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Driving Impressions

2000 Plymouth Prowler
David Cipolloni & Charles Leonard
June 11, 2000

 

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The stunning Prowler stopped Little League ball players in their tracks.  Click on any image to see enlargement.

Introduction
You are not going to slip in and out of town in this puppy!  If your picture is already up in the post office don't even get near this car. This car is all about smiles, both for the occupants and the observers. As we passed a little league ball park one evening it appeared as though one young lad was thrown out at first base when his attention was diverted to the bright yellow Prowler. "Sorry Coach" 

Before anyone writes telling us they didn't build yellow Prowlers in 2000 rest assured they built this one, the window sticker doesn't lie. The more we look at this car the more we keep comparing it to a street rod which is what the vehicle is supposed to emulate and of course does quite a good job of doing so. 



Every aspect of the Prowler is distinctive

Some think poorly of the V6 powerplant in such a car, because normally you would expect a V8 with trick induction system and lots of chrome, but the 6 cylinders do get the job done. Will you be disappointed when you throw all the boilers on line? If your looking for smoky burnouts maybe but other than that the Prowler will give you the experience your looking for with the exhaust note that is music to the ears.  If your thinking of building a street rod and expect a first rate job is going to run you between 40 and 50 grand then leave your snap-on's in the tool box, we have a car for you. You'll be hard pressed to duplicate what Chrysler did with the Prowler for that kind of money. You get all the trick pieces here like a welded aluminum frame, Koni coil overs, cycle fenders and rear mounted transaxle. What you don't get is a ride comparable to a modern production sports car. If your expecting body rigidity similar to open roadsters of late then think again. This alone, however, should not deter someone from buying a Prowler because the car is compliant enough to satisfy most drivers and better than most replica or home built street rods. 


Chrome wheels are now standard

Our yellow Prowler has an MSRP of $43,725 including destination charges. This amounts to an approximate $1,000 increase over 99 prices since the chrome wheels and optional colors are now standard issue. The car also offers a few more standard features for 2000 which make the car more satisfying to own, but we will get to that a little later. After having built 2 Cobra replicas and getting a first hand account of what every nut and bolt adds up to the price on the Prowler doesn't seem unfair. 

Interior
The interior has it's up's and down's but for the most part is good for a car of this type. The doors only open approximately 45degrees so your not going to jump right over those big rockers and into the seat. Likewise the exit leaves a little to be desired but hey, who cares. When you have a car like this you expect it to fit like your favorite pair of driving gloves. Once inside your tucked well below the beltline and have to peer through the small windshield and also the small rear and side windows if the top is up. This car is so cool, or as they say now "phat", that you just can't believe it ever got the green light for production. 


Big rocker panels make Ingress and egress is a bit tricky (L).  AutoMeter Tachometer (R)

Sometimes we wish those guy's at Chrysler would share whatever they are smoking with some of the folks at GM. Just look at the AutoMeter Tach strapped to the top of the steering column. Did Chrysler keep these guy's in deep freeze since the 60's so they could thaw them out and have them design this car? The body color carries over to the instrument cluster bezel where the center speedo is flanked by the usual fuel, temp, oil pressure and amp gauges. The steering wheel adds a nice touch with buttons on the rear of the two horizontal spokes that will control radio volume and channel selection. We found them easy to use and convenient when cruising. 


Interior of Prowler is also eye-catching

The inside rear view mirror now contains a trip computer and is self dimming. The gauges are backlit and provide good visibility both day and night. The autostick has a handsome chrome bezel but some felt it was out of place because there are no other chrome trim pieces in the interior. The autostick is standard Chrysler fare but since there is no manual trans it's the next best thing. The stereo is a standard Chrysler unit with the CD changer mounted behind the passenger seat and an automatic volume control switch added in for good measure. By moving this switch into one of it's three positions you will understand where the word "cheesy" comes from. 


The leather trimmed seats are comfortable

The leather trimmed seats are comfortable and offer good support while keeping you firmly planted on your buttocks in just about every maneuver you might dish out.  Other parts around the interior like air ducts and switches are extracted from the minivan bin but don't look out of place. All but the tallest passengers could stretch their legs out in the right side footwell.  Pushing a small button behind and to the left of the drivers seat will release the rear deck lid. When the vehicle is locked the switch is deactivated so would be thieves can't open the lid even if they should chew through the top (unless of course they know where the emergency release is located). 


