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Remember the big cars of the Seventies? The Dodge Intrepid offers that kind of abundant power and comfortable ride, with room for five passengers (six, if you opt for the front bench seat). Intrepid's styling is modern and handsome, yet evokes the sweeping sleekness of those days as well. Best of all, Intrepid delivers the precision handling and high fuel efficiency that 21st century consumers expect. What's not to love?
Last year, highly modified versions of the Intrepid proved competitive in NASCAR Winston Cup stock car racing. Now, Intrepids are appearing in other stock-car series as well, where they run mostly against mid-size body styles. That's a real tribute to the Intrepid's efficient aerodynamic design.
Dodge has simplified Intrepid engine and transmission choices for 2002, and added some new exterior colors. Prices of some models and options have actually been reduced slightly. Beyond that, the 2002 model remains much the same as the 2001.
The Dodge Intrepid handles amazingly well for such a large sedan. Part of the secret lies deep in its body architecture. Its chassis was designed for a high level of torsional rigidity. There's even an aluminum cross beam mounted behind the instrument panel. That extra stiffness translates into less body shake and roll; reduced noise, vibration and harshness; and improved handling and stability. Extensive use of aluminum helps minimize weight without sacrificing stiffness.
Intrepid is an easy car to drive, and covering long distances in it is a pleasant experience. The seats are especially comfortable. Sixteen-inch wheels have been standard on SE and ES models since 2001, and the 60-series Goodyear Eagle GA tires on our ES offered impressive grip. I was amazed, also, at how well they handled snow and ice after a snowstorm that dumped six inches on the Washington, D.C., area. I cruised up several hills in deep, virgin snow.
Our test vehicle was a 2001 ES, powered by a 225-horsepower, 3.2-liter V6; and equipped with the AutoStick transmission. This combination delivered excellent acceleration, whether starting from a standstill or passing at high speeds; and could propel the Intrepid from 0 to 60 mph in the mid-8-second range, which is good performance for a big sedan. The transmission shifts effectively without hunting for the appropriate gear. It's also entertaining to pull it back a notch and use the AutoStick mode. This allows the driver to shift up by pushing the lever to the right or downshift by moving it toward the left.
Chrysler has retired this engine and transmission combination for 2002, but the 243-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 in the latest ES should provide even better performance. But you'll have to upgrade to the sporty R/T to get the AutoStick this year.
Brakes are excellent, offering quick, stable stopping power at the threshold of wheel lock. ABS is available (for $600 on SE and ES, standard on R/T)) and we recommend it as anti-lock brakes allow the driver to maintain steering control during emergency braking situations. On the M-Package ES only, ABS comes packaged with traction control (for $775, but also standard on R/T), which enhances driver control by reducing wheel spin under hard acceleration. The traction control system made the Intrepid easier to drive briskly on icy, snow-covered roads. Intrepid's quad-beam headlights provide brilliant illumination.
With its powerful engine and stiff body structure, the Dodge Intrepid offers excellent handling and acceleration. It's smooth and quiet, until you stomp on the throttle. At the same time, there's plenty of room for passengers and cargo.