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1996 Chrysler LHS
We must admit to jury tampering when it comes to the Chrysler LHS. Our first excursion occurred with Chrysler President Bob Lutz behind the wheel, bobbing and weaving along the twisted asphalt that threads the hills surrounding California's Napa Valley.
Traditional American luxury cars aren't supposed to handle like that. The LHS proved taut and sure-footed, even when charging a corner at twice the posted speed. It's hard to imagine this as the heir to the old Chrysler Imperial, which wallowed like a land yacht at every opportunity.
The LHS can trace more direct roots to Chrysler's large sedans–Dodge Intrepid, Eagle Vision and Chrysler Concorde, collectively dubbed the LH models. They helped rewrite the book on automotive styling with their sleek, “cab-forward” shapes, and their exceptionally rigid chassis. The emphasis is on man, not machinery. With LH models, such as the Concorde, that means a full-size interior in a midsize body. With the LHS, well, you're talking roominess on the order of a limousine.
The LHS made its first, striking appearance at the January 1992 Detroit auto show in concept car form. It resurfaced a little more than a year later in production trim, carrying two separate designations. The base New Yorker version was designed for those more comfortable with a traditional Detroit ride, soft and relatively floaty. The upscale LHS was meant to appeal to those who understand the appeal of firmer-riding European makes, such as BMW and Mercedes. Much to Chrysler's surprise, most buyers started opting for the more expensive LHS, prompting the automaker to abandon the once-revered New Yorker nameplate for 1996.
Chrysler's flagship sedan has a rich and formal appearance, but in keeping with its new attitude, the automaker has banished such outdated trappings as vinyl roofs, opera windows and wire wheels. Gone too is the front bench seat. In line with its European inspiration, the LHS is a true 5-seater, a break with domestic tradition that should disappoint few.
Does the LHS deliver what its looks promise? Here's what we found.