The Morning Call and's view

When it comes to humans, multiple births aren’t common.

When it comes to cars, they are.

But like night and day, the Chrysler Concorde and Dodge Intrepid are the same, yet different.

Both of these front drive automobiles share the same platform, with a 113-inch wheelbase along with identical measurements for width and height. The Concorde comes in about half a foot longer than the Intrepid’s 203.7-inch length, which allows slightly more passenger and cargo room.

Engine choices are identical as well. Both start with an all-aluminum 2.7-liter, 24-valve double-overhead-cam V6, pumping out a whiney, if sufficient, 200 horsepower and 188 pound-feet of torque. Optional on both is a much more comfortable feeling all-aluminum 3.2-liter, 24-valve, single-overhead-cam V6. This mill pumps out 225 horsepower and much more torque, 222 pound-feet. The engines are all-new designs.

Both cars have two trim levels — base and upscale (LXI for Chrysler, ES for Dodge).

Both cars weigh within 7 pounds of each other. So what’s the big difference?

Let’s start with what you can see.

With a grille that recalls fifties-era Ferraris and Aston Martins, the Concorde is quite striking and beautiful. Add the winged Chrysler badge and jewel-like headlamps and it’s quite an outstanding face. In contrast, the back end is simple, if less memorable. The result is a car that speaks to the upper end of the market to which this Chrysler aspires.

In contrast, the Dodge has a minimal front end, with an aggressive split-slot grille and shark-like headlamps. With a sharply creased rear that feeds into the gently tapering flying buttress rear pillars, the car has a taut look that seems shorter than it actually is. This car hides its length well, giving the car a sportier look than its Chrysler cousin.

Despite the styling differences, these cars have similar manners, no surprise given the identical hardware. The base engine is sufficient for the tasks at hand, but power is never over-abundant, and you’ll have to keep your foot in it most of the time. In contrast, the uplevel, 3.2-liter engine seems much less strained, with good power at most speeds. And unlike its 2.7-liter cousin, the 3.2 is much quieter, with none of the sewing-machine roar common to the lesser engine. There’s also less vibration from the larger engine.

Power is fed through a smooth-shifting 4-speed electronic automatic transmission. The Dodge ES features Chrysler’s Autostick, an automatic that can be shifted sequentially like a manual. It’s mildly amusing, but most folks will leave the selector in D.

The steering and handling seem somewhat quicker in the Intrepid than in the Concorde. Most of this is due to the Intrepid’s performance-oriented tires, which transmit more bump and thump than the tires on the Chrysler. Both cars seem much quieter than the previous versions of the cars, giving these vehicles a more refined air .

But overall handling was good in these cars, even though the steering is numb enough in either car to put the kabosh on any sports car intentions.

Still, for cars this large (and the Concorde at 209.1 inches is large in today’s market), they handle without any of the tendencies one associates with large Detroit automobiles, especially large old Chryslers.

And the interiors are larger than the exteriors, with space, particularly in the rear, approaching limo-like proportions. The seating is quite comfy, especially for long hauls. The leather seating in the Intrepid seemed firmer than the cloth seats in the Concorde.

The dashes look somewhat different, although control positioning is similar. The Intrepid’s dash flows in a graceful horizontal fashion, with a more post-modern feel. The Concorde dash is more typical, with a little too much test-tube wood desecrating an otherwise tasteful interior.

Controls are well placed and just where you’ d expect the m. The biggest problem in both cars is the amount of cheap-feeling plastic, especially on the climate control panels. The switches feel as though they won’t outlast the payment book. The only other bugaboo is the lack of rear visibility due to the flying buttress rear pillars.

The trunks are truely cavernous and seem bigger than their 18-plus cubic-foot rating.

The build quality of the cars was quite good. Obviously, someone else agrees given the Concorde was just awarded a highly coveted J.D. Power award, a first for Chrysler. Neither car rattled.

With a lot more space than their competitors, and good handling, as well as leading edge style, these cars offer a lot for the money. The Intrepid starts at $19,685 for the base; $22,465 for the ES. The extra loot buys the AutoStick transmission, the larger engine, anti-lock disc brakes and a premium stereo among other things.

The Concorde starts at $21,305 with the same basic amenities as the Intrepid — figure $24,000 for a fully loaded sample.

With either car, you’ll spend less than competing makes and get more car.

Not bad for a car with multiple personalities.

1998 Chrysler Concorde LX Standard: 2.7-liter DOHC V6, 4-speed automatic transmission, cloth bucket seats, dual airbags, power rack and pinion steering, 4-wheel disc brakes, rear window defroster, rear window antenna, intermittent speed-sensitive wipers, power windows with driver one-touch drivers down, air-conditioning, speed-sensitive power door locks, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, 8-way power driver’s seat with manual lumbar adjustment, rear seat pass-through to trunk, illuminated entry, full-length floor-console with cupholders, AM/FM/ Cassette stereo, front and rear reading lamps, floor mats, power trunk release, power mirrors, tinted glass, P205/70R15 tires with 15″ wheel covers. Options: Wheel and Tire Group (P225/60R16 with 16″ wheel covers), premium AM/FM/Cassette/CD 120-watt 8-speaker audio system, smokers group, anti-lock brakes. Base price: $21,305 As tested: $23,110 EPA rating: 21 mpg city, 30 mpg highway

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