What's New for 2001
In January, the Plymouth brand was dropped from the Prowler name, and it became a Chrysler. To mark the change, a new "Mulholland Edition" was introduced in a dark blue coupe with white pinstriping. Also new this year, Chrysler is offering two new paint schemes for its Prowler. A two-tone version (the top of the car will be black and the sides will be silver), called the "Black Tie Edition," will appear. It also includes a silver instrument cluster bezel and silver floor mats. And, later in 2001, a new color, Prowler Orange, will also be available. Silver will still be offered, but red, yellow, black and purple are discontinued.
The Prowler is now four years old, and the novelty has worn off. While we continue to be impressed with the Prowler as it displays Chrysler's commitment to fun, the car itself has ceased to thrill. Perhaps this is the reason behind its two new paint schemes. A fave with American collectors (only 5,155 Prowlers have ever been sold), Chrysler might figure it can create more interest if it brings out different colored versions -- like Beanie Babies. The Prowler has served the automaker well by drawing thousands of customers into its showrooms, but now its time for a new act.
We might feel differently if the Prowler's performance matched its looks. It gets top marks for its aggressive, and successful, attempt to be different and outrageous looking, but it doesn't live up to expectations on the road. Modeled after traditional hot rods of the 1950s, the Prowler is equipped with massive 20-inch chrome wheels in back (fronts are 17s). With its extremely high beltline, you'll feel like you're treading water in a pool, and with the top up, visibility is a joke. Trunk space is even more amusing in its brevity.
The retro aluminum bodywork is wrapped around an all-aluminum frame supported by an aluminum four-wheel independent suspension. Adjustable dampers let you soften the ride; a welcome feature, as this roadster tends to ride harshly. Lousy leather-wrapped seats don't promote comfort over the long haul, and Chrysler parts bin bits combine with questionable ergonomics (center-mounted gauges?) to remind you that form definitely takes precedence over function in this vehicle. And if the styling isn't attracting enough attention, you can crank up the 320-watt Infinity sound system, with speed-compensated volume control, to make sure everyone notices you.
The Prowler's powertrain somewhat disappoints. A stout 3.5-liter SOHC V6 engine, capable of producing 253 horsepower and 255 foot-pounds of torque, powers this Chrysler from rest to 60 mph in 6 seconds, but without sufficient exhaust rumble. It's mated to Chrysler's lame AutoStick automanual transmission, which is certainly no substitute for a real manual gearbox. So, no V8 and no stick: If this constitutes the hardware of the modern hot rod, we'll take a pass. The Prowler offers better handling than you might think, but the comparably priced Corvette will wax it while offering superior comfort and amenities. This car will turn heads, even in exotic car-jaded towns like Los Angeles or Palm Beach. If you're not a celebrity, but you want to feel like one, here's the recipe: Buy a Chrysler Prowler. Drop the top. Cruise up and down your local strip. Wave at the gawking crowd. Just don't try to drag race any real muscle cars.