Spring Auto Guide, 1999

Our picks of the best vehicles this season

the hood. The base V-6 engine gains 40 badly needed horsepower. Now with 190 ponies, even the lowliest Mustang at $16,995 has enough muscle to move you quickly. By the time you reach the $31,995 Cobra Convertible, you’ll have a 316-horsepower V-8. Of course, plenty of buyers will settle somewhere in between for a 302-horsepower Mustang GT.
A new feature for this rear-drive sports car is traction control that makes it at least somewhat possible to tame its manners in foul weather. But don’t expect this beast to act as dignified as any number of import competitors: this is a more raucous car that appeals to more basic instincts.

Hyundai SONATA
www.hyundai.com
Working to overcome its past mistakes, Hyundai is taking steps to earn back the trust and business of the American car-buying public. The first step is to establish the best warranty in the industry. Most of the car is covered for 5 years or 60,000 miles (some parts, such as air conditioning refrigerant, spark plugs and paint have shorter coverage). The powertrain is warranted to the original owner for 10 years or 100,000 miles.
While the warranty covers all Hyundais, the Sonata is all-new. As before, it comes with a choice of 4 or 6 cylinders, with a smaller but smoother V-6. Initial impressions are quite good for a car that starts out at $15,434 and can reach to around $23,000. It’s about the same size as a Toyota Camry. The suspension feels rather soft and pliant, but still manages to provide surprisingly good grip and road feel. The 170-horsepower V-6 isn’t the most potent, but does a refined job. At 2.4 liters, the 149-horsepower 4-cylinder isn’t that much smaller or less powerful, but just lacks the smoothness of the six.
From nice pull-out door handles to lockable split-folding seatbacks, the Sonata gets nearly all the details right.

I
nfiniti Q45
www.infiniti-usa.com
The flagship sedan at Nissan’s flagship division received a mild facelift for 1999. On the outside, there are some changes to the grille and head and tail lamps. Inside, the most noticeable item is the new analog clock. There are several functional changes, such as the driver selectable suspension setting, one-touch open moonroof and power rear sunshade.
What hasn’t changed is the comfort and power of this sedan. Unlike the first-generation Q45, the current edition, which arrived in 1997, is considerably more conservative. The engine is also a bit smaller at 4.1 liter, although the V-8 still produces an ample 266 horsepower. Starting at $48,695, this is among the more competitively priced premium luxury imports. Standard equipment is quite plentiful, making the option list short. Ride quality is aimed more at quiet comfort than cornering thrills, but the Q45t (for “touring”) adds another $1,700 to the price while giving the driver a more performance-oriented suspension and meatier 17-inch tires.

Land Rover Discovery
www.landrover.com
With 85% new parts, Land Rover is calling this the Series II. The vehicle is nearly four inches wider and more than a half-foot longer than before, yet lower in height. The biggest improvement is in

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