By on May 6, 2020

It’s the mid-1980s, so having a gas-guzzling, rear-drive Malaise box from the late ’70s is unthinkable. No, you’re a modern consumer, and you demand something front-drive and economical, but still with Malaise build quality.

Today we pick a compact Ace of Base from 1985.

Dodge Aries

We start with the oldest design first today. Introduced for 1981, the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant twins were the first K-cars offered by Chrysler. The replacements for the Plymouth Volare and Dodge Aspen, the more rust-proof K-cars were offered in coupe, sedan, and wagon formats. Today’s selection is a base model sedan, with a 2.2-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder under hood. It has a carburetor and produces 82 sporty horsepower. Paired to our basic Aries is a four-speed manual.

Chevrolet Cavalier

The Cavalier was an all-new model for 1982, replacing the Monza. In typical GM fashion, the Cavalier was sold as many different vehicles across the company’s portfolio. Available in more forms than the Aries, there were coupes, convertibles, a hatchback, and the requisite sedan and wagon. Today’s 1985 model has the refreshed quad-lamp fascia that is much more familiar than the short-lived two-lamp design with which the Cavalier debuted. Only one engine is available in ’86, and it’s a 2.0-liter unit with throttle body injection. Producing 86 horsepower, the transmission is a four-speed manual.

Ford Tempo

The Tempo was brand new in 1984, and was Ford’s late response to the Cavalier. The Tempo and its slightly more fancy twin, the Mercury Topaz, replaced the Fox-body Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr. Less keen on body variation than other domestic brands, choice was limited to a sedan with either two or four doors. In a unique offering to the class, the Tempo later offered four-wheel drive. But that was for fancy people who liked wood trim. Today we stick to a base Tempo sedan with a 2.3-liter engine. It has a carburetor and is matched to a four-speed manual; 86 horsepower are available to your right foot.

Three tasty compact sedans, each ready to carry customers through 1990 (when they’d probably switch to a Japanese car). Which is worth the Buy?

(H/t mention to Old Car Brochures, which offers a huge catalog of brochures free of charge.)

[Images: Chrysler, GM, Ford]

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81 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: Economical, Basic American Sedans for 1985...”


  • avatar
    thelaine

    Thank goodness for Japanese cars.

  • avatar
    KevinB

    Tough choices, but:

    Buy the Cavalier. At least this one has some form of fuel injection.

    Drive the Tempo. They were great highway cruisers.

    Burn the Aries. I worked parts at a Dodge dealership during this time and the parts for warranty work had no pattern. They were junk.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Easy, burn, burn, burn :)

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    This list: Otherwise known as three of the main cars that drove Americans into Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas, Nissan Sentras, and Mazda 323s.

    But Corey laid out the list (as sadistic as it might be…) so dems the rules:

    Buy the Tempo: The only one that looks semi-modern, had a half-decent interior, and was comfortable cruising.

    Drive the Cavalier…until it rusted, broke down, or yet another interior piece fell off in your hands. (A family member had a Sunbird back in the day and a friend of mine had a Cavalier coupe…I speak from experience.)

    Burn the Aries. Just because a car line saved a company didn’t mean it was a good car. It was just a cheap car that came out at the right time. Wheezy engines, dreadful transmissions, not that comfortable…but they were cheap!

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “Aries… dreadful transmissions”

      Wat?!?

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        He probably means the manuals, taken from the Omni/Horizon twins. Some of those were 4-speeds from VW, and some were Chrysler’s in-house 5-speed manuals, a whole series of them.

        The first 3-speed auto was a modified-for-FWD Torqueflite, and there were problems with joints and half-shafts that were probably blamed on the transmission. A second version of the Torqueflite was added later.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      This. Tempo, for all its faults, was kind of a pleasant enough car. The Cav will keep going, poorly, forever, feeding on your hatred. The Aries was better than the car it replaced, but that’s not enough to save it from the flames.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        I have to agree, having driven all three. The Tempo was a good highway car, and the drivetrain was the best-sorted.

