- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2006

I am sure many of you remember the wide sculpted front end of the Imperials of the 1950s.

They had large, dazzling chrome bumpers, large headlights with tapered housings that seemed to float in midair. The Imperial of the day made a statement of elegance and style in American automotive design.

Although very different in design, the Imperial concept vehicle Chrysler is touring around the country continues to project elegance and style in a much more modern manner.

In fact, just as those 1950s models made the statement that whoever is riding in the cabin must be important so goes the new Imperial.

At least that was the feeling I got while test driving this graceful sedan.

The design is very different from the 1950s; this car has a large upright grille with horizontal bars accented on top by the large winged Chrysler emblem.

And, yes there they are, those free-floating headlamps though now they are projector type. Below sits a strip of LEDs that act as turn-signal indicators.

The massive hood tapers to the grille and sits just above the plane of the front fenders, giving the Imperial the look of luxury sedans fit for a king or queen. This is exactly the designers’ direction. Principal exterior designer Mike Nicholas said, “The Imperial exterior artfully blends a stately nobility, hand craftsmanship and modern dynamic sculpture and proportion.”

The rear design is in the “boat-tail” style with the trunk lid coming to a V. It, too, is dominated by the large winged Chrysler badge.

Dual exhaust pipes offer a suggestion of the power under that large hood.

The substantial front doors open in a normal configuration hinged at the front.

However, the rear doors are hinged at the rear edge and open in a suicide-door design. With this design, the opening into the interior is cavernous.

The interior is a mix of elegant luxury and vintage opulence.

The passenger is treated to a cabin of rich supple leather and soft suede with heavy splashes of California burl walnut.

It is as inviting as it is comfortable.

The large library chairlike seats are plush and comfortable, yet are supportive in all the right places.

Here the designers have also incorporated the floating element as the seats seem to float free of the floor.

The instrument panel is a collection of forms that suggest luxury.

Here also rest free-floating gauges in full form. These large round faces take the viewer back to another era.

Keeping with tradition, the Imperial is powered by a powerful Hemi engine.

While I was not able to test the full abilities of this show concept (after all this automobile is valued more than my house and every other one in my neighborhood), the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 is able to power the Imperial from 0 to 60 mph in an estimated 5.5 seconds.

That’s not so bad when you look at the luxury inside. And with the innovations Chrysler engineers are making in their engines, think Multi-displacement Systems, where mileage can be greatly enhanced, a large luxury car may just be making a comeback.

It was quite a treat to be able to slide behind the wheel of a vehicle that normally would be kept on a turntable at the auto shows behind velvet ropes.

It shows a great deal of the confidence Chrysler has in its one-of-a-kind concept vehicles. And says volumes on where it is headed with future automobiles.

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