Elegance, style and class with roomy, comfortable accommodations.
by Mitch McCullough
Base Price $22,145
As Tested $26,885
With its bold grille and fluid lines, the Chrysler Concorde remains a pretty car. It's also surprisingly functional with a comfortable, roomy interior.
Chrysler has refined the Concorde's suspension for 2000 for a quieter, smoother ride. Variable-assist, speed-sensitive steering is now standard on the LXi model.
Chrysler's Concorde shares platforms with the European-styled Chrysler 300M, luxurious Chrysler LHS and sporty Dodge Intrepid. But the Concorde offers unique styling. The Intrepid is a full 5 inches shorter than the Concorde. The upscale LHS shares Concorde's basic shape, but adds a range of luxury touches and more than $2,000 to the bottom line. The shorter 300M is the sportiest of the bunch, with a high-performance powertrain and suspension package. For many buyers, the Concorde is likely to hit the mark. It offers a wonderful balance of elegance, performance, handling, roominess and value.
Two models are available: Concorde LX ($22,145) comes with a 200-horsepower 2.7-liter dohc 24v V6, a cloth interior and a high level of standard equipment. Concorde LXi ($26,385) gets a 225-horsepower 3.2-liter sohc 24v V6, leather seating surfaces, anti-lock brakes, traction control and a 120-watt AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo.
At first glance, the eye is immediately drawn to the Concorde's grille. The massive, oversized grille is reminiscent of Jaguar. It's a classic design that serves the Concorde with distinction. The lack of a visible front bumper adds to the elegance of the design. Above the grille sits the Chrysler division's retro-looking winged emblem. Large, kidney-shaped headlights are jewel-like in appearance. The sloping cowl sweeps into a steeply raked windshield. The sculptured sheet metal features a minimum of body cladding. Instead, there is great nuance to the metal, which rolls and undulates like a work of art.
Concorde's interior design is spacious and creative. The quality of the materials is high, much better than the previous-generation Concorde. Colors match well, and gaps have been minimized. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the space where doors and dashboard come together. On the old cars, this used to be a yawning chasm. Big doors open wide to aid getting in and out of the seats, but the steeply raked windshield and A-pillars make this out a bit awkward. Relatively low side-bolsters make sliding into place easy.
Once inside, the Concorde reveals a roomy cabin. The cab-forward concept puts a tight squeeze under the hood but maximizes passenger space. There's lots of room inside. Concorde comes standard with an eight-way, power-adjustable driver's bucket seat with a manually adjustable lumbar support. (A front bench seat is available as a $100 option that increases seating to 6 passengers; it comes packaged with a column shifter instead of a console shifter.) The standard bucket seats provide good back and lateral support and the detailing of the fabric is world class. Leather seating surfaces are standard on the LXi and are part of a $760 package on the LX that includes cast-aluminum wheels.
The rear seats are spacious and comfortable. There's a cavernous 18.7 cubic feet of trunk space. The trunk hinges fold cleanly out of the way instead of intruding into the trunk compartment and crushing your cargo. A pass-through compartment provides an easy way to carry skies in the trunk. The lift-over height is high, however, which makes loading up a week's worth of groceries or heavy items a bit more work.
If there's a downside to the Concorde's sleek exterior styling it's the fact that visibility is slightly reduced. It takes some time to get the feel of the front end to know precisely where the out-of-sight front bumper is. And it takes a bit of getting used to the view out of the small rear window, too. Fortunately, it comes with big side mirrors.
For 2000, a new instrument cluster features bright trim rings around the instruments that greatly improve the appearance. The instrument panel is covered in material that is soft to the touch. Controls are easy to operate. We like having the compass, outside temperature gauge and map lights that come with the available overhead console, which also features a trip computer.
The Concorde offers impressive grip in hard cornering and solid, stable braking performance. It's amazing how well this car handles given its size. It's easy and fun to drive on winding roads. Yet it's very stable on the open road at high speeds and relatively unaffected by crosswinds. The steering system has been revised for improved feel.
The fully independent suspension provides this handling prowess without sacrificing ride comfort. The secret lies within the Concorde's rigid chassis. An aluminum crossbeam behind the instrument panel helps reduce noise and vibration. Concorde's stiff chassis translates into less body shake and roll, better handling, and a quiet ride. The Concorde provides a smooth ride even when traveling on rough, beat up roads. In terms of noise and vibration, this Concorde is light years ahead of pre-1998 models. It still isn't the quietest sedan in is class, but Chrysler engineers have substantially subdued wind and road noise.
The 2.7-liter engine used in the LX is a marked improvement from the engine it replaced; it's quicker, quieter and much more powerful than the old 3.3-liter push-rod cast-iron V6. It's still not the best engine in its class in terms of refinement, however. This engine achieves decent fuel economy, generating an EPA rating of 20/29 mpg city/highway, and it works well around town. But it seems a bit taxed when accelerating onto the freeway fully laden with passengers.
If you want stronger off-the-line acceleration, you'll need the LXi with the 3.2-liter engine. It growls aggressively under hard acceleration and delivers good acceleration performance, whether starting from a standstill or passing at high speeds. Most of this comes from the difference in torque: While the 2.7-liter V6 generates 190 foot-pounds of torque at a relatively high 4850 rpm, the larger 3.2-liter V6 produces 225 foot-pounds of torque at 3800 rpm. Torque is the force that propels you away from intersections. They say horsepower sells cars, but torque wins races. Still, this is not the smoothest engine in a world of highly refined V6s.
Both Concorde models come standard with a four-speed automatic. The AutoStick, which comes on the Dodge Intrepid, is not available. But the AutoStick is a toy. You don't need it. The Concorde's transmission shifts effectively without hunting for the appropriate gear.
Brakes are excellent, offering quick, predictable stopping power at threshold. ABS is standard on the LXi and a $600 option on the LX and we recommend them highly; anti-lock brakes allow the driver to maintain steering control during emergency braking situations. Like ABS, traction control is standard on LXi and optional ($175) on LX; this system enhances driver control by reducing wheel spin under hard acceleration. The traction control system makes the Concorde easier to drive in slippery conditions.
Unlike the pre-1998 models, the current Concorde's quad headlamps provide brilliant illumination as well as a classy styling touch. Windshield wipers are far more effective, as is the defroster, which proved particularly welcome during a nasty blizzard.
Chrysler's Concorde offers elegant styling that continues to draw admiring glances. It offers a roomy, comfortable interior. Handling is impressive. While not the most refined vehicle in its class, the Concorde delivers class, style and value.
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