1988 Toyota Celica

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$2–$4,318

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washingtonpost.com
I HAD DONE my penance and was ready to party. I had driven severaldepressingly sensible vehicles, some of which I've written about, othersof which will appear later in this column.

After hundreds of miles in straight mobiles, I needed something likethe 1988 Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo -- a rolling oxymoron, a classyroad bully, a car that flirts with "sensible" and "respectable" whilehaving a helluva time doing the devil's work.

"Sensible" is easy to understand in this case. The Celica All-Trac isa four-wheel-drive car, reminiscent of the Honda variety because it uses"viscuous coupling" to provide automatic four-wheel service.

Viscuous coupling connects the front and rear wheels through two setsof discs surrounded by silicone fluid. When the front wheels losetraction, they begin turning faster than the rear wheels. The differencein turning speeds heats and hardens the silicone fluid, thus couplingthe front and rear discs to drive the rear wheels. The upshot is bettertraction in slimy weather. Very sensible. See?

"Respectable?" Ahhh, look at this car. Some "sporty" automobiles weara thug's face. Their design intent is to be macho menacing. But theCelica All-Trac has the aura of a downtown athletic club, one open towomen, at that. The sporty feeling is there without any negativeovertones.

Well, then, what about this devil business? Hee, hee, hee. Pssst,come here. Put the key in the ignition . . .

Complaint: The usual dirge for allegedly four-seat coupes. Seatsthree and four in the rear are reserved for little children, or verytiny adults. It's cramped as all get-out back there.

Praise: The test Celica All-Trac had accumulated in excess of 5,000rough miles by the time it got to me, but it was as tight andrattle-free as if it had just rolled off the factory floor.

What's quite impressive is that the interior of the test model is alldone up in leather, an often squeaky material when poorly installed. Butthe folks who put the Celica All-Trac's interior together are first-ratecraftspeople. Three cheers!

Another thing: The clutch and five-speed gearbox in the test modelare so smooth and slick, they could run for office.

Ride, acceleration, handling, braking: Ride, acceleration andhandling get top honors. Braking is good, but noticeably inferior to thebraking of some less-expensive, less-exciting cars.

The test model is equipped with four-wheel disc brakes and anoptional anti-lock braking system. But my hunch is that the car's ratherheavy weight, nearly 3,300 pounds, interferes with its stopping power.What about it, Toyota?

The engine in this one is super -- a 2.2-liter, turbocharged andintercooled, 16-valve, four-cylinder job rated 190 hp at 6,000 rpm.Whammo!

Sound system: Electronic AM/FM stereo radio and cassette with agraphic equalizer that's preset to offer optimum sound for jazz, pop,rock or classical music. Excellent.

Mileage: About 21 to the gallon (15.9- gallon tank, estimated 326-milerange on usable volume), running mostly highway and driver only.

Price: $24,763, including $4,135 in options (such as $1,100 foranti-lock brakes and $660 for power sunroof) and $330 transportationcharge (for Mid-Atlantic region). Base price is $20,298. Dealer'sinvoice price on base model is $17,321.

Purse-strings note: Toyota produces five basic Celica models: The ST,GT, GT Convertible, GTS and All-Trac Turbo. All models share similarcomponents. There's no need to spend $25,000. You could get a quitesatisfactory Celica at a more reasonable price.



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