Greg A. Godsell
As they used to tell you in school: "Pay attention to this material, you will be tested on it later". Sometimes that's what it's all about at the car shows. Two years ago, when Chrysler displayed the Chrysler LHX, and the Dodge Intrepid ESX concepts not even the best of students could have realized how much those handsome concepts were revealing of their future production counterparts. This fall Chrysler will replace the Concorde and Intrepid with all-new models. The Eagle Vision has been discontinued, possibly to be replaced by an oft-rumored all-new model that is distinct from the Concorde and Intrepid.
There are many things to be impressed with on these new models. For one, the 2.1 billion-dollar development program on the new sedans was the first to leverage Chrysler's paperless design system. This allowed Chrysler to turn around the design of two new vehicles and two new engines in a mere 31 months.
Developed concurrently, the Concorde and Intrepid share the same basic size and chassis, but share very little in the way of body panels or interior components. Where the previous generation of the Concorde, Intrepid, and Vision made use of a strong platform resemblance, these new vehicles are intended to display unique personalities to win over different types of prospective buyers. By focusing on the brands and not the platform, Chrysler would like to see the moniker 'LH sedans' go the way of the previous models.
Chrysler's designers have pushed the cab-forward styling even farther on these new models. Although these models carry forward the previous model's 113-inch wheelbase, an increase in vehicle length allowed the cabin to be pushed even farther to the front and rear of the vehicle. For the Concorde this results in an increase of 2.6 cu. Ft. in interior volume and 3.6 cu. Ft. in cargo volume. These impressive numbers help these sedans retain their unique size advantage over the majority of passenger sedans like Ford's Taurus/Sable and GM's Regal/Intrigue/Grand Prix.
Stylistically, Concorde is the big winner in the redesign. Previously Concorde was the LH with the most conservative (read boring) styling of the lot. Now in 1998, the Concorde makes a statement that is as much unique from the Intrepid as it is from every other sedan in the segment. Chrysler's designers have found a remarkable front end appearance that is equal parts stylish, luxurious and aggressive. Intrepid's styling in comparison is more evolutionary in nature.
Both vehicles receive handsome new interiors. The instrument panels have the same basic layout but where the Concorde favors softer lines and wood trim, the Intrepid has sharp lines and a more sporty monochrome treatment. Even the seating is different between the two models. On the Intrepid there is a 60/40 split rear seat for cargo space access, whereas on the Concorde only a pass-through is available. Both models feature the newer lower-powered air bags for 1998.
Just as important as the new styling, is the new engines that will be available in 1998. Concorde LX and Intrepid are equipped with an all-new 2.7-liter, 24-valve, DOHC V-6 engine that produces 200 hp and 188 ft-lbs of torque. The more upscale Concorde Lxi and Intrepid ES feature a 3.2-liter 24valve SOHC V-6 that is good for 220 hp and 222 ft-lbs of torque. Both engines have all-aluminum blocks. Despite the increase in horsepower Chrysler claims an increase of 10% in fuel economy.
Consumers and competitors were surprised in 1993 when the current LH sedans were introduced. The cab-forward design and increased size relative to the competition gave Chrysler instant credibility in the sedan market. By adding a new level of refinement and style to the Concorde and Intrepid for 1998, Chrysler looks to extend their winning ways in the sedan market.