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Expert Reviews 1 of 3
By Jim Flammang
March 27, 2002
Vehicle Overview After six seasons on the market, Chryslers retro-look, two-passenger roadster is about to become extinct, as the 2002 model year marks the final season for the Prowler. The principal change for 2002 is the addition of Inca Gold and Silver body colors. The final 300 Prowlers will be painted Deep Candy Red a pearl coat that the automaker says will make the car sparkle in bright light.
Prowler production began in 1997, more than four years after the Prowler first appeared at Detroits auto show as a concept car. Overwhelmingly favorable response from the press and public led Chryslers developers to mark the concept for production; the initial Prowler was a Plymouth model. When the Plymouth brand disappeared, the Prowler became a Chrysler product in January 2001.
Powered by a 253-horsepower V-6 engine that teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission, the rear-wheel-drive Prowler resembles a 1930s roadster that has been modified into a street rod of the 1950s. Chrysler sold 2,187 Prowlers during 2001, which represents a decrease from 2,631 units in the previous year, according to Automotive News. More than 11,000 Prowlers have been sold since the cars introduction, and 90 percent of them have gone to male buyers. About 20 percent of Prowlers have been accompanied by a matching trailer that costs an additional $5,075.
Exterior Theres nothing on the market that resembles the rakish Prowler, which helped establish the recent trend toward retro-styled vehicles. Despite its factory hot rod personality with minimalist fenders and a jutting-forward prow, the two-seater is built strictly with modern technology. Aluminum is used for the Prowlers frame and most of its body panels, while plastic compounds are employed for the front fenders and rear panels.
The Prowler comes with a manually folding fabric top and a glass rear window that is fitted with a defogger. Chrome-alloy wheels hold extended-mobility P225/45HR17 front and P295/40HR20 rear tires. The Prowler has just a sliver of trunk space, which makes the available matching trailer a sensible accessory.
Interior Two occupants get leather-upholstered bucket seats, and the driver has to consult a gauge cluster located in the center of the dashboard. In a nod to custom cars of the past, the engine tachometer is mounted atop the steering column rather than on the dashboard. All Prowlers are equipped with air conditioning, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, cruise control, a six-way manual drivers seat with height adjustment, remote keyless entry, an Infinity cassette stereo with a six-CD changer, a theft-deterrent system, tire-pressure monitor, and power windows, door locks and mirrors.
Under the Hood Borrowed from the Chrysler 300M and Chrysler LHS, the Prowlers 3.5-liter V-6 engine produces 253 hp and 255 pounds-feet of torque. The rear-mounted four-speed-automatic transmission incorporates Chryslers AutoStick system, which includes a separate gate for manual gear changes that the driver uses by tipping the shift lever to the left or right.
Safety Dual front airbags and four-wheel disc brakes are standard. Antilock brakes, traction control and side-impact airbags are not available.
Driving Impressions Unless you enjoy attention while rolling down the road, dont even dream of driving a Prowler. Even though the retro-roadster has been around for several years, it still draws plenty of stares. Nothing else looks like the Prowler, and nothing feels the same when youre behind the wheel.
Performance from the V-6 engine is energetic, but it is accompanied by considerable noise and a jarring ride. Another caution: Leave the luggage behind, unless the Prowler is accompanied by one of those matching trailers. Even a thick briefcase can be tough to stow. It isnt likely that Prowlers will be driven in everyday, humdrum commutes. But when the sun is out and the weekend is approaching, backing this retro-roadster out of the garage still amounts to a recipe for sheer fun on the road.