By on December 9, 2011

There’s a nice comfortable cushion of years between the present and the 1970 and 1976 Motor Trend Cars of the Year, which gave our discussions about What Might Have Been a certain detachment. Today’s Car of the Year Revisionism discussion, however, takes as its subject a car that’s still with us in large numbers.
The Cirrus wasn’t exactly a smash hit (unless you count sales to rental-car companies), and it hasn’t left a deep impression in our minds. Perhaps MT might have made a better choice… and here’s your chance to look back with 16 years of hindsight and make some suggestions. If you’d like to include imports for the sake of argument, do so; the Maxima was the Import COTY for ’95. So, what’s it gonna be? The Neon? The Accent? The Aurora? The VAZ-21099?

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99 Comments on “Car of the Year Revisionism, 1995 Edition: If Not the Cirrus, What?...”


  • avatar
    underachieva

    I nominate the new for ’95 second generation Mitsubushi Eclipse. That car had a lot going for it.

    • 0 avatar
      rustyra24

      My 95 Eagle Talon Tsi was a very fun car that actually lasted a long time without any major problems.

      I also owned a 96 Eagle Vision. It was a Piece of crap and had lots of problems. The motor mounts were designed wrong if I remember correctly and it felt like I was driving a boat. I think it was similar to the Cirrus/Stratus.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I was forced to rent so many of these POS cars. I hated the way it drove, the obnoxious appointments and the transmission was bad in two cars after only 20K. It’s hard to believe this was car of any year.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I rented a Plymouth Breeze in 1996. It was practically new when I got it, and I liked everything about it except the overworked Neon engine attached to an automatic transmission. I particularly remember thinking the seats, steering, and ride were superb for a rental car. Of course I have no idea how it would hold up, since it had hundreds of miles rather than thousands when I turned it in. I definitely liked it more than the fleet of Buick Centuries, Toyota Corollas and right hand drive Tercels that were my normal rental fair at the time. If I could have combined the Century’s powerful and smooth V6 with the Breeze’s everything else, I’d have been in rental car heaven.

    • 0 avatar
      MusicMachine

      I felt the same way about MT’s COTY in 1983–the AMC/Renault Alliance. –More like POSOTY.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      MT keeps their long tradition of messing up their car of the year pick, now it’s the red hot Volt.

  • avatar
    Verbal

    Contour/Mystique. Stop laughing.

    • 0 avatar
      W.

      I’d agree with you, except for woeful transmission troubles with the slushbox. My family has had a ’92 Dynasty, a ’94 Accord and a ’95 Countour, all with automatics that have destroyed themselves one way or another. Every manual shift has been dead-reliable. I suppose that comes with over 100 years of production and design…

      And people wonder why I’m partial to a shift-it-yourself these days!

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Those cars didn’t have your grandfather’s torqueflite. I suspect the ECU is trying to get the tranny to do something it’s not ready to do, but the standard preventive that seems to work is frequent regular transmission fluid changes. There are plenty of people who change motor oil long before it’s necessary. They need to do the same with FWD transaxles too, because it IS necessary.

      • 0 avatar
        MrWhopee

        Well, simply get the Mystique/Contour with manual transmission! The manual tranny is great, with European feel to it, and it’s available even on V-6 versions! At least the Ford version, not sure if there are V-6, 5-speed Mystique. Manual rules!

    • 0 avatar

      No laughing here. I concur. The Contour was a great car.

      • 0 avatar
        slance66

        I had a 96 Contour SE with the 5 speed and loved it. Little V6 made it scoot and it could handle better than most anything coming from Detroit.

      • 0 avatar
        Deorew

        My 1995 Mercury Mystique with V6 and 6 cylinder has been a FANTASTIC car. It now has 328,000 miles. Engine and transmission are original, except for clutch which was replaced at 250,000 miles. Wish I could buy another one.

    • 0 avatar
      crinklesmith

      I had a SVT Contor for a few years, sold it due to military deployment. It was a green 99′ model. I hate myself to this day for letting it go, wonderful vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        BigDuke6

        I STILL have a silver frost ’99 SVT that my nephew begs me to sell him. Sorry Raymond, it’s still too much fun to drive it, and I’m not done with it yet…..

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      I agree. I bought a 95 Mystique new. I was very pleased with it. I drove very nicely and was very well equipped. The V6 was sweet and had plenty of power because the car was only 2800 lbs. Yes, it had mechanical and electrical problems, but the biggest problem was that Ford did not know what to do with it.

