1989 Chevrolet Caprice Classic

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$2,934–$8,694
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chicagotribune.com
When you pull a Chevrolet Caprice Classic into a parking space, the white lines close in on you. The doors of the cars on either side sometimes stand asbarriers to your entry and exit from your machine.

And when the sign says ``Compacts only,`` you have to move on.

Make a sharp turn and the body lingers before coming around and headingdown the straightaway again. Once the vehicle is in motion, the size and 4,200pounds of weight is a force that the suspension system sometimes lets act onits own in deference to age.

The egg-crate design of the grille is a relic in an era when the nose has become sloped and headlights hidden to keep the appearance clean andaerodynamic.

The car started life in another age as an Impala. When Chevrolet wanted a fancier version that it could charge more for, it added a Caprice companion.In the `70s, Impala/Caprice regularly were at the top of the list of theindustry`s best selling cars with sales of more than 400,000 units annually.

The Impala is long gone, but the Caprice has stayed around for more years than even Chevrolet expected. Like fine wine, cheese and the spouse, Capriceis better appreciated after aging. Though the others around it have gonefront-wheel-drive, Caprice remains rear-wheel-drive and in doing so is able totow small trailers.

You don`t buy a Caprice for good looks, outstanding performance or topgas mileage.

We drove the four-door Brougham LS sedan. Styling harkens back to thedays when gas was cheap and mini referred to skirts, not cars. Caprice is alarge car in an era in which downsizing has claimed a number of victims.

Look out the windshield and you see a hood with an ornament at the end of it. That long hood and deck means you have several feet between you andwhatever you might happen to run into. It`s called crush space. Better metalbody panels suffer the force of impact than your body.

Look out the back window and you see a trunk with ample room to carrygroceries or luggage.

The car has space for six people, and none of them has to be younger than the age of reason to fit.

You don`t measure 0 to 60 m.p.h. times on the open road, but when youencounter a bump in the pavement the suspension acts like a thick mattress.

By today`s standard it`s a boat, a cruise ship built on a 116-inchwheelbase and 213 inches in length. What the size means is that front or rear seat, you can stretch. Lots of room, lots of comfort.

A major improvement for 1989 is the addition of fuel injection to the 5-liter V-8 engine. The carbureted V-8 is gone. Fuel injection means faster,surer starts, especially in cold weather, as computers help control all enginefunctions. The 170 horsepower V-8 is EPA rated at 17 m.p.g. city/25 m.p.g.highway.

Other than the fuel-injected engine, the other major change for Capricefor 1989 is the addition of air conditioning as standard equipment.

Power brakes an d steering and automatic transmission with overdrive jointhe V-8 and air as standard.

Options are almost limitless and can run the Caprice into what was oncethe price domain of Cadillac. The test car we drove had a preferred equipment package that ran $2,361 and included heavy-duty battery, cornering lamps,color keyed carpeting, trip odometer, illuminated visor mirror, body sidemoldings, power trunk opener, power door locks/windows, speed control, tiltsteering, wire wheel covers, intermittent wipers, AM/FM stereo with cassette/ digital clock and power antenna.

Individual options include an electric rear window defogger at $145, pinstriping at $61 and upgraded radial ply whitewall tires at $112.

Base price was $16,835, an $1,835 bump from 1988 thanks in large part toair and the fuel-injected V-8 being made standard. With all the options and$505 for freight, the sticker ran $20,089. With a $500 discount on thepreferred option package through Dec. 31, and a $750 rebate through Dec. 25,the price slipped to $18,839.

Through the first 10 months of this year Caprice sales totaled 143,713units, down from 151,523 in the year-earlier period. Some of the slippage camefrom those waiting for the fuel-injected V-8, some waiting for the successordue in mid-`90 as a `91 and some walking across the street for a front-wheel- drive Taurus or Sable.

In mid-1990 Chevy will replace the Caprice with an aerodynamic design(Autos, Nov. 13) that will stay rear-wheel-drive. Chevy General ManagerRobert Burger said he expects sales to be around 300,000 annually once the newmodel appears.

With the outlook that the new Caprice will have better styling, improvedperformance in terms of a suspension system mated to a less bulky car andhigher mileage while offering room and comfort, Burger`s boast seemsattainable.



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