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Value is a concept that conquers the affections of car buyers every time. Dodge knew this all too well, and made value a cornerstone of its strategy for the Dodge Intrepid, turning out an affordably priced car that offered a lot for less. It proved to be an astute move for the automaker. Introduced in 1993 and retired in 2004, the Intrepid distinguished itself as the division's best-selling car in many of its years on the market.
The word "intrepid" means fearless, and this Dodge proved to be just that when it came to its styling cues. Stodginess and full-size sedans go together like Seattle and pouring rain, but Dodge's designers set out to create an alternative that broke free of this mold. An innovative, "cabin-forward" layout resulted in a steeply raked windshield and short front and rear overhangs. The Intrepid's sculpted look (which became even more striking in second-generation models) didn't necessarily light everyone's fire, but it was, undeniably, a bold standout in a notoriously bland segment.
Practicality came via the Dodge Intrepid's spacious amenities. The Intrepid's cab-forward design and front-wheel-drive layout freed up considerable interior space, and the sedan could seat five adults in comfort as well as haul much of their luggage. Nimble handling was another of the car's assets; the Intrepid had the portly size of an operatic tenor, but you'd never know it from its impressive composure and agility. And Intrepid buyers enjoyed the car's power. Its athletic engines gave the car somewhat of a split personality, enabling it to cross the line from family sedan to value-priced sport sedan with ease.
Buyers had to make a few compromises. Materials quality and fit and finish within the cabin weren't up to snuff. Rearward visibility fell somewhat short, and its engines could get raucous when challenged. Still, a late-model Dodge Intrepid shines as a great pick in many respects for buyers seeking a used car that delivers when it comes to competent handling and capacious passenger and cargo room.
Most Recent Dodge Intrepid
The most recent Intrepid generation spanned model years 1998 through 2004. This car continued on the cabin-forward theme of its predecessor, but offered styling that was sleeker and almost coupelike. It also got an engine upgrade, with two new V6s beneath its hood.
This generation's early Dodge Intrepids were offered in two trims: base and ES. Base models featured air-conditioning, heated mirrors and cruise control. ES models added amenities like keyless entry and a power-adjustable driver seat. In 2000, a new trim, the R/T, joined the lineup. R/Ts catered to performance-oriented buyers, offering a sport-tuned suspension and traction control. The base trim became the SE trim in 2001, and the following year, a midlevel trim, the SXT, made its debut. SXT buyers got the same engine as that of the pricier R/T, without many of the performance features. That changed in 2003 when the R/T model was dropped; the SXT was given a performance upgrade that gave it many of the capabilities of the departed R/T.
Base Intrepids were powered by a 2.7-liter V6 good for 200 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. ES models were available with either the base model's 2.7-liter or a 3.2-liter V6 capable of 225 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque. Intrepid R/Ts got their mojo from a 3.5-liter V6 producing 242 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. In 2002, Dodge dropped the 3.2-liter engine; replacing it was a 234-hp version of the 3.5-liter V6. All Intrepid models came with a four-speed automatic transmission, and Dodge's "AutoStick" manual-shift feature came standard on the R/T.
A few tweaks were made to the car's appearance and feature content over the years. Chrome badging was added in 1999, along with improved floor carpeting. In 2000, base models got new seat fabric, child-seat anchors were also added, and an in-dash CD changer joined the options list on ES models. The following year, side airbags became available, as well as steering wheel-mounted audio controls and a four-disc in-dash CD changer. In 2003, the four-disc unit was replaced with a six-CD changer.
At the time, our editors were charmed by the Dodge Intrepid -- so much so that in 2000, it scored an Editors' Most Wanted award in the Large Sedan category. We liked the sedan's huge interior, gigantic trunk, communicative steering and pleasing balance of ride quality and handling ability. Cons included a propensity for wind and road noise, low-quality interior materials, disappointing fit and finish and poor outward visibility.
Past Dodge Intrepids
The first-generation Dodge Intrepid was built from 1993 to 1997. Two trims -- base and ES -- were offered. Initially, both were powered by a 3.3-liter V6 good for 153 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque; the engine saw power increases over the years, though, and by the time this generation drew to a close, it offered 161 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. A four-speed automatic transmission sent power to the car's front wheels. A more advanced 3.5-liter V6, producing 214 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque, was optional.
ABS was made standard in ES models in 1995, and traction control was added to the options list. Intrepids got upgrades to improve noise, vibration and harshness in 1996; the following year, the car benefited from an improved audio system and a refined transmission. At the time, this Intrepid scored good marks for its roomy interior and power from the optional 3.5-liter V6. Downsides included dubious build quality and weak headlight performance.