1990 Pontiac Grand Prix

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$1,069–$2,589
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Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 1 of 4

By 

Orlando Sentinel

The Pontiac Grand Prix STE Turbo may be the closest thing to an American BMW.

In the past, the problem with many General Motors cars was that they seemed only half-finished. They'd look nice, but be poor performers. Pontiac's Fiero is a perfect example of this.

Or, they would be quick but uncomfortable, a trait of the early Chevy Berettas that came with seats that never could be adjusted properly. It seemed GM had all the right parts in the corporate bin but couldn't assemble the proper combination in one car.

The Grand Prix STE Turbo blows that theory away.

For a change, all the right parts are in one car. The STE, which is given its high performance pedigree by a company named ASC, shows that there's a pulse left in GM, last decade's sleeping giant of the auto industry.

Here's a sedan that handles and accelerates like a sports car and has room for five adults and a trunk big enough to haul a goodly amount of luggage.

Here's a sedan with real character, a trait so rare in American cars. And what is character, you wonder?

It is something that varies from car to car, but it usually can be found in the details: the sound of an engine, the slope of a hood, a unique interior. These are the things that give a car character. Character sets a car apart from the crowd.

The STE lets you know it is different from the expensive looking mag wheels painted to match the car, to the STE's intricate lighting and electrical system. There's a radio controlled ''key'' that has three buttons. Pressing one will lock the doors; a second one is for unlocking the doors. Pressing the other will open the trunk. These functions can be carried out while you are about 25 feet away from the car.

The instrument panel and all 80 or so buttons and controls are illuminated with individual red lights. This, combined with car's navigation system, an electronic compass, gives you the impression of sitting in a jet fighter cockpit.

When you press hard on the accelerator of most turbocharged cars you usually experience a surge of jet-like acceleration strong enough to snap your neck back. Short, quick bursts of power, that's the purpose of a turbo.

The first time I punched the turbocharged Grand Prix STE, I stiffened my neck and braced for that surge.

And nothing seemed to happen. That, I learned, is part of the beauty of the STE.

When I looked at the speedometer, I discovered - much to my chagrin - that I already reached the national speed limit.

The application of power in the STE is handled so smoothly that the driver is barely aware of the turbocharger, a horsepower increasing device responsible for packing extra air and fuel into each cylinder.

The turbocharger boosts the horsepower of the 3.1-liter, V-6 engine from the standard 140 to a hefty 205. If you are interested in numbers, here's one that puts the STE in an exclusive class: it'll go from 0-60 mph in less than 8 seconds.

It'l l also eat up any curve you toss at it. The power rack and pinion steering is tight and precise, and it conveys a good feel for the road. Braking, courtesy of four-wheel discs and an anti-lock system generally is excellent, though the test car's brake pedal-feel was inconsistent. Sometimes, it felt very heavy. Other times it functioned normally. At all times, however, the brakes worked perfectly.

The white test car featured a blue cloth interior. While nosing around the Pontiac dealer, I saw a red STE with the optional brown leather interior. If an award were given out for best interior in a midsize car, the STE with the leather option would win hands down. It's nothing short of gorgeous. It's also a $975 option, but you also get an electric sunroof.

Since Pontiac restyled the Grand Prix a few years ago, it has been one of GM's better selling nameplates. A car of the year award from an automotive magazine underscores the car's performance, styling and value-for-money qualities.

Though the Grand Prix nameplate has been around for nearly 30 years, there never has been a four-door version of the car until this year. From the finished product, it's obvious that Pontiac engineers thought long and hard about what a four-door Grand Prix should be. They didn't disappoint.


    Expert Reviews 1 of 4

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