"Sports roadsters have become the automotive adrenaline rush of the nineties. The wind in-the-hair feeling that folks loved about the great roadsters of the Thirties and the sports cars of the Fifties has returned to the Ford lineup for the nineties. The hot new Mercury Capri, a nimble, front wheel-drive 2+2 sports roadster, is a successful melding of Mercury's luxury heritage and the open-road, fun-to-drive features of an open-air performance automobile.

Although not designed to be run to the ragged edge, the Capri is a sophisticated, fun-to-drive convertible. Within the framework the sportier XR2 is no slouch either. The XR2 is satisfyingly fast and well-equipped to handle the needs of a driver who enjoys a quick run to the mountains.

Power for the Capri comes from a double-cannon equipment package. The standard model comes with a 1.6 liter, dual overhead cam, 16 valve engine delivering 100 horsepower and 95 lbs.-ft. of torque. In basic form this is hooked to a five-speed manual trans-axle that produces EPA figures of 25 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. It's a nippy package that gives the Capri enough snap to make driving it fun while observing fuel economy. A four-speed electronic automatic overdrive is optional with this engine.

For the performance fan the XR2 is the only way to go, offering not only a turbocharged, intercooled engine buy also a sporty, performance suspension system. The XR2 delivers a good whack of power using the same 16-valve 1.6 liter base engine with an added turbo that jumps the power to 132 horses back to back with 1336 lbs.-ft. of torque.

The XR2's power curve comes in as a wide band that is not your typical slap-bang turbo neck snapper. The combination of muli-valve engineering and turbo power smoothes out most of the ruffles, producing a meaty feel that suits the XR2's sporty persona.

Both Capri models feature power four-wheel disc brakes and rack and pinion steering. Underneath the XR2 the four-wheel MacPherson strut suspension is reworked.

This Ford-Mazda manufacturing team has been a force for several years in Australia, successfully marketing a continuing line of family and sports models. The build quality of Australian Fords has always been high, and the commingling of talents has produced a vehicle with an excellent level of current technology and good structural integrity and finish.

The body's wedgy nose and wide-stepped rear styling handsomely combine to cap the sleek , rounded lines of the Capri's 2+2 styling. The final execution departs some of Ghia's original Barchetta design, which had more rounded edges and more slope to the nose and glass.

Part of the styling package includes a surprisingly large 6.2-cubic-foot trunk. This holds a pair of golf bags or expands by folding down the rear seat panel for skis or other long objects.

Other pleasing features of the standard Capri and the upscale XR2 are the standard performance offerings, which are true signs of the Mercury luxury touch and make some of the competition look positively threadbare by comparison. Power windows, map pockets, four-speaker, lumbar-support sports seats, height adjustable driver's seat, halogen headlamps, three speed wipers and dual electric remote mirrors are all part of the Capri package. The XR2 adds power locks, stereo cassette player, fog lamps, air conditioning, speed-control, rear spoiler, alloy wheels, suspension upgrades and turbo engine.

Inside, the driver's layout is pleasingly simple with an analog dash for the standard Capri as well as for the XR2. The center of the instrument cluster features a pair of large dials for speed and engine rpm neatly surrounded by oil pressure, engine temperature, voltage and fuel-level indicators. A large glovebox is also part of the dash-a pleasing return to the days when you could actually store personal items, gloves for example, in the glovebox.

The seating in the XR2 comes with a driver's seat height adjuster and a positional lumbar support lever. The front seats also offer expansive fore and aft movement. Regular three-point seat belts back up the drivers-side air bag. The 2+2 seating arrangements are snug for four adults, but the Capri can hold that many when such flexibility is needed. The rear seats also come with three-point belts and attachment points for child safety restraints.

The convertible side of the Capri is finely tuned to act smoothly with a quick top-up/top-down action. The soft convertible top offers excellent weather protection and low wind noise. The folding top is designed with a flip-up hard boot, so the top stows completely out of sight when down. The manual top is easy to erect or stow, with either action taking less than a minute. The boot also acts as a large extra storage bin behind the rear seat when the top is up, expanding the total trunk space to a fairly sizeable 8.6 cubic feet.

A fully lined steel hardtop is optional, it comes with a molded headliner, heated rear window and dome light. this top weighs 75 pounds and requires a small tool to lock it securely in place. It also comes with its own storage stand.

Both Capri and the Capri XR2 are sure to find many friends in the market for a Nineties roadster, especially since they are offered at prices that will have the competition grasping for breath. Three cheers for Mercury. Its new Capris are sexy, sleek, and sophisticated. The Golden Age of the Roadster is back."


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