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Merkur Scorpio Is Prize-winning Thoroughbred

April 30, 1988

DETROIT (AP) _ The Merkur Scorpio was a prize-winning thoroughbred from its earliest days in Europe. Thank goodness Ford Motor Co. saw fit to bring it to this country for discriminating American buyers of luxury sports sedans.

The Scorpio, in Lincoln-Mercury dealerships for a second model year, is a sheer joy to drive.

The test car was impressive, not only in the performance of its 2.9-liter, electronic fuel-injected V-6 but in the comfort and design of its interior. The miles just flew by, no matter if trips were long or short.

The biggest complaint I had were the electrical problems. The right rear window, power of course, wouldn’t go down on the test car.

Also, the electrical cutoff to the rear seats, designed so drivers can keep youngsters in the back from playing with the power windows and power rear seats that recline, didn’t work.

Still, those problems - even in a $26,000 car - were quickly forgotten once the Scorpio was put in gear and began to move.

Handling was flawlesss, so much so that at one point I was up to 120 mph without realizing it.

Even at that high speed, this rear-drive, luxury touring sedan with firm, taut suspension handled as if it was only going 60-65 mph. In fact, keeping the Scorpio within speed limits required vigilance. The car just wanted to run.

It was quickly up to 45 mph in residential areas, up to 75-80 mph on highways with equal regularity. It just didn’t FEEL as if it was going that fast.

Electronically controlled antilock brakes performed superbly to prevent brake lockup in several simulated panic stops.

I wasn’t sure I would like the four-peed automatic transmission (I prefer manuals on performance cars) but I came to enjoy the relatively smooth operation of this automatic.

Inside, special details were everywhere.

A fuel economy computer that could instantly and constantly calculate fuel consumption was a bit distracting, and I’m not sure someone paying $26,000 for the car would care that much about keeping track of some gallons of gasoline.

But the optional leather seats on the test car, with lumbar support in front, made for comfortable rides.

The steering wheel not only tilted by telescoped up and down as the driver wished.

Map reading lights for front and rear riders could be rotated to better focus light where needed.

Rear seats as well as front seats reclined.

Outside mirrors were heated.

There was even a built-in light on the head of the key so a driver could illuminate the keyhole on the outside of the door and unlock the vehicle with ease in the dark.

The Scorpio certainly is a worthy competitor in its market segment, which includes the Audi 5000 and Mercedes 190, and has won hearts in Europe.

Introduced there in May 1985, the West German-built Scorpio won the prestigious European Car of the Year award for 1986 and was named top car in Britain, Car of the Year in Ireland and Denmark and Imported Car of the Year in Spain.

Since its European debut, more than 271,000 have been sold. Scorpios sales in this country began last May, and Road & Track magazine named it one of the 10 best cars for value.

In 1987, just over 5,000 were sold, and Ford projects 1988 sales of more than 10,000, according to a company spokeswoman.

U.S. buyers have average age of 45 and annual income of $65,000, she said. Seventy percent are college graduates, 80 percent are married and 30 percent are females.

Because of its newness to the U.S. market, the Scorpio is not listed in Consumer Reports’ trouble index of frequency of repairs. However, Ford has ensured Scorpio buyers the car will retain much of its value with a program that guarantees trade-in price.

The trade-in is calculated by comparing the average resale value of the car to the average resale value of the Mercedes 190E, using monthly figures from the National Automobile Dealers Association’s used-car guide. If there is a discrepancy, say the Scorpio’s resale value is at 45 percent of the original purchase price while the average Mercedes 190E’s is at 50 percent, the Scorpio owner will be paid the 5 percent difference.

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EDITOR’S NOTE - Ann Job, executive business editor of The Detroit News, writes biweekly automobile reviews for The Associated Press. She has covered the automobile industry for six years.

End Adv Weekend Editions April 30-May 1

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