SOMETHING HAPPENED to those pinstriped folk who run General Motors from the 14th floor of their headquarters building in Detroit.

They got religion.

Cynics might say the execs just got tired of messing with the company's creative types, and left them alone to do their own thing. But I can't believe that. Top GM'ers have been hooked on "control" since the beginning of their careers, and there's no way they're about to give it up now.

So, I gotta believe they got religion, the real stuff. And if you don't believe those people have been saved, I say, hey, take a look at their absolutely righteous 1986 Oldsmobile Toronado.

I mean, yo, bro! Get outta here! This is a dragster cum laude, luxury with class. Mercy, they even put it together without fake woodgrain.

The people at GM have found it with this one. But, more than that, they've given long- suffering American-make buyers a reason to believe that their car companies can build 'em as good as anybody else. And to that, I say, "Hallelujah!"

Outstanding complaints: I tried, really tried, to find something nasty to say about this car. I kept thinking: "Something's gotta go wrong before the week's up." Nothing did.

Outstanding praise: Whoa, this car can move. Just put it in drive, push the accelerator and, zing, you're gone.

The Toronado is so stable, it could put a bunch of psychiatrists out of business. You've got problems? Take a ride in this thing. It's guaranteed therapy. Besides, what good is a couch if it's not moving.

Oh, yeah. Try this: Put aside, for a moment, the conventional wisdom that says American automotive quality is inherently inferior to anything foreign. Examine this car very carefully for flaws in craftsmanship. Choose any competitive foreign car -- mid-size sports luxury -- and do the same test. Here's betting that the Toronado will match or beat the competition.

Equipment note: The test model came with the optional FE 3 suspension. FE 3? It's just a code for the top of the line. But it might as well stand for "feeling elated three times over." Why not? The FE 3 suspension is the top of the line in the Toronado. It is a high- performance system that provides precise steering, great handling in some could-be- tricky turns, and generally excellent driver control. (See, I told ya that GM's topkicks had something to do with this car.)

Head-turning-quotient: A pretty front end with a sassy-looking upturned rear. People really looked at this one.

Sound-system: Delco-Bose AM-FM stereo with tape deck, indisputably one of the best car audio systems in the market.

Mileage: About 25 to the gallon, combined city-highway, running lightly loaded and with windows up and winter climate control system working most of the time. The test model had the Toronado's standard 3.8-liter, V-6 engine and four-speed automatic transmission. Use unleaded fuels only.

Price-as-tested: $22,188, including $2,270 worth of options and a $500 destination charge.