“One of the world’s most advanced production turbos”
For 1984, Pontiac’s top-of-the-line Sunbird S/E gained a new turbocharged motor along with a minor front-end revision and clear fog lamps.
The S/E‘s new engine was an LA5 150 bhp 1.8 liter/110 ci inline four with a Garrett turbocharger and fuel injection. It was paired with a standard four-speed manual gearbox, with a three-speed automatic optional for $320. With the standard powertrain, 0-60 came in about nine seconds—class-competitive in 1984. Fuel economy ratings were 25 city/36 highway by the standards of the day (20/26 by today’s standards). The Sunbird’s 13.5-gallon gas tank meant that owners could expect a range of 280 to 370 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.
Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $9,489 S/E hatchback coupe (about $24,200 in 2019 dollars) included two-tone paint, power steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, a WS6 performance suspension, special chassis tuning, and Goodyear Eagle GT P205/60R14 tires (a size now only marginally available) mounted on attractive 14-inch “hi-tech turbo” cast-aluminum wheels. Inside, fully adjustable reclining front seats, a folding split-back rear seat, a three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel, rally gages, and a Delco-GM AM radio were included.
Exterior options included a power glass sunroof ($300) and a louvered rear sunshade ($199). Inside, custom air conditioning, electronic cruise control, and Lear Siegler bucket seats ($400) were available.
Reviews of the new turbocharged configuration were positive—Popular Mechanics called it a “150-hp screamer.” 1984 Sunbirds did sell well—almost 170,000, but more than 80% of them were the base coupes and sedans, not the LE or the S/E. Sunbirds of this generation (1982-1994) are now almost completely vanished from the nation’s roads, and models other than the convertibles rarely show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or eBay Motors.
I wrote about the last of the previous-generation Sunbird’s here. Other J platform cars I have covered this blog include the 1982 Cadillac Cimarron sedan, the 1988 Cadillac Cimarron sedan, and the 1986 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 coupe. I will not ignore Buick and Oldsmobile forever.