New Car/Review

1998 DODGE INTREPID ES

by Matt/Bob Hagin

dodge

SEE ALSO: Dodge Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 22,465
Price As Tested                                    $ 25,620
Engine Type                SOHC 4-valve 3.2 Liter V6 w/MFI*
Engine Size                                 197 cid/3231 cc
Horsepower                                   220 @ 6600 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               222 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                    113"/74.7"/203.7"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3479 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    17 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/60R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                 86 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            19/29/23
0-60 MPH                                        9.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17.5 seconds @ 85 mph
Top speed                                           115 mph
     * Multi-point fuel injection

(The new Dodge Intrepid sedan is big and luxurious. Matt Hagin thinks that it could use a few more horses but his father Bob likes the luxury the way it comes out of the box.)

MATT - The federal government designates these all-new Dodge Intrepids as large cars and when I drive it, I'm in full accord. It weighs in at 3500 pounds and is just a whisker under 17 feet long. The engine in the ES version that we tried is an all-aluminum V6 that puts out 220 horsepower and just a little more torque at only 3800 RPM. It displaces 3.2 liters, breathes through 24 valves and has a single overhead cam on each side. Oddly enough, the 2.7 liter engine in the base model is also a V6 and also all-aluminum, but it must be an entirely different design since it's a twin-cam version. Being more complex, the 2.7 has to cost more to produce, yet it's only available in the cheaper version.

BOB - It's another one of those corporate imponderable, Matt, and since we're not privy to that level of information, we'll probably never know. But they're a great improvement over the antiquated push-rod powerplant that Dodge put under the hood of the previous Intrepid model. The suspension tuning on this ES version is on the tight side, and Chrysler considers it a "sporty" sedan even though its straight-line performance isn't the kind that slams you back in your seat. The only transmission available on our ES model is an updated four-speed automatic that's a typically modern all-electronic gearbox, but it has the slick AutoStick shifting system. You can pull the shift lever to the rear of the gate, then rock the handle side-to-side to shift through the gears. It isn't as precise as a manual, but you don't have to work a clutch to shift up or down.

MATT - The ES has another performance enhancer in that it rides on 16-by-7-inch alloy wheels, while the base model wheels are an inch smaller. And knowing that those "space-saver" tiny spare tires bug you, you'll be happy to know that there's a full-sized extra tire and wheel in the trunk. For all its size, the Intrepid ES gets pretty fair mileage, Dad. Around town it's rated by the EPA at 19 MPG but on the highway its mileage jumps up to 29. The transmission has something to do with the mileage as well as the performance enhancement of the AutoStick feature. The torque converter has a lock-up feature that avoids the mileage robbing effect of hydraulic slippage. The new body sits on an updated and strengthened platform that's touted as being 40 percent stiffer than its predecessor due to additional body bracing. There's a new steel plate ahead of the engine, an aluminum tube behind the dash that locks the front MacPherson struts together, and a reinforcing plate at the rear. This, unfortunately, makes loading the trunk harder.

BOB - There's another shortcoming I noticed, Matt. The body has a fairly high beltline, which would make it slightly awkward for a short-waisted person like myself to parallel-park. But the overall vision from the driver's seat is great and I especially appreciate the fact that the steering wheel is tiltable. The Dodge design team on this car went to great lengths to isolate road noise and roughness by vibration-tuning the suspension subframes front and rear. The upholstery is leather-trimmed, as is the steering wheel and the shift knob.

MATT - The styling of the new Intrepid bears a family resemblance to the Dodge Viper muscle car. The "snake-eye" look of the headlights, and the no-grille air openings for the air intake imparts a slightly "mean" and aggressive look to this family-oriented four-door sedan.

BOB - I have a soft spot for Dodges, Matt. My first car was a Dodge, a '37 convertible long past its prime when I got it in '47 from my brother-in-law. I later found it had a bent frame and a worn engine, but it taught me a valuable lesson, one I've adhered to ever since.

MATT - That must be where you got that advice you gave us kids, Dad. You told us never to buy a car from a friend, neighbor or relative.

BOB - I can only hope there weren't any problems with that pickup you just sold to your brother Tom.

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