What's New for 1998
LX model is dropped. A powered driver seat, a 2.5-liter V6 engine, a tilt wheel and power windows, locks, and mirrors are now standard equipment. The LXi also comes in five new colors and as with all other Chrysler products, depowered airbags are standard.
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, V6 engine, leather seats, power driver's seat and a HomeLink universal transmitter make this car competitive with many luxury sedans from the United States and Japan.
For 1998, Chrysler is trying 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 more standard equipment than ever before, but the base model LX is no longer an option for the thrifty. 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 luxurious 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 powertrain offered to buyers. The old 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine made 150 horsepower and 165 foot-pounds of torque, better than arch-rival Mercury Mystique. Unfortunately, the V6 offers only 18 more horsepower and five more foot-pounds of torque. We don't think that the V6 justifies additional 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.