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Chrysler Concorde

The Chrysler Concorde is probably the most underpriced car on the market. Though it costs about as much as a Ford Taurus or Toyota Camry, it has much more room, convenience, and comfort. If J.D. Power is to be believed, it is also more reliable than other American offerings. As a package, it is far ahead. Unless you need a five-speed transmission or prefer small, nimble cars to large, luxurious ones, the Concorde is irresistable in this price class.

The Concorde is a massive, as long as a minivan with a trunk that can hold many long objects. The interior is boundless and high; it holds five large passengers with long legs and big hats.

Some parts of the interior are quite clever. Cup-holders flip out of the front center console, and are integrated into the rear center console, which includes its own storage area. The front console/armrest, which folds up, also includes a change holder and space for cassettes, CDs, and maps.

The transmission shifted very smoothly, with barely perceptible shifts even under hard throttle. High-speed kickdown is gentler than most other vehicles' low-acceleration shifts, and the downshifts are equally smooth. If they were to slip a continuously variable transmission in, some people would not notice.

Gas mileage was relatively high for a car of this size; the EPA guesses at 21-30, and we obtained 26. The highway mileage is helped by a fairly high overdrive.

Before the transmission adapted to our driving, it was very smooth, but did not want to downshift easily. A week of driving taught the transmission to downshift frequently, and the 2.7 engine seems much more powerful. Like most modern engines, the 2.7 makes power in the high rpms. The optional 3.2 liter engine boasts more power, and more low end torque. Still, that's missing the point. If you want gobs of power and uncompromised handling, get a 300M or Maxima. The Concorde is about ultimate comfort. You'll never lack for leg or head room, even in the rear seat. Need two child seats and someone sitting in the middle? No problem! You won't hit your head lifting babies out of the child seat. You can move the front seats back as far as you like without encroaching on the rear passengers.

You can feel the road, but it is never rough inside the car, even when you know the surface is harsh. On the other hand, the tires become noisy on concrete pavement, and the wind noise could be lower at high speeds. Handling is good, though if you try to swerve to quickly, the steering wheel tightens in protest. The car goes where you want it to go, just not happily.

The windshield washers were particularly effective; there were three nozzles for each side of the car, and the oversized wipers worked well at all speeds.

Interior lighting was good, and there were no squeaks or rattles even when the car was cold. The driver's floor mat was fastened in place, and the horn was easy to reach and use. The controls are generally logical, though Chrysler seems to be trying (as usual) to trick its customers into leaving the air conditioning on all the time; with the Concorde, they also seem to want us to leave the air on recirculating mode.

Under the hood, everything is clearly marked, and all the fuses and electrical gadgets were in a clearly marked box. (The layout of the fuse panel was on the underside). Every fluid receptacle was easy to get to. The jumper cable connections were helpful.

Overall, the Concorde looked and felt like a car costing one-third more than it did. If it was sold as a Lincoln, no doubt it would start at $30,000. The interior is much larger than the other cars in that segment (such as the Taurus/Sable, Accord, Camry, and 626), and ride is excellent, and the value is incredible. We recommend the 22D package, which includes the trip computer / compass / temperature gauge / universal garage control (with 3 remotes), an automatic mirror, a premium cassette player, and 8-way power seats. We also recommend the antilock brakes and cold weather group, even if you live in the middle of the country; the cold weather group is just $30. Just another bargain on a well-built, well-designed car that sells for far less than it should.

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