By Greg Wilson
Big on space and luxury
The first Chrysler LHS, introduced in 1994, was a sportier version of the 1993 New Yorker – a car which had just been redesigned using the new full-size, front-wheel-drive ‘LH’ platform shared by the Intrepid, Concorde and Eagle Vision.
Though the physical differences between the New Yorker and LHS were minimal – the New Yorker had a three-passenger front bench seat and a column shifter, while the LHS had front bucket seats, a centre console and floor shifter – the LHS was more in tune with Chrysler’s new image as a modern, forward-thinking car company. The New Yorker represented the old guard – ‘Corinthian’ leather, opera windows and vinyl tops – something Chrysler wanted to rid itself of. So not surprisingly, the New Yorker was discontinued a couple of years later and the LHS became Chrysler’s new luxury flagship.
The LHS took a hiatus in 1998, but returned in 1999 with an all-new design based on the recently redesigned Intrepid/Concorde platform. The new LHS is now at the top of Chrysler’s luxury hierarchy, which includes the sporty 300M, the well-equipped Concorde, and the Town & Country minivan.
Its new styling resembles the Concorde, but the LHS has a larger grille, different bumper, projector beam headlamps and twin foglamps, larger tires and wheels, and is slightly shorter in length. Noteworthy styling features include an extremely short, sloping hood, unusual headlamp shape, large passenger cabin, and a high, imposing tail. The LHS’ defining styling feature, an upright rear window, has disappeared from the new LHS.
The LHS is considerably longer (157 mm/6.2 in.) and heavier (55 kg/120 lb.) than the previous LHS. The extra length adds interior space and trunk space, and improves the ride, but makes the LHS more difficult to park – in part because the low hood and high tail are almost invisible from the driver’s seat.
A long 113 inch wheelbase and cab-forward design provides a spacious 5-passenger cabin where LHS passengers can really stretch out – there’s plenty of plenty of legroom, hiproom and headroom. And the 18.7 cubic feet trunk is almost big enough to rent out.
The LHS’ interior is well-equipped with standard features like leather upholstery, 8-way power front seats with memory and seat heaters, automatic climate control, premium AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo with 240 watt amplifier and nine speakers, power windows, power locks and remote door locking, wood trim on console, dash and door, chrome door handles, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift lever. Two items that I missed: height-adjustable rear head restraints and the availability of side airbags.
To add style to the interior, the LHS features some unique design touches such as old-fashioned cr�me-coloured gauges with numerals that resemble those of a grandfather clock, and a chrome-bezeled dash-mounted timepiece that looks like an expensive watch.
Under the short, sculpted hood lies a longitudinally-positioned 253 horsepower 3.5 litre V6 engine with single overhead camshafts on each bank and four valves per cylinder. This is a different engine to the previous 3.5 litre V6 and has 39 more horsepower.
Though the LHS weighs 1628 kilograms (3589 lb.), the 3.5 litre V6 has plenty of power to launch the LHS off-the-line and provide needed acceleration during highway passing manoeuvers. To counter wheelspin in slippery conditions, low-speed traction control is standard, but can be turned off via a button on the dash if the driver doesn’t want that annoying power cutoff in dry conditions.
A four-speed automatic transmission is standard, and I had no problems with it during my week-long test-drive.
You might expect a big, front-wheel-drive car like this to handle poorly, but the LHS handles surprisingly well. Well, perhaps not too surprisingly since its sister cars, the Intrepid, Concorde, and 300M also handle very well. Unlike some domestic luxury cars, the LHS’ ride is not soft, or plush, but firm without being harsh and with minimal lean in the corners. A fully independent suspension and big 225/55R-17 inch radial tires on alloy wheels help with the handling chores. Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS are standard on the LHS.
With everything above, the LHS goes for $40,900. The only options are a premium Infinity stereo system, power sunroof, chromed alloy wheels, a smoker’s package, and a full-size spare tire instead of a compact one.
Like other Chrysler’s, the LHS comes with a standard 3 year/60,000 km warranty. This is not as good as most other luxury cars which come with a 4 year/80,000 km warranty, or better. Now that the 2000 Chrysler Neon comes with a standard 5 year/100,000 km powertrain warranty, I expect Chrysler will soon upgrade warranties on all their cars, including the LHS.