Dodges most popular car adds side-impact airbags for the front seats as a new option this year, joining the similar Chrysler Concorde, LHS and 300M in offering that feature.
All four cars are built from the same basic front-drive platform, but all have different styling and varying missions. While the Chrysler models are aimed at luxury buyers, the Intrepid is geared toward people who want a sporty family sedan or performance-oriented big car. A high-performance R/T (road/track) model joined the Intrepid lineup early in calendar-year 2000 as a prelude to Dodge entering the NASCAR stock-car racing series in 2001. An Intrepid-based stock car will debut at the Daytona 500 in February.
Like its Chrysler cousins, the boldly styled Intrepid turns more heads on the road than other full-size cars. The cab-forward design pioneered by Chrysler pushes the wheels to the ends of the car, and the low nose and high tail give it a sleek, aerodynamic shape with a coefficient of drag of .30 better than some sports cars.
The Intrepid is nearly 204 inches long 4 inches longer than a Chevrolet Impala and about an inch longer than the Pontiac Bonneville and rides a 113-inch wheelbase.
Five-passenger seating is standard, but an optional front bench seat gives the base SE model seats for six. The ES and R/T models are available only with front buckets. All doors open wide enough for easy entry and exit, and the spacious Intrepid accommodates tall passengers front and rear.
At 18.4 cubic feet, the trunk provides ample cargo room, though the high liftover makes loading heavy items a chore. A split, folding rear seatback is standard on the SE and optional on the other models. One major difference from Dodges styling compared to the similar Chrysler models: The Intrepid has a much larger rear window, giving the driver a better view for parking and changing lanes.
Under the Hood
The SE and ES models come with a standard 2.7-liter V-6 engine that generates 202 horsepower, and a 225-hp 3.2-liter V-6 is optional on the ES. A 242-hp 3.5-liter V-6 engine is exclusive to the R/T, which also has a stiffer suspension and 17-inch wheels and performance tires.
All models come with a four-speed automatic transmission. The transmission on the ES and R/T adds the Autostick feature, which allows manual shifting by tipping the shift lever left or right.
Alluring styling, a spacious interior and capable performance make the Intrepid an attractive proposition from both a functional and a visual standpoint. It is a family sedan that looks like a big, four-door sports car.
Those who demand strong acceleration in a big sedan will be more satisfied with the 3.2-liter V-6 available in the ES and happier still with the stronger 3.5-liter in the R/T. The 2.7-liter engine has to work pretty hard to deliver adequate performance.