New Car/Review

Chrysler"

The Chrysler LHS, Near Luxury Arrives

by Larry Weitzman

Chrysler's most expensive car is the Viper, a V-10 macho machine that will smoke just about all comers worldwide. It sells for about $66,000 if you can find a dealer to let one go at list.

But its not necessarily Chrysler's highest and best line of automobiles. That position is held by the new LHS. The LHS was originally introduced in 1993 as a 1994 model based on the very successful cab forward LH platform (Concorde/Intrepid). The new for 1999 redesigned LHS continues with the same design philosophy. It is the luxury version of the new LH platform.

There are significant differences between the Concorde and the LHS, however. The LHS rides on the LH (Concorde) 113.0 inch wheelbase and is actually a couple of inches shorter that the Concorde at 207.7 inches. Interior dimensions are nearly identical to the Concorde (except for rear seat legroom), and the exterior sheet metal is similar except for the front end.

It would be hard to improve on the world class Concorde front end, but the LHS oviod egg crate grille certainly is every bit as beautiful. When the new LHS was displayed at auto shows, viewers had to be reminded this was not a show car, but a real production vehicle.

Its lines are cab forward with flowing purposeful style, from the tractor beam headlights to the strong rear end, with a hint of wedge shape. The automobile presents itself as elegant.

On the inside is where the Concorde and LHS depart company. There is no similarity. If you think that the LHS strongest point is outside, then you haven't bothered to look inside. The LHS has one of the finest looking and most comfortable interiors of any automobile in production.

It starts with the dash, a neoclassic design with two large black on white gauges (tach and speedo) flanked by two smaller gauges of similar design for the fuel and temperature. The numerals are large and in classic large script. This dash could be out of a Dusenberg or a classic Packard Victoria, it's that good.

In the center of the dash are three large AC vents with an analog retro clock separating the Chrysler wing logo. The vertical stack of the central console has the simple to use electronic AC system and standard Chrysler Infinity spatial imaging AM/FM/CD/Cassette with 240 watts and nine speakers. If that doesn't make it for you there is an optional 320 watt system with 11 speakers. Maybe earplugs should come as standard equipment for the overzealous with the 320 watt system. The sound is phenomenal especially with the giant sound chamber offered in the cabin size of 107 plus cubic feet and nearly 19 cubic feet of trunk.

The gearshift is located in the center console with a leather covered palm fitting handle. A large storage/armrest storage with two cupholders finishes off the console.

The front seats are upholstered in soft leather with the central portions being perforated. They are superb. Not only do they look inviting, they sit better than they look. With eight way memory power, head restraint and lumbar adjustment, there is no way one couldn't knock off eight hours of stress free travel without any fatigue.

Rear seating is of stretch limo proportions. It has two inches of additional legroom over the standard Concorde. The size and shape mimic the front perches and offer rear seaters maybe the best location in the cabin. Comfortable is a gross understatement. Getting some z's in back would be easier than falling asleep at an Al Gore press conference. There is a trunk pass through for long trunk items such as skis or irrigation pipe.

When is comes to trunks, the LHS is the probably deepest around. I had trouble reaching the back of the trunk without climbing in. It measured 54 inches deep. Huge is an understatement. It is fully carpeted and lined.

Although this car is about luxury, it has a sporting side. Power is derived from the most powerful normally aspirated V-6 in the auto business, Chrysler's 3.5L, 24 valve, SOHC V-6. It pumps out 253 hp at a very lofty 6,400 rpm. Torque is a very strong 255 lbs-ft at 3,950 rpm. The torque figure denotes an unusually high number for an engine of only 215 cubic inches which portends what will happen when the go pedal is mashed.

If your desire is to smoke the LHS tires, switchable low speed traction control will impede the effort to some degree unless turned off by a button on the dash. It works in conjunction with the ABS system to prevent wheel slippage by electronic spark retard/throttle reduction and then brake application. Notwithstanding the traction control, this LHS will blast from 0-60 is 7.78 seconds. The front wheel drive adhesion is definitely helped by huge 225/55X17 inch touring tires.

Passing ability is strong with 50-70 times averaging only 4.01 seconds and 5.81 seconds when ascending a steep grade of 6-7 percent. These are some of the quickest times I have recorded in over a year and a half. Certainly quick enough for all but the biggest power freaks.

