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By Jim Flammang
April 15, 2002
Vehicle Overview Powertrain alterations are the big news for 2002 in Dodges full-size front-drive sedan. The new lineup includes an SE sedan with a 200-horsepower, 2.7-liter V-6 engine; an ES with either that engine or a 234-hp, 3.5-liter V-6; and an R/T with a high-output 244-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. The Intrepids antilock braking system now includes electronic brake-force distribution.
Similar to the Chrysler Concorde, Dodges most popular model was introduced for the 1993 model year and was last redesigned for 1998. Chryslers Concorde and 300M share the same basic front-drive platform as the Intrepid, but each has different styling and its own purpose.
Chrysler models target luxury-minded buyers, while Dodge aims toward family-focused buyers who seek a somewhat sporty but practical sedan or a performance-oriented big car. The high-performance R/T (road/track) joined the Intrepid lineup in 2000 as a prelude to Dodges entry into NASCAR stock-car racing the following year.
Exterior Bold Intrepid styling is likely to turn more heads on the road than most other full-size cars do except for the strikingly designed Chrysler Concorde and 300M. In 1993, the Chrysler Corp. pioneered the cab-forward profile for the first-generation Intrepid; this design has wheels that are pushed out toward the ends of the car. A low nose and high tail also help to give the Intrepid a sleek, aerodynamic shape.
The coefficient of drag a measure of a vehicles resistance to the air through which it passes is just 0.30, which is better than that of some sleek sports cars. The Intrepid rides a 113-inch wheelbase and measures 203.7 inches long overall, which is 4 inches longer than the Chevrolet Impala and nearly an inch longer than the Pontiac Bonneville. The Intrepid R/T sedan has a stiffer suspension with 17-inch wheels and performance tires.
Interior Five-passenger seating is standard, and an optional front bench for the base SE model provides seating for six. ES and R/T models are available only with front bucket seats.
The Intrepid is spacious inside and accommodates tall passengers in the front and rear. All four doors open wide enough for easy entry and exit. With a capacity of 18.4 cubic feet, the trunk provides ample cargo room even if its high liftover makes loading heavy items a chore.
A split, folding rear seatback is standard in the SE sedan and optional in other models. The Intrepid has a much larger back window than its Chrysler cousins, which gives the driver a better view to the rear for parking and lane changing.
Under the Hood Three different engines are available. A 200-hp, 2.7-liter V-6 goes into the SE sedan and is standard for the upscale ES, which can also carry a 234-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. Topping the performance list is the R/T model, which comes with a high-output 244-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. All models are equipped with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The ES and R/T models include AutoStick, which allows manually selected gear changes by tipping the shift lever to the left or right.
Safety Side-impact airbags for the front seats on all models are optional. Antilock brakes are standard on the R/T sedan and optional on the other two models.
Driving Impressions From a company that has long been known for inspired styling, the Intrepid is an appealing vehicle both visually and functionally. Though the Intrepid is really a spacious, utilitarian family sedan, it looks almost like a big, four-door sports car.
The 2.7-liter V-6 engine in the SE is adequate in strength, and it has to work rather hard to deliver effective performance. But both of the 3.5-liter engines are sure to yield satisfying action on the highway. Even though the smaller engine responds well enough for passing and merging under ordinary conditions, it rapidly loses steam on upgrades. Automatic-transmission operation is generally trouble-free, but an awkward downshift can occur now and then.
The Intrepid handles with more agility than most cars of its size, and it holds the road snugly and takes corners capably. The standard suspension is a good compromise; it is soft enough to cushion a lot of pavement flaws, yet is sufficiently firm to maintain constant control.
The very notion of a high-performance R/T model of what is otherwise a family sedan might strike some folks as strange, but it demonstrates that sporty road-going attributes need not be limited to smaller models.