The Toyota Cressida seems to get better each time we drive one. If onlyit would get bigger.

The luxury four-door sedan is built on a 104.5-inch wheelbase and is187.8 inches long, about the same dimensions as the midsize Chevy Celebrity.But the car seems shorter and narrower than a Celebrity.

Styling isn`t so bad, but at a time when the industry is going to therounded aero look, the boxiness of the Cressida is a bit dated. And it`s notonly fashionable to go aero, it also makes sense in luxury cars. The moreaerodynamic, in other words the less resistant to the wind, the quieter thecar.

When rival Nissan brings out its new Maxima next year (Autos, April 17),it will be bigger than the current model. Toyota will respond in similarfashion with its new Cressida, which reportedly is redone for 1989.

Cressida is powered by a 2.8-liter, twin cam, 6-cylinder, fuel-injectedengine that develops 156 horsepower and is teamed with a 4-speed automatictransmission with overdrive that`s regulated by a push button on the gearshift. No manual transmission is offered.

The car has good power without a lot of noise. However, it felt as ifCressida could use a bit more boost when getting away from the light. Noqualms once you reach cruising speed, but it would be nice to have a littlenudge to help you get up there quicker.

Because Cressida is the only car in the Toyota stable without amultivalve engine, you have to suspect that the new `89 will have a 24-valveV-6 under the hood, which makes sense because a 24-valve V-6 is supposed to beavailable in the luxury Lexus line that bows late in 1989 as a 1990 model.Lexus also will be offered with a 3.8-liter V-8.

The rear-wheel-drive Cressida also features independent rear suspension,which translates into almost no road harshness despite the lumpy, bumpy,potholed pavement that blooms in the Midwest each spring.

Standard equipment includes air conditioning, AM-FM stereo with cassette, leather-wrapped steering wheel, seven-way adjustable seats, dual power remote mirrors with defogger, digital quartz clock, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, power locks, four-wheel disc brakes, steel belted radials and cruise control. Cressida also comes with three-point automatic safety belts that movealong a rail in the door frame to fasten around driver and front-seat occupantwhen the ignition key is turned on, then recoil and move away when the key is turned off.

Good ride and handling, luxurious interior appointments, ample space inthe trunk for luggage or groceries are all here; about the only thing lacking is a few more inches of length and width.

With the Cressida, we also were confronted with the vagaries of the yenversus the dollar. When the car was delivered, the base price was $19,850. Aweek later, after the test drive, the base had gone up to $20,998, or by$1,148.

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