MANY Detroit cars are designed by committee. But the 1988 Dodge Dynasty LE was created by computer survey.
The car's name is no accident. It was influenced by TV's Nielsen ratings.
Sick? Not really. Not slick, either.
Nobody's taking too many chances in marketing nowadays, and Chrysler's no different. If you wanna get a hit, you gotta find a niche. But first you gotta do a poll or a whole bunch of polls. That's what Chrysler did in preparing the way for the Dynasty, a six-passenger, front-wheel-drive sedan.
Chrysler's demographers found that, between now and the end of the century, most new-car buyers in the United States will be 35 to 54 years old. Lots of 'em will have annual household incomes of $50,000 or more.
Yeah, you're right. Affluent "baby boomers." Most of these boomer folk have children, which means they usually need big cars. Many also have big egos, which they tend to stroke with their wallets.
Chrysler's polling also turned up something else: Lotsa boomers are unimpressed with the automotive media's ranting over the sexiness and functional virtue of swoopy aerodynamic design. In fact, some boomers think the aero raves are downright adolescent. They prefer "classically styled," boxy cars.
Enter the Dynasty, a classic box if ever there was one. It's everything that Chrysler says successful, conservative Americans want: a well-crafted, practical, reasonably attractive, extremely comfortable, relatively safe, technically competent, competitively priced automobile.
Chrysler's rivals had better watch out for this one. The name's corny, but this Dynasty's definitely no soap opera.
Complaint: I was ready to hate this car -- the "Dynasty" tag comes nauseatingly close to pandering. But my prejudice disappeared over the road. This machine delivers everything it promises -- not bad in a world that runs on ceremonial truth.
Praise: The thought, care, quality and overall common sense invested in this car. Craftsmanship is superb, which is no trifle. "Technologically advanced" cars that shake and rattle when they roll leave me cold. This one's tight.
The technology is there, too. The test model comes with a new, computer-controlled, 3-liter, V-6 engine that runs so smoothly you can barely detect downshifting. Other computers control dashboard instrumentation and gauges and power door locks. The car also has an optional anti-lock braking system and electronically controlled suspension. T'ain't no slouch.
Head-turning-quotient: Authoritarian elegance.
Ride, acceleration, handling: Not a racer, nor a sports car. No matter. It's wonderful on the road, especially on long trips. The 3-liter V-6 is rated at 136 hp at 4,800 rpm. The standard 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine develops 96 hp at 4,400 rpm. Spend the extra bucks on the V-6.
Sound system: Whoa! AM/FM stereo radio and cassette, six speakers. Chrysler's Infinity I system. Fantastic!
Mileage: About 21 to the gallon (16-gallon tank, estimated 328-mile range on usable volume), driver only, heater in use fulltime, running mostly highway and back roads in the Arresting State of Maryland and the Great State of Virginia.
Price: $16,832, including $4,111 in options and $495 destination charge. Dealer's invoice price on Dynasty LE is $13,986.45, according to Automobile Invoice Service of San Jose.
Warren Brown covers the auto industry for The Washington Post.