New Car/Review

1999 PLYMOUTH BREEZE

By Tom Hagin

Daimler/Chrysler Full Line factory footage (39:14) 28.8, 56k or 200k Part 1 and 200k Part 2
SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 14,975
Price As Tested                                    $ 17,390
Engine Type              DOHC 16-valve 2.4 Liter I4 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 148 cid/2429 cc
Horsepower                                   150 @ 5200 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               167 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  108.0"/71.7"/186.7"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     2947 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  16.0 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                  P195/70R14 AS
Brakes (F/R)                                      Disc/drum
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                         84
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            21/30/24
0-60 MPH                                         10 seconds
1/4 mile (E.T.)                       18 seconds @ 80.5 mph
Top-speed                                           105 mph
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

Plymouth is DaimlerChrysler's affordable brand. The Plymouth passenger car lineup is practical (Neon, Voyager and Breeze) and all are targeted toward economical-conscious car buyers - with the exception of its flamboyant two-seater "retrorod," the Prowler.

This week is spent behind the wheel of the Breeze, a midsized sedan that maximizes everything it can, except its price.

OUTSIDE - Breeze is stylish in it own right, not unlike the current crop of DaimlerChrysler domestic sedans. It has body-color bumpers and side moldings, with black door handles, outside mirrors and window trim. Its sharply raked hood line and windscreen sweeps up and over a relatively flat roof, then into the tall, stubby trunk with its built-in mini spoiler. Breeze shares sheetmetal with its corporate siblings, the Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Cirrus. A dress-up package is available and Plymouth calls it "Expresso." With it comes "Nitro" wheelcovers, special Expresso badging and accent stripes on the front and rear fascias. Our tester was the plain version, with standard wheelcovers and badging.

INSIDE - Utilizing the best of cab-forward design, Breeze has a cavernous interior. Its low beltline and lots of glass gives a panoramic view of the outside, though the vision to the back is somewhat obstructed by the tall trunklid. The front bucket seats have more than adequate bolstering and plenty of padding, and there's no annoying lump in the lumbar region. The cloth upholstery is comfortable, and grips the seat of the pants well enough to keep those inside in place during the occasional romp through the twisties. The understated center console houses a bit of storage, two cupholders, the gear selector and the parking brake. New standard items this year are power windows, outside mirrors and door locks, along with floor mats and a driver's seat height adjuster. These were previously optional. Other standard equipment includes air conditioning, an AM/FM stereo, rear window defroster, intermittent wipers, tilt steering and rear heater ducts.

ON THE ROAD - The standard powerplant is a 2.0 liter, single overhead cam, inline four cylinder powerplant and a five-speed manual transmission. It produces 132 horsepower and 129 lb-ft or torque, and requires plenty of revs to keep it moving at a hustle. But for a few dollars more, buyers can have a 2.4 liter, dual overhead cam, 150-horse version, This is the engine that powered our tester, and compared to the one we drove previously with the smaller engine, this model's 0-60 mph times were better by over a second. More importantly, however, it has 167 lb-ft of torque, which allowed it to move easily in highway traffic, with some power left for passing. Buyers of Breeze's corporate clones can opt for a smooth-running V6 engine, but it adds heavily to their price. Our car had an optional four-speed automatic transmission, which sapped a bit of power, but this isn't a "five-speed" type of sports sedan.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Breeze rides on a wide track and this seems to keep it firmly planted to the pavement with very little body roll. Its front-wheel-drive layout offers superior traction, especially on wet, slippery roads. It is built on a unibody platform, with fully independent suspension front and rear consisting of upper and lower control arms, coil springs, tube shocks and anti-roll bars. This type of suspension is almost unheard of in affordable cars, but Plymouth has done its customers a service by providing a top-notch suspension system to almost entry-level buyers. Unfortunately, it does not provide four-wheel disc brakes, which stop better and dissipates heat faster than the disc front/drum rear setup currently used on Breeze. Since our car came with an optional anti-lock braking system (ABS), stopping wasn't a problem, however we felt some fade under repeated heavy stops from speed.

SAFETY - Dual, de-powered airbags and side impact beams are standard; ABS is optional.

OPTIONS - Four-speed automatic transmission: $1,050; 2.4 liter engine upgrade: $450; AM/FM cassette: $180; Destination charge: $535.

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