All-Wheel-Drive Flashback: The Day MotorWeek Took A Ford Tempo Into The Mud
The moment the Subaru Legacy Outback debuted in 1994, you’d swear that “all wheel drive” had just debuted. In the Pacific Northwest, Outback station wagons descended like the freaking plague, in varying shades of autumn red and forest green and the like, all with cladding that looked like Pontiac offered up some support. But all-wheel-drive and other four-wheel-drive systems weren’t new, not even in cars. American Motors and Audi had been in that game for a few years when this 1987 MotorWeek test of four-wheel-drive vehicles ran. In fact, the missing 1987 Eagle doesn’t feel like any kind of oversight…apparently MotorWeek was savvy to the soon-to-be-gone game-changer. Instead, they drew up several different styles of vehicles for this test: the basic family sedan in the form of the Ford Tempo and Mercury Topaz all-wheel-drive sedans, the funky Subaru GL-10 sedan with it’s four-wheel-drive system, the Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro, the Honda Civic micro-wagon 4×4, and the Audi 5000 CS Quattro luxury sedan.
The motley crew of vehicles is certainly a mixed bag of options, but the testing showcases exactly what the later 1980s had to offer: miserable performance, handling that’s wallowy at best, brake dive that threatens to scrub the nose of the Topaz clean off, and zero to sixty times that are glacial in speed. But hey, we do get to see the Tempo and Audi actually taken into a muddy grass field and the Vanagon driven on some basic dirt roads with some hills…that’s off road, right?