(Since its inception in 1923, Chrysler has seen the best of times
and the worst of times. Bob Hagin remembers the best (the 300 letter-
series cars of the '50s) and son Tom remembers the worst (the ill-fated
'70s). This week the Hagins test Chrysler's flagship, and for once agree
on everything - almost.
TOM - The LHS seems well-suited to the American Baby Boomer. It's
large and powerful, yet doesn't rely on chrome doo-dads and fancy
bolt-on items that serve virtually no function. It hardly has any chrome
trim; no opera windows; no whitewalls - none of the traditional American
luxury sedan styling cues. Instead of all that costume jewelry, LHS uses
fat performance-oriented tires, stylish aluminum wheels and blacked-out
BOB - I'm glad and I sure hope Chrysler never forgets that it almost
met its maker during the '70s with those lackluster sleds it hung the
Chrysler logo on. The LHS seems to have the right combination of
performance and good looks, but what I like best about the LHS is how
comfortable it is to drive. What I don't like is its price - at over
$30,000, those Baby Boomers had better be well-off financially.
TOM - But Dad, most luxury cars these days, especially imports, run
closer to the top side of $30 grand, and considering the equipment that
comes standard on LHS, it's highly competitive. For power, a 24 valve
3.5 liter V6 is under the hood, mated to an electronically- controlled
four-speed automatic transmission. Its 214 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of
torque provide plenty of power to move the large car, but it's not a
real barn-burner. It's smooth and quiet under normal acceleration, but
after about 4000 rpm, it tends to get loud.
BOB - Maximum torque comes on early, at about 3000 rpm, so instant
acceleration is available, especially when you try to pass a slow-moving
big rig on a two-lane road. The transmission is so smooth you can hardly
tell when it changes gears. Safety is an important issue with car buyers
today so the LHS comes standard with dual airbags, side-impact beams in
each door, and four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock all the way around.
And standard traction control all but eliminates wheelspin when the road
gets slick. Also, the power rack-and-pinion steering is speed-sensitive
which means it's easy to steer at low speeds, such as while parking, and
becomes progressively stiffer when speeds rise - but that's a good
thing, because you want more feel for the road at higher speeds.
TOM - LHS handles pretty well for such a big car. Its four-wheel
independent suspension uses struts up front and a multi-link beam axle
in back. Coil springs give it support, and the whole setup does well to
isolate all but the largest bumps. Defying the old rules that said
American luxury cars have to handle like land yachts, LHS is soft and
plush, yet handles like a sports sedan.
BOB - Soft and plush may have more to do with its leather upholstery
and soft padding. Even a diehard like me enjoys almost "melting" into
the seats while driving the thing. And since it uses the cab-forward
design, pioneered by Chrysler, that means there is lots of room inside
for stretching out - especially so in the back seat. The LHS Chrysler
has almost every creature comfort available as standard equipment.
TOM - True, Dad. LHS comes with power windows, outside mirrors,
driver's seat and door locks, along with tilt steering, automatic air
conditioning and cruise control - all standard. And it comes with a
powerful stereo, but if you want a CD player, it's going to be a $300
upgrade. Our test vehicle also came with an optional power moonroof,
which added another $795. Its destination charge is $595, and
California/New York smog equipment is $105. Unfortunately, that's a
"mandatory" option that can't be eliminated here.
BOB - Sometimes I long for the '50s and '60s when new Chryslers had
big V8s and no pollution control devices. Everything was so simple.
TOM - Until you tried to park those boats in downtown traffic. Then
you needed radar and a traffic controller. Don't Forget, Dad, we were in
the back seat when you restored those old Starcruisers.