        The Aries was called cheap, but the Cavalier was the worst for cheap materials and finish. It didn’t handle well, and wasn’t pleasant at freeway speeds.

        The Aries interior wasn’t laid out to be comfortable, until a later version added a couple inches to the wheelbase and the interior was redesigned. That wasn’t available in 1985. Otherwise, it was a so-so driver.

        I’d take the Ford 2.3 over the 2.2. You can keep the iron duke.

        • 0 avatar
          Pig_Iron

          @Lorenzo

          Agreed; the Ford 2.3 OHV was not very exciting but I never heard it give a lick of trouble to anyone. Plus the Tempo had the AWD option.

          • 0 avatar
            tankinbeans

            Was this a time when AWD was marketed more as a sporty option versus a safety option? For the longest time, at least to me in Minnesota, AWD meant sporty. I seem to recall thinking that an AWD mini-van in the form of an Aerostar was gauche because I didn’t know how sporty a mini-van could be.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      You think the Tempo looks modern?! I mean, compared to an Aries, maybe, but my god. And the interior was absolutely awful. I speak from experience, owned an ’86 Tempo. Worst mistake of my life.

  • avatar
    993cc

    If I had a million dollars I’d buy the K-car.
    But I’d take a limousine ’cause it costs more.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      If I had a million dollars, I’d buy you a green dress, but not a real green dress; that’s cruel.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Perhaps the K-Car limousine is for you then?

      allpar.com/eek/k/limo.html

      Nixon had one in his later years, I would wager as punishment for being Richard Nixon. I can just imagine a gift card from President Reagan when it was delivered: No real limo for you Tricky Dick!

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        The only Presidential ‘motorcade’ I ever witnessed up close was carrying Richard Nixon [and traveling at high speed].

        This is why I have problems with authority… :-)

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          When the TV show “Dynasty” was at it’s peak they put the industrial giant, Blake Carrington in a K-Car limo. I used to laugh thinking such a alpha-pr*ck would ride in such a car

          • 0 avatar

            I wish you all would use its proper title, Executive.

            https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2019/07/rare-rides-be-a-real-businessman-with-the-1983-chrysler-executive-sedan/

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            Corey, in the source you cited, here are the word counts:
            – “Limousine” (capital L) = 6
            – “limousine” (lowercase l) = 7
            – “Executive” (capital E) = 5 (text) + 1 (title)
            – “executive” (lowercase e) = 1

            So the intent was perhaps not crystal clear. Anyway, wish fulfillment is temporarily on hold due to COVID-19 pandemic. [Wishes regarding the behavior of other human beings may be deferred longer.]

            (Note: If my word counts are off even slightly, every element of my belief system is immediately and permanently invalidated – said every engineer everywhere ever.)

            993cc correctly used the generic term. 28-Cars-Later also used lowercase indicating more-generic reference.

            …Sniffs into my Kleenex® brand facial tissue…

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          I saw one Nixon motorcade, in D.C. He was visiting the Cspitol building, and I had just come from photographing the Supreme Court building.

          As he was leaving, Nixon stopped the motorcade and got out to shake hands with a crowd! This was while the Watergate hearings were going on, in 1972.

          The motorcade was all Lincolns. When he got elected, he replaced every Cadillac LBJ had bought for the White House fleet with Lincolns. He was nearly killed in a Cadillac visiting Venezuela as Vice President, and wouldn’t get in one again.

          It’s not a Democrat/Republican thing. When Harry Truman got elected in 1948, a Republican Cadillac dealer refused a request to borrow some convertibles for the inaugural parade.

          Truman’s aides contacted a D. C. Lincoln dealer who said he’d get back to them. Henry Ford cslled back and asked how many they needed. Truman rode in a 1949 Lincoln Cosmopolitan delivered fresh from the factory.

