New Car/Review

1997 CHRYSLER CIRRUS LXI

By Matt/Bob Hagin

Chrysler

SEE ALSO: Chrysler Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 18,030
     Price As Tested                                    $ 21,705
     Engine Type                             2.5 Liter V6 w/MFI*
     Engine Size                                 152 cid/2497 cc
     Horsepower                                   168 @ 5800 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               170 @ 4350 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                      108"/71.7"/186"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3115 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                    16 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                    P195/65HR15
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                 73 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31

PERFORMANCE
   
     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            20/29/25          
     0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17 seconds @ 80.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           125 mph
     * Multi-point fuel injection

(The Cirrus LXi was something of a surprise to Bob Hagin, since he learned to drive on a very different kind of Chrysler. His son Matt remembers the huge Chryslers his dad drove when he and his siblings were growing up but prefers Chrysler's new direction.)

MATT - The latest line of Chryslers is really slick, Dad, and I think I like this mid-sized Cirrus best. It's small enough to be nimble around town, but its interior space is really outstanding. Two people in the back seat have more than enough leg room, which is a rarity in this type of car but three abreast is still a crowd for adults. The LXi carries the 2.5 liter V6 single-cam engine as standard, and it puts out 164 horsepower but I think that it could use a little more middle- speed torque for better passing power. This V6 engine is also available in the less-fancy LX model Cirrus as a supplement to its standard 2.4 liter four-banger, but it comes at an additional $800. The fuel economy of the two isn't much different so the V6 is probably a better buy.

BOB - Neither the Cirrus LX or the LXi are sports sedans, Matt, although they come close. The only transmission available on the V6 is a conventional automatic four-speed which works fine, but the LXi would be a dynamite road car if it could be had with the same automatic/stick- shift that's available on some of the other brands in the Chrysler lineup. The handling of this car is certainly on the sporting side and sweeping turns don't produce any wallow or unnecessary understeer. A "sports group" was included in the Customer Preferred Group that came with our car and I'm sure that the P195/65-15 Michelin MXV touring tires add something to the handling. And I was particularly impressed with the fact that this Cirrus came with a full-sized spare tire. The auto makers want their buyers to rotate the tires and it's much simpler and practical to include the spare in the swap.

MATT - Our car came standard with a lot of other "goodies," too. The cruise control and the a/c unit are standard equipment and so is the anti-skid brake system, although I'd prefer that the rear brakes were discs, just like up front. Although the LXi version of the Cirrus has an optional integrated child seat available, the car we tested didn't have one, so Sophie wasn't able to "test" it for me and her mother. The interior is very comfortable, especially the front bucket seats and although the leather wrapping on the steering wheel and the gear shift knob don't add anything tangible to the performance or comfort of the car, they're a couple of very nice touches.

BOB - The car is really attractive to us old-timers. It's as close to "effortless" as you can get in a mid-priced car. Getting in and out of the driver's seat is effortless because of the size of the front doors and the same its true of for the rear seat passengers. Chrysler's "cab forward" design that pushed all four wheels out to the corners of the car is old news now, but it works. The interior space is spacious and so is the trunk. This concept lead to some "unusual" design factors and the protruding "nose" on the hood is an example. Another that isn't so evident is the location of the battery. It's under the hood, of course, but it's mounted ahead of the left front tire under the fender apron. It shows that Chrysler engineers went to great lengths to provide passenger space. Either version of the Chrysler Cirrus is the archetypal corporate car - roomy, frugal and stylish and more than likely will give a good resale value.

MATT - Although I wouldn't want to drive one in today's traffic, nor would I like to pay its fuel bills, I kind of miss the fact that Chryslers used to be huge road cruisers. I loved those '60s-era Newports and New Yorkers that we used as family cars when we were all growing up. All seven of us kids could climb into it at once, with enough room left over for the family dog.

BOB - I have fond memories of another Chrysler, Matt. Your grandmother owned a "40 Traveler coupe just after World War II and I learned to drive with that car. I suppose the reason I remember it with such nostalgia is that I was 50 years younger then.

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