      It had replaced the horrid Tempo, and was slotted between the Escort and the Taurus/Sable. It deserved to be sold as a D-segment sedan, but the T/S was in that place and was such a big seller that Ford would not move it up to the Executive class.

      Unfortunately what Ford did with the C/M was to decontent it to keep the price under the Taurus, and quit on it when the Focus appeared.

      In the last couple of years, Ford re-created the Taurus as an Executive car, brought the Fusion in as a D segment, and revived the Focus.

    • 0 avatar
      Crosley

      I had a Contour, a ’99 with a V6 I also thought it was a great car, almost like Ford’s version of a BMW. The handling was incredible and had plenty of power. It was also a screaming deal, I bought it new and loaded for around $12k.

      It did though have reliability issues right off the bat, and it soured me on Ford’s quality. It also had AWFUL resale value, I couldn’t give that car away.

      I had a rental Cirrus/Stratus for an extended period of time, and it wasn’t near the car the Contour was.

    • 0 avatar
      FuzzyPlushroom

      I’m completely with the five-speed-only crowd here. The CD4E in our ’97 Mystique was dire, but the MTX-75 in the ’95 Contour was brilliant. I’ve thought of getting another one – my only firm requirement is manual shift.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I had a 95 Stratus V6 (2.5 Mitsubishi engine) (used) for about 3 years. It was a beautiful car, and I think its shape still looks current. It ran well, but it wasn’t particularly reliable, although not awful. I traded it for a much-less-reliable Passat since it was a little to small for my frame, and I began to mistrust the transmission.

    Given how popular and numerous these cars still are, the COTY award isn’t far off. Seems like there are more today than there were then. Funny, I didn’t even know it was Car of the Year ’95.

    • 0 avatar
      tced2

      I too owned a ’96 Cirrus. It was a reasonable car except for the 2.5 V6 from Mitsubishi. It was a gutless engine (would barely get the car to 75mph) until it’s major failure. I very much liked the size/configuration of the car though.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Contour SE 6-cylinder with 5-speed. Too bad that they were a bit ugly and weren’t reliable, as they drove quite well.

    • 0 avatar

      Loved my 1996 SE until had a major engine problem at 66k.

      The Cirrus was a beautiful car, but didn’t drive nearly as good as it looked. Far larger windows than the current average.

      • 0 avatar
        majo8

        MK — was it a failed water pump that went bad? Mine – 95 SE 5-speed – went at 60k, but I knew the warning signs and fortunately suffered no damage (other than the pump itself). The pumps had a plastic impeller that would self-destruct after 60k. Good thing the new one I installed was made of metal.

        The only other component to fail through 100k was a wheel bearing. Loved that car…….

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Funny how individual each of our experiences are; ample proof that only ample data points subjected to honest statistical analysis can give a proper overview.

      When my sister rolled my 92 Acclaim company car, nearly killing me in the process, I inherited a 94 Contour SE w leather interior and the big engine, from a work colleague who left the company around the same time.

      Hated the Contour. Sure it accelerated fast, but that G.damned thing managed to find every crack, rut or crown in the road and grab it. If it wasn’t twitching left or right, it would wander … Good lord, that thing had both rotten return to center and non existant on-center feel (and per the Ford dealer the front geometry was in spec.). It made my hour commute from Troy to west of South Lyon the most unpleasant year in nearly seven years making that drive. The last 2 miles of my drive home was on a gravel road (Rushton Rd.) and where the Contour threatened to rebel and kill, the Stratus was as stable and fun to pilot over that surface as my 80 Fiesta and 89 Cabriolet had been; in some ways, the wide stance and seat position made me think of a go-cart (tuned for, yes, mild understeer! Lol)

      When the lease ran out on the Craptour, my employer wanted to replace it with another; I blocked that strategy. Somehow I was able to justify renting a cheapo car from Enterprise for a few months until the JA Stratus launched. There sure was a lot of content on thesse cars for the money. I ended up with a hi-line model w/o leather, but w a deluxe cloth. The car was a wine color with forged wheels. In terms of stability, this car was the polar opposite of my Contour. Biggest gripe were the several things that didn’t work properly, I thought about writing a letter to Lutz but never did, and 15 years on, the only deficits was the defrost button had a habit of not locking into position and popping out sometimes and a squeak in the rear suspension.

      Otherwise, the seats were very good, the steering was tight and light, the ride v. handling trade-off seemed optimal. Big back seat, much better than the cramped joke in the contour, and a huge trunk.

