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A New Eagle Gets The Eagle Eye

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You know right off that this ain't Dad's old Chrysler land yacht. Gone are the boxy styling and rococo chrome, the clunky controls and tufted seat covers. And a half-hour of putting Chrysler's new Eagle Vision through its paces convinced me that its road manners are very classy indeed.

From the outside, the Vision and its sisters, the Chrysler Concorde and Dodge Intrepid, resemble the rest of today's ovoid four-doors: the same low snouts, swooping roof lines, and high, rounded rear ends. But inside, it's another world. Thanks to a "cab forward" design, which places the wheels as close to the bumpers as possible, these cars have scads of room. The front bucket seats, inspired by Mercedes-Benz, adjust in every direction. With the driver's seat clear back, there's leg room to spare--even for my 6-foot, 2-inch frame. Rear knee room rivals luxury cars'.

KIDDIE SEAT. With all that space, I still don't rattle around behind the wheel. Controls angle toward the driver, creating a cockpit-like feel--but I have to stretch down below the radio to reach the climate controls. Knobs, switches, and the pop-out cup-holder move smoothly.

The Vision's suspension is firm but supple enough for a quiet ride over potholes. I feel confident whizzing around corners at high speed. But the 155-horsepower V-6 may not satisfy the lead-footed. They may opt for a 215-horse engine.

The front-wheel-drive Vision boasts all the latest safety gadgets, too: Driver and front-passenger air bags are standard, and some versions have antilock brakes. There's even optional traction control, to keep the wheels from spinning on slick roads. Another nice touch: an optional built-in, fold-away child's seat in back.

The tentative verdict: Chrysler's got a winner. But it'll be months before we know if the Vision's quality matches all of its tough rivals already making their way from factory to showroom.David Woodruff in Detroit

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