1996 Eagle Vision TSi
Back when I was in high school, I remember noticing just how badly space was wasted in cars. Small cars could seat five passengers, and a large car could likewise seat five; the big differences in exterior size dwarfed the small differences in interior space. A few years later, I read about Chrysler's push towards "cab forward" design, pushing the cabin forward in the chassis for better space utilization. Other car manufacturers had toyed with the idea, but apparently Chrysler was planning to dive right in and redo their whole car line based on the concept.
I was excited, because it made sense--better stability and handling, sleeker lines, and best of all, maximum room for people and minimum space dedicated for the machine. I foresaw the Colt becoming a sleek little speedster-ish coupe. I imagined beautiful cars revitalizing the whole Mopar line. I was mostly a Ford fan at the time, but I liked the idea of the underdog Chrysler brands putting out some decent products for a change.
They fulfilled their promise, at least in my eyes, when they unveiled the Dodge Intrepid. I fell in love with that car at first sight. It looked like a sporty sedan should look like; it looked like the automotive version of an F-5 Freedom Fighter. Best of all, from what I can remember of reviews from the time, it didn't suck. That alone was a victory for Chrysler.
One semi-immutable rule of car manufacturing is that when you have a
decent car (and even when you don't), you re-badge it with minor
modifications to match your established brands. For the Intrepid, this
meant that a slightly higher-tech version was designed and sold as the
Eagle Vision. The Vision is just a little bit more of a sports sedan
than the Intrepid, a little more technologically advanced, and featured
a slightly different front fascia/hood design that just made it look
tougher and more menacing. I loved it.
My favorite Vision was the 1996 edition, with the 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Of course, back then I was far more ignorant about cars and performance than I am now (he said modestly), so during the time I was caught up in lust, all I could really tell you about the Vision is that I really, really liked its appearance, and it probably had some gee-whiz techno tweaks on it.
Now, however, having done the research, I have a much better grasp of its features.
- Automatic Stick: The ability to control gear shifts without a clutch is commonplace now, but at the time was only available on exotics. You'd think new technology like this would be fraught with malfunctions, but apparently Chrysler engineered it well enough to avoid a pratfall with the shifting.
- 214-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6: This engine pushed the Vision 0-60 in 8 seconds (fair) and returned 17/22 mpg (ugh! ...but par for the course in those days).
- Anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes: ABS was part and parcel for upscale cars at the time, and all sports sedan manufacturers know you need great brakes to get out of trouble.
- Gas shocks and stabilizers: These increased its stability and maneuverability.
- Anti-fog heating elements in side mirrors
- Keyless entry: This is nearly a standard feature now, but that wasn't the case a decade ago.
Interestingly, the TSi's 16-inch wheels were an upgrade over the
standard 15s; at the time those were considered a useful upgrade for
handling and comfort, but now those are either standard or slightly
small for a sports sedan. I've read some complaints about road noise
and, as should be expected, the more the car is tweaked toward firm
handling, the more you feel the bumps.
Still, the Eagle Vision was a credible mid-size family sports sedan. It wasn't exorbitantly expensive (about $23k new), and offered an enjoyable driving experience comparable to much more expensive mid-level European sports sedans. That wasn't what Americans expected from a U.S. car manufacturer, which is probably why the car failed to garner much interest from the buying public.
Given that, you probably won't be surprised to hear there aren't that many available these days. One online search yielded only 21 for sale in the whole United States, and that's all years and all trim levels. Prices ranged from $700 to more than $7,000, which seems a bit high, but I have no idea how these cars age mechanically. I would probably test drive one just for the fun of it, but there isn't a single one for sale within 600 miles of my location. I don't know if that's a result of self-destructing build quality or merely are result of the Vision's scarcity.
--Nathan of Brainfertilizer Fame