      After moving to Europe had the euro spec version of this car and except for really, really, needing an autos tick or a manual, the car acquitted itself reasonably well. Much more room and less maintenance than my friends driving VW and BMW products, not quite so stable on the German autobahn as a BMW or Audi, for indeed 225 kmh was not confidence inspiring, but 130 in Austria was just fine. Only problem I had with this one was te crank sensor crapped out around 90k miles and had to be towed from my office to the local Chrysler dealer.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        Two more things, 1. The JA was an order of magnitude improvement over the A-body. A-body was just as competent, but it was the dowdy shot-put throwing sister where the JA was the cute sprinter sister. 2. Another defect were the black plastic caps on the door window frames at the b-pillar, not long after taking delivery, these things began to bulge and warp something awful. A third defect, but without seeming consequence, was that the cruise control switches had some kind of foam tape wedged between the rocker and the surrounding bezel, purpose unknown, but this tape fell out not long after the switches were used a few times.

  • avatar
    W.

    I think you have to remember what this car replaced, and it was a huge step forward in the “cab-forward” design theme. Oddly enough, this is more in line of a replacement for the five-door Lancer/LeBaron of the late ’80’s than for the squared off Spirit/Acclaim/LeBaron that came in between.

    Without hindsight, I’d have to say M/T wasn’t that far off the mark with this one.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Honda CR-V.
    From the moment I saw it, I recognized it as the future. It was a direct hit on where the SUV craze was going and I knew it was the next wave.

    The Cirrus was a comeback vehicle that didn’t quite allow Chrysler to comeback. The CR-V was the opening salvo in a new hot marketing segment that is a major one today.

  • avatar
    LBJs Love Child

    Ford Contour SE… almost a Contour SVT.

  • avatar
    SKUSA_boy

    The Dodge Stratus (Chrysler Cirrus) did really well in touring car racing at the time.

    http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/1/3366/1081/8413040189_large.jpg

    http://www.velocityjournal.com/images/full/1998/s9806151/98dtgp15.jpg

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    My first new car was a 1997 chrysler cirrus lx 2.4L auto. I think i paid $16.5k. I loved its green exterior and tan interior. I put about 85k on it commuting 100 miles a day over a 5 year period, and blew the head gasket because i let it run hot. I was quite ignorant of vehicles at the time, but it was very comfortable and dare i say a little sporty. Unfortunately after getting the engine fixed from the head gasket failure the engine sounded horrible. I traded it in after another 2000 miles. I’ve noticed since then they aged very badly so I don’t feel too bad getting rid of it, but back when I had it it really did turn heads. Now car enthusiasts must live with knowing that it will LIVE FOREVER IN RUSSIA. ahahah

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      It’s the 2nd generation that lives on in Russia, not this car. The 2nd gen was nowhere near as good as the first gen. I remember renting one and being so disappointed in it, and I owned a first gen.
      The 2nd gen was the one of the first fruits of ex-GM’er Robert Eaton (the 1st gen blown head gaskets of the Neon were another).

    • 0 avatar

      Not forever. Siber is already discontinued.

  • avatar
    JCraig

    The Aurora is a good domestic pick. Mazda RX-7 would be my choice. Still one of the best looking cars made. Also always thought the 929 was beautiful in its day, and 200hp was pretty good back then, but ’95 was its last year so that would have to by my pick for 1990…

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      I liked the look of the 929. Still do. I wish they had not stopped making that car.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Mazda RX-7 would be my choice.

      Only cars in their first year of production were eligible for COTY. The RX-7 would not have qualified for either COTY or ICOTY during 1995.

      • 0 avatar
        JCraig

        OIC, thanks for pointing that out, I didn’t realize that. Was just picking my all time favorite car then, it would’ve won every year it was in production as far as I was concerned. If they’re only picking first year cars that makes a lot more sense as the choices would be narrowed down quite bit. I have no idea what cars were all new in ’95…

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I have no idea what cars were all new in ’95…

        These lists are a bit difficult for that reason. It would be helpful to know exactly what was eligible for a given year.

        Plus, at the time, COTY was limited to domestics. The MT staffers wouldn’t have exactly been spoiled for choice…

  • avatar
    geozinger

    1995 Chevy Cavalier & Pontiac Sunfire.

    They’re the “Cockroaches of the Road” TM for a reason…

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Aaaahhhh… 15 years of hindsight offers a lot of alternatives.

