1999 CHRYSLER CONCORDE LX
Used Car - 1999 Chrysler Concorde LX in Draper, Ut
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1999 Chrysler Concorde ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
The shape of things to come.
When the first Chrysler Concorde rolled off the assembly line six years ago, it created quite a stir. The car was not only stylish but surprisingly functional. Its cab-forward design offered significantly more interior room than buyers had come to expect from a midsize sedan.
The second-generation Concorde continues to surprise and delight. Like the original, it continues to push the cutting edge of styling, with a look that's both futuristic and elegant. And this time, there's far more differentiation between the Concorde and other midsize Chrysler sedans, such as the Dodge Intrepid, which share the same platform. In fact, the Concorde is a full 5 inches longer than Intrepid, a layout that gives the Chrysler buyer as much rear legroom as you'd expect from a full-size sedan.
Styling certainly sells, and in the U.S. market, bigger has traditionally meant better. But there were other, less immediately visible issues Chrysler had to address as it updated the Concorde. The original edition had a number of what marketing executives like to call 'issues,' headlights that weren't nearly bright enough, a defroster that struggled to clear the car's massive windscreen, and a wide range of nagging quality problems. So, with a critical eye, we set out to inspect and drive the new Concorde to see if its beauty ran more than skin deep.
The '99 Concorde noses into view with a grille to rival any of the most avante European designs. The sloping cowl sweeps into a steeply raked windshield. The visual impression is one of kinetic motion. The word, 'sculpture,' quickly comes to mind. The body features a bare minimum of snap-on cladding. Instead, there is great nuance to the sheet metal, which rolls and undulates like a work of art.
The massive, oversized grille is Jaguar-esque. Above it sits the Chrysler division's retro-looking winged emblem. Large, kidney-shaped headlights are jewel-like in appearance, but show that not only can form follow function, but function can follow form. On our first night drive, we discovered Concorde's new quad beams provide brilliant illumination as well as a classy styling touch. And we're pleased to report Chrysler has dealt with two other nagging problems. The new Concorde's windshield wipers are far more effective, as is the defroster, which proved particularly welcome during a nasty blizzard that swept through the American heartland last winter.
Concorde is actually one of three new sedans bearing the Chrysler brand. The upscale LHS shares Concorde's basic shape, but adds a range of luxury touches. The downsized 300M is the sportiest car of the bunch, with a higher-performance powertrain and suspension package. But for many buyers, the Concorde is likely to hit the mark. It offers a seemingly perfect mix of performance, handling and roominess.
Space remains one of its biggest advantages, and not just in the passenger compartment. There's a cavernous 18.7 cubic feet of trunk space, up from the 16.6 cubic feet in last year's model. But the numbers don't tell the whole story. In the original Concorde, the trunk's gooseneck hinge swung into the cargo compartment, crushing anything in its way. The new hinge folds cleanly out of the way.
With the original Concorde, the interior design was spacious and creative, but it lacked the level of refinement one might expect from the car's Japanese competition. With the '99 Concorde, there's been a notable upgrade in the quality of the materials used. Colors match well, and gaps have been minimized. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the space where doors and dashboard come together. On the old cars, this used to be a yawning chasm.
The Concorde comes standard with front bucket seats, though a 6-passenger model with a front bench is available. The buckets have been improved in the new model. They provide better back and lateral support and the detailing of the fabric is world class. There's an optional leather package, as one would expect.
For those who believe big is better, it's hard to find anything to compete with the Concorde. The cab-forward concept puts a tight squeeze under the hood but maximizes passenger space. In this case, you're getting nearly a full-size interior on a midsize wheelbase. And as we hinted at before, the redesigned Concorde delivers an extra 2.8 inches of rear legroom. Rear seats are not only spacious but comfortable.
If we have a complaint, it's the lack of a shoulder belt for the rear center occupant and the lack of side airbags. Also, Chrysler has eliminated its optional integrated child safety seat. Apparently there just weren't enough takers.
If there's a downside to the Concorde's sleek exterior styling it's the fact that visibility is slightly reduced. It takes some time to get the feel of the front end to know precisely where the out-of-sight front bumper is. And it takes a bit of getting used to the view out of the small rear window, too. We like the overhead console featuring a compass, outside temperature gauge and maplights.
Often, it's what you don't see that matters. The Concorde offers a rigid chassis with an aluminum cross-beam behind the instrument panel. Michigan roads are notoriously rough, with potholes big enough to suck down a subcompact. It didn't take us long to appreciate the new Concorde's stiffer body, which translates into less body shake and roll, better handling, and a notably quieter ride.
That, by the way, is something we really appreciate about the '99 model. The original Concorde, especially in the first few years of production, was loud to the point of raucous. The new car is not yet the quietest in class, but Chrysler engineers have substantially subdued the wind and road noises that made it difficult for front and rear passengers to speak without shouting.
Under the hood, the Concorde LX comes with a 200-horsepower double overhead-cam 2.7-liter V6. With the upscale LXi, you get the 225-horsepower single overhead-cam 3.2-liter V6. Both of these all-aluminum engines were new for the second-generation Concorde.
The 2.7-liter engine used in our LX was a marked improvement from the engine it replaced; it's quicker and quieter than the old 3.3-liter push-rod cast-iron V-6, which produced 161 horsepower. Under hard acceleration, the old engine quickly ran out of breath. The new engine also achieves better fuel efficiency, offering a 1 mpg improvement. If you want maximum off-the-line acceleration, though, we recommend the LXi with the 3.2-liter engine.
One advantage of the Dodge Intrepid over the Chrysler Concorde is the availability of Chrysler's AutoStick transmission. At its heart, it's the same electronic 4-speed automatic, but AutoStick has a feature that lets you shift it like a manual gearbox -- without a clutch.
There is essentially no difference in suspension between the Concorde and Intrepid other than tires. The base Intrepid and Concorde LX come with 15-inch steel wheels and Goodyear Conquest GA tires. The ES and LXi models have 16-inch alloy wheels with Goodyear Eagle GA tires. The bigger tires have notably more grip, particularly in hard cornering and braking maneuvers and the smaller Conquests make more noise.
The styling of the original Concorde made a lot of waves. The 1999 model maintains that tradition. This is a car that's going to turn heads wherever it goes.
With two new engines and a stiffer body structure, the Concorde proves that beauty is clearly more than skin deep. The car is quieter, smoother, definitely more world-class than the vehicle it replaces. Add all that extra room for passengers to the additional cargo space and you come up with a winning combination.
That still leaves the question that has been hanging over Chrysler: Can it deliver the type of quality today's buyers expect? The automaker insists it has addressed every detail. And our week-long test drive reveals marked improvements. Troublesome issues like lighting and defrosting have been improved. That's a good sign Chrysler has gotten a handle on its problems. And that means Concorde buyers will clearly be driving a winner.
Brampton, Ontario, Canada.
Options As Tested
LXi package ($3320) includes ABS, traction control, leather-trimmed bucket seats with eight-way power adjustments, automatic climate control system, premium AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo, P225/60R16 tires, alloy wheels.