          Truman then replaced all the Cadillacs in the White House fleet with lincolns, just as Nixon would 20 years later.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Burn the Aries. The worst sort of car
    Buy the Chevrolet. I have to buy one and I don’t want to drive this.
    Drive the tempo. They weren’t terrible.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Drive the tempo. They weren’t terrible.”

      I call shenanigans. ;)

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        They (Tempos) are like the radiation readings at the start of Chernobyl. Not bad….not good, but not bad.

        Those other 2 are more akin to when the dude walks out on the roof with all of the graphite at his feet and stares down into the burning hole where the reactor used to be. Bad in the worse way you can imagine.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I would burn the Tempo. Everyone that I knew that had one made good friends with the dealer service manager since they saw them so often.

    The other two would be a toss up. The Mopar 2.2 was dead reliable but the 4 speed manual sucked. If it had the 5 speed I would drive it.

    I knew many people that had no issues with either of the remaining cars, other than rust. All three were popular where I lived and all were better than the cracked heads in the Escorts a little later.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    Thats easy. Buy and drive the Reliant burn the other two. I say buy the 85 REliant cuz my first car. It was an 85 Reliant SE 2 door with the mitsubishi 2.6 that got me through college from 2000 to 2003. It had sat untouched for 5 or 6 years when I got it, and it was amazingly rust proof thanks to the Rusty Jones rustproofing. Anyway it was a fine car for me at the time. It was reliable, only broke down when the AC compressor sized up. I cut the belt, fixed! And amazing in the snow. Only downside, it was a gas guzzler, always running rich, never passing emissions (I just drove with the R sticker and never got in trouble) and I was happy if I got 20 mpg. The Mikuni carb was so complicated I just didnt try bother to fix it. In the end it succumbed to the problem that the mitsubishi 2.6 was infamous for, worn out timing chain guides. I knew it was gonna cost more than it was worth (what was an 85 reliant worth in 2003? $200?) so I DROVE it into the junkyard and moved on.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Buy the 6.2L Diesel K5 for the thrifty fuel economy and as a vacation 4×4 vehicle
    Drive the 454 Suburban with the steepest gear set for getting work done
    Burn everything in this article

    That’s my answer to 1985

  • avatar
    ajla

    Buy the Chevy for fuel injection.
    Drive the Ford because I guess it looks nice.
    Burn the Aries.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Correct answer – GMs TBI was just about the best thing they did during the 80s.

      Which is why I still have rage that it took them until almost the close of the decade to add TBI to the SBC in passenger cars AND they never added TBI to the Oldsmobile 307.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        +1 PrincipalDan – Adding TBI earlier and to both engines seems like a no-brainer. I’m curious as to what kept it from happening.

        I’m something of a CCC Quadrajet apologist because I knew two families with mid-’80s Buick Estates who enjoyed very good reliability and longevity from their respective cars. But even I think equipping the 307 with TBI should have been an easy and obvious upgrade.

  • avatar
    detlump

    My family had an 86 Topaz (after trading in an 84 Audi 4000s due to fuel system issues). The Topaz was a dog to drive. It had no power to speak of and the AC robbed what was left.

    The Topaz was replaced with a 626 GT which was a much better car.

    I would burn all of these – they did accomplish one goal – create a generation of Japanese car buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      I know 1985 wasn’t great for much of anything (except music), but yeah, my aunt’s 1985 Civic was in another world. She’d probably still have it today, if it weren’t for the dreaded rust problems.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Burn all three of these and buy an Accord.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    The Tempo was good on paper. We had a 84 or 85, and so many breakdowns and problems. Steered mom & dad to Hondas and Subaru from then on out. But the rules:

    Drive the Tempo- it was a good effort.
    Buy the Cavalier- it would probably still be running, poorly, and rusted.
    Burn the Aries- I respect them within the context of American automotive history, but I’ve never/ or wanted to drive one.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Buy the Aries. My 85 LeBaron GTS was a derivative of that, and it lasted 15 years and 206k miles. Great car.