    The best ‘redesign’ from this year was probably the Lincoln Town Car. I’ve recently purchased a 1995 and a 1998 Town Car. The loaded 95′ model beats the last generation Town Car in virtually all respects. It was arguably the last competitive American luxury car of that era.

    As for a ‘new’ car? I would have to give the nod to the Maxima.

    It surprised me then that MT would offer two ‘car of the year’ awards. The obvious implication of that was domestics simply couldn’t compete with the imports.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      It surprised me then that MT would offer two ‘car of the year’ awards. The obvious implication of that was domestics simply couldn’t compete with the imports.

      I don’t think that’s it. I would presume that they were separate because at the time, imports were a small niche and the cars that were being imported were quite different from what was then being purchased by the mainstream audience. This has changed, obviously.

  • avatar
    djsyndrome

    Toyota Avalon. First real Japanese shot at the middle-class land yacht market.

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      I was going to say that the 929 fit this role first (however unsuccessful it was) but apparantly it went for quite a bit more money, $36,000 in ’95 according to google, which would be $51,000 today… The Avalon was about $9 grand less.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      And painfully unsuccessful by comparison. The Avalon was priced like a low-end Cadillac, far too expensive for the average large-car blue collar buyer. It lives on mainly because it’s really cheap to make a stretched Camry. I admit they are a good car for what they are but they are just so weirdly stretched as if a car could show stretch marks an Avalon would.

      My money would be on the Cirrus or the Aurora. I see Aurora’s every so often and they’re always amazingly clean and in good shape. No rust, no scratches, no dings, NOTHING. Their paint is starting to fade on some really early ones I saw that had that odd dark-purple metallic color Olds was pushing on them but otherwise the ones I see seem immaculate. Either the Aurora is indestructible or hardcore olds people really are keeping them for the future.

  • avatar
    Silent Ricochet

    Definitely the Chrysler LH platform. The cars weren’t bad looking at all and the “Cab Forward” design was actually executed quite well. It’s a shame Chrysler transmissions are garbage and the famous 2.7L engine destroyed their reputation. I rather liked the newer Dodge Stratus R/T, almost bought one with the Mitsubishi 3.0 V6 in it. MY friend had an Intrepid with the 3.2L V6 in it too, ran great, drove nice, was an excellent car. Really is a shame their reputation was destroyed by that god awful 2.7 motor.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      the LH platform was Automobile Magazines “Automobile of the Year” for 1993. The Neon won the same honor for 1994. Don’t remember who the COTY was for those years. For COTY, besides the 1995 Chrysler Cirrus, there was the 1996 Dodge Caravan and the 1999 Chrysler 300m. The Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Ram, and Dodge Dakota won respective titles for truck and 4X4 of the year from various buff magazines. The 90’s were an amazing time for Chrysler. Then one day they were hit and run over by a Mercedes…

      • 0 avatar
        AJR

        “Then one day they were hit and run over by a Mercedes…”

        Let’s not forget that Chrysler stood right in the middle of the street and let itself get run over. Daimler most certainly gets blame for Chrysler’s problems, but let’s not forget that Chrysler was sitting at the other end of the table when it was negotiating the terms of the “merger”. Chrysler could have walked away, but Chrysler gave Daimler the keys to the palace and Daimler did with it as it pleased.

  • avatar
    windswords

    Don’t know why you are picking on this car. It was a very good vehicle for it’s time. I couldn’t believe how good it looked in profile, better than any BMW at the time. I bought one brand new in 1997, a red Dodge Stratus ES with the Mitsu 2.6 V6 and Auto-Stick. It had every option except leather and sunroof. I only took it back to the dealer for one thing, some weather stripping that had come lose on the rear driver side door.
    The car had an amazing turning radius, it was probably even tighter on the base model. Interior fit and finish was excellent, lots of room front and back, very good ergonomics and great visibility. Mileage was very decent.
    My wife’s grandmother was a big time Honda fan. She bought a new Accord every time they updated it, so about every four years. She drove my car once and was very impressed with it. This from a lady who said she was done with American cars.
    One time I was getting it detailed and a Mercedes owner who was having his car done came over and asked what it was and commenting on how sharp it looked.
    Ford spent $4 billion or more to develop the Mondeo/Contour/Mystique. This included a new engine and tranny I believe. Chrysler, using a development methodology developed from their purchase of AMC (which always had to do more with less personnel and resources) and a study they conducted of Honda product development system created the Cirrus/Stratus (and later Plymouth Breeze) for about 1.6 billion. They sold about 200,000 a year. I don’t think Ford ever made back the money they spent.

