IT WAS CHRYSLER'S "ultimate high technology luxury sedan," the front-wheel- drive New Yorker, 1985 vintage. The model year, in this case, didn't matter. The New Yorker has been a moneymaker for the nation's third-largest automaker, and car people here generally don't mess with success.
So, the 1985 and 1986 New Yorkers are virtually indistinguishable. They even sport the same fake plastic "vents" on the left and right sides of the front end.
The one "major" change that Chrysler is trumpeting in its 1986-New Yorker advertisements is the "revised electronic instrument cluster with integral trip computer." That means the company has changed the way the instrument cluster looks.
Tee-hee. I wish Chrysler had changed the way the computer works. The one in my 1985 test car crashed. It went wacko, folks; and the car only had about 7,300 miles on the odometer at the time it was delivered by Chrysler officials.
Outstanding complaints: The computer crash tops the list. I had always figured that something like this would happen in one of those high-tech buggies, but I never figured it would happen to me -- certainly not in a test car!
But the thing went zambo, Rambo -- yellow warning light, red "low-fuel" warning indicator, electronic warning "voice," the works.
The "voice" kept telling me, "Your fuel is low." I kept telling the voice to go to . . . Well, you know what I told the voice. After all, I had just filled the tank to overflowing. No way that tank could've been empty.
When the trip computer went bonkers, other computerized functions seemed to go bonkers, too. The electronically controlled engine began to cough. The digital speedometer zipped up and down erratically like a hyperactive child who had been mainlining sugar nd Red Dye 3. Finally, the speedometer, at least, settled into more reasonable behavior.
Outstanding praise: Mercy! This car was beautiful when it worked. The 2.2-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder gasoline engine purred like a kitten and ran like a tiger. The acceleration was so good, it made me smile. Handling was excellent, easily comparable to or better than anything in its class -- "full-size luxury."
The New Yorker's seats were so comfortable, I almost thought I'd died and gone to Tush Heaven.
Head-turning-quotient: Attractive, classic American elegance. But it is marred by a clasically silly "styling cue" -- the combined effect of those fake plastic side "vents."
Sound system: Chrysler premium. Excellent, but not competitive with General Motors Corp.'s top-of-the line Delco-Bose series or with other systems in the Delco-Bose category.
Mileage: Average fuel-economy readings before the computer crashed were close to 25 miles per gallon, combined city-highway, running half of the time with full-capacity load of five passengers and the other half with driver- only. The air conditioner was not used during the test drive.
Price-as-tested: $17,307 for the 1985 model. Add $544 for the comparably equipped 1986 car.