The Chrysler LHS and Chrysler Cirrus

Next on Chrysler's new-model menu were an LH-based New Yorker and a premium companion called LHS, arriving in spring '93 as the 1994 successors to the starchy Y-body Imperial/Fifth Avenue. Both rode the Concorde wheelbase but stretched nearly five inches longer overall, hence their internal designation "207."

Styling was naturally in the wedgy cab-forward mold, but a more-orthodox face and upright rear roofline imparted formality without stuffiness. Graceful reverse-curve C-posts, allegedly inspired by late-'30s Bugattis, combined with a setback rear seat for near-limousine legroom.

LHS was the sporty version, aiming at affluent "boomers" with front buckets, shift console, leather interior, firmer touring suspension and less exterior flash. New Yorker was for more-conservative folks, delivering a front bench seat, column shift, cloth trim, relatively soft damping, and a little more outside chrome. Both models carried the twincam 3.5-liter V-6.

At just over $30-grand, the LHS was some $5000 above the new New Yorker, yet outsold it from day one. Combined volume was excellent at nearly 83,000 for debut '94, far above anything the Y-body had managed. Ads playfully admitted that some past Chryslers had been "barges" -- but not these two. Like Concorde, the LHS/New Yorker was taut and responsive on twisty roads, peppy enough, smooth and refined (save rather excessive tire noise) and, of course, eminently spacious. Not since the '50s had Chryslers changed so much in just one year -- or so much for the better.

The 207s carried into 1995 essentially unchanged. LHS added an optional power moonroof during the '94 run. New Yorker got a standard premium audio system and touring suspension for '95. But with sales still greatly favoring LHS, Chrysler decided to drop the New Yorker after a short 1996-model run, thus ending a veteran American nameplate after 57 eventful years.

A new link with Chrysler's past appeared on 1995 models, as the corporate pentastar gave way to the make's original "rose" emblems, revived after a 41-year absence. It was a pleasant surprise, but no less so than that year's new Cirrus, the cab-forward replacement for the A-body LeBaron sedan. Once again, Chrysler played fast and loose with semantics, labeling Cirrus a compact even though dimensions were close to intermediate and even full-size. A 108-inch wheelbase, for example, put Cirrus just 2.8 inches shy of a Buick Park Avenue or Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight. Its overall length of 186 inches wasn't that "compact," either.

All this made Cirrus relatively vast inside, and it looked even bolder than bigger cab-forwards, though not everyone liked the low, jutting, vertical-bar grille. What people did approve was the taut, assured handling of its new wide-stance "JA" platform, again with all-independent suspension, standard antilock brakes and speed-variable power steering. The power­team sat transversely here, and four-speed automatic was again mandatory. The only engine for '95 was a Mitsubishi-based 2.5-liter (152-cid) V-6, another twincam multivalve unit, good for 164 bhp.

This continued on the posh LXi but was optional for the '96 LX, which switched to a standard twincam four, a new Chrysler-designed 2.4-liter with 150 bhp. Both Cirruses were fully equipped with standard air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, good-quality sound system and power windows/mirrors/door locks. The LXi added power driver's seat in a leather-trimmed interior, remote keyless entry, and antitheft alarm, plus touring suspension with performance tires on alloy wheels. In all, Cirrus was another impressive new Chrysler -- and appealing value with base prices in the mid-to-high teens.

A rather different '95 newcomer was the Sebring coupe, a luxury edition of the year-old Dodge Avenger. Replacing the J-body LeBaron coupe, it wasn't technically an American car, as its foundation was the Japanese-designed 1994-98 Mitsubishi Galant sedan platform with 103.7-inch wheelbase.

But the snazzy two-door body was styled with Chrysler input, and the base LX model came with a Chrysler's own 2.0-liter four as used in the small 1994-95 Dodge/Plymouth Neon. (Mitsubishi's 2.5-liter V-6 featured in the uplevel LXi.) The Sebring coupe was also American-made, built exclusively for the U.S. market at the Illinois factory that Chrysler set up with Mitsubishi in 1989 as Diamond-Star Motors.

But sales were never impressive, even though Sebring coupes offered a good many standard features at affordable mid-teens to low-$20,000s prices. A shrinking coupe market didn't help, but neither did the few changes that occurred over five model years, the most visible being a modest 1997 facelift. As a result, calendar-year sales ran 25,000-35,000 through 1999, then plunged below 13,000.

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