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by Steve Siler

Dodge Intrepid
2003 Dodge Intrepid

The full-sized Dodge Intrepid wasn't named after the aircraft carrier, but it could have been. Measuring just under 17 feet from stem to stern, the Intrepid is by far the longest car here. But size has its privileges, as it also offers the most interior space of all and nearly the most trunk space, too.

But as big as it is on paper, it doesn't look unwieldy (it doesn't drive so badly, either -- more on that later). The cab-forward design brings the windshield forward and allows for a long, elegant greenhouse that really diminishes the appearance of length. Nice packaging, Dodge.

It's well done inside, too, with an ergonomically correct dashboard and seating for up to six when equipped with the three-across front bench (the bench seat is only available on the base SE model, in place of its standard bucket seats). The $21K SE also features a/c and power accessories and a 200-hp V-6 (20/28 mpg). The $23K ES adds niceties such as a CD player, cruise control and keyless entry and a 234-hp V-6 (18/26 mpg). The ride is soft on each of these cars, making them nice highway cruisers. For a more spirited drive, however, the Intrepid R/T features 17-inch wheels mounted to a suspension that lets the Intrepid's considerable mass move around significantly less. A 244-hp V-6 propels the R/T, making it far and away the enthusiasts choice among Intrepids, and the most expensive too, at a bit over $27K. Fuel economy for the R/T is identical to the ES, despite the increase in power.