This Pickup Is Built For The Passing Lane

It flashes through the quarter-mile as fast as a Corvette ZR-1--at about half the ZR-1's $50,000 price. Plus, it has 40 cubic feet of cargo space. Meet the $26,995 GMC Syclone, a pickup truck with attitude.

Even before I rev the engine, I can tell that this is not just another peat-hauling pickup. The Syclone rides stylishly low, for better aerodynamics. The form-fitting seats snuggle around me, ready to hold me in during hairpin turns. Available only in bat-out-of-Hades black, the truck comes with a full list of standard equipment: automatic transmission, air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power windows, and four-wheel antilock brakes. A glaring omission in such a speed demon: no airbag.

NOT FOR COMMUTERS. It's not until I fire it up, though, that I fully appreciate the Syclone. The 280-horsepower, 4.3-liter, turbocharged engine comes to life with a throaty roar. On an open highway, it's hard to keep the speed on the legal side of 80. Even at 65 mph, I push the accelerator, and the four-wheel-drive Syclone eagerly leaps forward. The speedometer goes to 120 miles per hour, but that's not the upper limit. At the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, a Syclone LSR has rocketed to 210 mph.The Syclone is no commuter car, of course. The transmission produces a jarring lurch from first to second gear under anything but the most feather-like acceleration. Nor does the Syclone double as a standard pickup. Its low ride makes it inappropriate for off-roading, and a sticker on the door warns you against putting a camper cap on the pickup's bed.

But people don't buy the Syclone for its 500-pound cargo capacity. Nor are they looking just for exclusivity, even though only 3,500 of the vehicles will be built in 1992. Buying a Syclone for those reasons would be like purchasing a rare wine for its potential investment value and the graceful shape of the bottle. No, this pickup is sold for its pick-up. Maybe it should come with one more feature: membership at a private racetrack.