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SEE ALSO: Chrysler Buyer's Guide

1996 CHRYSLER CONCORDE

by Tom Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 19,445
     Price As Tested                                    $ 25,670
     Engine Type                             3.5 liter V6 w/MPI*
     Engine Size                                 214 cid/3518 cc
     Horsepower                                   214 @ 5850 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               221 @ 3100 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   113.0"/74.4"/201.5
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3492 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/60R16
     Brakes (F/R)                              Disc-ABS/disc-ABS
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                 89 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            18/26/23
     0-60 MPH                                       9.0  seconds
     1/4 mile (E.T.)                       16.9 seconds @ 84 mph
     Top Speed (Est.)                                    125 mph
     * Multiport fuel injection

Boom or bust? That was the question back in 1993, when the Chrysler Corporation's new line of LH sedans, the Chrysler Concorde, Dodge Intrepid and Eagle Vision, appeared on showroom floors.

Three years later, the highly successful trio have had to traverse the high peaks and low valleys that define the car business. We've evaluated two LH cars in the past, but this is our first road test of the Chrysler Concorde, the most comfortable of the LH sedans.

OUTSIDE - Concorde's long wheelbase and wide track help in many ways. By pushing the wheels to the corners, an immense amount of interior and trunk space opens, while its wide stance improves handling and stability. Not much body stretches past the rear wheels, but there is plenty of front overhang, mainly due to its lengthwise engine placement. According to Chrysler, this lengthy front end helps crash worthiness. Tinted glass and full wheelcovers are standard on LX models, while the LXi version adds web-patterned alloy wheels. Both models now come equipped with wide 16-inch all-season Goodyear Eagle tires.

INSIDE - Particular attention has been paid to reducing intrusive noises. Additional insulation and an improved "sandwich" construction of the floor pan have done much to reduce noise and vibration. There is a vast amount of room in which to stretch inside Concorde. Most versions will seat five comfortably, but six can be accommodated in the LX version if the optional 50/50 split front bench seat is ordered. Since its wheels have been pushed rearward, there are no wheel wells intruding into the rear passenger space. This, combined with large rear door openings, gives simple rear seat access, and a comfortable three-across fit. Both Concorde models come standard with an electric rear window defroster, power windows, door locks, outside mirrors, air conditioning, and an AM/FM cassette stereo with six speakers.

ON THE ROAD - There are several Concorde powertrains available. LX models come standard with a 3.3 liter V6, which runs on regular unleaded gasoline and produces a capable 161 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. Concorde LXi models use a 3.5 liter variant of the same V6, but with the help of overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and mid-grade fuel, it increases the horsepower to 214 and the torque to 221 lb-ft. Our LX test car came optionally equipped this way, and showed sprightly acceleration and effortless freeway cruising. Power tapers off at high rpms, however, but since Concorde is primarily designed to be a comfortable road machine, forays into the engine's upper rpm ranges are infrequent. A low-emissions version of the 3.3 liter V6 is also offered, but its availability is limited to four selected states. Both Concorde LX and LXi come with a smooth-shifting four-speed automatic transmission. This gearbox is electronically-controlled, so gear changes come without hesitation, or the rpm "spikes" associated with mechanical controls.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - All of the LH sedans have been touted from the beginning as being large cars with a mid-sized feel. The rigid body structure, along with the long wheelbase, wide track and large tires are the main contributor to this claim. Its four wheel independent suspension features gas-pressurized shock absorbers, coil springs and stabilizer bars at both ends. Of the LH cars, Concorde's suspension is tuned more for comfort than blistering cornering, which explains its ability to soak up pavement bumps easily, without much detection by those inside. Our car came equipped with the optional speed-sensitive steering, which offers easier turning at slow speeds, but more road- feel on the highway. Also available from the options list is electronic traction control, where wheelspin is virtually eliminated by microprocessors - a handy feature in snow and ice country. Four wheel disc brakes are handy too, and are teamed with an anti-lock braking system. Both are standard equipment.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS and side-impact protection are standard.

OPTIONS - A power moonroof adds $720, while the 3.5 liter V6 is $725. An eight-speaker, Chrysler/Infinity compact disc/cassette stereo system adds another $300.

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