    • 0 avatar
      djsyndrome

      “It was a very good vehicle for it’s time.”

      The 1995 Camry I have in my driveway with 326k miles on the original drivetrain was a good vehicle for its time. The Cirrus/Stratus/Breeze was an abomination and didn’t drive well when new, nevermind their propensity to shred their transmissions and other assorted bits at will.

      • 0 avatar
        windswords

        You must be thinking of another car. Chrysler never built an “LHA” and this car is from the JA platform. ALL of the publications at the time remarked on how well the LH’s and the JA’s drove. MT did a comparo of the Contour and Stratus and they liked the driving dynamics of the Stratus better.

      • 0 avatar
        johnhowington

        that camry vintage was yes a superior car. however the cloud cars deserve props for many reasons. the worst of the cloud cars was anything powered by the neon 2.0L, which was unrefined, loud, slow, and you guessed it, overheated and blew headgaskets more often then a vegas hooker.

      • 0 avatar
        djsyndrome

        Yeah, don’t know why I said LHA. Edited my post above.

        I learned to drive in an Acclaim and a ’95 Neon (Plymouth – I liked the badge better) was my first brand-new car, so I’m familiar with Chrysler’s work in the 90s. Will agree that they were far better than the Countour/Mystique or anything out of GM, but once the Neon started giving me fits and a rental Stratus left me stranded in a Madison December I went Japanese and never looked back.

    • 0 avatar
      tkewley

      Like other vehicles from the Lutz era at Chrysler, the JA was a very attractive design, undone by poor build quality.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    For an everyday, everyman vehicle, this was my choice, too. FWIW, we bought a 1999 Stratus, the only new car I have ever driven off the showroom floor. Kept it three years, not a single problem. We sold it because wifey wanted a CR-V. We still have that.

    The sole issue our Stratus did have though, it was caught in the middle of a transition of decontenting. The driver’s side manual seat height adjuster was deleted mid-year, I believe, and ours didn’t have it. As a result, the seat was locked in the mid-height position, as it still had some of the mechanism underneath and with the lowered headliner due to the sunroof, head space was kinda tight. The passenger seat was the standard one, and the seats were slightly different heights. Chrysler would not remedy that issue, though, and that was a sticking point. Nothing I could do to change things, either, but as it was my wife’s car, I didn’t worry, as she didn’t care. It’s also the last Chrysler product we bought new.

    After all that, at the time we bought it, we looked at the Malibu as well. For years after, I always said every time I got behind the wheel of the Stratus: “sure glad we didn’t buy a Malibu”. The auto world has proved me correct in that sentiment.

    When these came out, I wanted one very badly and rented them every chance I got. However, I don’t think they were quite as good as the Acclaim/Spirits they replaced. Our 1990 Acclaim was a great car, but it didn’t have the Ultradrive or the 3.0L, and wasn’t loaded to the hilt with all the options. Still, it was our greatest car until our present rides. When we bought the Stratus, I only intended to keep it for the warranty period, no more. It was a temporary step to bigger and better things, as I sensed Chrysler was headed for trouble – and I was right.

    Besides that, the Cloud Cars made a big splash, but never fully delivered, and didn’t sell as well as their predecessors.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    The 1995 Mercury Mystique with the 4 cylinder and a 5-speed manual was an enjoyable car that got good MPG. Most of the Contours/Mystiques had auto trans and were more hum-drum.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    The problem with COTY awards is that they are done “before” the year instead of “after” the year. The award is given out for some aspect of the vehicle that seems ground-breaking (though I’m having a problem finding that attribute with the Cirrus).

    In retrospect, these choices seem poor to ridiculous but that’s because we all know the history “after” the fact, something that couldn’t have been known when MT doled the award out.

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      I remember a lot of hubub about these cars when they came out, cab forward design and all that.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Me too. A friend had one as a company car and it was HUGE on the inside, plenty of legroom and a massive trunk. The whole cab-forward, wheels to the outside thing is what made these cars revolutionary. His was an Intrepid.

    • 0 avatar
      dvp cars

      ….rpol…..good point, in hindsight there have been odd choices…….at one time all new models came out in September, but ever since the original Mustang’s midyear debut, model year timing has been all over the map, making the “year” part of COTY a bit tricky to pin down.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I can see MT’s staff having gotten caught up in the relative excitement in mid-90’s Chrysler – given how they’d had a pretty good string of hits (Grand Cherokee, Viper, LH, Neon, Ram), the Cloud Cars must’ve seemed like a pretty safe bet to get behind. Plus, it’s not as if any of the competition had much of a significant impact either (we’ve got what, the Cavalier, Contour, Aurora, and Eagle Talon?).

