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A Pair Of Techno Whiz Speedsters


Personal Business: AUTOS

A PAIR OF TECHNO-WHIZ SPEEDSTERS

From behind the wheel of a Dodge Stealth R/T Turbo or Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4, you feel as though someone has suspended the laws of physics. This nearly identical pair of Mitsubishi-made sports cars can produce neck-snapping acceleration, uncanny cornering, and skid-free stops. Thanks to the techno-wizardry of all-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, and twin-turbo V6 engines that kick out a thumping 300 horsepower, these hot rods are redefining the reasonably priced sports car.

The Stealth and the 3000GT take sharp, bumpy corners serenely, with no hint of the rear-end twitchiness that can make some sports cars a handful. And because the rear wheels help steer, the cars are lightning quick. Road & Track says the 3000GT zipped through its slalom course faster than any other production car ever tested: 66.8 mph. Acceleration on the highway is equally impressive: Both vehicles go from 0 to 60 mph in 6 seconds. Swift stops are surefooted, since computerized hydraulics keep the wheels from locking. An automatically adjusting suspension smooths the ride.

Both cars are as good at turning heads as turning corners, with their swooping roof lines and shovel-nosed snouts. Although nearly identical in size and shape, Chrysler gave the Stealth slightly different styling cues. For example, the Dodge's fake side air vents in front of the rear wheels are less obtrusive than the Mitsubishi's finned ones, which blatantly mimic a Ferrari's.

MAD DASH. Inside, the cars are a bit disappointing. The tachometer and speedometer have large, legible dials. But switches aren't always easy to find. The outside mirror control and rear defogger are hidden behind the steering wheel. The TV-like pictograph that monitors the climate-control system is so small and complex you almost have to pull over to decipher it.

For all their sophisticated technology, these cars are relative bargains. The 3000GT VR-4 goes for $31,400, while the Stealth R/T Turbo is $29,860, including 100-watt stereo, air conditioning, and other features. That compares with a $33,500 sticker price for a top-end Nissan 300ZX and $43,350 for a Porsche 944 S2 Coupe.

If you can do without some of the whiz-bang features, both cars come in less expensive versions. Two nonturbo, 222-hp, front-drive versions of the Dodge go for $19,439 and $26,069, while the comparable Mitsubishis range from $19,059 to $25,579. Their performance can't match the stunning quickness of their higher-priced brethren, but they do have as much get-up-and-go as most folks need or want.EDITED BY AMY DUNKIN David Woodruff


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