What's New for 1997
The LXi trim level gets chrome wheels and the LX gets optional aluminum wheels. The Gold Package is also available on the LX. An in-dash CD changer is now available on LX and LXi models, as is a trip computer.
We really like the Chrysler Cirrus. It offers more car for the money than nearly anything else in the compact class. Comfortable seating for four (five in a pinch), and a standard equipment list that includes antilock brakes, speed control, deluxe stereo, power locks and windows, remote keyless entry, and a HomeLink universal transmitter make this car competitive with many luxury sedans from the US and Japan.
For 1997, Chrysler has introduced a ton of options to boost sales in the face of competition being tossed up by the Mercury Mystique, Honda Civic and Nissan Altima. This year's options bring cool new wheels to both trim levels, an extremely obvious Gold Package, a trick CD changer, a trip computer, and the usual interior/exterior color updates. All of these accouterments are perfect for turning the Cirrus into the ideal car for empty-nesters or young individuals who don't need or want a big car, but who like the luxury touch. Of course, Chrysler's minivan success has given them enough insight to know that including an integrated child seat on the options list won't lose them any points.
Our main complaint about the Cirrus is with the choice of powertrains offered to buyers. The standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine makes 150-horsepower and 165 ft-lbs. of torque, better than arch-rival Mercury Mystique. Unfortunately, the V6 offers only 18 more horsepower and five more ft-lbs. of torque. We don't think that the optional V6 justifies the additional $700 cost. To make matters worse, the Cirrus is not available with a manual transmission; something that vaults the Mercury Mystique into the sport-sedan category when coupled with the optional V6 engine.
Other than these gripes, the Cirrus continues to impress. 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 you like the Cirrus but want something a bit sportier, check out the Dodge Stratus ES which can be had with nearly the same level of luxury, the V6 engine, and Chrysler Corp.'s auto-manual transmission.