  • avatar
    windswords

    Interesting factoid: The Cloud Cars were the first to have a hood that was wider than it was long, at least since the early days of the horseless carriage.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Who were the candidates? In order to be COTY doesn’t the car have to be significantly changed or all new for the model year?

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    Facelifted Volvo 960 – The last hurrah of the ancient 240 platform, and in the long run a much better car than the S80 that replaced it.

  • avatar
    swilliams41

    I rented one of these “ONCE”, talk about a lousy drive. It flopped all over itself on SoCal freeways. Not in the same league as the Cuntour/Mystique. Why did they enjoy greater sales success, I think that speaks volumes about the American car buying public. This car would have never been a player in Europe with their much more demanding driving conditions. BTW, anyone here ever drive in Puerto Rico? Just regular driving there is take no prisoners affair, I loved it.

  • avatar
    ajla

    8th Gen Buick Riviera if we’re only going domestic.

    BMW E38 if we can pick anything.

  • avatar
    Buster Brew

    I had one for a week or so while my Cherokee was in the body shop. I found it to be attractive car and a decent handler in the N GA mountains. Kind of a mini Concorde back then. I still see quite a few of these on the road (as well as the Stratus and Breeze)while I don’t see many Ford Contours. I wonder what percentage of each survives?

  • avatar
    gmrn

    I bought a 2000 Cirrus (from my friend, the original owner) for my daughter when she graduated HS in ’08. It met her short list of wants. Auto and moon roof.
    Even though it was filthy, and needed struts, I could not pass up the price.
    My only regret was not noticing the lack of (optional) ABS until after money had changed hands. The car had just turned 100k when I bought, and after 3+ years in the hands of my daughter, now has ~160K.
    Forensic examination reveals the car has not lived a charmed life under my daughters ownership. But she has taken it in for a few oil changes.
    Other than the struts (and regular tire and pad replacements) it has been a reliable tool.
    Sure, some of the ancillary systems are succumbing to old age (2 window motors, AC is getting weak, and a rear speaker went up in smoke). But the thing keeps rolling.
    Likes:
    -Proper visibility all around
    -More room inside than you would think
    -Inexpensive
    -2.4 engine has decent pep and good fuel econ.
    Dislikes:
    -2.4 engine has a few pesky oil leaks
    -ALL of the hoods rust out next to latch
    -Weakest automotive headlights (due to design) I have ever seen.

  • avatar
    Dukeboy01

    My younger brother had a ’96 Cirrus, same color as the one in the pictures. As others have said, compared to the Acclaim that it replaced the Stratus/ Cirrus/ Breeze was a huge evolutionary leap forward.

    I had a ’94 Chevrolet Beretta and I remeber thinking that my brother’s car was a better put together vehicle and a better design than my car was.

  • avatar
    windswords

    Looking at the profile pic again at the top of the page I realize how much I miss the low belt line of yester years cars. The cars of the last few years have such pulled up sides and small windows I’m surprised no one gets claustrophobia. It seems like we are starting to get away from that trend at least I hope so.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    The Clouds weren’t bad cars [MadH, you WILL resist inserting a “from both sides now” joke here!], but they didn’t hold a candle to their Camry competition. It is perplexing why the Aurora didn’t get the nod. Even though it ultimately proved to be a dead end and didn’t save Olds, nobody knew that then. It looked like it just might be the vanguard of a revolution.

  • avatar

    Neon was quite amazing for its time, but for some reason Chrysler was incapable to capitalize on it, beyond the PT Cruiser, while Civic and Corolla rolled on generation after generation until the whole segment got squished by B-segment cars. Curiously, the original only surivived for a year, with battleship bumpers, 4-stud hubs, and 1:22 rack disappearing in 1996.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    “Seems like there are more today than there were then. Funny,” <— Chrysler has been making these for years, and quietly slipping them onto used car lots. (Don’t say who told you, though.)
    BTW, Lamborghini designed the first Intrepid/Concorde/Eagle Vision when Chrysler owned The Bull.

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      I thought it was the Frenchman Francois Castaing from Renault/AMC that developed the LH with the earlier Eagle Premier as a starting point. Hal Sperlich wanted a giant K-car.

      http://www.allpar.com/model/lh2/index.html

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        You’re both sort of right. The Renault-designed Premier was the basis for much of the LH’s engineering, but the Lamborghini-designed Chrysler Portofino concept was the major inspiration for Tom Gale’s design team.