    Drive the Cavalier, because they were cockroaches that would survive the nuclear winter.

    Burn the Tempo – they were sadness.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      My last post was wrong. We had a Lebaron GTS too, purchased after the Tempo, then it was Civics, Accords, Outback. We didn’t have any problems with it, and I loved the Turbo- lag and all. It was a comfortable car and handled well, bought lightly used as a fleet car. For some reason though Mom got rid of it after a couple years and got the Civic she wanted. She had heard about transmission problems (probably the Ultradrive cratering, even though this didn’t have an Ultradrive) and that spooked her.

  • avatar
    justVUEit

    Buy: Cavalier. Add a few cheezy ornaments stripped from a Cimmaron, and boom, instant Cadillac. Oh, yeah, and fuel injection (even if a TBI).

    Burn: The Tempo and its wheezy underpowered 4-banger.

    Drive: The K car. Straight to the junkyard. Cheer while watching its rusty bits get crushed into tinier rusty bits.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Push it to the limit!

    I’m burning them all and the going with the badge engineered 1985 Cadillac Cimmaron which offered the exact *same* drivetrain as the Cavalier and other J-bodies. That’s how lazy it was.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_122_engine#LQ5

    If the Commandant does not approve, I will take the Cav and convert it into Cimmaron. Seriously I would probably only need about a dozen different parts (grille, bucket seats, leather rear seat, wheels, emblems, dash, taillights, maybe the painted bumpers… should be it).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
    Cadillac_Cimarron#/media/
    File:Cadillac_Cimarron_(5810874724).jpg

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    For sure buy the Chevalier, when I first met my wife she was driving an early 2000s 2 door automatic coupe with manual windows that her dad bought new. She gifted it to a teenage cousin after buying a new Acura CL.He drove it for close to 200k miles with only routine maintenance, maybe an A/c compressor or water pump.

  • avatar
    dwford

    TTAC starting a new segment “Shot/Stabbed/Burned: Which would you prefer?”

    That being said. My Dad had a K car sedan, and it seemed fine at the time when I was 16. My mom had an automatic Mercury Topaz, which even back then I knew was terrible. At least the Cavalier could be had in a v6 Z24 version. So I guess buy the Cavalier, drive the K car, and burn the Tempo.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Expanding on that, which of these three would you not even be caught shot dead inside of?

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      I have the first entry in Shot/Stabbed/Burned:

      1974 Ford Pinto
      1974 Chevy Vega
      1974 Plymouth Cricket

      Go…….

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        The Pinto and Vega will take a junkyard LS motor without much drama, so one of those then maybe I could make enough at the track for a real car.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        @ theflyersfan Red Pinto with a white “Starsky & Hutch” stripe and a V-6. One of dad’s crazed engineer coworkers bought it. Sale price did not include fuzzy dice and Jensen tri-axials. Vega Panel Wagon with a “Dark Side of The Moon” prism mural. Yep, sold to another engineer. Plymouth Cricket, traded in on a Sirocco. Last seen at the very back of the VW lot.

  • avatar
    Mackie

    My mother bought a brand new ‘85 Topaz coupe. The car was constantly stalling and sometimes refused to start at all. The dealer couldn’t (be bothered to) figure out the problem. Total garbage and useless dealer support. She traded it after only a few months for a lightly used Jetta coupe. Way cooler and better in every way. She lost money, obviously, but saved herself from a future of motoring misery.

  • avatar
    TheMrFreeze

    I’m pretty sure the ’85 Tempo had throttle body fuel injection, not a carb. I had an ’84 Tempo and yeah that did have a single-barrel carb but in ’85 they moved to TBI.

    And yeah, the Tempo had a 3-speed and was an absolute dog.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Buy: Cavalier. As a teenager I got nominated to drive a brand-new one of these home from the dealership for a family member. It was not bad. (Took the long way home – perhaps not the most prudent decision on their part.)

