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Market researchers J.D. Power and Associates say the Acura luxury car division of American Honda Motor Co. topped the list in its latest study ranking buyer satisfaction after three years of ownership.

The new study, which ranks 1987-model cars according to owners' opinions of overall performance in over 81 categories, also showed that Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota followed Acura in that order in overall satisfaction.Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln nameplate was fifth, ranking as the top domestic manufacturer, said the Agoura Hills, Calif., company, which gleaned its conclusions from over 23,000 respondents polled earlier this year.

The study was conducted among original vehicle owners who bought their cars new between May through October 1987 and still own these same 1987 models. It is notable in that this is the first such report to explore owner satisfaction for cars that old.

It also focuses on which features or aspects of a car make owners happy, rather than on what causes them to gripe most about.