What's New for 1996
Base LX model gets a four-cylinder engine. Uplevel LXi gets a revised torque converter for better V6 response. A power sunroof, chrome-plated aluminum wheels and new colors are available for 1996.
Motor Trend's 1995 "Car of the Year" is an impressive effort by Chrysler Corporation. It looks great, once you get past the clownish nose, and has loads of interior space. With attractive styling, an ergonomically-correct cabin, and prices starting just shy of $18,000, the Cirrus is a hit with American consumers.
Much has been made about the back seat in this car, because another new sedan, and direct competitor, called the Mercury Mystique, is often criticized in comparison to the Cirrus for its cramped rear quarters. True, the Cirrus does have more rear legroom. However, the Cirrus' back seat is the more uncomfortable of the two, in our opinion. Why? Let us explain...
Our six-foot, 220-pound editor tried the rear seats in both the Cirrus LXi and the Mystique LS. The Cirrus had a low seat cushion; poorly formed and unsupportive. Legroom was generous, but thigh support was lacking, and our editor felt like he was eating his knees due to the low cushion. On the other hand, the Mystique had a high, firm cushion offering great support, but leg room was at such a premium that the fronts of his legs were in full contact with the front seat. The verdict for our editor? He wouldn't want to spend more than a couple of hours in either back seat, but found the supportive cushion of the Contour to be more comfortable than the low mushy seat of the Cirrus.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's see what's new for the Cirrus this year. Base LX models trade the formerly standard V6 engine for a 150-horsepower four-cylinder motor. This makes the Cirrus more affordable -- we'll see if it detracts from the driving experience when we can get behind the wheel of one. Rear seat head rests are added, and a HomeLink Transmitter will open your garage door. A power sunroof will join the options list later in the year. The torque converter on the Lxi's 2.5-liter V6 has been revised for better response. Four new exterior colors, one new interior color and chrome-plated wheels are also online for 1996.
What this car could use, as we discovered viewing a fully laden Cirrus zoom along the Interstate one day, is a load-leveling suspension. When filled to the brim with people and cargo, the Cirrus looks like some prehistoric amphibian as it makes its way along the road, snout pointed toward the heavens. Still, we like the Cirrus. Chrysler is making great strides in design and engineering, and we understand that quality has become a major priority at the company since a well-known consumer group pulled the plug on its endorsement of the LH-Series sedans and the Jeep Grand Cherokee due to low owner satisfaction scores. If the Cirrus fits your lifestyle, but is a tad too pricey, try the nearly identical Dodge Stratus.