253 bhp Prowler 3.5 liter V6

Engine and Gearbox
Power comes from a 3.5 liter V6 incorporating an aluminum block,  heads and a forged steel crank. The 60degree mill pumps out 253 bhp and 255 lb. ft. of torque. While these are not killer numbers the car can still achieve 60mph in 6 seconds. This in part due to the relatively light curb weight of 2,840lbs. The performance of this car is just about where you would want it relative to it's handling capabilities. Stuffing too much power under the tapered hood would possibly invite trouble. The top speed is limited electronically to 130mph and for good reason. Once you
get up around  triple digits, vibrations start to overcome the passenger compartment causing the instrument panel to shake and appear blurred. Earlier models did exhibit more cowl shake than the current car and overall build quality appears better so the car has improved.  Don't be mistaken though because the car does cruise nicely at most speeds and can be fun to drive with short bursts of speed. It only becomes unruly when pushed to it's limits. The engine is smooth and tame as you would expect because it also does service in Chryslers 300M and LHS models. This car is a cruiser and if you plan to run down that Porsche Boxster S on some winding county road you better think again. The car is fun to drive if you keep things in perspective. 

 
Tight engine compartment (R).  Sophisticated front suspension assembly (R)

Driving Impression
Top down, Ice Tech Sufer Shades blocking the rays and the Buena Vista Social Club CD playing 
while doing a slow cruise down main street in New Hope Pa.  Watching the sidewalk crowd croon all over the car is half the fun and that's what this car does best. The Prowler is all about show and glitz as the huge 20" chrome rear wheels spinning in the bright sunlight dazzle the onlookers. The crowd really enjoys this car because they don't sense the jarring ride and quirky handling as we cruise past. The Prowler really doesn't like bumpy roads but there is enough isolation that you won't become frustrated and eager to get out of the car. The exhaust system on the car is tuned to make exotic sounds especially under full acceleration, further mystifying the eager onlookers. Once again this provides the extrinsic motivation this car is so good at stimulating. The sound level can leave you heading for the pain killers after a few hours of cruising so you may want to take them before you head out. With sound levels just under 60dBA at idle and up around 80dBA at a 70mph cruise you can understand the Prowler is not luxury car quiet.

Just as the car tapers toward the nose so do the footwells. If your thinking dead pedal here guess again because your feet get the squeeze in the small area around the pedals. This once again is not a problem unless you plan on taking a long trip in the car. 


Suspension has many machined aluminum parts that in itself, is a sight to behold.

Because the Prowler uses those big P295/40R20's in the back and P225/45R17's in the front and a rear track approaching that of a Hummer you can guess the handling to be a bit unusual. Understeer, Oversteer, you'll get a little bit of everything but Chrysler actually did a good job because the driving experience is better than what you would imagine considering the dimensions of the car. Compared to the replica and kit cars we have built the Prowler is much more refined in just about every aspect. 

The fabric convertible top folds easily and is stored in the compartment behind the seats. The top does incorporate a glass rear window with defogger element. Unlike our Audi the Prowler uses a latch at each front corner to clamp the top down to the windshield frame. One of our testers left a little knuckle skin on one of the latches so he wasn't overly impressed with the primitive mechanism. Once the top is raised the small side and rear windows further limit the view to the rear. You will need to rely on your mirrors a little more when driving with the top up. 

The center console has provisions to hold your cassette tapes but will not accept those CD's. On each side of the console there are elastic nets that do a good job of holding the CD's but leave them visible to would-be thieves. There is always the small glove compartment that drops down and hits the passenger in the legs. The controls are of good quality and typical of Chrysler products of late. They are easy to use except for the re-circulate control which will require snaking your arm around the shift lever to make an adjustment.

Overall we rate the driving experience fair to good and the curb appeal excellent. This car is not for shy folks that want to avoid people and conversation. Hey, maybe we can rent it out to one of those dating services. This car and a cute puppy should land you a date in a hurry.

