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By Jim Flammang
May 7, 2003
Vehicle Overview Dodge’s full-size front-wheel-drive (FWD) Intrepid sedans are related to the Chrysler Concorde. The Intrepid arrived in the spring of 2003 as an early 2004 model. Other than a new BeltAlert system that activates a chime and warning light to remind the driver to buckle up, little has changed for 2004.
For 2005, a completely different sedan will replace the Intrepid. The new model will be equipped with rear-wheel drive (RWD) rather than FWD. Dodge last offered a RWD sedan in 1989.
Both the Intrepid and Concorde were last redesigned for the 1998 model year. Chrysler’s Concorde and 300M share the same basic platform as the Intrepid, but each car has different styling. An SXT option group for the ES sedan joined the lineup before the 2003 model year began; it featured a high-output V-6 engine.
Exterior Despite being a decade old, bold Intrepid styling is still likely to turn heads on the road. In 1993, the Chrysler Corp. pioneered the cab-forward profile for the first-generation Intrepid; this design theme uses wheels that are pushed out toward the end of the car. A low nose and high tail also help to give the Intrepid a sleek, aerodynamic shape.
All models have 16-inch tires and a touring-tuned suspension. Riding a 113-inch wheelbase, the Intrepid is 203.7 inches long overall. A deck-lid spoiler is installed on SXT sedans.
Interior Five-passenger seating is standard, and an optional front bench for the base SE model provides seating for six people inside. The Intrepid 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 supplies ample cargo room even if its high liftover makes loading heavy items a chore.
A 60/40-split, folding rear seatback is standard in the ES and SXT sedans and optional in the SE. In addition to the stronger engine, the SXT option includes a 120-watt six-speaker CD stereo, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and an eight-way power driver’s seat.
Under the Hood Three engines are available. A 200-horsepower, 2.7-liter V-6 goes into the SE sedan, while the upscale ES gets a 232-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. Topping the performance list is the ES with an SXT option, which comes with a high-output, 250-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 power plant. All models are equipped with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Safety Side-impact airbags for the front seats and antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are offered as optional equipment.
Driving Impressions Both visually and functionally, the Intrepid is an appealing vehicle. The 2.7-liter V-6 engine in the SE is adequate in strength, but it must work rather hard to deliver effective performance. Both 3.5-liter engines are sure to yield satisfying action on the highway. Even though the smaller engine responds adequately for passing and merging, it rapidly loses steam on upgrades. Automatic-transmission operation is generally trouble-free, but an occasional awkward downshift can occur.
The Intrepid handles with more agility than most cars of its size by holding the road snugly and taking corners capably. The standard suspension is soft enough to cushion pavement flaws, but it’s sufficiently firm to maintain constant control.