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SEE ALSO:Chrysler Buyer's Guide

Chrysler has done it again! Following the success of its LH and LHS large cars of 1993, Chrysler has introduced another all-new product line for 1995, the JA midsize cars. The JA cars are the Chrysler Cirrus and the Dodge Stratus - right out of the clouds. The Cirrus also reintroduces the traditional seal and ribbon Chrysler logo which has not been seen on its cars since the five-point pentastar first appeared in 1962.

The Cirrus was developed by the same platform team that produced the LH series and utilizes many of the revolutionary ideas first developed for those cars. Like its bigger cousins, the Cirrus utilizes Chrysler's "cab-forward" design techniques which provide for efficient space utilization for passengers and luggage. Its power-train consists of a transverse-mounted V-6 engine and a four-speed automatic transmission putting power to the front wheels. As a V-6 powered, front wheel drive, four- door, five-passenger sedan the Cirrus is aimed squarely at the popular midsized imports. It comes in two trim levels, the "base" LX, and the upscale LXi. The LX offers a long list of standard items that are often on optional cars its class, including a V-6 engine and automatic transmission, antilock brakes, power mirrors, steering and windows, remote keyless entry, fog lights and more. The LXi upgrade includes trim changes, a premium sound system and leather seats, as well as alloy wheels.

Extensive drives in fair and stormy weather left these impressions.

APPEARANCE: In this era of style and design homogenization, the Cirrus dares to be different. Its large waterfall grille sets it apart from everything else on the road. This projecting nose is made from impact resistant plastic compounds for parking protection, and is more than a styling gimmick. It allows room for vital under-the-hood components as the transverse engine is mounted ahead of the front axle centerline. The steeply-raked windshield and rear window along with its smoothly curved sides, flared wheel wells and rear decklid semi-spoiler treatment result in an impressive Cd of .31.

COMFORT: Interior space in the Cirrus is maximized by placing the wheels out towards the corners of the car, moving the engine as far forward as possible and utilizing the cab forward cabin design. There is plenty of comfortable room for five adults in the front bucket and rear bench seats. If more cargo area is needed the rear seat back can be folded forward for access to the flat low liftover trunk. Excellent ergonomics have all controls and switches correctly placed. The AM/FM/CD sound system is placed high on the console, and the heater/air conditioner controls below. The four-speaker radio picks up distant stations and is fairly easy to set and tune. The heater/air conditioner uses rotary switches and to insure even air distribution has ducting to the rear seats. As mentioned above, the LX is completely equipped with many popular items, and it is certainly not a stripped-down model.

SAFETY: Safety is especially important to family car buyers and the design of the Cirrus acknowledges this. It meets all 1997 side impact requirements, and antilock brakes, dual airbags, three-point outboard seat belts with front seat adjustable shoulder height and power steering as standard equipment.

ROADABILITY: The traditional American nature of the Cirrus shows on the road. While it may look a little different in styling, behind the wheel it feels completely American. That is, the ride is more soft than firm, and there is some lean on twisty roads. Its speed-sensitive variable-assist power steering makes it easy to maneuver and park, while the front-disc, rear-drum four-wheel antilock brakes provide excellent stopping qualities on a variety of wet and dry road surfaces. Vision is excellent, and due to good sound proofing and weather stripping the ride is quiet at normal highway speeds. At higher speeds wind and engine noise do become apparent.

PERFORMANCE: The Cirrus is a family sedan, not a sports car. Its engine is derived from the time-proven V-6 that has powered Chryslers' minivans for over a decade. Its displacement has been reduced to 2.5 liters, two valves per cylinder have been added, and the horsepower and fuel economy have increased. The LX delivers 164 horsepower with EPA averages of 20 city/29 highway. Power is delivered to the front wheels via an electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission.

CONCLUSION: The Chrysler Cirrus is an innovative new car. Even with bold styling and imaginative engineering and design concepts, it is at heart a quintessentially American automobile.


           Base Price              $  17,435  
           Price As Tested         $  18,660
           Engine Type             V-6, sohc - 24-v, smpfi
           Engine Size             2.5 liter/152 cid        
           Horsepower              164 @ 5900
           Torque (ft/lbs)         163 @ 4350
           Wheelbase/Length        108"/186 
           Transmission            four-speed ECautomatic w/overdrive
           Curb Weight             3150
           Pounds per Horsepower   19  
           Fuel Capacity           16
           Fuel Requirement        Unleaded regular (87 oct)              
           Tires                   Michelin MX4 P195/65R15 M+S
           Brakes                  antilock-standard  ventilated disc/drum
           Drive Train             Front engine/front drive
           EPA Economy - miles per gallon,        
             city/highway/observed         20/29/25.1
           0 to 60 mph                     9.8 sec
           1/4 mi (E.T.)                   17.8 sec
           Coefficient of Drag  (Cd)       .31