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New Car/Review

1998 Dodge Intrepid

by John Heilig


SEE ALSO: Dodge Buyer's Guide


ENGINE:                  2.7-liter V-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:       200 hp @ 5800 rpm/190 ft-lbs @ 4850 rpm
TRANSMISSION:            Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:            20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway
WHEELBASE:               113.0 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH X HEIGHT: 203.7 x 74.7 x 55.9 in.
CURB WEIGHT:             3422 lbs
FUEL CAPACITY:           17.0 gal.
CARRYING CAPACITY:       18.4 cu. ft. 
INSTRUMENTS:             Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, 
                         water temperature, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:               Power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, 
                         cruise control, air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio
                         with cassette and in-dash CD, ABS, dual air bags. 
STICKER PRICE:           $22,500 (est.)

I had a chance over the course of the road test week to drive two Dodge Intrepids, both the base version and the more powerful, more luxurious EX. The EX is what you might consider a smaller, less expensive Concorde. It has a 3.2-liter V-6 engine, leather seats, four-speed automatic transmission with the automatic StickShift. The base Intrepid, on the other hand, is powered by a 2.7-liter V-6, had a four-speed automatic without the stick shift, and cloth seats.

But except for these minor differences, the cars are identical. With the close relationship to the Chrysler Concorde, they also share one other feature, the solidity of the new LH cars. When Chrysler designed the first Intrepid in 1992, they came out with a pretty decent automobile. The new one, though, is outstanding.

We drove the Intrepid over our normal roads in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania and borrowed the EX to drive in the Detroit area. Trust me, some of those Detroit roads are bad. They are the type of road that will knock your fillings loose, as well as some of the screws inside the automobile. The Intrepid held up well to the Detroit roads as well as our (much better) Lehigh Valley roads. We also took it down to Virginia, where we encountered Interstates and dirt roads. Again, the solidity of the Intrepid overcame the challenges put in front of us by highway designers.

There is a feeling of solidity and security that the Intrepid gives you that is matched by few other sedans. It is a comfortable feeling. The Intrepid will also handle any normal twisting and winding road without the fear of going off road or getting in trouble.

The individual front bucket seats are relatively comfortable, even though they don't offer much side support. In this case, I think I'd opt for the cloth seats because of the greater friction and assistance they give in keeping you in the seat.

Among the new features in this Intrepid are cruise control switches on the steering wheel, which were convenient. Some of the speed sin Michigan were higher than I'm accustomed to driving. The Intrepid handled these speeds and more with comfort. Cruise control was a useful feature to keep me from going too fast and attracting unwanted attention.

The new Intrepid has an enormous trunk, listed at somewhere near 20 cubic feet. This is great for a family sedan, where you're going to want to carry everyone's luggage on family trips. Combined with a slippery coefficient of drag of under .30, we also had fuel economy of more than 23 mpg with the smaller engine, with no real lack of power. There was an annoying whistle around the left window, though.

One of the knocks against Chrysler the past few years has been a relative lack of quality. while the corporation has introduced some interesting and well-designed cars, the quality hasn't been there. The fit and finish have not been as good as they could be. With this car, I'd like to dispel that rumor if I can. The seams are uniform through their length, for example. there are some texture differences inside, but they aren't as interesting as the New Beetle, for example.

All in all, the Dodge Intrepid continues to be one of the more interesting and more desirable sedans on the market today. There is any number of good four-door sedans available, but I think the Intrepid ranks at or near the top of any list you may be compiling.