Road test: 1997 Plymouth Prowler | Driving

16 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Road test: 1997 Plymouth Prowler | Driving

Plymouth Prowler

Road test: 1997 Plymouth Prowler

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In the City of Angels you can walk naked down Sunset Boulevard without raising an eyebrow; the locals are completely inured to the excesses of the rich.

Yet Plymouth#8217;s Prowler managed to capture the imagination of the normally blase multitudes. Everyone from well-heeled retirees to a gaggle of pre-teen school boys gawked at the purple apparition. Black, white; young, old; male, female; almost no one was left unmoved by Plymouth#8217;s outrageous retro hot rod.

The most succinct assessment of the Prowler#8217;s charm came from a middle-aged African American driving the LAX shuttle bus along traffic-clogged La Cienega Boulevard. Leaning out her window for a better look, she summed up the Prowler#8217;s appeal with a simple That#8217;s a whole bunch of bad. Chrysler#8217;s ad agency wishes it could do so well.

When told that the Prowler#8217;s price was US$39,000 ($53,500 here), she, like virtually all the devotees, responded: Is that all?. The Prowler is attainable, if not outright affordable, exotica. Oh sure, most of us will have to scrimp to park the Prowler in our driveway, but compared with the usual fare for such lustful dreams, the Prowler is something that John Q. Public can at least hope to afford.

That the Prowler is a good automobile is almost a moot point since it#8217;s doubtful many of the faithful who pony up such a sum for what#8217;s essentially a plaything will ever venture beyond the local hip boulevard/burger joint.

But, Prowler is a surprisingly good automobile. Using it as a rolling test bed for advanced technologies, Chrysler has given the hot rod most of the driveability of its top-line sedans and handling that closely matches the Viper.

Featuring some exotic suspension pieces that include an out-in-the-breeze double wishbone front suspension system and high-quality aftermarket Koni shock absorbers, the Prowler zips through slaloms and hairpins with remarkable elan.

Plymouth Prowler

And for anyone who#8217;s ridden in a real custom rod, the ride is also quite a revelation, though on certain roads the Prowler goes into a hobbyhorse harmonic that#8217;ll leave a crick in your neck.

Of more concern is the fact that the Prowler#8217;s 214 hp, 3.5 litre V-6 doesn#8217;t have enough juice to get even a squeak out of the massive 295/40HR20 rear tires. Although exemplary in the LH sedan, the single overhead cam engine is barely adequate in the Prowler.

It needs a minimum of 250 ponies to befit its bad-boy image. Rumors persist of a tweaked V-6 with just those numbers in the next year. The driveline is smooth and the 4-speed automatic transaxle (with Chrysler#8217;s excellent Autostick manual option) shifts smoothly at all but maximum throttle.

By liberating much of the switchgear and controls from various other models, Chrysler has given the Prowler#8217;s cabin a remarkably complete finish. Included in the list price is an AM/FM stereo (including a 6-disc CD changer), air conditioning and steering wheel-mounted cruise control and radio switches. And holding with a long-standing tradition amongst hot rodders, the small chromed tachometer is perched on the steering column, its 7,000 rpm redline peeking through the steering wheel.

The cabin#8217;s construction quality, like the rest of the car, is excellent and far beyond the Prowler#8217;s kit car roots. In fact, except for the incredibly tiny amount of trunk space (which can be augmented with the optional, stylistically-matched trailer), the Prowler is much more practical than its styling dictates.

For the devoted (and they are legion), the Prowler is the best of all possible worlds. It#8217;s an attainable dream #8211; American Graffiti nostalgia and LH-sedan driveability #8211; all wrapped up in one traffic-stopping package. It#8217;s that rarest of commodities; an instant legend.

Plymouth Prowler
Plymouth Prowler
Plymouth Prowler
Plymouth Prowler
Plymouth Prowler
Plymouth Prowler
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