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Chrysler Concorde LXi (2000)

by John Heilig


MODEL: 2000 Chrysler Concorde LXi
ENGINE:  3.2-liter 24-valve V-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 225 hp @ 6,300 rpm/225 lb-ft @ 3,800  rpm
TRANSMISSION:  Four-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 113.0 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 209.1 x 74.6 x 55.9 in.

There was a time when there were three American luxury car makers, Cadillac Lincoln and Chrysler. Cadillac has maintained its position. Lincoln has come back. And I'm here to say now that Chrysler has definitely come back.

Out test car this week is the Chrysler Concorde LXi, which was the first of the "LH" cars. It's not even considered to be Chrysler's luxury nameplate. The LHS, based on the Concorde platform, earns that honor. But the Concorde deserves to be considered as a luxury car and doesn't take a back seat to any other brands or stablemates.

Why is it considered a luxury car? For one, it has size -- seating for five and enough luggage capacity in the trunk to carry at least three golf bags. There's enough trunk capacity to squeeze a fourth golf bag in and carry the whole foursome to the course.

It has enough power to cruise along at illegal speeds almost anywhere.

It has a comfortable ride, which is a prerequisite for a luxury car.

And it has decent handling, which enables you to travel at illegal speed almost anywhere safely.

Let's deal with the power first, which always seems to be what I'm most concerned with. Under the hood of our tester was a 3.2-liter, 24-valve V-6 that was rated at 225 horsepower. You can get a 3.5-liter, 253 horsepower V-6 in the LHS and 300M, but the 3.2-liter does its job well. This is probably the smallest engine you'd want in a luxury car. It's probably smaller than it should be. When I think of a lot of luxury cars I think of the V-12s and the V-16s of the 1930s, and definitely the V-8s of today. So the engine compartment is where the Concorde loses out somewhat.

However, and it's a big however, this 3.2-liter V-6 offers very good acceleration and allows the Concorde to cruise at top speed anywhere at all. It's also relatively quiet, which is one of those other requirements for a luxury car. There's essentially no engine noise, except under hard acceleration. The only noise you hear on Interstate highways is tire noise. It's a shame Chrysler could not have worked with the tire manufactures to come up with a tread pattern that would ensure a quieter ride.

This engine is hooked to a four-speed automatic gearbox that drives the front wheels. Yeah, luxury cars are supposed to be rear-wheel driven (at least that's what the German manufacturers tell us), but the front-wheel drive Concorde does just fine, thank you.

Instrumentation is fairly standard with a tachometer, speedometer, fuel and water gauges. The sound system is excellent, as is the digital HVAC system, which kept us warm on some cold spring mornings and cool in the warmer afternoons. There is a tasteful amount of wood trim to create the proper luxury touch. There were also a ton of accessories, as with most of the vehicles we are asked to drive. The most useful to us was the overhead console with a compass and exterior temperature read-out.

Front passengers sat is leather-upholstered bucket seats, while in the rear there was a bench wide enough for three adults. There was also excellent leg room both front and rear that added to the luxury tag. As I said earlier, the trunk is an excellent size. We had to use the trunk as a truck one weekend to carry grass clippings to the compost center. We attracted a few raised eyebrows, but the bags of clippings fit nicely into the trunk and were easy to load and unload. I was impressed with the way the vertical-opening trunk lid accommodated all the clippings. Granted, this isn't your most common use of a luxury car, but we have driven to the compost area in other luxury cars.

We had the opportunity to drive the Concorde not only on urban streets, but on Interstates and on one of my favorite stretches of two-lane highway. This two-lane road, which becomes three on uphill portions, is gorgeous. It allows high-speed driving. It has enough twists and bends to make the ride interesting, and the scenery is in the same class as the road.

It seemed as if the Concorde was made for this road. I'd be moving along and looked down at the speedometer and realized I was "misbehaving." I had a similar problem on Interstates as well, but at least there you have other cars to judge your speed by.

There is one serious problem with the Concorde that doesn't qualify it as a luxury car. With a sticker price of "only" $26,980, this is at least $10,000 under what you'd expect to spend for a car of this type. I suggest that if you're looking for a large sedan, you consider the Concorde. You may be surprised.

Concorde definitely brings back the luxury nametag to Chrysler. For too long Chrysler had been making pedestrian vehicles that were serviceable but not particularly exciting. The era of the K-cars is over at Chrysler, thank God. The vehicles that are coming out of Chrysler Corporation are excellent, which is why the corporation was such an attractive purchase for Daimler.