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New Car/Review

1997 PLYMOUTH BREEZE

By Matt/Bob Hagin

Plymouth
SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 14,795
Price As Tested                                    $ 18,285
Engine Type                             2.0 Liter I4 w/MFI*
Engine Size                                 122 cid/1996 cc
Horsepower                                   132 @ 6000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               129 @ 5000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                    108"/71.7"/186.7"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     2940 Pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    16 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P195/70R14
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                 83 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            22/32/28
0-60 MPH                                       11.3 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     18.8 seconds @ 81.1 mph
Top-speed                                           113 mph
     * Multi-port fuel injection

(There was a time in recent history when insiders said that Plymouth would follow Edsel, DeSoto and La Salle into automotive obscurity. The news of its death was exaggerated and Bob Hagin, a former Plymouth owner, is pleased. His son Matt is pleased too, since an exotic Plymouth sportster will soon appear. Today they test the mid-sized Breeze.)

BOB - Matt, this Plymouth Breeze is just what the doctor ordered in a mid-sized sedan. It has lots of room, plenty of practical amenities and a price that won't break the budget, That's important to a family determined to living within means, but needs a large new car.

MATT - But nothing in the auto world is perfect, Dad, and neither is the Breeze. Take the engine, for instance. It's the same two-liter, 132- horse four-banger found in the Plymouth Neon, but in the Breeze, it has to pull around a car that's almost 500 pounds heavier. And it's somewhat on the noisy side at high revs. But there's nothing to quarrel about with its fuel mileage. Our test car carried the four-speed automatic transmission, and usually this kind of a gearbox doesn't mean great mileage. But in the case of the two-liter Breeze, the mileage around town is given at 22 mpg, which goes up by another 10 miles per gallon on the highway. That's great for a non-compact.

BOB - Yes, and I'd bet that it would be even higher with the stick- shift. Usually I don't lament the lack of a manual transmission, but this time I wish we'd drawn the Breeze with the automatic. Besides improving on the 0-to-60 times of our test rig, I've been told that it makes the car a real joy to drive through mountain turns. And the handling is aided by the fact that Plymouth puts sway bars on both ends of every Breeze. The five-speed would have dropped the price by over $1000, too, which is a plus when price and monthly payments are important. If I was buying a Breeze on a budget, there's a couple of other expensive options on our test car that I could have done without. The power door locks, windows and outside mirrors seem expensive at $760. But I think that the security package with remote-controlled door locks and a headlight time delay system is worth $170, but it may require automatic door locks to work. Also, the anti-skid brake system is worth an extra $565. With ABS a driver may only need them once in a lifetime but when they're needed, they're worth any price.

MATT - Some of us younger folks think Breeze's stereo system with a CD player at $380 is a necessary option, too, Dad, but there's standard stuff that makes the Breeze a really good buy. Air conditioning is included, along with tinted glass, dual outside mirrors and a tilt steering column. By the way, Dad, if the styling looks familiar to Chrysler and Dodge fans, there is a good reason. The Breeze is basically a Chrysler Cirrus or a Dodge Stratus - without fancy additions, or the optional and more powerful engines found in those cars.

BOB - The interior of the Breeze is as roomy as Cirrus and the Stratus, too, with a really comfortable back seat big enough for three real-world adults. The front seats have enough side support to keep the driver and front passenger from sliding around during "brisk" driving, and the trunk space is huge. The upholstery is cloth, which I like, since it gives a little more "grab" to the britches when the car is being tossed around. It also doesn't stick to your legs during summer if you're wearing shorts. Another option I think should be found in the trunk of every Breeze is a full-sized spare tire. I never could abide by those puny little space-saver spares.

MATT - I'm glad that the Plymouth nameplate has been saved from the scrap heap. The company is earmarked for some really neat vehicles. I've read that the hot Plymouth Prowler street rod look-alike is coming out soon and that Chrysler has other good Plymouth things in the hopper.

BOB - I'm glad they saved the marque, too. When I came back from Korea, I had a '51 Plymouth business coupe that I used for years.

MATT - The way you keep things, I'm surprised it isn't in the back yard, Dad. What happened?

BOB - I told your mother I'd get rid of it in '59, and I did.