New Car/Review

Plymouth Prowler(1999/2000)

By Matt/Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 39,300
Price As Tested                                    $ 40,000
Engine Type              SOHC 24-valve 3.5 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 214 cid/3518 cc
Horsepower                                   253 @ 6400 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               255 @ 3950 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  113.3"/76.5"/165.3"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     2857 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  12.0 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                  (F) P225/45R17 (R) P295/40R20
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                         Two-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                 90 percent          
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
city/highway/average                            17/23/19          
0-60 MPH                                        7.5 seconds
1/4 (E.T.)                          16.5 seconds @ 87.5 mph
Top speed                                           120 mph

* Sequential multi-point fuel injection

(Chrysler's building of nostalgic autos caught the attention of Matt and Bob Hagin. This week the duo reviews its retro street rod, the Plymouth Prowler, a timeless car that remains unchanged for 2000.)

MATT - I know you like those original one-off street rods of your youth, Dad, but today's factory-built versions like the Prowler are much more refined and carry a warranty as well. There's a growing number of production retro-rods and the Prowler is the most affordable one of the bunch. There are just a couple of small differences from the version we tried out in our last Prowler review and the current version. Probably the most notable is that as it was first introduced, it could be had in any color you liked as long as you liked purple. Now Prowler buyers can get them in yellow, black and red as well. But Chrysler has drawn the line at including flame-jobs on the hood.

BOB - The rest of the car is as quick, light weight and flashy as ever. Under the small hood is Chrysler's big all-aluminum, single- overhead-cam, 24-valve, 3.5 liter V6 that was used in from the start. Since then, the engine has profited from some ongoing refinements which raise the horsepower to a little over 250. It's the same unit that Chrysler puts into its fancy 300M sedan but in the Prowler, it puts its power to the rear wheels. The transmission in the Prowler is a four-speed automatic that is usually used in the conventional "mindless" manner. But if spirit moves the driver, he or she can progressively whip up and down through the gears manually using the Autostick feature that Chrysler puts into many of its other "sporty" models. Originally, it was de rigueur that home-built street roadsters carried three-speed stick-shifts since that was what backed up the engines in the "donor" cars that we cannibalized. But as things progressed and street rods became more often show cars, automatics came into common use so this Prowler is really a product of natural progression.

MATT - The only thing the Prowler lacks is a V8 powerplant and that's not such a big deal since Chrysler engineers have obviously gone to great lengths to get the "right" sound coming out of its twin tail pipes. Another thing that's a welcome change from the home-mades is the suspension system. The front in particular is very "trick." It consists of a pair of upper arms that are actually rockers shafts that push down on inboard-mounted coil springs. It's a lot like the system found on modern, high-tech, open-wheel race cars. Since the Prowler uses 'cycle fenders that turn with the wheels, this fancy suspension is out in plain view to be admired by everyone who is hip enough to appreciate it.

BOB - In keeping with the street-rod look of the '50s and '60s, Chrysler elected to go with wide 20-inch wheels in back and narrower 17-inch wheels in front. This makes it impossible to carry a spare, so the tires are run-flat Goodyears and there are low-pressure sensors both front and rear. And since this car isn't suitable for use as a kid's soccer team conveyance or a daily commute car, I guess it really doesn't matter about the spare tire, but I'd be nervous on a long trip.

MATT - The front and rear disc brakes are very different too. The fronts are 11-inch and the rears are 13-inchers. Unlike other more plebeian rear-drive cars on the market today, there is more weight on the rear wheels than on the front by 10 percent. These are pretty classic sports car proportions, but I didn't get a feeling of oversteer when the car was driven fast. It's definitely given a "macho" look in spite of the fact that a quarter of the Prowler buyers last year were female. And according to Chrysler demographic studies, the average household income of Prowler buyers is in the neighborhood of $125,000 per year. And that's a high-class neighborhood.

BOB - The Prowler is a very slick-looking machine, Matt, but it never would have made it as a Friday-night, back road street racer when I was a kid. Too slow and too smooth.

MATT - That may be true, Dad, but in today's high-profile society, it's enough to simply drive around in the car on Friday night, make the scene at a retro-'50s drive-in and look cool. That's what I did.

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