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By Jim Mateja
December 11, 1989
Chrysler has a new flagship. The new top-of-the-line image and status symbol at Chrysler actually isan old name gracing a new body-Imperial. Well, maybe not a totally new body. Imperial basically is a stretch ofthe front-wheel-drive New
Yorker platform to a 109.3-inch wheelbase and 203-inch length from a 104.3-inch wheelbase and 193.6-inch length. Once again, Lee Iacocca has used mirrors to bring out a new vehicle, just like he used the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant K-car
platform to spawnnearly every front-wheel-drive Chrysler product, including the mini-vans,since the early 1980s. Give Iacocca credit for pulling it off one more time. Imperial is a long, yet lean and clean, 4-door sedan, and it doesn`t copy the
current rounded aerolook popular among its Big Three rivals. Concealed headlamps and a bold vertical grille add a nice touch, but thelandau vinyl half top is a styling gimmick used to denote luxury a decade ago.It not only looks out of place, it`s
a devil to keep clean and looks terribly unsightly when the vinyl is ripped. Other than that vinyl hat, Imperial makes no pretentions. It isn`t a$35,000 Lexus or a $30,000 Town Car. It`s a $25,000 luxury sedan that providesa vehicle for Chrysler
loyalists to move up into once the New Yorker no longerfills their needs. With Imperial, Chrysler caters to the blue-collar, shot-and-a-beer folkswho are a few years older than the import crowd. These are the people not so much interested in
fancy as they are infunction. Make it look nice, but make sure it serves a purpose. Imperial fillsthe order. There`s just enough power from the Chrysler-built 3.3-liter, 146-h.p. V-6 engine teamed with 4-speed automatic for an 18 m.p.g. city/25
m.p.g. highwayrating. It could use a bit more oomph and that will come in the future oncethe Chrysler-built 3.8-liter and 24-valve 3.5-liter engines come on stream in the 1991 and 1993 model years, respectively. The car we test drove came with the
optional ($628) electronicallycontrolled suspension system with gas-charged front struts and rear shocks andautomatic rear-end load leveling to prevent the sag that occurs when the back seat, trunk or both are full. What that means is that you get
a very soft ride, bordering on mushy, and have to put up with some sway and lean in the turns. The value is that youcould almost run over an elk in the road and not spill a cup of coffee. There`s more than enough room. The interior is very spacious
and the rear seat borders on lavish in terms of leg, arm and head room. The trunk is large,deep and flat to hold luggage, golf clubs and groceries. In the safety department, Imperial comes with antilock brakes and adriver`s side air bag as
standard. Our only objection here is that the brakepedal in normal stopping is a bit too spongy. We appreciate a more firm pedal with less play. Other noteworthy items include an i
nformation system in the overheadconsole in which you push a button to get readings on time, temperature,amount of miles to travel before running out of fuel, along with such warningsas belts unfastened or door ajar. And we love the Chrysler
automatic door locking system. It works on itsown to secure the doors if you`ve started moving forward but failed to pushthe door buttons. There are a few annoyances, however, that should be remedied. The powerdoor locks/window controls are in the
driver`s door arm rest. But the lockbuttons are closest to the driver, the window buttons farthest away. You tend to use the window buttons more, and they should be the closest. Also, the vinyl top comes down and around the rear window and serves
torob some visibility. Finally, though a minor point, Chrysler leads the way in providing cup holders in its vehicles-but we couldn`t find one in theImperial. Imperial starts at $24,995. Options are few. If the feature you
antstarts with the word ``power,`` it`s standard in Imperial.