SHE WAS attractive. But when she jumped in the middle of the highway and ordered me to stop, I knew she wouldn't ask for a date. She was wearing a Maryland State Police uniform.
She said I was doing 69 in a 55-mph zone, which I couldn't believe. I had just cranked the engine of the 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais Quad 4 and had barely moved an eighth of a mile from the gas station when, whammo! There she was, a badged Diana sprung from the asphalt.
I protested mildly. (I'm no fool. Gun-toting folks in uniform get my respect regardless of gender.) Anyway, the officer handed me a $40 ticket and told me to talk to a judge, which is an idea.
I figure I was suckered into the speed trap by David E. Davis Jr. and his cadre of writers at wine-brie-and-gasoline Automobile magazine.
Davis Inc. panned the Quad 4 Calais. They called it a mediocre machine produced by a company, General Motors, that's trying to make a big deal out of finally finding a way to produce 16-valve engines. ("Quad 4" equals four valves per cylinder times four cylinders, see?)
The Japanese and Germans have been running 16-valves for quite a while, a point Davis Inc. relished in their review. Of the American effort, they said: "The Quad 4 Calais package simply doesn't work."
Having read that, I departed for Maryland's Assateague seashore, thinking I was driving a bit of a dog. I felt the need, albeit unjustified, to throttle the thing. I was duped. Had I not picked up Automobile, I certainly would've been a more gentle driver in this case.
Whattaya think? Yeah, I thought so. The check's in the mail.
Complaint: Automobile is bananas. The Quad 4 Calais is a heck of a good little street runner. No gripes on performance. But GM needs to do something about its seatbelts. Several short types complained loudly about the front shoulder-harness belts scraping their necks; and several women were not at all pleased about the way the belts pressed their chests.
Reducing belt tension to improve passenger comfort produced gripes of a different sort from me. The things were so loose, they would've been useless in a crash. C'mon GM. With all of your brains and bucks, can't you come up with a belt system better than this?
Praise: So what if foreign car companies have had 16-valve engines for a while? The Quad 4 Calais' 2.3-liter, double-overhead-cam, 150-hp job is a hoot and a welcome entry in small-engine competition.
Much to my chagrin, I found out how well and how smoothly this thing moves. No rumbles or grumbles anywhere in gear changes in my front-wheel-drive test model. I only wish that my car had behaved as unevenly as the one GM sent Automobile. I could've been $40 richer.
Oh, yeah, fit-and-finish on the test car was world-class, too.
Ride, acceleration, handling: Woefully good in all three categories.
Head-turning-quotient: Not much different from the 1987 package. But still good enough to attract all of the wrong kinds of attention.
Sound system: AM/FM electronic stereo radio and cassette by GM/Delco. Good.
Mileage: About 20 to the gallon (13.6- gallon tank, estimated 283-mile range on usable tank volume), running mostly highway, four occupants, with air-conditioner operating fulltime. Four-speed automatic transmission.
Price: Estimated $14,811, including $4,895 in options and $370 destination charge. Estimated base price is $9,741, and approximate dealer invoice price is $12,852. Firm prices, which may be higher, will be announced at the Quad 4 Calais' fall introduction.