New Car/Review

1999 DODGE INTREPID ES

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              $ 22,790
Price As Tested                                    $ 25,540
Engine Type              SOHC 24-valve 3.2 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 197 cid/3231 cc
Horsepower                                   225 @ 6300 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               225 @ 3800 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  113.0"/74.7"/203.7"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3442 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  17.0 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                             P225/60R16 Touring
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                 85 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.30

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            19/29/24
0-60 MPH                                        9.5 seconds
1/4 mile (E.T.)                       17.5 seconds 84.5 mph
Top speed                                           120 mph
     * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

Dodge, and its parent company Chrysler, merged with Mercedes-Benz in 1998, forming a new company called DaimlerChrysler. A new Intrepid appeared as well, with even better looks and much-needed new mechanical technology. It comes in Base trim, or like our tester, the uplevel ES configuration.

OUTSIDE - It wasn't long ago (1993) that Dodge introduced its radically-shaped new Intrepid sedan. Family cars until then were purposely bland and relatively uninspired. Cab-forward engineering shortened the hood and trunk, and sweeping curves injected life into what was supposed to be basic transportation. The new Intrepid has evolved from there. Cab-forward is still the theme, and its arcing shape is even more radical than before. Chassis stiffness needed attention over the old Intrepid, so engineers designed in five cross-car structural beams to stiffen things up - and it shows on the road. Sixteen-inch aluminum wheels and P225/60 touring tires are standard on the Intrepid ES.

INSIDE - If the Intrepid is big on the outside, it can truly be called cavernous on the inside. Its dashboard sweeps gracefully across the front of the cockpit and is made of acres of a material with a tasteful texture that doesn't look so much like the plastic it really is. Sporty white-faced gauges are easy to read and look like they were designed to be there, as opposed to being an afterthought. Big switches and oversize control knobs twist and click with a reassuring feel, and are logically placed for simple operation. With so much adjustment in the front seats, nearly any size driver can find a good position. Power adjustments on both front bucket seats are optional. There's room enough for three across in back with plenty of legroom, but the roof arcs so radically that headroom becomes a problem for tall passengers. Standard Intrepid features include air conditioning, power windows, mirrors and door locks, tilt steering, speed control, power trunk release and speed-sensing intermittent wipers. ES models add automatic climate control, split-folding rear seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

ON THE ROAD - The appearance last year of new powertrains changed the Intrepid significantly. Standard Intrepid power comes from a 2.7 liter all-aluminum V6, with overhead camshafts and 24 valves. Its 200 horsepower is 39 more than the original base engine, while its newfound smoothness is quite noticeable. The Intrepid ES also received new power. It's comes from a 3.2 liter, 225-horse V6, and while the slight increase of 11 horsepower over the old engine doesn't seem to be a vast difference, the smoothness with which it delivers this power and torque is appreciable. Mated to both engines are four-speed automatics, but ours tester had what Dodge calls AutoStick, a system that allows the automatic transmission to be operated somewhat like a manual. Traction control is optional on the Intrepid ES.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - With the Intrepid being such a long, wide vehicle, having a nearly flex-free chassis is paramount to handling. An increase in bending and twisting resistance gives a better connection between the steering wheel and the pavement. Isolation from bumps starts at the front and rear subframes, both of which use rubber dampers between them and the main unit body. Mounted to the subframes are the suspension systems, also well-isolated by bushings. Despite all the attention to noise reduction, some road noise finds its way the cabin. The Intrepid has a taut, well-controlled ride, however, and corners very crisply, with little body roll. The rack-and-pinion steering system is precise and gives good feedback, while four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock technology are standard.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, ABS and traction control are standard.

OPTIONS - Leather/power seats package: $1,000; Customer Preferred Package (automatic a/c, universal transmitter, auto day/night mirror, uplevel CD stereo, alarm, theft deterrent system, full-size spare, traction control, trip computer):$1,170; cold weather package: $30.

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