Buy/Drive/Burn: V6 Midsize American Sedans of 1997

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

We continue our 2007 and 1997 sedan series with its fourth installment. We’ve covered V6 Japanese sedans from two different decades, as well as American-branded entries from 2007. Today we step back to the midsize V6 sedan class of 1997. The Big Three beckon you with medium build quality, equipment, and value for money in a midsize sedan; a segment in which only GM deigns to participate in 2020. Let’s go.

Note: We’re counting these three as mid-size today, though the Intrepid leans into the full-size category. The Dodge Stratus is too small to play here.

Dodge Intrepid

1997 saw the first generation Dodge Intrepid wrap up its run, arguably as the most stylish car of this trio. It was replaced by a larger second generation the following year which seemed built even more poorly than the first-gen. Developed over its tenure, by 1996 Intrepid had standard ABS, and an Autostick shift-it-yourself feature for the four-speed automatic. Today’s car is well-equipped ES trim and features the larger 3.5-liter V6 good for 214 horsepower. You’ll pay around $22,910.

Ford Taurus

The third-gen Taurus was in its second model year in 1997, as its design went from aero three-box to ovoid, customers were less than thrilled, and Ford began to pay less and less attention to its mass-market family car. The model’s first two years saw a different trim lineup than the latter two, with G, GL, LX, and SHO as the initial group. Base models received a 3.0-liter Vulcan V6, but the LX stepped up to the 3.0 Duratec mill that made 200 horses (instead of 145). Today’s LX sends those horses through a four-speed AX4N automatic. Yours at $21,610.

Pontiac Grand Prix

The popular and cladded Grand Prix was newly in its sixth generation for the ’97 model year. Aggressive in styling and with Pontiac’s Wide-Trac stance, the Grand Prix was a go-to for many family sedan buyers at the time. Just two trims were available on Grand Prix, the base SE in sedan guise, or GT in coupe or sedan forms. The GT sedan (today’s pick) uses the Buick 3800 V6 good for 195 horsepower. Ask is about $20,319.

Three sedans around the $20,000 mark, which is worth the Buy in 1997?

[Images: Chrysler, Ford, GM]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Offbeat Oddity Offbeat Oddity on Jul 31, 2021

    This is really tough for me because 1997 was the year I first got into automobiles, and all of these cars left a good impression on me. Buy: Ford Taurus. I'm of a small minority that loved the 1996 redesign and preferred it to the original- it has my favorite styling inside and out of this group. Fords of this time that I experienced (Explorer, Contour, and Taurus) also had a tactile sense of quality that most GMs and some Dodges lacked, even if they mechanically were very spotty. This is peak Taurus to me, as I felt that the 2000 refresh made a unique car very generic, and they cheapened the heck out of it. Drive: Pontiac Grand Prix. I loved the styling of this generation, and I think it's likely the best engine/transmission combo of the group. My aunt owned a 2000 Grand Prix for 20 years and it held up well for about 15 of those years before she deferred maintenance on it. Burn: Dodge Intrepid. Just because there has to be a loser. My grandparents owned a white 1995 Dodge Intrepid they kept for 13 years and it looked/smelled like new even toward the end, but that's due in large part to the fact that they garaged it half the year for most of its ownership. As with the others, I like the styling, but it's too big for my taste.

  • MyerShift MyerShift on Aug 19, 2021

    Ooh! Great one! DRIVE the Intrepid! Class leading dynamics, ground-breaking styling inside and out that sets the course for the future. Huge cabin and trunk. AMC-team led design with proper LONGITUDINAL engine layout. (Did you know Chrysler considered making these available with AWD?!) Detroit traditional 3.3 OHV V6 with great durability and smoothness or the 3.5 SOHC 24V for snob appeal and more power. I love the first gen's dynamics and handling. The second gen LH cars were too soft and watered down with worse front foot well space. Easily the best looking of all three here by an eternity. P*ss poor 4-Speed UltraDrive automatics and wimpy, failure prone air condition systems. Chrysler, under Eaton, is reputed to have shunned the original design of the a/c compressor which would have been large enough and stout enough to handle the cavernous LH interior and expansive greenhouses and the sun they collected. BUY the Grand Prix. Stout if dull, floppy, unjoyous and cramped architecture versus interior space. I've never enjoyed piloting any W-Body car. Legendary and unbeatable 3800 V6 (thank you Buick!) with power, durability, and efficiency. Great HVAC system, as usual from GM. Incredible supercharged option with GTP. Old platform though that was a failed and unprofitable launch in the late 1980's, and milked along and never outstanding. Typical creaky, flimsy GM interior pieces. Outdated in that regard and feels just as old to boot. Cheesy styling and interiors. Dig the red backlighting of the gauges though. BURN BURN BURN the Taurus. Eats transmissions even worse than the big Dodge. Ugliest by a country mile inside and out. Chintzy, cheap, tacky interior styling and quality. Poor general reliability. Hated the ride quality of the one I've been in. Strays far from the revolutionary Taurus of 1986. Atrocious "Everything Oval" styling put into full effect by Ford. What the heck were they thinking? Who signed off on THAT?! Worst car here, period.

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