Contemporary review originally published in Road & Track Special Sports & GT Cars 1992
If two years seems like a short lifecycle, that only shows you how tough the competition is. Though major re-skins used to be an annual affair for American car builders, that was a long time ago. It’s almost a surprise, then, to see a restyled Eagle Talon only two years after it was introduced to rave reviews. But it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and Eagle wants to be sure it’s little frisky doesn’t become Little Friskies; thus the new shape.
Actually, the mechanical bits, with one significant exception, are unchanged, and that’s good. The Eagle Talon restyle, to smoother, more sophisticated lines, is even better. Gone are the pop-up headlamps. Though smooth-faced when close, the’re potentially troublesome and undeniably ugly to the eye and the wind when raised – and surely they savage the Talon’s otherwise superb 0.29 Cd.
The Eagle’s new beak has aerodynamic headlamps flush with the body lines and between the lamps, instead of a slot, the new nose sports a pair of, well, nostrils. Power-bulge fans will be pleased to note that the Talons hood still sports its driver’s side bump.
The lower body side cladding has been reshaped, with softer, more curving lines, and the rear lower fascia now has an aero-look slot along is lower edge. The body side cladding will no longer identify the TSi models, however. Even the base model gets it. That controversial black collar spoiler around the rear window is history. Now a smaller body-color wing wraps over the rear deck from quarter panel to quarter panel.
Like the powertrain, the interior is mostly unchanged. A dashboard pod is dominated by the big tachometer and speedometer – the latter reading to 140 mph – flanking smaller oil-pressure, temperature and fuel gauges. A turbo boost gauge lives on the tach face. Controls on each side of the instruments are angled toward the driver, as is an air conditioning vent on the pod. The central console is tall and sprouts a shift lever that any video arcade denizen would find as familiar as a joystick. Though average size folks will call the Talon’s bolstered buckets and contoured interior comfortably snug, anyone who shops at the Big and Tall Men’s Store will find it a tight fit.
And forget about the backseat unless you’re a contortionist or a child – and a small one at that. Better to consider the backseat something to fold down for more luggage room, but even then it’s small enough that you can fill it with one trip from the motel room – particularly with the TSi AWD. The hatchback does have a high lift over, but with the glass open makes a very big target to toss stuff at.
You can fill a Talon with just about every option, including air-conditioning, speed control, a liftgate wiper and washer, and power door locks and window lifts. A 6-speaker AM/FM stereo cassette player is standard, to which a graphic equalizer can be added, and on either the front-drive or the AWD TSi a compact disc player can be specified. There’s still no airbag for the Talon, which means for better or worse that a mouse-type belt buckles up your upper torso for you.
The absence of mechanical revisions for 1992 is no shortcoming. The standard powerplant is a multipoint fuel injected, 135-bhp dohc 16-valve inline-four driving the front wheels, and that makes the base Talon an impressive package. But the TSi option includes a turbocharged and intercooled version of the 1997cc engine that makes 195 bhp, and that’s how I spell excitement, particularly when it’s all put through the front wheels. Enthusiastic throttle application, particularly in minimal or irregular traction situations, will require particular attention to vehicular direction. In other words – if you wick it, watch where you stick it!
A better solution is going the full route to the Eagle Talon TSi AWD. Those three letters stand for all-wheel drive, and not only will they make the front wheels behave, they’ll make, um, the Eagle fly and make it an all-weather bird at that. The TSi AWD uses a viscous central differential to distribute torque between front and rear axles. Additionally, there is a limited-slip differential at the rear axle. Significantly, if you order ABS in 1992, you get to keep the limited-slip rear, which wasn’t the case in 1991.
Every wheel is P205/55R-16 shod (all Talons are so equipped, but only that TSi’s tires are speed-rated), and all-wheel drive makes the most of them. The AWD Talon grips the road tenaciously. Its skid pad performance is right there with more single-minded contenders, though short say, of the Corvette or 300ZX.
But is tolerant of poor road conditions, and forgiving as well. Not that you can’t do something stupid, but it does take a whole lot more effort. And though the all-wheel drive Talon is no Ski-Doo, it is more likely to get you home in a snowstorm, an important consideration for snow belt dwellers who can’t afford a winter machine and a fun car. AWD does add about 300 pounds to the Talon, the cost of getting power to the rear wheels, but it’s a fair trade.
Talons have McPherson strut front suspension, the front-drive coupes making do at the rear with a well-located beam axle. The TSi AWD, however, gets a fully independent rear with a double wishbone setup with a single trailing arm. Steering is power-assisted rack-and-pinion.
All Talons offer an optional four-speed automatic as well as the standard five-speed manual, though with the self-shifter in the TSi and TSi AWD peak power is reduced to 180 bhp.
The Dodge Stealth is a natural comparison for the Talon, similar in concept and sold by another of Chrysler’s franchises. Turbo version to turbo version, the Stealth is 100 hp the richer and also features four-wheel steering. But similarly equipped, the Talon is about $10,000 cheaper, 600-lb lighter and small enough to make it more nimble on the kind of road for which these cars were built.
The normally aspirated base Talon is a tidy little coupe, good handling and good to be seen in, and quite reasonably priced. The lure of the TSi, however, is as strong as the pull of its 195 hp engine and the TSI AWD as tenacious as, well, all-wheel drive. The Eagle Talon has been a favorite since it was a hatchling and the aero headlamps and subtle freshening are improvements. The competition may be formidable, but the Eagle Talon proves that when the going gets rough, the tough get restyled. And are better for it.
The list price for the 1992 Eagle Talon TSI AWD was $16,905 in price as tested $19,472 the latter included standard equipment (cast alloy wheels, electrical adjustable mirrors, AM/FM stereo/cassette), with the optional “popular equipment group” including air-conditioning, cruise control, rear wiper/washer, central locking, power windows ($1624), ABS ($943).
In Road & Tract testing 0-60 mph was 6.8 seconds, with the quarter-mile at 15.3 seconds at 88.0 mph. Fuel economy in “normal driving” was 16.5 mpg on EPA city/Highway ratings of 20 MPG/25 MPG. Road & Track drivers apparently had a heavier foot than the government mandated dynamometer. On the skidpad, the Talon TSI achieved 0.84 g.
Photos origionally published with this article were by Brian Blades.