Chrysler's new LH sedans have departed their makers and are meeting a public dazed by colliding superlatives and the crash of ballyhoo upon hyperbole.

"Profound Rethinking . . . Hallelujah! The second coming of Chrysler." So have gushed automotive magazines about the triad of Chrysler Concorde, Dodge Intrepid and Eagle Vision.

Lee Iacocca, the retiring Chrysler chairman, went prime time to bless his cars with a reliable mix of personal sentiment, love of underdog and the great American pastime: In your last at bat, he says, its great to hit a home run.

The less partial will score it a triple.

Whether it becomes a run batted in depends on Chrysler's ability to exorcise small irritants that become large issues only when the competition is everyone else--and generally flawless.

Otherwise, Chrysler could be charged a $1.5-billion error with three cars left on base and and an automotive future heading for the showers.

One thing, however, is clear. Beyond a half dozen blemishes--caused largely by Detroit's infatuation with mucking about with the proven in the belief that change brings improvement--these cars deserve most of their reviews and much of the hullabaloo.

Here, finally, is an American car to be complimented for smooth power, precise handling and sophisticated styling without adding the apologetic qualifier: For an American car.

It answers the Detroit puzzle concerning American cars built quicker off the line than imports, and generally faster at the top end. But those cars' performances are generally crude and fractious. They have never offered the thorough, deft, pedigreed, every-nut-and-bolt-in-its-place feel of an imported sedan. Of BMW. Of Mazda.

But Concorde, Intrepid and Vision now have that feel.

American cars--again flexing a generality--rarely come with a performance surplus. The Chrysler triplets do. They give the security of knowing there is more power,more braking strength, more steering precision and more suspension integrity than will ever be used by even high-proficiency drivers.

And these good-mileage, roomy, quality designed, high styled LH cars have been engineered well and equipped fully at just the right price.

Stickers start at $15,930 for the whole wheat Dodge Intrepid. Prices move smartly to $18,341 for the base, but more luxurious Chrysler Concorde. In between is the performance-bred Eagle Vision with a bottom line of $17,387.

Given public preferences for better sound systems, anti-lock brakes and similar stuff, expect to pay an average $20,000 for the Dodge, Eagle or Chrysler of your choice.

For that, an LH will be delivered with the optional 3.5-liter V-6 good for 214 horsepower (the base engine is a 153-horsepower V-6) and zero-to-60 m.p.h. times in the high eights. Driver and passenger side airbags are standard. So is a four-speed automatic transmission.

Chrysler's achieve ment in building a car that doubtless will rock sales of full and midsize domestic cars--and seriously muss the U.S. market for many imports--was no genetic accident.

The company has made its quantum leap--OK, its profound rethinking--only by accepting fate on many fronts.

Chrysler was dying, overextended by unprofitable ventures with other companies and industries, and slumped to last place among the Big Three. Its family-sized K-cars were bad products in a rancid economy. Wall Street was higher on junk bonds than Chrysler as a sound investment.

The company is coming back via a $17-billion program drafted to dictate new products for the next five years.

Costs have been cut and weak ventures sold. Insular design, styling, engineering, manufacturing and marketing organizations have been restructured into a single, coordinating group.

Left hand began shaking right hand and company teams worked simultaneously, not sequentially. Then--as Ford id with the Taurus, as General Motors has done with Saturn and as the Japanese do with everything from cars to VCRs--Chrysler examined the competition and lifted the best.

It's called "benchmark engineering" and therein lies the strength, quality, heft and soul of the LH cars.

To arrive at that 3.5-liter, 214-horsepower V-6, Chrysler dared itself to improve upon what engineers consider the best in the segment: Acura Legend's 3.2-liter, 200 horsepower V-6.

For ride and handling from superior suspension geometry, the Ford Taurus and Nissan Maxima were cars to pick apart.

For body stiffness--with less flex equating to greater riding stability--Maxima became the target car. But the LH was made 25% stiffer.

For interior roominess and big-car space in a midsize sedan, study was centered on Taurus and the Lexus LS400.

Then Chrysler gave its cars the cab-forward look. Despite Iacocca's claims, the design is no Chrysler innovation, but a fundamental among sportier and racier cars such as Ferraris, Mazda RX7, the Acura NSX, even much humbler Saturns.

To create cab-forward, back wheels are moved a few inches to the rear of the chassis. Then the leading edge of the windshield is extended to a point above the front wheels.

The result is more than 75% of the car's length used for interior and trunk room. Conventional cars utilize only 65%.

With rear wheel wells out of the way, there is measurably more headroom for rear seat passengers. The jury is still out on the benefits of the extended, raked windshield.