    Drive: Aries. To the shop, where we will remove all of the greenhouse except the windshield (including the overly-formal roofline). Open air for the win. [Reinforcements to be added as required to claw back any semblance of torsional rigidity.]

    Burn: Tempo. There is a way to do ‘aircraft-style’ doors, and this isn’t it (compare the 1986 Taurus for a *much* better execution). That Tempo picture is the reason that the concept of “B-Pillar Blackout” is known to every automotive designer everywhere.

  • avatar

    My malise life was untainted by any of those. We had either beat old-iron cars, or VW’s. I think I drove a J car once on vacation.

  • avatar

    The ad excerpted says 2.8 six with F41. If that’s the choices, that one.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    Burn: Tempo. Two data points here. I once got one as a loaner. Being a red-blooded American loaner recipient, I threw it into a low-speed corner or two, and was shocked afterward to see the thing had keeled over to such an extent that it had visible scrub marks up the sidewall all the way to the wheel rims. More recently, I talked to someone who’d managed a small fleet of them. He told me there was some sort of electrical part that serially failed on them, and he stocked them.

    Drive: Aries. I had an Omni/Horizon (same car under the skin). It was soft, flimsy, numb and had no sense of straight ahead, but it was tolerable enough. And in the Malaise context, that warranty was actually pretty impressive.

    Burn: Cimarron or whatever. Please, I just can’t go there.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The Omni had nothing at all to do with the K-Car other than eventually sharing an engine. It was basically a French Simca, and LONG preceded the debut of the K-Car.

      But I too would pick the Dodge, in station wagon manual form.

      Burn the other two, utter rubbish.

      • 0 avatar

        I had an Omni GLH turbo. The 2.2 was stout in all applications, and I never had any issue with the 5 speed. The Simca frame was stiffer than K cars I drove since, and a friend had the same basic powertrain in a Laser. The Omni was very tight for the class and era, at least in GLH trim. (ok, all 14 of them)

        I saw a few K cars stagger to EOL, mostly in the uncaring hands of various friends of my wife. Roach like survival.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      @tonycd, that must have been some electronic ignition module. Our Tempo ate them, my Escort ate them for breakfast lunch and dinner, and dad’s Ranger ate a few of them too. All from the early/mid 80’s.

  • avatar
    eng_alvarado90

    My family had two of those 3 cars at different times: a brand new 2dr Aries 4 spd back in 85 and a 2dr 86 Tempo GLS 5 spd through most of the 90s (it proved very reliable). The Aries didn’t last long but bot because it wasn’t reliable, it was traded on a truck by the late 80s.

    So according to my own experience I’d choose to:

    Buy: Tempo (I’d been great if it had been the much improved 86 MY)
    Drive: Cavalier. I’d like to feel those FI horsepower on a twisty road
    Burn: Aries, the most outdated and uninspiring from an already uninspiring option list.

    PS. And yes, my parents ended up getting a couple Japanese vehicles after the Tempo but have been back and forth with American, Japanese and a VW in the mix

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I’m wishy-washy about the Tempo and Aries; the Tempo is the better car outside of the engine room but the Aries has the better powertrain.

    One thing is certain: burn the Cavalier.

  • avatar
    canam23

    Buy the Tempo, drive the K Car, burn the Cavalier. I had two Tempos as company cars, no issues, boring but comfortable. My folks had a Spirit, drove nice for what it was. The Cavalier was a death trap in an accident.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      Spirits weren’t really K-cars (technically the AA platform), but certainly evolved from them. I have an irrational fondness for the Spirit/Acclaim. They have a certain old-school American feel and execution, but updated, good interior room but a compact easy to drive package, and square like old Volvos but with rounded edges. A 2.5 and a 3-speed auto is not exciting, but it’s a solid ride and good highway cruiser.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    So in 1985 my mother got one of the other options for a car this size…the new for 1985 VW Jetta. As such I know 100 percent that none of these 3 even come close to being the worst option for the model year. A Vega was likely more reliable. It was terrible from day 1. The windows ceased to operate in the first month. They fixed them for the duration of the warranty and then told her to pound sand. The crank fell of the sunroof. From like year 2 it would be full of water if it rained…but not the radiator, it was more difficult to keep full. Arount that time only AM would work. The shift knob would come off in your hand. The ac failed by year 3 (awesome in Florida), the fuel injection just broke when it felt like resulting in costly repairs a couple times a year and a tow, the brake calipers were a twice a year affair and the horn wouldn’t work except for when you’d hit a large enough bump at which point it would work for long periods of time.

