aggressive front fascia. Even the inside gets a restyled dash, unique fabrics and a standard sunroof. An affordable Subaru that’s this much fun. Not what everyone expected.
engine size: 2.5 liters engine type: Opposed-4 horsepower: 165 transmission: 5-sp.manual, 4-sp. auto brakes: Disc/drum, anti-lock price range: $19,690-$21,000
Lexus Coupe www.lexus.com
New engines bring higher performance to the sportiest cars at Lexus. Both the inline-6 and the V-8 gain a fait share of technology that enables a computer to change the valve timing depending upon rpm, throttle position and other factors. The result is extra power throughout the range. This is particularly true of the new V- 8 that brings about simply stunning performance.
Those who like their luxury coupes sporty, however, will lament the passing of the manual transmission. Lexus no longer offers a manual transmission in any of its vehicles. Those interested in being a more active participant in the driving experience will now likely visit a BMW dealer.
The only two-door in the Lexus line-up is a comfortable, stylish touring car. It has an elegant interior and firm yet comfortable ride quality. Handling may not be as quick as a dedicated sports car, but there’s enough prowess to please the enthusiast. The double wishbone suspension is essentially the same in both cars, offering an excellent ride-versus- handling compromise. Wider tires take away a little of the car’s ride comfort, but the ride is never intolerably harsh.
engine size: 3.0, 4.0 liters engine type: I-6, V-8 horsepower: 225, 290 transmission: 4-sp.auto (I-6), 5-sp. auto (V-8) brakes: Disc/drum, anti-lock price range: $41,000-$54,000 (est.)
Volvo C70 www.volvocars.com
Volvo really wants to be thought of a sporty. It has tried with high- performance versions of its sedans, but too many people just didn’t believe it. This time, however, Volvo finally put its design team where its mouth was and came up with a two-door coupe with at least some credentials.
OK, it’s still a Volvo. It’s built heavy and tough. The engine is that same five-cylinder powerplant that’s been in the 850 for years. But it’s pumped up to provide quite a bit of power, although the turbocharging means waiting for the boost. The manual transmission can be tough to launch, but the automatic functions well.
This is the smoothest shape Volvo has offered since the 1960s. Although still based on the 850 platform (now called the S70), the C70 has very distinctive styling elements. If you wait until next year, Volvo is even planning a convertible.
There are plenty of features, and the car performs well in sporting duties. The question is how well it holds up against the superb competitors like the BMW M3 and the new Mercedes-Benz CLK320.
engine size: 2.3 liters engine type: I-5 turbo horsepower: 165 transmission: 5-sp.manual, 4-sp. auto brakes: Disc/drum, anti-lock price range: $40,000-$45,000 (est.)