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Chrysler's LHS offers an elegant design in a big luxury sedan that makes a statement of status and achievement. Fortunately, the distinctive design is backed up by the driving experience. The LHS is a joy to drive. It rides smoothly and handles remarkably well for a full-size front-wheel-drive sedan.
The LHS delivers a smooth ride quality, filtering out unwanted vibration without isolating the driver from the road. Noise and vibration, though not at Lexus levels, are low. The LHS is tuned a bit more in the direction of luxurious ride quality, but it feels extremely stable at high speeds. Steering is direct and precise and it offers the best handling in its class.
Quiet when cruising, the engine serves notice with an aggressive growl when provoked. Plenty of power is on tap for accelerating away from intersections, onto freeways and passing cars. A broad torque curve means it's ready to provide instant throttle response at any speed. The revised automatic transmission selects the appropriate gears and does not hunt excessively. The brakes have been refined and provide good stopping power and pedal feel.
We checked out some of the competition on an undulating, wet, winding road through Georgia's Chattahoochie National Forest. Compared with the LHS, the tires on the Lincoln Continental lacked grip and the brakes felt mushy. The LHS offered much better suspension control in hard corners and through dips, and its transmission was more responsive. The recently re-engineered Buick Park Avenue is a worthy competitor with a responsive engine and a confidence-inspiring suspension.
The new all-aluminum 3.5-liter V6 is unique to the LHS and 300M. This V6 delivers 253 horsepower and 255 foot-pounds of torque. Designed to deliver power across a broad torque range, it emulates the power characteristics of classic American V8s. With 24 valves and single overhead cams, it delivers an 18-percent increase in power over the cast-iron engine it replaces. Mid-grade 89-octane gasoline delivers the best performance, but it will run fine on 87 octane. A host of new features, such as six-bolt main bearing caps, help reduce vibration. A highly refined four-speed electronically controlled transmission is standard.
The LHS uses the same suspension architecture as the new 300M, but the LHS strut valves were tuned with longer ride motions than on the 300M for a more luxurious ride quality. That's not to say the LHS is sloppy; it provides excellent handling response and agility for a car of its size. It does not feel like a traditional American luxobarge.
The front suspension and powertrain are mounted on a new system of four hydroformed steel tubes that are lighter, stiffer and dimensionally more accurate than the previous setup. Hydroforming involves forcing water into a tube at extremely high pressures to form the subframe, resulting in a structure that is far more rigid than welded parts. It's the latest, greatest thing in subframe structure. This system improves handling and ride quality, while reducing noise, vibration and harshness. The rear suspension uses multiple links and a Chapman Strut at each wheel. The geometry has been revised slightly over the previous model.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard; ABS allows the driver to maintain steering control during hard braking. The LHS comes with a new brake system that provides better pedal feel, improved stopping performance with less noise and vibration from the ABS. Electronic traction control is also standard; it provides improved control when accelerating on slippery surfaces by limiting wheel spin. All-season Goodyear Eagle LS touring tires, size P225/55R17, are standard and provide good handling characteristics on wet or dry roads with low tread noise and good snow traction.
Chrysler's LHS represents a big improvement over its predecessor. An elegant interior, solid acceleration performance and excellent handling complement eye-catching styling. With its roomy back seats and generous legroom, it can haul four people in comfortable, luxurious surroundings. Supremely smooth and stable at highway speeds, we could spend many miles in one of these, riding behind that handsome egg-crate grille.