Performance and power in the Pontiac 6000 STE and the Buick Skyhawk

One thing can be said about the huge General Motors auto empire. Whatever your taste in cars, whatever you want in personal wheeled transportation, GM has something to show you.

Take the Pontiac 6000 STE, a delightful car both to sit in and to drive, and the Buick Skyhawk T-type coupe, a small, raw-power machine that handles well and has perhaps all the performance you're likely to need or want.

The STE is Pontiac's idea of a European touring sedan, yet at a sharply lower price than the continental offerings. Indeed, it's not far off the mark.

I like the car as much now as I did when I first drove one some 18 months ago.

Just about everything on an STE is standard fare, hardly the usual practice these days when it comes to dickering with the local car salesman or dealership sales manager.

The idea behind this set-price tactic is to reduce the chance of assembly-line foul-ups. Overall, the car stacks up very well, although there are occasional miscues that are perhaps more annoying than serious.

The 6000 STE, built in Canada, has a curb weight a mite over a ton and a half , while the wheelbase is 104.8 inches, length 188.7 inches, width 68.2 inches, and height 54.8 inches.

Among the Buick division's numerous car offerings is a perky subcompact J-car it calls the Skyhawk T-type coupe, aimed at the younger motorist who is looking for performance, the feel and handling of a competitive sports-type vehicle, and a decent distance on a gallon of fuel. The ride in the Skyhawk is gutsy, but that's the way some buyers want it.

Too, the suspension transmits every jounce in the road to the occupants inside.

One thing it is not is low-priced, especially if you're in the mood to add on the extras.

The Pontiac 6000 STE, an intermediate or midsize car, is a couple of notches above the Skyhawk in size, yet there isn't a whale of a difference between the two cars in price if you consider the options on the quick-off-the-mark Buick Skyhawk.

With a list price, including delivery charge, of $14,851, about the only options for the Pontiac STE are leather seats and a sunroof. The T-type Skyhawk, on the other hand, is sharply lower in base price, but you can't stop there. By the time you add the test car's $4,446 in options to the base sticker price of $ 8,152, the total comes out to a whopping $12,977, including a destination charge of $370. That's less than $1,900 under the price of the much-larger Pontiac STE.

It depends on what you want in a car. The STE provides the performance and feel of a European road car, while the Skyhawk T-type coupe gives the response of a sportster, but with a lot less room inside the doors.

The gutsy Skyhawk T-type test car, with a curb weight of less than 2,500 pounds, included a 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder turbo (an $800 option) to provide the kind of highway kick that some motorists now want as the thrust shifts from the high-fuel-economy cars of a few years ago to larger cars, bigger engines, more niceties inside the car, and more oomph in the small cars.

Charles E. Dole is the Monitor's automotive editor.

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