1989 Pontiac 6000

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    Expert Reviews 1 of 2

By 

washingtonpost.com
MIDDLE AMERICA is not a place. It's a state of mind. It can be foundin small towns in California and in mid-sized cities in Tennessee. Ithas a special rhythm that defines the communities and things in which itexists, setting them apart from the reactionary and avant-garde,distancing them from the boring and the exotic.

For example, Monroe, La., a just-folks place of backyard gatheringsand front-porch conversation, is Middle America. New Orleans, a town ofinstitutionalized hedonism, is not.

In things, Middle America is best reflected in cars, particularly inthose produced by General Motors Corp. The 1989 Pontiac 6000 STE AWD(All-Wheel Drive), is representative.

The test car comes to us in team colors, red and gold. Middle Americaloves team colors, an affection that stems more from loyalty thankitsch. GM understands that, which is why it produces so many cars thatshow well in homecoming parades.

Middle America prefers the inoffensive. Thus, we have straight linesand modest curves. The design is passionately generic. It won't turn anyheads. It won't set any tongues to wagging, either.

Some people view that kind of neutrality as mundane. They miss thepoint. The 6000 STE AWD is on target.

The car speaks to Middle America's philosophy of favoring calm overexcitement and predictability over surprise.

Background: The Pontiac 6000 STE AWD comes from GM's A-body group,which includes the Chevrolet Celebrity, Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera andBuick Century. With the exception of the 6000 STE AWD, the top Pontiac6000 model, all of the A-body cars are front-wheel drive.

The 6000 STE AWD is GM's first mass-produced, four-wheel-driveautomobile. Under normal driving conditions -- dry roads or light rains-- the four-wheel-drive system operates automatically. More inclementweather, such as heavy snowfalls, requires the use of a console-mountedswitch to ensure that the four-wheel-drive system is properly engaged.

Complaints: The standard three-speed automatic transmission in thetest car shifts roughly, giving some evidence that it's not the propermate for a four-wheel-drive car. GM should make a four-speed automatictransmission standard equipment in this one.

Also, the temporary spare tire in the 6000 STE AWD is bolted atop thetrunk floor -- smack dab in the middle, where it takes up lots of neededluggage space.

Finally, the car's ridiculously busy, digital instrument panel hasgot to go. "Star Trek" belongs on TV and movie screens. It should haveno place on an auto dashboard in rush-hour traffic.

Praise: The four-wheel-drive system works well in both the automaticand driver-activated modes. Perfection in this regard will come as soonas GM smooths out the transmission shifts.

The 6000 STE AWD's overall build quality is excellent. The car feelssafe and solid.

Ride, handling, acceleration: The ride is soft, but not squishy,typical of GM's best mid-size cars.

Handling, aided by a four -wheel independent suspension system, isexcellent. The car stops well, thanks to disc and anti-lock brakes atall four wheels.

Acceleration is good, but would be better with smoother shifts. The6000 STE AWD has a 3.1-liter, electronically fuel-injected V-6 rated 140horsepower at 4,800 rpm.

Sound system: Electronic AM/FM stereo radio and cassette by GM/Delco.Perfect Middle America sound -- deep bass and high treble notes, easilyattained through the use of well-arranged dials and buttons.

Mileage: About 21 to the gallon (15.7-gallon tank, estimated 320-milerange on usable volume), combined city-highway, running mostly driveronly and with air conditioner in use.

Price: Base price is $22,599. Dealer's invoice price on base model is$19,503. Price as tested is $23,049, including a $450 destinationcharge.

Purse-strings note: Middle America deserves a better deal on the 6000STE AWD's sticker price, which seems out of line, even with the car'slong list of standard equipment. Comparison shop. Start with Subaru'sexcellent and less expensive four-wheel-drive cars. If you get a betterdeal from the Japanese, take it. Like I said, Middle America is a stateof mind.




    Expert Reviews 1 of 2

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