Buy/Drive/Burn: Upmarket Brand American Midsize Sedans in 1997

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
buy drive burn upmarket brand american midsize sedans in 1997

We’re back with more 1997 midsize sedan action in today’s edition of Buy/Drive/Burn. They’re all on the smaller end of the midsize sedan scale, all American, and crucially, all wearing semi-upmarket branding.

Chrysler Cirrus

For 1997, the Chrysler Cirrus is in its third model year, a part of the Cloud Cars that finally put an end to the K-based nonsense that went on at Chrysler for forever. The Cirrus employs either a 2.4-liter inline-four or 2.5-liter V6 (161 HP), the latter a Mitsubishi engine shared with the Galant. Available in LX and LXi trim, the V6 is an option at both trim levels. Regardless of trim, all Cirrus’ are fitted with a four-speed automatic straight from the 1989 Dodge Spirit. An LXi with leather and V6 asks about $21,700.

Mercury Mystique

Mystique is in year three of its run for 1997, a “world car” Mondeo rebadge project Ford might end up regretting in the future – we’ll see. In 1997 there are three Mystique trim levels: base, GS, and LS. Two engines are on offer, a 2.0-liter inline-four from the Zetec engine family, and a 2.5-liter Duratec V6 (170 HP). Mystique is available with a five-speed manual, but the vast majority of customers choose our pick, a four-speed automatic. Air conditioning is an optional extra on the LS, and is included in an equipment package with the 2.5 V6. The V6 Mystique stays cool inside for $19,070.

Oldsmobile Cutlass

A Malibu by any other name, the upmarket Cutlass is new for 1997 as a replacement for the ancient A-body Cutlass Ciera. Oldsmobile buyers receive the warhorse 3.1-liter V6 as standard (155 HP). All Malibus and Cutlasses use a four-speed auto from the Cavalier. Two trims satisfy the Cutlass customer, GL and GLS. Today’s GLS has all the equipment from the GL as standard and includes an optional sunroof. Yours at $19,225, and it may just be the last time you can buy a car from Oldsmobile that wears a Cutlass badge.

Three alternatively, upmarket branded sedans in 1997, all V6-equipped and around $20,000. Which gets your money?

[Images: Chrysler, Ford, GM]

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  • Texan01 Texan01 on Aug 02, 2021

    Ugh.... I guess Buy the Olds, burn the Chrysler, and drive the Mistake. I had the last of the line 2000 Contour and it was a cheap nasty affair, and the Mistique was no better. crumbly plastic, coarse NVH from the chassis, but it was a fantastic handler, and the 125hp Zetec 4 was decently peppy even with the spectacularly dimwitted and flaccid 4 speed automatic. It was just a 4 door 2 seater with me and pretty much anyone else riding in it, I'm 6'2" and there was just no room for legs in the back seat behind me. I preferred the updated design over the older Ovoid design that Ford was going for in the mid 90s. The GM N-body is cockroach quality if you do the bare minimum to maintain it. the Chryslers didn't hang around long enough to look completely tired by the time they were finally parked.

  • Deorew Deorew on Aug 02, 2021

    Buy and Drive: Mystique, hands down. I had a '95 Mystique, 6 cyl, 5 speed manual for 17 years. It went 368,000 miles, original engine and transmission, except for 1 clutch replacement. Nothing more than normal maintenance. Fantastic car from top to bottom. This was leather, sunroof edition, before all the de-contenting. Now I have a '13 Focus ST, 224,000 miles.

  • Wjtinfwb How does the ICE mid-engine C8 platform work for... anything else? A sedan? SUV? With a mid engine configuration? A mid-engine SUV will have to be Suburban sized to offer the utility of a CRV. GM should dust off the Omega platform designed for the Cadillac CT6 for an SUV/Sedan offering with exceptional handling, Rear or AWD capability and acceptable space utilization. They also need to focus on interior fit & finish, trim choices and high quality final engineering and assembly. What GM doesn't need is another half-baked product with a storied and prestigious badge on the decklid and a premium price on the Monroney. No more Cimarron's, Allante's or X-cars needed to tarnish the reputation of Corvette.
  • InCogKneeToe BUILD It and they will come.By Build It, I mean a Vehicle that the Customer Wants and it works for them. It could be called Chevette for all that that matters. The Mach E's success isn't because it totes the Mustang on it.Just build what people want, the next Caravan/Taurus/Beetle/Maverick (truck).
  • YellowDuck Wait...how do you make a mid-engine crossover? Or even a 4-door coupe? Me not get.
  • 28-Cars-Later Thanks Corey. The head stud job on NOrthSTAR-T was $3K *years ago* as it involves an engine pull so rear wheel arch rust in and of itself isn't a show stopper. I'll be sure to check out the trunk as it may start to add up on deferred maintenance. Supposedly this was garaged so the underneath the rockers etc. should be decent but if those are shot its not gonna work.
  • Mark 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, G4NG engine with connecting rod bearing issues. Engine needs to be replaced, but Hyundai is denying warranty claim. I have all maintenance records from mile zero. It has been in Hyundai Service department 5 time in 4 months. They added the knock sensor and software update to let you know the engine is about to blow up. They kicked the can down the road doing patch work until the car was past the 120k extended extended warranty. I have that documentation too. So how can I join the class action law suit or find a Lawyer that handles these types of issues?
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