If you are thinking about a trip to the local dealer in anticipation of road testing one of these beauties you many be disappointed. Rumor has it the manufacturer would like these cars delivered to the buyers with zero miles. Because the Prowlers have the potential of instant collector car status there may be folks that buy them as investments. We hope people will drive these cars since they will be missing out on all the fun if they keep the cars in cold storage. 

 


It looks good in the sun or the shade (L).  Front suspension A-arms (R)


Stuff We Liked:

  • Good low speed response from the engine.

  • Super Fly Prowler Yellow paint (only 250 planned for 2000)

  • Transmission provides quick shifts

  • Full length aluminum frame

  • In a class by itself 

  • Autostick shifter

  • Good Stereo with standard CD

  • Trip Computer integrated into rear view mirror

  • Radio controls mounted on steering wheel

  • Standard ABS 

  • Rear Transaxle setup

  • Computer won't automatically upshift the autostick (fuel shutoff at 6,500 rpm's)

  • Car held true to the original concept.

  • Instant movie star status

  • It's like driving the Harley Davidson of sports cars

Stuff We Didn't Like:

  • No spare tire

  • No trunk to speak of

  • Too much cowl shake

  • Doors don't open far enough

  • Too much engine heat transferred to passenger compartment

  • Ride on rough roads could be better

  Technical Specs  
 


Vehicle emission control information (L).  Sleek mirrors (R)



 

ENGINE
Type..........V-6, aluminum block and heads
Bore x stroke..........3.78 x 3.19 in, 96.0 x 81.0 mm
Displacement..........215 cu in, 3518cc
Compression ratio..........10.0:1
Engine-control system..........Chrysler SBEC III with port fuel injection
Emissions controls..........3-way catalytic converter, feedback air-fuel-ratio control
Valve gear..........belt-driven single overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters
Power (SAE net)..........253 bhp @ 6400 rpm
Torque (SAE net)..........255 lb-ft @ 3950 rpm
Redline..........6500 rpm


DRIVETRAIN
Transmission..........4-speed automatic with lockup torque converter
Final-drive ratio..........3.89:1
I..........2.842:1
II..........1.573:1
III..........1.00:1
IV..........0.689:1 Overdrive


DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Wheelbase..........113.3 in
Track, F/R..........62.2/63.5 in
Length..........165.3 in
Width..........76.5 in
Height..........50.9 in
Ground clearance..........4.5 in
Curb weight..........2840 lb
Weight distribution, F/R..........45.1/54.9
Fuel capacity..........12.0 gal


CHASSIS/BODY
Type..........unit body bonded and riveted to an aluminum full-length frame
Body material..........aluminum stampings and fiberglass-reinforced plastic


INTERIOR
SAE volume, front seat..........48 cu ft
luggage space..........2 cu ft
Front seats..........leather buckets
Seat adjustments..........fore and aft, seatback angle, front height, rear height
Restraint systems, front..........manual 3-point belts, driver and passenger airbags


SUSPENSION
F:..........ind, unequal-length control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar
R:..........ind, unequal-length control arms with a toe-control link, coil springs, anti-roll bar


STEERING
Type..........rack-and-pinion, power-assisted
Turns lock-to-lock..........3.2
Turning circle curb-to-curb..........38.5 ft


BRAKES
F:..........11.3 x 1.0-in vented disc
R:..........13.3 x 0.8-in vented disc
Power assist..........vacuum


WHEELS AND TIRES
Wheel size..........F: 7.5 x 17 in, R: 10.0 x 20 in
Wheel type..........cast aluminum
Tires..........Goodyear Eagle GS-D; F: P225/45R-17,  R: P295/40R-20

ACCELERATION (Seconds)
Zero to 30 mph..........1.8
40 mph..........2.9
50 mph..........4.2
60 mph..........6.0
70 mph..........8.3
80 mph..........10.9
90 mph..........14.7
100 mph..........20.2
Standing 1/4-mile..........14.7 sec @ 90 mph
Top speed (governor limited)..........130 mph

FUEL ECONOMY
EPA city driving..........17 mpg
EPA highway driving..........23 mpg

 

 
In low-lighting the yellow changes hue (L).  Side view (R)

Note: All Photos copyright AutoRacing1.com and Dave Cipolloni

Comments can be sent to the author at contacts@autoracing1.com.

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