Aug
25
1981 AMC Eagle SX/4

1981 AMC Eagle SX/4

You’ve heard the line, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” You may not know that that much-used quote originally dealt with temptation and comes from the New Testament Book of Matthew.

An update of the line, modified to deal with early Eighties motoring might read, “The (AMC) Spirit (SX/4) is willing, but the (General Motors-sourced Iron Duke 4-cylinder) engine is weak.”

How weak? Collected here are the small sporty coupes of 1981, complete with their 0-60 mph times. All acceleration times are as reported by Consumer Guide in Auto Test ’81.

To put these acceleration times in perspective we turn to Car and Driver. The enthusiast magazine recently put a Chevrolet Spark through its paces, returning an 11.0 second 0-60 time for a model equipped with the standard 1.2-liter 4-cylinder engine and CVT automatic transmission.

But, even with only a limited amount of power on tap, Consumer Guide found some good in each of the vehicles presented here. Seems the spirit was willing.

Consumer Guide Tests the Affordable Sporty Coupes of 1985

 

AMC Eagle SX/4

1981 AMC Eagle SX/4

1981 AMC Eagle SX/4

Base engine: 84-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder

Standard transmission: 4-speed manual

Consumer Guide 0-60 mph time (sec.): 16.8

Consumer Guide observed fuel economy (mpg): 25.6

Per Consumer Guide: The SX/4 earns our approval not only for its gutsy go-anywhere character and better than expected mileage, but also because there’s nothing else on the market like it.

 

Datsun 200-SX

1981 Datsun 200-SX

1981 Datsun 200-SX

Base engine: 100-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder

Standard transmission: 5-speed manual

Consumer Guide 0-60 mph time (sec.): 13.0

Consumer Guide observed fuel economy (mpg): 25.2

Per Consumer Guide: With its decent performance, good handling, fine ride, and high-level of equipment, the 200-SX comes off as a little luxury car that’s also enjoyable on something more demanding than the Interstate.

 

Dodge Challenger

1981 Dodge Challenger

1981 Dodge Challenger

Base engine: 105-horsepower 2.6-liter 4-cylinder

Standard transmission: 5-speed manual

Consumer Guide 0-60 mph time (sec.): 11.9

Consumer Guide observed fuel economy (mpg): 23.0

Per Consumer Guide: Challenger has a lot going for it. It’s fairly quick, gets decent mileage, offers many neat standard features, and is enjoyable to drive.

 

Plymouth Sapporo

1981 Plymouth Sapporo

1981 Plymouth Sapporo

Base engine: 105-horsepower 2.6-liter 4-cylinder

Standard transmission: 5-speed manual

Consumer Guide 0-60 mph time (sec.): N/A

Consumer Guide observed fuel economy (mpg): N/A

Note: The Plymouth Sapporo was not tested by Consumer Guide for 1981. Built by Mitsubishi, the Sapporo is a mechanical clone of the Dodge Challenger, and performed similarly.

 

Toyota Celica

1981 Toyota Celica

1981 Toyota Celica

Base engine: 96-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder

Standard transmission: 5-speed manual

Consumer Guide 0-60 mph time (sec.): 12.5

Consumer Guide observed fuel economy (mpg): 24.0

Per Consumer Guide: The Celica still shares its chassis and running gear with the more mundane Corona, which is no paragon of sports car handling. Yet, the Celica feels much more alive and agile on the move, and rated very good for overall road manners.

 

Volkswagen Scirocco

1981 Volkswagen Scirocco

1981 Volkswagen Scirocco

Base engine: 74-horsepower 1.7-liter 4-cylinder

Standard transmission: 5-speed manual

Consumer Guide 0-60 mph time (sec.): 12.1

Consumer Guide observed fuel economy (mpg): 22.0

Per Consumer Guide: Despite its noise, stiff ride, and smallish cockpit, the Scirocco offers verve with a measure of practicality in a stylish, well-made little GT.

Daily Drive Quiz: Find the Fake Cars (Part 3) 

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