DeTomaso Charade

Reproduced with permission from Fast Fours & Rotaries February 1994

Daihatsu rally driver Brett Middleton gives us an 'unbiased' view of Japan's ultra hot hatch.

The Charade DeTomaso is a birth of an image envisioned over six years ago between the older type G11 Charade and the famous designer DeTomaso based in Modena, Italy.

Our first impression of the car was relief. With our current 1.3-litre Charade, the biggest battle has been against the lack of horsepower. Evident in the endless city traffic was the DeTomaso's excellent drivability. The new SOHC,16-valve 1.6-litre allows the car to be lazily left in higher gears, utilising its torque and revs to reduce the frequent need for gear changes in Japan's stop-go traffic.

Standard 14-inch alloy wheels are made in Australia by ROH specifically for the DeTomaso. Coloured medium grey with the famous DeTomaso name and symbol they're shod with Pirelli 185-60 P600 tyres. Increased diameter front and rear sway bars coupled with stiffer shocks and springs provide the driver with a ride compliant enough for freeway driving, but at the same time suitable for those narrow back roads when a bit of adrenalin is the drug you need.

When pushed with extreme cornering loads, the FWD DeTomaso is an understeerer, but gentle throttle lift-off will encourage the car to turn in and drift into oversteer. Abrupt encouragement from the driver causes the body to roll oversteer, which quickly returns to a controlled neutral understeer situation. The passive rear-wheel steering built into the rear suspension geometry is often overlooked on all G100 and G200 Charades. The DeTomaso has not missed out on this either. When put under load during cornering, the rear outer wheel toes in to reduce side slip and adds to the Charade's turn in capabilities. A whole new fuel injection system added to a new inlet manifold yields a 1.6-litre engine that outperforms the 1.6-litre Applause on response and torque. The improved inlet and fuel injection tuning would be useless without a performance exhaust. Here the Charade has a tuned-length 4-into-1 extractor system.

An ultimate combination of power and light weight, it easily accelerates from 0-100 kph in under 9.5 seconds. The all alloy engine is rev limited to 6500 rpm - power is a healthy 92 kW at 6000 with torque of 144 Nm at 4000 rpm.

To reduce weight and utilise space, a limited slip device is built into the jackshaft. This is a short shaft that allows other FWD models to employ equal-length drive shafts - a necessity to reduce torque steer when different length shafts are used. Drive is transferred from the differential through a torque tube to the limited slip housing that is mounted outside the gearbox on a bearing off the rear of the engine block.

The DeTomaso comes standard with ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes. The car's stopping ability is further improved by a large, double acting booster. The DeTomaso's brake pedal is firm and provides good feedback to the driver. ABS is an option with air bag.

Interior The standard Nardi leather steering wheel is firm and chunky enough to get a solid grip while the spoke positioning allows easy reading of the gauges. The DeTomaso Charade has gone the full hog and supplies Recaro seats standard. The stereo options available are best described as unbelievable. Never have I sat in a standard car and listened to a unit that is so crisp and precise. The Charade 'Super Sound System' employs seven factory-fitted speakers.

The car I drove had a Panasonic stereo using the new DSP (Digital Signal Processing) technology. The stereo unit actually provides reverb and acoustics similar to the settings of the environment: church, stadium, in house and concert. The difference between turning the separate DSP unit on and off is quite remarkable. The stadium setting gave reverb through the back speakers similar to the echo in a major outdoor concert. The Panasonic CQR 75 with four 25W speakers is available in Australia. (Brett would also like to mention that he and Panasonic have just signed a sponsorship deal for the '94 rally season.)

The generous ground clearance is not compromised by the distinctive body kit and the lower part of the front provides looks/function without the headaches of many low-spoilered cars. Additionally the car has a unique two-tier rear wing. Top and bottom wings are combined one-piece mouldings. suitably stiff enough to work at high speeds and last without old-age sag. Engine & Detail


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