Elegance, style and class with roomy accommodations.
by Mitch McCullough
Base Price (MSRP) $22,510
As Tested (MSRP) $27,365
Chrysler's designers did a great job with the Concorde. Three years after its debut, the bold grille and fluid lines still look terrific. Yet its design doesn't prevent it from being a practical car with a comfortable, roomy interior.
Subtle changes to the windshield pillar moldings for 2001 have reduced wind noise and help better channel water away when it's raining. The suspension was refined last year for a quieter, smoother ride. Safety has been improved for 2001 with the addition of a three-point seatbelt in the rear center position, an inside emergency trunk lid release and optional front side airbags.
Two models are available: Concorde LX ($22,510) comes with a 200-horsepower 2.7-liter double overhead-cam 24-valve V6, a cloth interior and a high level of standard equipment.
Concorde LXi ($26,755) gets a 222-horsepower 3.2-liter single-cam 24-valve V6, leather seating surfaces, antilock brakes, traction control and a 120-watt eight-speaker AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo.
One glance at the Concorde and your eye is immediately drawn to the grille. The massive, oversized grille is reminiscent of vintage Jaguars, a classic design that serves the Concorde with distinction. The lack of a visible front bumper lends elegance to 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.
Chrysler Concorde shares its basic structure with the Chrysler 300M and LHS and the sporty Dodge Intrepid. However, there are many differences: The Concorde offers unique styling. It's more than 5 inches longer than the Intrepid; it's less expensive than the LHS; and it's more elegant than the high-performance 300M. For many people, the Chrysler Concorde hits the mark, offering a wonderful balance of elegance, performance, handling, roominess and value.
Concorde's interior design is spacious and creative. 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.
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-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. An optional Leather Interior Group ($1075) is available for the LX that includes leather bucket seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and eight-way power front seats.
Chrysler's winged medallion has been added to the horn pad this year. Steering wheel-mounted audio controls are now included with a nine-speaker Infinity audio system.
The rear seats are spacious and comfortable. As mentioned, a three-point seatbelt has been added 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.
Bright trim rings around the gauges improve 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.
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 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. It may not be the quietest sedan in its class but, in terms of noise and vibration, this Concorde is light years ahead of pre-1998 models.
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, 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.
Step up to the 3.2-liter engine if you want stronger off-the-line acceleration. This engine comes standard in the Concorde LXi model. The 3.2-liter V6 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 its increased 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 222 foot-pounds of torque at just 3950 rpm. Torque is the force that propels you away from intersections. They say horsepower sells cars, but torque wins races. On the downside, this is not the smoothest engine in a world of highly refined V6s.
Both Concorde models come standard with a four-speed automatic. It shifts effectively without hunting for the appropriate gear. The Dodge Intrepid offers an AutoStick, which is not available on the Concorde. But the AutoStick is a toy. You don't need it.
The Concorde's brakes are excellent, offering quick, predictable stopping power at the threshold limit. ABS is standard on the LXi and a $600 option on the LX. We recommend ABS 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 on LX; traction control enhances driver control by reducing wheel spin under hard acceleration, making the car 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 sports 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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