    I’m sure I’m forgetting something. All this was before the cars fifth birthday.

    Yeah, sure wish she’d have gotten that Tempo.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      Art…I hear ya! You jogged some memories there. Some of my neighbors had…I think it was an 86 or 87 Jetta, new. They loved their German cars – had an new Audi as well. And it seemed like every other week, the flatbed was in their driveway towing either car away. They punted the Audi after a couple of years, but the Jetta – I cannot fathom how much they sunk into that car to keep that rusting, wheezing, sorry state of an auto running. Meanwhile the rest of the neighbors (and family members) were replacing their small American cars with small and midsize Japanese cars that, while likely deathtraps in an accident with a trashcan or a large raccoon, lasted forever.

      Excellent Chernobyl reference – eventually all three of these cars would eventually eat you up form the inside out, take your soul, and have you hauling out of town…likely on a bus.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    To play by the rules I’d have to buy a Tempo, drive an Aries and cavalierly burn the Cavalier. But when the rules require you to lose this badly you have to break the rules. Buy a used Datsun z car and modify, that’s what I did then.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Buy: Cavalier-fuel injection and better than an X-body which I briefly had as a company car. A firm I worked for had as one of their corporate lease vehicles a Cimmaron, one of the last 87-88 models loaded with the 2.8 MPI and F-41 suspension. A decent drive but not quite a Cadillac, more like a loaded Cavalier or Oldsmobile Firenza sedan which for some reason didn’t offer the 2.8 MPI, only the 1.8 OHC.

    Drive: Tempo- I’m a Ford fan but have found these wanting. An Escort was a better ride.

    Burn: K-car-Even as the platform was used all over the product line the K was getting dated. The all new LeBaron GTS and Lancer ES plus the P-cars were an improvement.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      MRF 95 T-Bird – I think you and I have had this exchange a time or two before, but I think we may be the only commenters who’ve actually driven *driven* a Cimmaron. Removed from their stigma and MSRPs, the ’87 and ’88 models actually were decent. If I recall, all got the V6 in those years.

      From ’85 on, the 2.8 *was* available in the Cavalier and the Firenza. In a move sort of counter to the homogenization Roger Smith era, the Sunbird and Skyhawk got a 1.8 turbo four as their performance engine (later bored and stroked to 2.0).

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I probably added something too that mentioned that the Cimarron might’ve come out better if it had used the Olds/Buick interior with nicer appointments, and had been delayed that extra year.

      Better yet would have been if they would have based a Cadillac on the A-Body platform with the first use of the Buick 3.8 SPFI V6 with AWD, a-la the 6000 STE. (Even that Pontiac would have been better with the Buick motor, but it was in the wrong division structure (Chevy/Pontiac/GMC vs. Buick/Olds/Cadillac). Who knows?)

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    Buy and drive the Tempo. I had a 1986 Tempo LX with 5 speed manual and 2.0 Diesel (Mazda RF). Yes it was dog slow but once at highway speed it had a nice, quiet ride and would get over 40mpg. Put almost 100,000 miles on it, never had it in the shop except routine maintance and got a decent price when I sold it.

  • avatar

    A newer saw any of these cars. I am more familiar with end of 80s-90s cars. But my friend drove me in 1994 Ford Tempo with Vulcan to interviews while I did not buy car yet and it was a nice car. Saying that I hate Vulcan, very low rpms and it would take forever to accelerate to 80 mph, forget about 100 (in Taurus).

