New Car Review

1998 CHRYSLER CIRRUS LXi

by Matt/Bob Hagin

chrysler

SEE ALSO: Chrysler Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 19,460
Price As Tested                                    $ 20,565
Engine Type                SOHC 4-valve 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"/187"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3225 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    16 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P195/65R15
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                 69 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            19/28/23
0-60 MPH                                          9 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17.5 seconds @ 80 mph
Top speed                                           120 mph
     * Multi-point fuel injection

(The Hagins have had several Chryslers over the years but they've all been large and ponderous. Matt Hagin likes the newer nimble versions but his dad Bob sometimes longs for those Chrysler Behemoths.)

MATT - Chrysler is a name that's been around for a long time, Dad, and while the marque saw some pretty rough times in the '70s and '80s, it's well out of the woods now and has taken a fairly good sized bite out of the mid-sized car market. The new Cirrus that we tried is typical of the target marketing that the parent Chrysler Corporation is concentrating on. It's no longer offering the Cirrus with a smaller engine or in a scaled-down version and the single model is the LXi. Last year the same car could be bought in a less expensive and less fancy LX trim and the standard engine was a 2.4 liter four-banger, but that's been dropped for '98. Chrysler is going after the mid-sized, mid-powered sedan buyer and doesn't want him or her to get confused by offering a less fancy model.

BOB - The only engine that the Cirrus comes with now is a Mitsubishi-built V6 that puts out 168 horsepower and enough torque to pull its 3200 pounds along at a pretty good rate. It's relatively uncomplicated with a single camshaft on each of the aluminum heads and a cast iron block. The suspension systems front and rear are rather sophisticated in that they feature unequal length arms with sway bars rather that the MacPherson struts that are popular with other cars it its class. They provide very good handling despite the fact that the Cirrus wasn't designed to be a sports sedan.

MATT - But the amazing thing about this sedan is the amount of interior space that it provides. Three is back is still a crowd, but if they're tall, they're going to find that they have plenty of leg room. It handles very well for a car in this boulevard-ride class though the 15-inch touring tires probably help its roadability. I was disappointed that Chrysler dropped the full-sized spare tire this year in favor of one of those space-saver compact units but I understand from a separate source that research showed that in most cases, the original spare never left the trunk.

BOB - Our car came standard with a lot of "goodies." Cruise control is standard, and so is the anti-lock brake system, but it would have been more impressive if the rear brakes had been discs like the ones up front. Last year, there was an integrated child's seat offered as an option, but it didn't prove to be popular with Cirrus buyers. Chrysler does its homework very well and is on top of what sells and what doesn't.

MATT - The outstanding interior space in the Cirrus can be attributed to the now-familiar "cab-forward" design that Chrysler pioneered several years ago. It pushes the wheels as far out to the corners of the car as possible and that stretching extends into the engine room. The battery is located up ahead of the left wheel and is actually more under the fender than under the hood. As well as being a typical mid-sized family car, the Cirrus qualifies as the archetypical corporate car for up-and-coming mid-management executives. It's classy, and inexpensive to run at 28 miles per gallon, goes from 0 to 60 in 9 seconds, and is good for 120 MPH according to the Chrysler specification sheet that came with the car. The Cirrus is one of a trio of Chrysler sedans that share a common chassis platform. One of its corporate stablemates is the Dodge Stratus which is an upscale sporting version and can be had with a twin-cam four-banger and a five-speed transmission. The Plymouth Breeze is the "economy" version, and can be had with the twin-cam four-cylinder engine as well.

BOB - This Cirrus is nice, but sometimes I miss those big Chrysler "land barges" that we had as family cars when you were a little guy, Matt. They had something that these new cars lack.

MATT - I know what it was, Dad. Even though they were sedans, they were big enough to hold all seven of us kids, as well as the dogs we insisted on bring with us. I hope my kids don't pull that on me.

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