There's a new face among the many full-size sedans on the market, one that smiles with a grin reminiscent of a classic Ferrari. It's the Chrysler Concorde LX, a car whose styling sets a new benchmark for aesthetics and roominess in this segment, particularly in light of its $21,305 base price.

It is the soul mate of the Dodge Intrepid, also totally new. Both share basic architecture, roofline and powertrains, although each looks unique. They were created in only 31 months at a cost of $2.1 billion, including the family of three new engines. Two other derivatives, the Chrysler 300M and the LHS, offer higher performance and greater luxury, although at somewhat higher prices.

The Concorde LX is much more than a pretty face. It has been re-engineered from bumper to tailpipe. Its cab-forward design creates an interior that is voluminous and a trunk big enough to carry three, or maybe even four, golf bags.

The instrument panel has a soft-touch cover with no separate cut lines for the passenger-side airbag, and controls for heating/cooling and radio are both mounted up high in the center of the dash where both are easily reached by the driver. The large, simple white-on-black dials are not as elegant as the white-faced gauges of the 300M, LHS and Dodge Intrepid, but they are very easy to read. Wood-grain trim on the dash and console adds a touch of warmth to the interior, although it will not be mistaken for real wood.

The patterned cloth upholstery in the test car did not mirror the elegant look of the exterior. The upscale leather upholstery, on the other hand, is quite nice.

The base engine is a 2.7-liter V6 with dual overhead cams (DOHC) and 200 horsepower, while a single-overhead-cam (SOHC), 3.2-liter with 225 horses is offered in the upscale Concorde LXi. These new aluminum V6 engines were designed in record time using three-dimensional computer modeling. For example, the system, called CATIA, gave engineers the chance to try out as many as 1,500 variations of the intake manifold and combustion chamber versus the five they would have been able to try in the past. That saved both time and money in addition to making the engine more efficient. Each engine is 25 percent more powerful and 10 percent more efficient, while emissions are also down 30 percent.

The 2.7 loves to be revved, and it picks up speed accompanied by a lively snarl from the exhaust. It needs a determined prod on the throttle when you need extra power for speeding down an entrance ramp or climbing long hills. This engine feels smooth and refined, with considerably less noise and vibration than the previous Concorde, aided in large part by mounting the engine and suspension in a hydro-formed steel cradle.

Roadholding is exemplary considering that this is a family grocery getter, not a pseudo sports sedan. It soaks up bumps without resorting to a sloppy ride, yet it responds to sharp turns with a decisive turn-in and little body lean.

Attention to detail is everywhere. Sound-deadening foam is injected into many of the body's cavities to cut down on noise. A large aluminum cross-member in the rear suspension helps absorb road vibrations while keeping the wheels in contact with the road. The PRNDL indicator on the console is illuminated even though there is also an indicator next to the speedometer.

Chrysler's willingness to create wildly exciting products like the Plymouth Prowler and Dodge Viper carries over to its mainstream products and results in family sedans with adventuresome styling, efficient V6 engines and tons of room at a reasonable price.


The base price of our test car was $21,305. The only options were 16-inch wheels, AM/FM stereo with CD player, anti-lock brakes and a removable ashtray.

The sticker price was $23,110.


The basic warranty is for three years or 36,000 miles.

Vehicles for The Star's week-long test drives are supplied b he auto manufacturers.

Point: Slick styling, a smooth and efficient aluminum V6 and a cabin that is spacious gives the Concorde LX a leg up in the family sedan segment.

Counterpoint: The pattern of the cloth upholstery on the seats doesn't quite measure up to the elegance of the exterior.


ENGINE: 2.7-liter, V6


WHEELBASE: 113 inches

CURB WEIGHT: 3,451 lbs.

BASE PRICE: $21,305


MPG RATING: 21 city, 30 hwy.