Great expectations may have worked for Charles Dickens, but not for FordMotor Co.

Introduced in the 1989 model year, it took only about a year for the Ford Probe to vacate the penthouse in favor of the outhouse.

Now, however, the Probe looks poised to head back into more respectablequarters, thanks to much-needed changes and revisions for the 1993 model year.

Long before the automaker launched its new Probe sport coupe in May 1988as a 1989 model, officials began a whispering campaign. The front-wheel-drive Probe was so good it was going to replace the long-in-the-tooth rear-wheel-drive Mustang and give Camaro and Firebird a run for their money.

The expectation was that Probe was going to be a sports car with betterlooks than the `Vette and greater speed than a Countache, yet be priced likethe Escort.

Probe bowed with gusto. There had been so much hype that people rushedthe showrooms. Some Ford dealers couldn`t keep a Probe in stock long enough toshow potential buyers.

Then reality set in. `Vette? Countache? Probe proved to be an economysport coupe like the Pontiac Fiero, only Probe came in an even plainerwrapper. Thoughts of the Edsel set in.

When consumers sat back to analyze what they`d bought, they realizedProbe styling lacked imagination, performance was mediocre and room andcomfort came up short. Lines of customers at showrooms were replaced by lines of unsold Probes sitting in dealership lots.

It didn`t help when Mazda introduced its low-priced Miata a year afterthe Probe.

When confronted with the same initial success with Miata as Ford hadexperienced with Probe, Mazda diplomatically held the line on Miata`s sticker the second model year.

Confounded by success, Ford took the U.S. domestic automaker route andboosted Probe`s price by $600 to $700 so the top-of-the-line Probe GT wasalmost $15,000 or about $1,200 more than a Miata. Probe made Miata look evenbetter, certainly to price-conscious youth.

You don`t often get a second chance in this business, but Ford decidedProbe deserves one more try at capturing the hearts of younger buyers. Thismonth, Ford introduced a revamped 1993 model.

Probe`s reprieve was aided by a couple of basic business facts of life:Probe and the Mazda MX-6 sport coupe are joint-venture machines developed byFord and Mazda and built by Mazda at a former Ford plant in Flat Rock, Mich.Keeping the partners happy and the plant in full production helped influencethe decision to bring out a second-generation Probe. Having Mazda share thecost, as well as supply the engines and transmissions, made it economicallypractical to keep building the Probe.

This time around, however, Ford realized it was dealing with a far moresophisticated and far less sympathetic public. The Probe had to be better orit would join the Edsel in the realm of blunders past.

The new Probe succeeds in that it represents a vast imp rovement over theoriginal. We were surprised by the number of waves, honks and thumbs up wereceived from younger motorists in our test of the top-of-the-line GT.

The GT sports a few styling differences from the base Probe, most notably more aggressive front- and rear-end plastic facia, plastic lower bodysidecladding and 16-inch aluminum wheels.

The GT front end now looks like a cross between a Miata, Toyota MR2 andDodge Stealth with a hint of Viper. Body-color fenders, concealed headlampsand an air dam below the front bumper complement the new look. It`s not going to make you forget the Lamborghini Diablo, but the design has enough flair to erase memories of how dull the original Probe was.

The original Probe was offered in GL, LX and GT versions with a choice of two 4-cylinder engines rated at 110 to 145 horsepower with turbocharging. In1990, a 3-liter, 140-h.p. V-6 was added.

All`s been simplified for 1993. There are two models, a base and GT. An dthere are only two engines, a 16-valve, 115-h.p., 2-liter 4 in the base and a 24-valve, 164-h.p., 2.5-liter V-6 in the GT.

The 2.5-liter V-6 seems more spirited than the turbo 4-cylinder or 3-liter V-6 of the past. It also better complements the sportier new looks.

But don`t mistake Probe for a sports car. The 2.5 is rated 0.5 secondquicker 0 to 60 m.p.h. than the turbo 4. You don`t feel brute, raw power asmuch as you feel faster response to pedal pressure without the engine havingto first take a deep breath.

The GT we drove had the 4-speed automatic, rated at 20 miles per galloncity/26 m.p.g. highway. The rating for 5-speed manual is 21/26. The mileagerating is 1 m.p.g. better in city and highway driving than it had been with a turbocharged 4 cylinder.

For 1993, Probe dimensions also have been changed. Wheelbase wasstretched by 3.9 inches, to 102.9 inches, and length by almost 2 inches, to178.9 inches. Width also was increased 2 inches, to 69.8 inches.

The longer wheelbase helps smooth the ride while providing betterhandling. However, despite the addition of revised spring rates, added shock- absorber rebounding control, front and rear stabilizer bars and 16-inchradial tires, we still got a good dose of road harshness coming back throughthe seat and wheel. Softer, less stiff seats would have helped.

The added length and width help interior room, which had been on thetight side.

The original Probe`s low and slanted roofline robbed passengers of headroom, especially in the rear seat. The roof slanted so much rearward youcouldn`t get adults in back unless they could travel with chin plunged firmly into chest and legs twisted in pretzel fashion.

The `93 version has a more practical roofline with a less pronouncedslant, though rear-seat passengers don`t seem to have gained even a fractionof an inch. At least the visibility out the back window has improved.

In terms of safety, for the first time a driver-side air bag is standardin both Probe models. Anti-lock brakes are an option, $774 in the base model, $595 in the GT. That`s a nice savings from the $924 that ABS originally costas a member of a $3,889 option package in the GT.

A couple of features deserve special attention. Ford seems to bepioneering the concept of putting an arrow on the instrument panel to show themotorist on which side the gas filler door is located.

A small gesture, to be sure, but much appreciated by those who prefer not having a hose draped across the deck lid when refueling from the wrong side.

Even more ingenius and helpful is the Probe key fob with its ``panicbutton.`` You can use the fob to lock/unlock the doors or set off an alarm.

Say, for example, you spot someone suspicious near your car, which isparked on the street or in the expansive mall lot. Press the button, and offgoes the alarm to scare the would-be intruder. Or, you leave work late atnight and, while heading for your car, you suspect you`re being followed.Press the panic button, and off goes the alarm. The button is effective from adistance of 33 feet.

Another nice feature is the optional battery saver, which turns offheadlights 45 minutes after the ignition is off. However, we`d favor cuttingthat 45 minutes by at least half in a typical Midwest January freeze.

Another annoyance is location of the ashtray in the center consolebetween driver and passenger. The receptacle`s narrow opening ensures someone is going to be burned.

The base Probe starts at $12,845, the GT at $15,174. Standard GTequipment includes center console with cupholder, AM/FM stereo radio withdigital clock, reclining bucket seats, power four-wheel disc brakes, foglamps, 15.5-gallon fuel tank, power steering and dual-speed wipers.

Options are overwhelming and include some changes this year, such as apower slide-open sunroof rather than the manual flipup glass, express -downservice for the driver`s power window and heated outside mirrors.