GMC Typhoon – Mr Vader, Your Nightmare Just Arrived

Car and Driver

BY ARTHUR ST. ANTOINE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY AARON KILEY

In the realm of four-wheeled conveyances, there’s a fine line separating the outrageous from the silly. For example, a Lamborghini Diablo is outrageous. A $1.6 million streetgoing Schuppan Porsche 962CR, on the other hand, is silly. An AMG Hammer is outrageous. So is a Dodge Stealth R/T Turbo. But a V-8-powered Geo Metro convertible is not. It’s silly.

The fine line we refer to stretches between power and overkill, between pushing the limit and going over the edge, between the sublime and the ridiculous.

Which brings us to GMC’s two new outr√© machines, the Syclone pickup (C/D, September 1991) and the Typhoon sport-utility vehicle pictured here. Both are brutally fast, hormone-injected versions of normally pedestrian trucks. Yet both do not reside on the same side of the outrageous/silly fence. We’ll explain.

You already know about the Syclone, the baddest, meanest, most testosterone- pumped production pickup in the land. It has 280 horsepower and four-wheel drive. It runs 0 to 60 mph quicker than a Ferrari 348ts. Amazing. Although the Syclone unquestionably offers a thrilling ride, you have to ask yourself one question: who wants a pickup truck that can blast to 60 mph quicker than a Ferrari? Sure, you could flatten your eyeballs by driving it around empty all day. But what happens when you use it as a pickup? Owing to the Syclone’s trick suspension, the cargo-bed capacity is a mere 500 pounds. Worse, just one half-push on the Syclone’s throttle and crash!-your load of firewood and Old Yeller go sailing over the tailgate. Pretty silly, no?

But the Typhoon-now we’re talking outrageous. The difference? It all boils down to the Typhoon’s mission objective.

Today’s sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) are less off-road warriors and more all- weather limousines. Check out a typical SUV and you’re likely to see not an Orvis-outfitted outdoorsman headed for the duck blind but an Armani-attired advertising exec jawing away on his cellular telephone. And what young power broker wouldn’t be intrigued by a go-anywhere go-anytime machine that also goes like stink? So right away the notion of a hyper fast SUV makes a lot of sense.

Until now, the top gun in the sport-utility stoplight drags has been Jeep’s 4.0-liter Cherokee. Ask ten Cherokee owners what they love about their ride and eight will say, “It’s a fast mutha.” The current 4.0-liter straight six makes 190 horsepower, enough to clock runs from 0 to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds. An impressive number for a four-by-four. Impressive, but not even close to outrageous.

The new Typhoon, see, is an SUV like no other. It’s a two-door S-15 Jimmy at heart, but you could easily forget that by looking at it. Chunky 245/50VR-16 Firestone Firehawk SVX tires on alloy wheels shoulder out from under flared wheel arches. A beefy air dam with fog lamps bulges in front. The sheetmetal is Darth Vader menacing, and the entire package looks as if it had been dipped in a vat of black epoxy. And then there’s the Typhoon’s stance: you’ve never seen an ordinary SUV hunker down on the road like this one.

Inside, covering the deeply sculptured seats and the thick four-spoke steering wheel is enough black leather to outfit every member of the Whitesnake entourage. The dash, the carpeting, and the headliner are likewise black. Does this Typhoon sound serious or what?

Oh yes, the Typhoon is serious-one look at its hardware proves that it has the muscle to back up its visual threat. In the engine room sits the same turbocharged and intercooled 4.3-liter V-6 used in the Syclone. This beastly powerplant chums out 280 horsepower at 4400 rpm and a boggling 350 pound-feet of torque at 3600. Passing through a robust four-speed automatic, the power is delivered to a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a center differential and a viscous coupling that apportions torque 35/65 front/rear. Four huge brakes (front discs and rear drums) with standard anti-lock control do the stopping.

The Typhoon’s performance is as serious-scratch that, as outrageous-asits specifications suggest. For maximum off- the-line ooomph, you’ll want to run up the engine against the brake. Okay, shift into drive, hold the brake down with your left foot, and lower the throttle until the boost gauge swings as far as it will go. Ready for liftoff? Just lift your left foot off the brake and hold your right foot to the floor. Whhooooossh! No tire smoke. Barely a chirp fromthe rubber. And you are gone! The sprint from 0 to 60 mph takes-get this, SUV mavens-just 5.3 seconds. Not only is that enough speed to pummel the once-omnipotent Cherokee, but it’s enough to humiliate such standouts as the Ferrari 348ts and the Ford Mustang V-8.

But wait. There’s more ahead. The quarter-mile comes up in just 14.1 seconds at 95 mph. That, supercar fans, is just a few ticks slower than an Acura NSX. But the performance ends not long after that. Top speed-prudently limited by a governor-is just 124 mph. Probably you wouldn’t want to drive an SUV faster than that anyway.

As impressive as it is leaving a stop light, the GMC Typhoon really kicks in when accelerating on a roll-such as when passing an eighteen-wheeler on a stretch of tight two-lane. The Typhoon’s top-gear acceleration times are among the quickest we have ever recorded for any vehicle-a blast from 30 mph to 50mph, for instance, takes a mere 2.9 seconds. That big-rig driver will think he’s just been buzzed by a UFO.

The Typhoon has other moves, too. The grippy Firestones help the ABS- equipped brakes bring down the Typhoon from 70 mph to a standstill in just 185 feet-an astonishing figure for an SUV. (Indeed, we recorded a longer stop with the Ferrari 348ts.) And there’s 0.79 g of cornering grip on tap (try to find another SUV that can manage that). The Typhoon may not steer as finely as a two-seater, but it’s an easy machine to drive hard. You can hustle this big brute through turns like a good sports car.

In other ways, the Typhoon is a lot like any other SUV on the road. The engine starts without complaint and runs smoothly. The ride is firm but not overly stiff. The seats are notable for their comfort. Which is to say, the Typhoon feels a lot like a hard-edged luxury sedan. Except that this luxury sedan can carry through in the roughest weather and blow off that pesky two-seater in the next lane.

The Typhoon’s amenities list is comprehensive. Standard equipment includes everything you’d find in a luxury cruiser, from power locks with a keyless entry sys tem to an AMIFM/cassette system with graphic equalizer. A compact-disc player is even optional. The interior isn’t up to Lexus standards-the plastic cutouts that cover the instruments, for example, fit poorly and look cheap-but overall this is a fine place to conduct the business of driving.

Ah, but the Typhoon is not completely devoid of silliness. The low-slung suspension and low-profile Firestones aren’t up to the rigors of serious off-roading-the Typhoon driver will have to sit and watch as the other SUVs go boulder hopping. And those of you with campers or boats will be thrilled to know that the Typhoon’s towing rating is-ta dah!-0pounds. Yep, the only thing this SUV can haul is ass.

But the Typhoon can handle the main things that most SUVs are used for, and then some. For a base price of $29,530you get a vehicle that rides high above the traffic, offers enough room for a month’s worth of groceries, coddles its passengers with leather trim and power appointments, tracks through winter storms with ease, turns heads at every stoplight, and possesses enough straight-line speed to stand at the head of the performance class with such heavyweights as the Corvette LT1 and the Nissan 300ZX Turbo.

If that isn’t outrageous, we don’t know what is.

Copyright © Hachette Filipacchi Magazines. All rights reserved.
Reprint rights granted by Hachette Filipacchi New Media on January 20, 2000.

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