Review: 2002 CHRYSLER PROWLER

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SEE ALSO: Chrysler Buyer's Guide

By Matt/Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

      Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 44,625
      Price As Tested                                    $ 45,400
      Engine Type                            3.5 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
      Engine Size                                 215 cid/3518 cc
      Horsepower                                   256 @ 6400 RPM
      Torque (lb-ft)                               255 @ 3950 RPM
      Wheelbase/Width/Length                  113.3"/76.5"/165.3"
      Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
      Curb Weight                                     2879 Pounds
      Fuel Capacity                                    12 gallons
      Tires  (F/R)                      P225/45HR17 - P295/40HR20
      Brakes (F/R)                                      Disc/disc
      Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
      Vehicle Type                         Two-passenger/two-door
      Domestic Content                                 90 percent
      Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.49

PERFORMANCE

      EPA Economy, miles per gallon
         city/highway/average                            17/23/19

      0-60 MPH                                        7.5 seconds
      1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       16 seconds @ 86.5 mph
      Top speed                                           115 mph

      * Sequential multi-point fuel injection
                     
     (Bob Hagin grew up in the California street-rod scene of the '50s 
and says that the Chrysler Prowler is close to the concept. Matt Hagin 
thinks its a great car for "mature" drivers who want to relive their
youth.)

     MATT - The last time we reviewed the Prowler, we had to give it 
the Plymouth prefix. When this "retrorod" first hit the market in '97 
it was assigned to the Plymouth marketers but even then the handwriting 
was on the wall for that venerable old marque. I guess Chrysler wanted 
to give the Plymouth logo a good send-off by naming the Prowler a Plymouth.

     BOB - Either that or some executive near the top had a thing about 
alliteration. The Prowler hasn't seen many changes during its five 
years of production. So far 11,000 enthusiasts have taken delivery of 
the car. Not a big number, but over the years, it's garnered much more 
than its numerical share of publicity and it's still a head-turner when 
it appears on city streets.

     MATT - It's a hard car to ignore, Dad. Its colors of choice are 
either candy-apple red or metallic gold or bright yellow. All of the 
no-nonsense auto reviews state that its impractical and expensive but 
that's true of most exciting cars that are, in reality, drivable toys. 
The power train of the Prowler is off the Chrysler shelf, which 
includes a 3.5-liter all-aluminum V6 that's more often found powering a 
Chrysler front-wheel drive sedan of some sort. It's a 
single-overhead-cam design with 24 valves and it puts out 256 horses 
which is more than enough to get this 2900-pound roadster rolling along 
pretty well. It backs up to a four-speed automatic transaxle that has a 
stick-shift system that lets it either be shifted up and down manually 
or left to shift for itself. The suspension front and rear is 
independent, and if anyone has any doubts about this, the suspension 
units are pretty much out in the open for close inspection.

     BOB - The two-seater body has the looks of a custom, non-homemade 
street-rod show car of the '70s, with a high-waisted body, a high, 
rounded tail section and a sloping, tapered nose that almost comes to a 
point up front. The grill has a slight '37 Ford look to it but since 
there aren't many of these on the street, you'll have to take my word. 
The slit-like headlights are faired into the hood and the front fenders 
are cycle-type that turn with the wheels. The only thing that spoils 
the front end is the oversized front bumper that sticks out like a sore 
thumb and it must have filled the Prowler designers with disgust to 
have to put it up there. They had no choice, of course, since the 
government says cars must have bumpers. Those agencies have no sense of style.

     MATT - As I recall from seeing photos of early '50s street rods, 
their interiors were pretty stark but the Prowler interior is very 
plush. It has the typical modern "tombstone" control panel in front of 
the floor-mounted gear selector and the other control switches for the 
windows and such are in the door panels. But the wide-oval dash panel 
is strictly '50s, with a big speedometer in the middle and two small 
gauges on either side. Also in vintage style is the steering column-mounted tach. There are small roll bars behind the two seats and a compartment back there to hold the top.

     BOB - In typical street-rod fashion, the front and rear tires and 
wheels are different sizes. The front are 17-by-7.5 inches while the 
backs are 20-by-10 inches. Needless to say, the Prowler doesn't carry a 
spare for either end so they're run-flats. Although it wasn't designed 
to morph into a true race car like the Viper, the Prowler handling is 
outstanding. And in a car that is so "open-air" and with its exposed 
front wheels and suspension, it seems to be going twice as fast as is 
indicated by the speedometer.

     MATT - When it was first introduced, Chrysler executives said that 
the life-expectancy of the Prowler would only be five years and its 
time is now up. It will be dropped after this year and the last 300 
will be painted in its now-famous Inca Gold.

     BOB - They say what goes around, comes around so I guess I'll have 
to wait another fifty years for the California Street-Rod look to come 
back in style again.
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