  • avatar
    Ian Anderson

    My grandparents out in Pittsburgh own one of these and a ’98 Dodge Dakota, whose bumpers are all rotted off by the way. They’ve both been through two transmissions with less than 60K on each, not abused or anything. The Cirrus ate two head gaskets by 40K, and recently on a trip out here to visit us in the Philly area my dad, uncle and myself had to push it up a road to a shop when the engine threw a rod through the block. They made it home, after three days trying to find out which of the seemingly hundreds of variations on the engine it needed (Chrysler changed/”improved” the Neon motor so often it’s insane).

    This combined with the facts that most were abused as rental cars and 99.9% of them were sold with automatics writes them off my list.

  • avatar
    AJR

    I remember the cloud cars and I remember the Cirrus winning the Car of the Year award. I also remember Motor Trend commenting about the Cirrus in their Long Term test drive the following year, and it wasn’t exactly gushing with praise. The Motor Trend writers were actually questioning their decision to name the Cirrus car of the year the previous year because they had problems with their long term tester. I have to go on memory here, but I recall the transmission went into limp-home mode or some other kind of big problem. I remember this because it was the first time that I recall a magazine actually questioning their decision of the previous year.

    When I first saw the cloud cars, I liked their looks , but after that I wasn’t all that impressed. Sure they were more modern than the Spirit/Acclaim/LeBaron before them, but I thought the cloud cars appeared cheap and not very differentiated. The Cirrus was about as luxurious as a Ford Contour, maybe Mercury Mystique, but it never impressed upon me as a luxury/premium car like a Chrysler should have. The Dodge Stratus looked sporty, but there was no hot-rod version like the Spirit R/T. Finally, the Breeze was just cheap. At least the Acclaim could be bought with a V-6 and had an LX trim level (that dressed the car up) at one time.

    The last thing I remember about these cars was from a Business Week article written about the time of the Daimler-Chrysler “merger”. In the article, the editor made a comment about the sales numbers of the cloud cars and how their combined sales numbers did not touch the numbers of the Honda Accord. Three against one, and the Accord won out. At that moment, I realized that the masses didn’t really flock to the cab forward cars as much as expected. Here were some good looking sedans with modern attibutes and innovative designs, and people were still going to a more “traditional” choice? That is all I needed to know about the cloud cars, and soon after they faded into the sunset.

    I really don’t see that many cloud cars around here anymore, unless I’m just not paying attention to them. I do see an occasional Spirit/Acclaim on the road here and there. They maybe weren’t advanced and flashy, but they had one of the old Chrysler attributes – durability.

    • 0 avatar
      mistrernee

      Our Spirit felt like it was machined from one solid piece of steel. It was very low tech but it felt like tank, everything was solid and heavy. The 2.4l engine was anything but refined but was incredibly durable. Few engines can make horrible noises like that one could and yet keep running perfectly.

      I hear the vehicles that came with Mitsu bits weren’t near as tough. That goes for any k derived vehicle though, the bits that aren’t mopar are rejected by the rest of the vehicle.

      I’ve gushed about Spirits on here before though.

  • avatar
    Cirruslydakota

    I owned a cloud car (Chrysler Cirrus LXi fully loaded) from March 2003 till November 2009, in that time I went from 79,000 miles to 209,000 when I traded it in. It still had the original(!!!) 41TE transmission with the underpowered but very good sounding 2.5 Mitsubishi V6. People complain about this transmission but thats because no one changes the fluid or uses the proper ATF+4 and wonder why it trashes itself along with the transmission solenoid pack. At the time it was the most advanced 4 speed completely electronic transmission at the time which learned your driving habits and adapted the transmission to your driving style. Good clean fluid is the key to these lasting for many miles.

    Like others have said even though the design is 16 years old it still manages to look quite modern and handsome. Before I had this car I was a chevy guy and thought all Mopars were junk but this car changed my mind even though it had its fair share of problems. 3 out of 5 computers on the CCD bus system died, putting a timing belt on was a nightmare in that cramped engine compartment, leather seats were crap, BCM crapped out causing the wipers to never turn off no matter what, routine spark plug change was a royal with removing the intake manifold, and does anyone know where the battery is? I do! It was overall a great car, but what made me get rid of it? I had a first build 95 model which still used OBD1 for all of 6 months, then Chrysler switched to OBD2 in 1996 so I had a narrow window in which to find computer parts and since the dealer wanted insane amounts for a new BCM I decided to let it go. That and the 25mpg highway is slightly worse than what I get in my 07 Mustang GT.

