Versus the competiton:
The 1993 Pontiac Firebird got the ultimate compliment from No. 2 twin. When asked, “Well, what do you think of the car?” she actually paused in the middle of viewing “Days of Our Lives,” turned to look her father in the eye and responded:
“Nice car. It goes where you want it to go and not where it wants to take you-and it doesn’t go that fast.”
What an endorsement! She sacrificed 15 seconds of her soap to reply to Dad. At least we think it was a soap, because the screen was filled with sex, violence and mayhem. On second thought, perhaps it was only the Channel 2 news.
But we digress. When Pontiac General Manager John Middlebrook dropped off a compact 1993 Firebird for a test-drive, he specified that the twins check it out for two important reasons-they are young and they are women, the two main groups that will purchase Firebirds.
What puzzled us a bit was No. 2’s remark about “doesn’t go that fast.” This from a woman who circles the block and won’t enter the driveway until someone stands in the road and drops a checkered flag.
“I want a car that looks good, but not one that everybody on the road wants to race,” she said.
Her priority was show over go. Not that the ’93 Firebird is a slouch. The sport coupe, which for ’93 has undergone its first major styling overhaul since 1982, has just enough steam from the standard 3.4-liter, 160-horsepower V-6 teamed with a four-speed automatic transmission (a five-speed manual is standard) to move from the light without hesitation. It has just enough muscle to slip into the passing lane on the interstate without fear of a semi coming up from the rear and tattooing the deck lid.
But there isn’t the intimidating power that the 5.7-liter, 275-horsepower V-6 offered in the Formula and Trans Am versions delivers. And the 19/28 mileage rating in the base coupe is easier to take than the V-8’s 17/24 rating.
It was only a few weeks ago that we test-drove the Firebird’s cousin, the Chevy Camaro, in Indy Pace Car garb (Business/April 26), a multicolored stripes-and-spots decor package that left the impression the designers were sniffing modeler’s glue when paint and decor schemes were done.
The Firebird is a more pleasant-looking package, from the low-slung, louvered hood to the cinched (Pontiac calls it pinched) waist to the deck-lid spoiler. Our test car was a deep maroon. Darker colors look sportier on this car.
T-tops look great but are in short supply, and only a handful of buyers will be able to get them in 1993. A convertible will look even better and is coming in the spring of ’94.
One objection to the styling, however, comes into play when you sit in the driver’s seat. There’s just enough of an outward bulge in the rear quarter panels to slightly obstruct vision when looking in the mirror.
Unlike the Camaro pace car with its stiff seats, Firebird has comfortable, cloth- covered buckets with decent side support. One problem here, however, were the manual adjustments for fore, aft and tilt positioning. The levers are under the seat and are difficult to reach. Power seats would provide more accurate positioning.
The base coupe’s suspension is a bit soft and cushiony. You get almost no road harshness coming back into the wheel or seat and won’t feel a lot of weight in the wheel, even though the Firebird tips the scales at about 3,300 pounds. But you’ll probably want to back off from very aggressive maneuvers and save them for the Trans Am with its stiffer, though harsher, sports suspension.
In keeping with market demand, Pontiac offers driver- and passenger-side air bags plus anti-lock brakes as standard in all Firebird models. Remember to mention that to the insurance agent before he or she comes up with premium quotes. The focus on safety merits some discounts.
The steering-wheel hub had an “SIR” (supplemental in latable restraint) label to show the buyer and future owners that protection is in the wheel. The passenger-side dash, however, had no markings for a bag inside. Middlebrook said he has ordered that “SIR” be added for the passenger-side bag. Some of the early models won’t have the lettering; all those built starting last week will.
“When you have a safety system like that, you should tell people about it,” he said.
On the plus side, the coupe offers controls that are simple to see and use; a single cupholder and coinholder tray in the center console; a glove box in the dash under the air bag to store a few maps and the owner’s manual; rust-resistant plastic body panels so that only the hood and rear quarter panels are steel (which means owners can forget rustproofing); and an intangible called concern for quality-not only are all panels lined up properly for smooth fit, but the entire vehicle is so solid that the squeaks, rattles and other strange noises that had been a Firebird/Camaro trademark are noticeably absent. Quiet denotes quality.
A few annoyances include the typical Firebird lack of rear-seat room-stuffed animals will fit, maybe, but not stuffed people, so just put the rear seat backs down and use that area for storage. Also, the power-window, door-lock and mirror controls are in the driver’s door armrest, which was crafted in an artsy manner but robs leg and hip room needed in a compact cabin. The catalytic converter under the passenger’s floor bulges and not only looks like an unmade bed but robs room for the occupant to stretch feet comfortably.
The base price of the rear-wheel-drive Firebird is $13,995. Standard equipment includes gas-filled shocks, dual sport mirors, AM/FM stereo with cassette and clock, tilt steering, front floor mats, intermittent windshield wipers and solar-control glass.
Our test car added a $1,836 option package that included power door locks, windows and mirrors; carpeted floor mats; bodyside moldings; air conditioning; and cruise control. Automatic transmission is a $595 option, and the rear-window defogger runs $170. With a $490 freight charge, the sticker came to $17,086.