But power doesn't require the use of copious amounts of fuel. During the test period, the big Chrysler recorded 23.5 mpg. The trip computer was indicating 30 plus mpg at a steady 70 mph. The EPA rates the LHS at 18/27 mpg, obviously a conservative number.

The silky four speed electronically controlled automatic has perfect gearing and keeps this super strong V-6 in the power band at all times. Part throttle acceleration is very satisfying. There is no need to cause the tranny to downshift, as this jewel of a V-6 produces gobs of torque above 2,000 rpm and continues in a rush to redline.

Cars are not just about power, but overall performance includes ease of handling and ride comfort. The LHS delivers in spades. Ponderosa Road shows off the LHS's granite like body structure. It leveled the washboard and handled the 90 degree, bumpy right and left corners at speed without a waiver or a rear end side step.

Part of the reason is due to the state of the art, fully independent front and rear suspension with gas charged shocks, coil springs and link type stabilizer bars. It is tuned for luxury touring. In hard driving on Latrobe and Green Valley Road, it could have fooled me. This thing goes around corners effortlessly. Contributing to this confident feel is the variable assist, speed proportional rack and pinion power. Accurate with great feed back and on center feel, this LHS is dialed in right. I am sure those big 225/55X17 have a lot to do with maintaining its grip when flying from apex to apex.

On the highway is where the luxury comes in. The LHS will totally isolate its lucky passengers from any road irregularities, whether big bumps or tar strips. It's slightly softer than its counterpart the 300M, but I wouldn't call it less sharp. Most driver's would be hard pressed to tell the difference. The engine turns an easy 2,100 rpm at 70 mph which translates in a very quiet cabin, unless you demand more from the engine, which will awaken with a muted growl.

Stopping is by four wheel disc brakes with antilock. Pedal feel is linear and well modulated. This car just feels right.

The good news is that "right" is not that expensive. My Platinum clear coat beauty with agate leather sticker for $28,950 and there were no options. Destination was $595 for a total "Monroney" of $29,545. That's it. Standard equipment includes full power, windows, seats with memory, mirrors, door locks, trunk, remote, homelink transmitter, cruise, trip computer, superb sound system, anti-theft system, carpeted floor mats, you name its comes with the car.

The reason car price stickers are called the "Monroney" is because in 1958, A.J. Mike Monroney, a senator from Oklahoma, co-authored the Automobile Information and Disclosure Act which required among other things, the posting of the MSRP on new cars. Sticker shock has been with us for forty years. The FAA record center in Oklahoma City is also named for Senator Monroney.

There are a few extra cost options, but the list is short. A power moon roof tops the list at $795, an even higher power stereo for $315, chrome 17 inch wheels ($700), full size spare ($215), a cold weather package ($50) and a smoker's group. Yes, it cost 20 bucks to have smoking equipment (ashtrays and a cigar lighter).

The power moon roof is an item worth considering and is a bargain, but the straight car suits me fine and there are factory incentives on this great vehicle at this time.

Shingle Springs Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge, Lincoln, Mercury has a large selection of these marvelous automobiles. Take one out and enjoy El Dorado County roads as never before. Check out the trunk, but take a map so you don't get lost in there.

SPECIFICATIONS 

Price                           $29,545 to about $31,500

Engine
3.5L, SOHC, 24 valve  253 hp @ 6,400 rpm
60 degree V-6 255 lbs-ft of torque @ 3,950 rpm

Transmission
4 speed electronically controlled automatic

Configuration
Longitudinal front engine, front wheel drive with low speed traction control

Dimensions
Wheelbase                  113.0  inches
Length                     207.7  inches
Height                     56.0   inches
Width                      74.4   inches
Weight                     3.589  pounds
Tow capacity               2,000  pounds
Trunk capacity         18.7   cubic feet
Fuel Capacity             17     gallons
Track front/rear        61.9/61.6 inches
Turning circle               37.6   feet
Co-efficient of drag  0.31
Wheels  17X7 inches
Tires P225/55R17 

PERFORMANCE
0-60      7.78  seconds
50-70     4.01  seconds
50-70 uphill    5.81  seconds
Top Speed     Electronically limited to about 117 mph, but without a governor, 
140 plus would not be out of the question

Fuel Economy    EPA 18/27 mpg, my estimate is 22-25  mpg in El Dorado 
County and 27++ mpg on the highway

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