1991 GMC Sonoma

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$2,632–$3,852
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Expert Reviews

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chicagotribune.com
Let Chevy have its Storm, GMC prefers a Syclone and Typhoon.

Syclone is the take-a-deep-breath-and-hold-on-tight pick `em-up that picks up its 16 treads and lays them down on the pavement faster than you can say 0 to 60.

It`s the truck that has people talking-especially the nation`s youth- about GMC, the invisible division from General Motors that heretofore had been known as making the same trucks as Chevy.

Syclone got the performance truck conversation going, Typhoon will keep it alive. Odd to mention truck and performance at the same time, but you can thank Syclone for awakening the industry and consumers to the fact that trucks can be as much, if not more, fun than some cars.

We test-drove the `91 Syclone (spelled that way because Mercury had a Cyclone car) and the `92 Typhoon. Syclone is the performance version of the Sonoma pickup truck and Typhoon the performance version of the compact Jimmy utility vehicle. In case you aren`t that familiar with GMC, the Sonoma is a version of the Chevy S-10 pickup and the Jimmy is a version of the Chevy S-10 Blazer.

Both feature a host of plastic decorative trim, from special ground effects along the rocker panels to wheel-lip extensions and plastic fascia up front. Syclone adds a black tonneau cover for the bed.

Syclone and Typhoon are not designed to haul bricks, hay or 2x4`s. Rather they haul, make that propel, two humans from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in about 5 seconds in Syclone and under 6 seconds in the larger and 200-pound heavier Typhoon.

The power comes from a 4.3-liter, turbocharged V-6 with intercooler and a 280 horsepower rating. In each vehicle the V-6 is teamed with a four-speed automatic. The mileage rating for Syclone is 14 m.p.g. city/17 highway; for the Typhoon it`s 15/19. If trucks were subject to the same gas-guzzler tax as cars, Syclone and Typhoon would cost you a couple of months` pay in penalties. A young man stopped us in arestaurant parking lot and asked of the Syclone: ``How fast does it go?`` The reply was, ``It`s the fastest thing between two gas stations that we`ve ever driven.``

For `92 GMC offers three versions of the venerable 4.3-liter V-6: the base engine, the base with a turbocharger and what they call an ``enchanced`` 4.3 with central port injection. The enhanced 4.3 is optional on the Sonoma, Jimmy and Safari van, and standard on a new Sonoma GT coming soon.

The Syclone and Typhoon have a trace of typical turbo lag when you press the accelerator, just enough time for you to take a deep breath and hold on, because you probably haven`t experienced raw power like this before. Take a Vette off the line? Sure, and the trailer it rode in on.

What makes the Syclone and Typhoon special is you don`t get wheel-spin when you play A.J. or Mario getting away from the light. The tires bite and grab, thanks to the specially designed 16-inch unidirectional treads that app ear as wide as they are tall, and the fact that both offer pavement hugging full-time four-wheel-drive for the traction you need to keep the power under control.

With no wheel-spin at takeoff, you feel as if you`re propelled by a short-fuse rocket when pressing the pedal to the floor.

Syclone and Typhoon also feature four-wheel antilock brakes as standard, since neither has room for a parachute. An air bag, however, is absent. You probably won`t find a driver-side air bag as standard in either vehicle until the fall of `94.

To better handle the power, Syclone and Typhoon stand several inches lower to the ground than the Sonoma or Jimmy. Ground clearance is a sports car-like 7.1 inches. A sign above the rear-view mirror warns that you don`t have the clearance to go off roading, though why and where you`d go off roading in a 280-horsepower truck or utility vehicle is a bit hard to comprehend.

With the lower stance, GMC also was aiming for eas er, car-like entry and exit as well as reducing th e high center of gravity that can make trucks or utility vehicles a bit wobbly in corners and turns. No call for wobble with 280 horses galloping.

GMC boasts that Syclone and Typhoon have revolutionized the image of the pickup. Quite a boast, but one that both vehicles can back up, and not just with the power under the hood.

Syclone and Typhoon provide ride and handling that we can only hope sister division Chevrolet could someday work into its Corvette. You`d expect a truck or utility vehicle developing 280 horsepower and sitting only 7.1 inches off the ground to feel like a tractor rolling over a newly plowed field, which oftentimes is how the Vette responds to blacktop or concrete underneath its treads.

Yet little road harshness came back through the wheel or seat in Syclone or Typhoon. And some sports coupes couldn`t make as sharp a turn without body lean or zip through a tight turn without body sway as the Syclone and Typhoon did. If an analogy can be drawn, GMC is becoming the Pontiac of trucks.

Standard equipment in the Syclone includes power brakes and steering, air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, AM/FM stereo cassette with graphic equalizer, tilt wheel, intermittent wipers, cruise control, lighted visor vanity mirrors, tinted glass, cup holders, gas shocks and a Lexus Trux Cover black rear tonneau cover. For those who waited for the `92 version, or simply couldn`t get their hands on one of the limited-edition `91s, dual remote-power outside mirrors and carpeted floor mats have been added as standard. There`s also four new exterior colors-red, white, blue and teal, each with a gray lower-body molding.

Standard equipment in the Typhoon includes the same items as the Syclone except it adds electronic rear-load leveling, remote keyless entry and auxiliary center-console power outlets.

Base price of the Syclone was $25,500 for `91 but moves up to $26,995 for 1992. Base price of the Typhoon is $28,995. Our test vehicle added two options, a compact disc player for $134 and a roof-mounted luggage carrier for $126.

GMC produced and sold 2,000 Syclones in the 1991 model year and will build a maximum of 3,500 in 1992. It plans to build a maximum of 5,000 Typhoons in 1992.

Odd that two vehicles named after natural disasters can bring such a breath of fresh air to the world of trucks and utility vehicles. Maybe Syclone and Typhoon will spur development of a Hurricane.




    Expert Reviews 1 of 3

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