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PONTIAC GRAND PRIX SEDAN, TRANS SPORT VAN STEAL THE SHOW

SHARE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX SEDAN, TRANS SPORT VAN STEAL THE SHOW

When Pontiac unveiled its 1990 model lineup in Memphis last week, the new Grand Prix 4-door sedan and plastic-bodied Trans Sport stole the show.

That was the case in part because a local hometown singer didn't materialize."Elvis was supposed to fly over in a balloon, but he failed to appear," quipped Pontiac General Manager John Middlebrook, who was allowed a giddy moment considering the success of the division he's just taken over in the past few weeks.

Middlebrook forecast Pontiac will sell 780,000 vehicles in the 1990 model year, up 45,000 units from 735,000 in 1989.

That gain, he said will come from 70,000 sales of the Prix sedan and 40,000 to 60,000 sales of the Trans Sport. The two will offset losses expected in the midsize 6000 series, declining demand for the imported mini LeMans, along with dropping the full-size, rear-wheel drive Safari station wagon for 1990.

One vehicle not at the preview was the Stinger, the little plastic-bodied, four-seater, four-wheel-drive recreational vehicle displayed on this year's auto show circuit.

Stinger, with such features as a front seat that rises so passengers can view passing parades, an interior that can be washed out with a hose, not to mention an on-board hose, is still only a concept, Middlebrook said.

"We continue to look at it and get reaction to it and this week we're taking it out to California for some more exposure and additional consumer reaction," he said.

The Grand Prix sedan and Trans Sport van were the preview attractions. Here's a brief look at the two:

Just like Chevrolet, Buick and Olds, Pontiac adds a front-wheel-drive 4-door sedan to its midsize 2-door coupe lineup. The Prix sedan is built on a 107.5-inch wheelbase and is 194.8 inches long, or the same wheelbase but an inch longer than the coupe.

The Prix sedan will be offered in LE and top-of-the-line STE performance versions, though STE won't appear until January at the earliest.

The STE will be to the Prix as the SSE is to Bonneville, a breed apart. The STE will be powered by a 140-horsepower, 3.1-liter, V-6 engine teamed with 5-speed manual transmission as standard. The STE also is available with a turbocharged, 205-h.p., 3.1-liter V-6 teamed with 4-speed automatic only.

It will have a separate styling identity with a different front and rear end than the LE model, including lower body extensions and wide bodyside moldings.

The STE also will offer Goodyear Eagle GT+4 16-inch tires, sports suspension, articulated bucket seats, luggage pass-through rear seats, AM-FM stereo with cassette and steering wheel controls, power brakes and steering, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, power decklid release, dual power remote mirrors, tilt steering, cruise control, intermittent wipers and rear window defogger. Anti-lock brakes, power sunroof, leather interior and compact disc player are optional.

The LE sedan will offer a 2.3-liter, 160-h.p., 4-cylinder Quad Four engine as standard teamed with a 3-speed automatic transmission. No manual is offered on the LE. Anti-lock brakes are optional.

The Grand Prix SE coupe features the same 3.1-liter V-6 as in the STE sedan, plus sports suspension and dual exhausts. Anti-lock brakes are optional. The SE coupe also gets special aero body skirts and fog lamps to update the external appearance. Trans Sport is the plastic-bodied, front-wheel-drive mini cousin to the Chevy Lumina and Olds Silhouette vans. Trans Sport is offered in two versions, the base model and the loaded SE.

Both are powered by a 120-h.p. version of the 3.1-liter V-6 teamed with 3-speed automatic and rated at 18 miles per gallon city/22 mpg highway by the EPA.

The seating configuration differs between the base and SE. In the base model there's 2-plus-3 seating, two buckets up front and a three-passenger bench in back.

The SE offers far more standard equipment. In addition to power brakes and steering there's air conditioning, AM-FM stereo with digital clock, leather-covered steering wheel, 15-inch Goodyear Eagle GT+4 tires, pneumatic load leveling, tilt steering and cruise control.

The base Trans Sport starts at $14,995 and the SE at $18,125. That compares with $13,995 on the base Lumina APV minivan and $15,745 on the upgraded Lumina CL and $17,195 on the Olds Silhouette.