenger hand hold, it does have a one-sided folding rear seat back that allows for extra cargo room.
In less than a year since inception, the Intrigue has quickly attained status among Oldsmobile’s most popular cars. This midsize sedan shares its underpinnings with the Buick Regal, yet is textured and shaped to feel distinct from that sibling. The Intrigue’s aim is to battle import brands. As such, it’s the first GM car to receive an all-new engine. Replacing the 3.8-liter pushrod engine of yore is a 3.5-liter 215-horsepower multivalve overhead cam V-6. Despite all the gobbledygook, the results are similar in feel. This is a powerful engine that likes to run. The refinement permits lowering of emissions and promises future improvements.
Meanwhile, the rest of the car is a pleasant riding, good handling sedan priced from around $21,000 to $27,500.
With just three trim levels–GX (base), GL and GLS–and relatively few options, Oldsmobile makes ordering an Intrigue easier than nearly any other midsize domestic sedan. All models are well equipped and by the time you reach the highest price level, the Intrigue becomes quite luxurious. But best of all, this is a practical car that can also be lots of fun to drive.
When Volkswagen reintroduced its new Passat, the company became a serious player in the midsize sedan marketplace. The success of the Beetle has only helped, bringing more people into VW showrooms where they can see this practical, yet full-featured vehicle.
In March 1998, VW added a station wagon version of the Passat. As with the sedan, it comes with a choice of a peppy 150-horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. In the European tradition, it’s available with a standard five-speed manual or an optional five-speed automatic. The latter includes Tiptronic control, a method for adding manual-like controls.
Starting out at near $22,000, the Passat falls into the upper end of the midsize class, reaching to near $25,000 when completely loaded. Later in the season, a fully equipped model will also include VW’s Synchro all-wheel drive system.
What sets the Passat apart from the crowd is that while it’s as quiet and comfortable as its competitors, it feels more like a thoroughbred sports sedan. And now with the room and practicality of a wagon, plus sporty driving fun, one wonders why SUVs are so popular. www.vw.com
Child auto safety is a concern for every parent driver. Here’s