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October 01, 1998

New: The designed-in-California, built-in-Ohio 3.2TL near-luxury sedan. Its 3.2-liter V-6, based on the 3.0-liter power plant available in the Honda Accord, is rated at 225 horsepower, or 25 more than last year. The '99 TL is slightly larger and, with a curvier contour and more aggressive stance, a lot sportier than last year's model. Base price is $27,950. The only option available, the Acura Navigation System, adds $2,000 to the manufacturer's suggested retail price.

Changes: The 3.5RL luxury sedan gets side air bags as standard equipment, minor modifications to the sheet metal and a posher suspension. Leather interior trim comes standard with the CL coupes.

Out: The Integra RS coupe is dropped.

The Rest: No changes worth noting for Acura's base Integra, the two-seat NSX sports car or the SLX sport-utility vehicle (actually an Isuzu Trooper in Acura drag).

AM General

Changes: The company makes the civilian world's biggest SUV, the Hummer, which is based on the military Humvee personnel carrier. The outside and mechanicals don't change, but it gets a less military interior for '99.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday October 29, 1998 Home Edition Highway 1 Part W Page 8 Financial Desk 2 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction
Dings and Scratches: BMW engines--The new BMW 3-series sedans have inline-6 engines. Our new-models preview Oct. 1 was in error in describing the engines as V-6s.
Mazda model--The new-models preview also contained an erroneous reference to changes in the Mazda 323. The economy car ceased production in 1994.

Aston Martin

Worth Noting: No major changes in styling or content for the '99 DB7 coupe or convertible. But for drivers who think the Ford-owned British marque's cars--made famous in the U.S. by the (fictional) intrepid and intriguing James Bond--aren't quite sporty enough, there are a series of dealer-added options that beef up performance and handling and are priced from a mere $3,300 for the minimum to a whopping $28,000 for the full performance package.

(Although that sounds like a lot, we expect that Agent 007 wouldn't have blinked at the chance to muscle up his Aston Martin for what amounts to a measly 21% rise over the base coupe's $130,000 price tag.)


(The really important news: a price reduction and a new cup holder design!)

New: The A6 Avant near-luxury station wagon, introduced in June, and a more affordable turbocharged 1.8-liter, four-cylinder version of the A4 Avant mid-size station wagon that was introduced last year with a 2.8-liter V-6. The 1.8-liter A4 could come in about $4,000 less than its big brother with a price tag of about $27,000. The sporty wagons have all-wheel drive and manually shifted Tiptronic automatic transmissions--standard on the A6, options on the A4.

Audi is also putting first-aid kits in all its center consoles and says it has redesigned its cup holders, generally regarded as the worst in the auto industry.

Out: The Cabriolet convertible, which wasn't available in California this year anyhow, and the front-wheel-drive version of the 2.8-liter A4 wagon.

In the Wings: The radically retro-styled two-door Audi TT coupe arrives next September, preceded in August by twin-turbo V-6 and normal-breathing V-8 options for the A6 sedan. A TT convertible is expected by early 2000.

The Rest: No changes for the A6 near-luxury sedan, which was completely redesigned for 1998. Also unchanged: the A4 compact sedan and the A8 luxury sedan.


New: The Arnage, the four-door sedan addition to the Bentley lineup--the first all-new Bentley in 18 years. At $204,000, the four-seater is almost $100,000 less than the next step up in the line, the Continental R coupe. Although the sedan is as heavy and long as a Chevy Suburban, the Arnage's twin-turbo V-8 engine (made by BMW) powers it from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.2 seconds. Bentley has also added a glass roof with removable panels to the Continental and is calling that model the Continental SC.

Out: Two models, the Turbo R RT--replaced by the Arnage--and the Brooklands.

The Rest: No significant changes to the Continental R, Azure convertible or Continental T coupe.


New: The unusually styled Z3 Coupe (which also comes as a high-performance M Coupe); the 5-series sport wagons; and the 3-series sedan, coupe and convertible, unveiled at major car shows earlier this year and launched this summer with the V-6 powered 323i and 328i sedans. The new 3s will sell side by side with the older-generation 3-series cars until the whole lineup is converted to the new platform, a process expected to take about two years. Styling is similar to that of the old 3-series, although corners aren't as sharp and the overall shape is a bit more wind-tunnel-tuned.

"Similar" isn't a word that can be used to describe the wild Z3 Coupe, based on the Z3 roadster but reportedly a much better road car: tighter, stickier and faster. Most people will either love or hate the coupe's almost square-backed lines, which hark back to the days of the MGB GT coupe.

Out: The underpowered four-cylinder version of the Z3 roadster, which now comes with either a 2.5-liter or 2.8-liter inline-6. The M versions all have 3.2-liter inline-6s.

The Rest: The sedans of the 5- and 7-series get BMW's head-protection system as standard equipment, plus a variety of option package modifications, including sport packages for the top-of-the-line models.


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