Distinctive styling, luxury, roominess, and performance.
by Mitch McCullough, Editor in Chief
Base Price (MSRP) $22,510
As Tested (MSRP) $24,510
Out with the old, in with the new. Well, sort of. The Chrysler Concorde has donned LHS clothing for 2002.
See if you can follow this: All three Chrysler Concorde models have adopted the elegant front and rear styling from the Chrysler LHS. There is no LHS available this year, at least not in name. The LHS nameplate has been dropped, so you won't see a 2002 LHS in the Chrysler showroom. What you'll see, instead, is a Concorde Limited. The new Concorde Limited model features the higher trim of the LHS. This wasn't as complicated for Chrysler as it sounds. The luxurious LHS shared underpinnings and much of its hardware with the full-size Concorde. Some styling cues were also shared.
Regardless of what it's called, this design still cuts a nice profile. That's impressive given this design is in its fourth year. Chrysler has been on the leading edge of design in recent years and this car is a perfect example of this. Most cars, particularly those with more daring designs, tend to look dated after a few years. This isn't one of them. The bold grille and fluid lines still look terrific. Yet the sleek design does not prevent the Chrysler Concorde from being a practical car with a comfortable, roomy interior.
Chrysler Concorde now comes as three models, LX, LXi, and Limited. Each uses a progressively more powerful V6 engine.
Concorde LX ($22,370) comes with a 200-horsepower 2.7-liter V6, a cloth interior and a high level of standard equipment.
Concorde LXi ($24,975) is powered by a 234-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and comes with leather seating surfaces. LXi also adds convenience features such as automatic air conditioning, automatic headlights, automatic mirror dimming, a premium 120-watt stereo with a CD player, and audio controls on the steering wheel. To go with the more powerful engine, it comes with a bigger battery, a more powerful alternator, and aluminum wheels. It's a nice step up from the LX.
Concorde Limited ($27,870) boasts a 250-horsepower high-output 3.5-liter V6. In terms of trim, it's basically last year's LHS model. So it comes with premium leather seating surfaces, eight-way power heated driver and front passenger seats, 240-watt stereo, and other luxury features. Memory systems know your radio settings, and seating and mirror adjustments. Several features help make the most of the more powerful engine: Bigger (17-inch) tires offer more grip and they come wrapped around chrome-clad aluminum wheels. Traction control, which reduces front wheel spin when accelerating over slippery surfaces, is standard, along with ABS, which allows the driver to brake and steer at the same time in a panic stop. Speed-sensitive power steering is also standard, making the steering effort light in parking lots yet maintaining solid steering feel at highway speeds.
After four years, this design still looks good. The big egg-crate grille, sculptured headlamps and fluted hood demonstrate Chrysler wasn't afraid to step out of the box. Graceful, fluid lines emulate the craftsmanship of classic automobiles. It is a classic, yet contemporary design. It looks sleek compared with other four-door sedans in its class.
The most noticeable design element is its grille, edged in chrome and adorned with a big winged Chrysler medallion. The front fascia was engineered to meet federal impact requirements without the need for a visible external bumper. Sculptured headlamp bezels surround compact projector beams with integrated fog lamps and turn signals. The shape they describe flows seamlessly into the fluted aluminum hood. 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.
Viewed from the side, the aerodynamic lower sill complements the large wheels and tires and visually ties the unique front and rear fascias together. A winged Chrysler medallion adorns the deck lid. The model nameplates are centered on the rear fascia. Wrap-around taillamps use a red/amber split to delineate the stop and turn functions. Stainless steel exhaust tips indicate the added power and performance of the Limited model's high-output engine.
The flowing shapes that grace the exterior are carried through inside. Interior surfaces are soft to the touch for a luxurious feel. The quality of the materials is high, much better than the previous-generation (pre-1998) 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 pre-'98 models, this was a yawning chasm. Big doors open wide to aid getting in and out of the seats, though the steeply raked windshield and A-pillars make this a bit awkward. Relatively low side-bolsters on the seats make sliding into place easy.
Concorde's interior design is spacious and creative. 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 $150 option that increases seating to 6 passengers; it comes packaged with a column shifter instead of a console-mounted shifter.) The standard bucket seats provide good back and lateral support and the detailing of the fabric is world class. Leather seating surfaces come standard on the LXi.
The rear seats are spacious and comfortable. A three-point seatbelt is fitted to the center position for increased safety for that fifth passenger. The trunk offers 18.7 cubic feet of cargo space. The trunk hinges fold cleanly out of the way instead of intruding into the trunk compartment and crushing fragile items. A rear seat cargo pass-through compartment provides an easy way to carry skies and other long objects 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 front bumper is; you can't actually see the front corners of the car. And it takes a bit of getting used to the view out of the small rear window, too. Fortunately, the Concorde comes with big side mirrors.
Trim rings around the gauges brighten the appearance of the instrument panel. 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 and a universal garage door opener.
Limited models come with comfortable premium leather-trimmed seats. Personalized memory controls remember the driver's seating adjustments, outside mirror positions and radio station presets. It's a brilliant interior, sleeker and more contemporary than the Lincoln Continental.
The Concorde delivers a smooth ride quality, filtering out unwanted vibration without isolating the driver from the road. Noise and vibration, though not the best in the class, are low.
The Concorde feels extremely stable at high speeds. Steering is direct and precise and is among the best in the class. It 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.
The fully independent touring suspension provides this handling prowess without sacrificing ride comfort. The secret lies within the Concorde's rigid chassis and unibody. An aluminum crossbeam behind the instrument panel helps reduce noise and vibration. The stiff structure reduces body shake and roll, which allows better handling and a quieter ride. The Concorde provides a smooth ride even when traveling on rough, beat-up roads, but it is not the quietest sedan in its class.
The 2.7-liter engine is a modern V6, introduced just last year, that uses double overhead-cams and 24 valves. It still isn't the most refined engine in its class, but it achieves decent fuel economy, and is classed by the government as a Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV). The 2.7-liter engine works well around town, but seems a bit taxed when accelerating onto the freeway fully laden with passengers.
The Limited models high-output 3.5-liter V6 offers a lot more punch. Quiet when cruising, it serves notice with an aggressive growl when provoked. Plenty of power is on tap for accelerating away from intersections, onto freeways and passing cars. The engine is tuned with a broad torque curve designed to provide instant throttle response at any speed.
Concorde models come standard with a four-speed automatic transmission that shifts effectively without hunting for the appropriate gear.
The Concorde's brakes are excellent, offering quick, predictable stopping power at the threshold limit. ABS is standard on the Limited, but it's a $600 option on LX and LXi models. We recommend ABS highly; anti-lock brakes allow the driver to maintain steering control during emergency braking situations. Likewise, traction control is standard on the Limited, optional on LX and LXi; traction control enhances driver control by reducing wheel spin under hard acceleration, making the car easier to drive in slippery conditions.
An elegant interior, solid acceleration performance and excellent handling complement the appealing looks of the Chrysler Concorde. With its roomy back seats and generous legroom, it can haul four people in comfortable surroundings. Those surroundings are particularly luxurious in the Limited model with its premium leather. Supremely smooth and stable at highway speeds, we could spend many miles in one of these.
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