Some claim that without a hood for visual reference, a driver's short-range depth perception is impaired. Others say a short snout brings a driver closer to the onrushing road, giving the exhilaration of driving an Indy car.

Whatever the interpretation, the reality is a very classy, uncluttered profile of a car that crouches.

The LHs are heavy on the monochromatic look and light on the three-box format so old-time Detroit. It is a European shape, low in front with a saucy tilt to the rear. So the car assumes the shape of a sport coupe more than a full four-door.

The grille on our Dodge Intrepid ES test car--front ends and interiors of LH cars vary with each nameplate--was a wide triple-slotted gape adapted from the Dodge Viper sports car.

The three cars share platforms, engines, transmissions and most body panels--but the options are a mechanical buffet best left between dealer and sales contract.

Anti-lock brakes are standard only on Concorde and one variety of Vision, but optional on other cars. There are three suspension systems for each car, then different tires for each mode. Traction control is an option on upmarket versions of Vision and Intrepid but is not available at any price on base models of either. Go figure.

Intrepid's interior is a broad, deep majestic sweep that doesn't just contain occupants, it e nvelopes and keeps them. The dash--built around an instrument cowl that borrows the ultra-legible white dials, black numbers and orange needles of Viper gauges--curves into four corners that merge softly into doors for visual continuity.

There's head, shoulder and leg room galore, front and back.

The seats, although comfortable for sedate travel, are not fully supportive when fun driving builds centrifugal forces. They also seem set higher. No amount of jiggling with seat settings returned the butt to where it should be.

Somebody seems to have listened to the ergonomist--except when the discussion turned to cup holders and the grouping of warning lights.

A double cup holder is in the lip of the central arm rest. It pops out at the brush of a briefcase, a drooping hand, even a finger tapping out rhythms of an Eric Clapton tape.

The parking brake is foot operated to engage. It also is foot operated to release and that's a clumsy, groping, podi tric pain in the big toe.

Warning lights are in a strip labelled "Message Center" which is more suggestive of voice mail than malfunction.

And headlights are an inefficient disaster. Whether by poor lensing or shoody reflectors, they do not project broadening cones of light but wild patches. On high beam, the light actually fragments on both sides and splashes against walls and medians in total disruption of a driver's peripheral vision.

Even for Detroit, this is a first. There hasn't been public criticism of automobile headlights since the Model T stopped wearing acetylene lamps.

What Intrepid might lose on little things, it makes up on the doors. They are huge, well balanced, swing wide, will not chomp on your legs, and allow easier comings and goings than a freight elevator.

The final compensation is this car happens to be a balanced, flying fool with the fit of a large car but the driveability of something half its size from Osaka.

Thanks to an extended wheelbase--the distance from front to rear wheels--and a broadened track--the breadth between wheels--the LH presents a flatter stance. There's increased body stiffness for a much firmer posture.

Add an intelligent suspension system, and the LH tracks like a blue blood sports car. There's not a hint of roll when cornering, or dive when braking or any tendency to squat on its haunches when accelerating hard.

The automatic transmission isn't as seamless as, say, Lexus or Mercedes, and appears to be the one benchmark everybody overlooked. Sudden mid-range acceleration from power off finds the transmission shaking its head and rummaging for the right gear to select. Nor is there a shifter position or overdrive button to pick a quick downshift for more adventuresome cornering.

The muscular engine has a deep purr that when pushed becomes a warning growl. Despite 214 horsepower on front wheels used for both steering and driving, anautomatic system caresses the brakes during hard starts below 25 m.p.h. and completely eliminates the scuff and wobble of torque steer.

All of which are performance and handling qualities, technology and innovation we had given up expecting from Detroit, let alone Chrysler.

And there's more on the way.

Between now and 1996, Chrysler is planning a new line of compacts. Another Eagle Talon is in the pipeline. Next, new generations of Dodge pickups and midsize sedans and minivans and a new New Yorker and a redesigned Dodge Stealth grand tourer . . .

The LH may just be Chrysler's way of clearing its throat.

1993 Dodge Intrepid ES

The Good Best car Chrysler has built. Period. The feel of an import in a domestic car. Radical, exciting styling. Power, braking and suspension surplus to standard driving.

The Bad Spotty headlights. Foot brake positioning.

The Ugly Does not apply.

C ost Base: $17,189. As tested, $22,799 (Includes automatic air, premium sound system, traction control, dual air bags, power seat, cruise control, remote control locking, etc.).

Engine 3.5 liters, 24valves, V-6 developing 214 horsepower.

Type Five-passenger, front-drive, mid-size sedan.

Performance 0-60 m.p.h., as tested, 8.8 seconds. Top speed, estimated, 130 m.p.h. Fuel consumption, EPA city and highway, 18 and 26 m.p.g.

Curb Weight 3,315 pounds.