Dec
15
1983 Plymouth Tourismo

1983 Plymouth Turismo

Depending on who defines it, the automotive “malaise era”—the period of time during which vehicle performance declined steeply, mostly as a result of emissions issues—ended in the early Eighties. That said, what was considered quick by 1983 standards seems pretty quaint today.

Still working through the cost/benefit equation of fuel-injecting popularly priced vehicles, American manufacturers relied heavily on largish, low-revving, low-horsepower carbureted V8s to motivate most of their full-size cars and trucks, and fairly large V6 mills for their midsize products. Fuel injection was still the domain of import manufacturers, and a few domestic small cars.

Thus, of the dozen fastest vehicles tested by our editors back in 1983, only three were packing V8 engines under the hood. Of the rest, there were five 6-cylinder engines, two 4-cylinders, one 5-cylinder, and one rotary.

Presented below are the 12 fastest accelerating cars of 1983, as tested by Consumer Guide. As the Consumer Guide folks didn’t spend much time testing Ferraris or Lamborghinis, this list is decidedly mainstream.

Note that the acceleration times listed here represent real improvements over those reported on our 10 Fastest Cars of 1981 list.

Times presented below are 0-60 mph results. Specifics of the vehicle tested follow.

*As tested by Consumer Guide.

6 Worst Gas Guzzlers of 1984*

 

Porsche 911 SC Cabriolet: 7.0 seconds

1983 Porsche 911 SC Cabriolet

1983 Porsche 911 SC Cabriolet

Engine: 172-horsepower, 3.0-liter horizontally opposed six 

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Layout: Rear engine/rear drive

Weight (pounds): 2785 

Consumer Guide did not test the 1983 911 coupe, which was slightly lighter than the Cabriolet. 

 

Mercury Capri RS: 8.0 seconds

1983 Mercury Capri RS

1983 Mercury Capri RS

Engine: 176-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8 

Transmission: 4-speed manual

Layout: Front engine/rear drive

Weight (pounds): 3175

The 5.0-liter “High Output” V8 came standard on Capri RS models and was available as a $1343 option on lesser trim levels.

 

Audi Quattro: 8.0 seconds

1983 Auto Quattro

1983 Auto Quattro

Engine: 156-horsepower, 2.1-liter turbocharged 5-cylinder  

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive

Weight (pounds): 2838

At $35,000, the Quattro was exceedingly expensive by 1983 standards. A similar-looking (and more affordable) Audi Coupe was also offered for 1983. The Coupe started at $12,600 and came without all-wheel drive or turbocharging.

 

Ford Mustang GT Convertible: 8.2 seconds

1983 Ford Mustang GT

1983 Ford Mustang GT

Engine: 176-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8 

Transmission: 4-speed manual

Layout: Front engine/rear drive

Weight (pounds): 3055

The 1983 Mustang and Mercury Capri were mechanically identical, though the Capri was not available in convertible form.

 

Datsun 280ZX Turbo: 8.5 seconds

1983 Datsun 280ZX Turbo

1983 Datsun 280ZX Turbo

Engine: 180-horsepower, 2.8-liter six 

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Layout: Front engine/rear drive

Weight (pounds): 3125

Consumer Guide editors made note that the 1983 test 280ZX Turbo was slightly slower than a similar 280 with automatic transmission tested for 1982.  A drop in turbo boost during shifting was blamed for the slower acceleration.

10 Worst Gas Guzzlers of 1988*

 

Porsche 944: 9.2 seconds

1983 Porsche 944

1983 Porsche 944

Engine: 143-horsepower, 2.5-liter four 

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Layout: Front engine/rear drive

Weight (pounds): 2778

Despite earning a place on this list, the 944 was best known for its handling prowess.

 

Mazda RX-7: 9.4 seconds

1983 Mazda RX-7

1983 Mazda RX-7

Engine: 100-horsepower, 1.1-liter 2-rotor Wankel  

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Layout: Front engine/rear drive

Weight (pounds): 2390

The 1983 RX-7 still made use of a manual choke.

 

Buick Regal T-Type: 9.5 seconds

1983 Buick Regal T Type

1983 Buick Regal T-Type

Engine: 180-horsepower, 3.8-liter turbocharged V6   

Transmission: 4-speed automatic 

Layout: Front engine/rear drive

Weight (pounds): 3270

Non T-Type Regals made do with a 150-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 as their top engine option.

 

Toyota Celica Supra: 9.8 seconds

1983 Celica Supra

1983 Toyota Celica Supra

Engine: 150-horsepower, 2.8-liter six

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Layout: Front engine/rear drive

Weight (pounds): 2970

The Celica Supra’s $470 optional digital gauge cluster was panned by Consumer Guide’s editors.

 

Plymouth Turismo: 10.2 seconds

1983 Plymouth Turismo

1983 Plymouth Turismo

Engine: 94-horsepower, 2.2-liter four

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Layout: Front engine/front drive

Weight (pounds): 2350

Available with the manual transmission was a $75 “performance axle ratio,” which was not included on the Turismo evaluated by Consumer Guide. The nearly identical Dodge Charger would have performed similarly.

 

BMW 528e: 10.5 seconds

1983 BMW 528e

1983 BMW 528e

Engine: 121-horsepower, 2.7-liter six

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Layout: Front engine/rear drive

Weight (pounds): 3015

The “e” in 528e represented BMW’s “Eta” high-efficiency engine. Designed to forgo horsepower in exchange for greater torque earlier in the rev range, Eta engines allowed drivers to shift less frequently and cruise around town in higher gears. An available 533i with a conventional 3.2-liter six boasted 48 more horsepower than the 528e.

 

Pontiac Firebird Trans Am: 10.8 seconds

1983 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

1983 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Engine: 150-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8

Transmission: 3-speed automatic

Layout: Front engine/rear drive

Weight (pounds): 3194

An available “Cross-Fire” fuel-injected 5.0-liter V8 brought 175 horsepower to Formula and Trans Am models, but added $858 to the bottom line.

10 Slowest cars of 1981

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