In 1993, after some very lean years for Chrysler - it had a bad case of the new-model snoozes at the time - America's No. 3 automaker turned quite a few heads with its smartly designed, well-appointed LH sedans: Eagle Vision, Dodge Intrepid and Chrysler Concorde.
It has now been two years since the LHs grabbed a firm toehold in a market segment that includes America's two hottest-selling models: Honda Accord and Ford Taurus.
Based on the LH record thus far, Chrysler has stuck to the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" theme for the '95 edition of the Vision. That is, Eagle didn't feel compelled to flaunt its engineering sass with massive overhauls of the Vision's design or function, choosing instead to dance with what brought it success.
Oh, there are a few new standard features for '95 - heated power mirrors, power windows and an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player - but in general, the Vision retains the same velvety ride, responsive handling, ergonomic smarts and aesthetic pleasures as the '93 and '94 versions.
There are two models available: the base ESi and the upper-level TSi.
Our Vision ESi test car included standard features such as 4-wheel disc brakes, 4-wheel independent touring suspension, delayed-shutoff headlamps, 4-door courtesy lamps, power door locks, heated dual-power remote mirrors, electronic message center, and solar-control windshield and rear window.
Our tester was also decked out with a customer-preferred option package, comprised of an 8-way power seat, remote entry, an illuminated entry feature, dual illuminated visor mirrors and passenger grab handles.
The Vision's long (113 in.) wheelbase, double-scooped grille and imperious, catlike headlamps enhance a stance that's aggressively sporty for a midsize sedan.
It's one example of how the Vision cuts both ways: Although technically a midsize, the LH sedan's interior spaciousness and generous outer dimensions lead it into battle with full-size entries such as the Ford Crown Victoria and Chevrolet Lumina.
Reversing to its sporty side, there's the Vision's loudly ballyhooed cab-forward design, rear-wheel setback and dramatically swept windshield. Likewise, Eagle designers have achieved a smartly two-toned visage: In our case, gray lower body panels and fascias contrasted crisply with the dark blue-green paint job.
Meanwhile, the black hard-plastic windshield and roof-pillar trim provide contrast, as well as a dash of drama. Housings for the heated rearview mirrors are also sleek black. Around back, the trunk lid pops open to reveal enough room for maybe six grocery bags and two medium-size suitcases - 16.6 cu. ft. of cargo space, to be exact.
The synergy of the cab-forward design, long wheelbase and rear-wheel setback offers up plenty of legroom in both the front and rear seats. Headroom was equally sufficient for our 5' 11" driver - at least until he donned his snap-brim fedora.
The 8-way reclining power seat offers plenty of configurations - maybe even too many for those who feel paralyzed by all the choices presented by modern-day living. The seats are nicely softened by the cushy premium fabric material, which smartly match the molded-plastic console, armrests and dash.
The more sedentary among us will appreciate that both the power locks and door handle can be finger-flicked with only the slightest movement of the forearm from the armrest housing.
And caffeine junkies will applaud the sturdy, efficient cupholder that springs from the center console. The console also carries perfectly sized slots for as many as 11 cassette tapes; we say perfectly sized because you don't have to wrestle the cassettes in and out of the slots as you do with most cassette-storage devices on the market.
Interior lighting is plentiful: In addition to the two standard dome lights above the rearview mirror, the underside of each armrest is illuminated. The reading/courtesy lights also shine down from under the three overhead passenger-door grab handles.
Meanwhile, the ESi climate control system can be easily adjusted for optimum ventilation. Unlike some other vehicles, the Vision permits driver and front passenger alike to choose from which vent the air will flow.
Our Vision was powered by a 3.3-liter, 161-hp V6 that offered 181 lb.-ft. of torque at 3200 rpm. Also available is a 3.5-liter, 214-hp, 24-valve, OHC V6 engine that offers 221 lb.-ft. of torque at 3100 rpm - relatively brawny figures for a family sedan.
Although the 3.3-liter engine in our test model didn't exactly explode out of the blocks, it effortlessly flexed its muscle in passing situations.
At the same time, estimated gas mileage is a respectable 20 mpg in the city and an impressive 28 mpg on the highway - not bad, considering the ESi weighs in at 3408 lb. And on the freeway, the tach reads a civilized 2200 rpm while coasting at 65 mph with the cruise control engaged.
The electronically controlled, 4-speed overdrive automatic transmission shifts like butter, with nary a downshift during high-speed passing maneuvers.
During such freeway driving as darting in and out of lanes at speeds upward of 75 mph, one finger on the wheel was sufficient. Kudos to Eagle for the responsiveness of the Vision's variable-assist, speed-sensitive power steering.
Low-speed traction control is available on the Vision TSi, providing improved acceleration and enhanced control on slick and rough roads.
And at any speed, the steel unibody construction, 62-in. track and 4-wheel independent suspension protected our ESi occupants from the travails of bumpy roads.
Indeed, the taut steering, independent struts and fat 205/70R-15 tires work in conjunction to give the Vision a smooth big-car ride. This is a major plus that helps keep the Vision competitive with the Crown Victoria, Lumina and other, bigger sedans.
There's also another significant benefit to the Vision's tough built-to-take-it construction, and it has to do with the correlation of a stiff chassis and halfback agility.
When Chrysler unveiled the LH sedans, it set new chassis rigidity standards for American sedans. And even though this doctrine has quickly spread to other manufacturers, the big Chrysler sedans are still among the best.
Here's why it's important: The stiffer the chassis, the less it's likely to flex during hard cornering. This means the suspension components don't have to be calibrated to compensate for flex, allowing finer tuning for ride and handling.
From the beginning, the Vision, Intrepid and Concorde have been exceptionally surefooted for cars of their size.
And the chassis engineers have worked ever since to soften the harshness of the originals.
One upgrade from 1994 is the 4-wheel disc brake system - standard equipment on both the ESi and TSi. We had the optional anti-lock braking, and when we punched the brake pedal at 30 mph, the system brought us to a quick yet controlled stop.
In short, the Eagle Vision truly offers buyers the best of both worlds. This vehicle's sleek and stylish appearance combined with its robust highway performance will appeal to those buyers who think of themselves, in their heart of hearts, as sporty types.
But the Vision's prodigious legroom, supple ride and wide wheelbase will lasso those who value comfort above all else.
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