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The question is: Which New Yorker do you prefer? Chrysler's '84 model gets less m.p.g. but it's still packed with luxuries

When you're talking about cars and mention the Chrysler New Yorker, you just have to be more specific. Are you talking about the old rear-drive New Yorker, now dubbed the Fifth Avenue, or the sharply smaller new New Yorker with front-wheel drive?

Confusing? Chrysler Corporation hopes it isn't.

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It isn't hard to tell the difference, really. The new New Yorker is 21 inches shorter and half a ton lighter than its big brother across town. Also, the front-drive New Yorker packs an optional turbo beneath the hood, and that means zippy performance on the Interstate.

The big New Yorker Fifth Avenue only comes with a 318-cubic-inch V-8, and it's going to be around for a while. In 1985 it gets a new combustion chamber to provide better fuel economy.

The smaller car also offers a standard fuel-injected 2.2-liter engine as well as a Mitsubishi-built 2.6-liter power plant, all of them with 4 cylinders.

No matter which New Yorker you sidle up to - the rear-drive Fifth Avenue is aimed at the traditional driver - the cars are packed with all kinds of luxury inside.

Considering the space squeeze in cars these days, the front-drive New Yorker has enough room, perhaps, although you soon become aware that it isn't the ''cavernous boat'' of the old days. It would have been nice if the driver's seat could have been moved back an inch or two for just that extra legroom. The wheelbase is a shade over 103 inches.

Although it is slower off the mark than the V-8, the turbocharged ''4'' whips up a storm after the r.p.m. bring the turbo into play. Passing on the highway is easy.

The ride is solid and maybe too soft for many motorists, yet this is an American-built luxury car that hasn't gone over to the imports yet. Even so, like the imports it has grab bars to help passengers get in and out.

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The dashboard gauges are easy to read, and the hand and foot controls comfortable and convenient to operate.

Beneath the dash is some storage space that expands the minuscule room in the glove box.

The Chrysler front-drive New Yorker, despite its small engine, can't compete in the mileage derby with a 2,000-pound car, but then the one-ton car may not provide the amenities of the Chrysler product. Weighing in at just under 2,800 pounds, its mileage checks out in the low 20s for a driving mix of highway and city roads. At a steady-state speed on an Interstate, it would obviously rise.

The base sticker price for the front-drive New Yorker is $12,442, as against you pile on the options, prepare for a sharp rise.

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