    I would take Tempo since it came from company that brought Taurus for us. Other two have idea what to expect. I would rather donate them to our gardener.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    You know, something Chrysler got right when these cars were new was the paint durability. From about the mid-1980s model years, the paint on a 4-5 year old K Car was almost always in better shape than a contemporary Tempo, Cavalier, or Citation. It was just something that Chrysler figured out before the other two domestics (well, other three since AMC was still around). It wasn’t across the board, the competition in “paint doesn’t look really old after a few years” wasn’t very stiff (the worst carmaker today is better than the best from back then), and I definitely remember some K Cars running around with a chipped clear coat, but on average most of them didn’t look as worn and sun faded at age 4-5 years.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Drove all three of these losers, K cars more than a few times. The rental companies were stuffed to the gills with them.

    All unmitigated crap. The Cavalier when new approximated a real car of 1982. With no power. Of course, GM with its policy of keeping crap around for its favored North American customers, didn’t really update it until the Cobalt, while in Europe, it went through four new models, actually, you know, keeping up with the times. Anyone who experienced a mid ’90s Vauxhall/Opel Cavalier knows it was class competitive, unlike the rubbish sold in the US. But GM US knew its customers wouldn’t have the first clue that there was a better Cavalier out there, because Europeans are socialists. So it put in a V6 for the yahoos instead.

    K Car. Lord praise the skinny vibrating steering wheel at idle and crap interior. To me, as an Audi Coupe driver, the K Car was barely passable and so cheap it hurt. It could hop across an intersection from a new green light in an unexpectedly spritely manner, after which, thoroughly exhausted, it putt-putted onwards. One of the rentals I had (Brand New, sir!) had a heater that didn’t work, and that in the middle of winter. Finally discovered that sometimes it did, but it depended on whether you were going up a steep hill or down. Yup, someone hadn’t come close to filling it with coolant. So that’s what the weird gurgles were! Mr Iococca, sir, about this meatball you made….

    The Tempo had the raspiest nastiest engine, not in keeping with the faux luxe interior with gold lame accents. If people think this was a great highway cruiser with that crummy powerplant hammering away at too high revs, let me ask you to look up the phrase “cognitive dissonance”. I can’t remember if the wind noise drowned out the engine, just remember being shocked in a bad way the first time I drove one. After that I literally groaned at the opportunity. Good lord. The favorite of the three for the old lady crowd.

    The K-Car and the Tempo were driven by dingbats at ridiculous speeds on snow covered highways. “Look Ma, front wheel drive!” Why yes, they did “seem” more stable to previous rear-wheel drive users. Too bad about the laws of physics. The invincible warrior commute crowd often found ditches possessed a supernatural magnetism for their chariots. Don’t know why, but those two handily outdid the Cavalier in the ditch hunt stakes, and there were far more Cavaliers and Sunfires about.

    The best of these cars was the later ’89 Plymouth Acclaim with the 3.0l OHC Mistsubihi V6. Incredibly improved over the K-Car. I could have lived with that one myself. But I’d prefer a 1985 Mazda 626, their first front driver. My boss had one, and that thing could cover country roads like nobody’s business, good thing because he always drove too fast. But other than drawing my knees up to my chest every few minutes in fear as we yet again approached a corner too fast, I learned to trust him. His antics with a rented Lincoln scared his four department heads riding along, though. He’d give the wheel a half turn cut and giggle when there wasn’t the slightest change of direction – champeen railroad crossing mobile though. He looked around for them. None of us ever went to a conference with him ever again! The 626 had a bit more room inside than the Accord and was less prone, though not great, to rust here. An ’83 to ’85 Accord lasted five years max in Nova Scotia. The next model added six months.

    As for the article cars. Burn ’em all. Who in hell would want to keep one? A masochist?

  • avatar
    07NodnarB

    i cant do a thing with any of the three. i cant drive a stick!!

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