    But for all of its shortcomings it won my heart and two years later I bought a 98 regular cab Dakota R/T which never ever let me down. I traded that in after gas fit $4 for a Mustang GT since highway fuel economy with the 360 was a crappy 13 if I was lucky. Then last year I bought my most loved Mopar yet, a 99 Jeep Grand Cherokee and I love it to death. 240,000+ miles and the 4.0 just keeps going. I really do miss that car… and that truck…

  • avatar
    87CE 95PV Type Я

    Well I am quite pleased with my 1995 Voyager though I would not mind a 95 Caprice 9C1 as well.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Next door neighbor has a Cirrus, loaded, green like the pictured car, tan interior, actually looks quite nice and he’s owned it since it was new. Still gets driven several times a week. His other car? A simliar vintage Honda Accord.

  • avatar
    carbiz

    Having owned a new ’83 Dodge Rampage and new ’87 Shadow ES (the Rampage ate 2 headgaskets and the Shadow was a total POS), my love for Mopar died with those 2 vehicles.
    I had my ’91 Caprice wagon 2 years when I drove my first Intrepid. In context at the time, to those of us who were unimpressed with all things imported, the LH cars were breathtaking. The rear seat leg room was bigger than my Caprice!
    The Cirrus was more derivative, but stacked against the vehicles of the day, they were also well put together (appearance-wise), roomy, good bang for the buck and looked great.
    I was sorely tempted, but the local Chrysler-Dodge dealer was the extension of all the troubles I’d had with my Shadow and having to deal with them ever again was a deal breaker. (It was a long drive to the next Chrysler dealer – 30 miles.)
    Lutz had taught Chrysler to make the best darned appearing cars, but they cheaped out everywhere else. GM, meanwhile, had the opposite problem: spend the money where it counts (ABS, automatic headlights, etc) but slap together craptastic interiors and go for the cheapest looking plastics.
    In retrospect, the Cirrus probably deserved the COTY status based on what could be deduced from a test drive, but hindsight was not kind to the ‘cloud cars.’

  • avatar
    Towncar

    Maybe MT didn’t take the cloud cars too seriously either. I distinctly remember their announcing very solemnly the imminent arrival of the third member of the family–the Plymouth Cumulonimbus.

  • avatar
    solracer

    If it were up to me my 1995 COTY would be the Neon ACR Sedan. I had one of the first hand-built ACR sedans and it was an awesome car, especially for the $10,800 it cost me. Good performance, comfortable but firm seats and nothing that wasn’t necessary for racing except perhaps the one option, a rear window defroster. Not to mention the awesome Neon contingency program.

    Unfortunately after 3 years I was rear-ended on the freeway by an inattentive vanpool driver and while it was repaired it was never the same afterwards so I sold it. I wish some car company today would build a simple and cheap race car. Perhaps the Abarth 500?

  • avatar

    I owned a 1997 Cirrus with the 2.5 liter 6. For its day it had a nice (leather) interior, handled great, and had plenty of passing power. Never once had a problem with it.

    I had it for three years and would have kept it longer if I hadn’t totaled it by t-boning an F-150… but I walked away without a scratch.

  • avatar
    50merc

    So what’s with the epidemic of head gasket failures? Is it due to Purchasing’s parsimony or Engineering’s incompetence? Can’t blame it on the UAW.

    And evidently, Management just doesn’t give a damn what goes out the door.

  • avatar
    svenmeier

    Design is completely subjective but I can’t understand how anyone can find this car even remotely “beautiful”.

    It’s the typical bland and uninspired design that most American cars of that period had to my eyes.

    • 0 avatar
      SKUSA_boy

      You must have not seen it in race trim.

      http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/1/3366/1081/8413040189_large.jpg

      http://www.velocityjournal.com/images/full/1998/s9806151/98dtgp15.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        svenmeier

        @ SKUSA_boy

        I’ve never seen a Cirrus in person. I live in Switzerland and to my knowledge the Cirrus wasn’t sold in Europe. We got the Chrysler Sebring but it didn’t look anything like the Cirrus.

        It’s still a bland car, even in racing trim. No offense.

        At one point the Chrysler Saratoga was sold here but after poor sales it was pulled from the market.


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