The cars we loved.
The ideal of the sports sedan has come a long way in America since the days of the first Chevy Lumina Eurosport and Dodge Lancer GTS. The arrival of the Ford Taurus SHO showed that a true sports sedan could come out of America that was more than just a blackout trim package.
As the big three scrambled to produce their own version of the American performance sedan, Chrysler decided that it would devote a whole subdivision towards the ideal of offering cars with a decidedly European (or Japanese) approach to performance. The Eagle brand was born with that goal in mind. The most important goal was luring would-be import buyers into Chrysler showrooms and seducing them (initially) with lightly disguised Mitsubishi or Renaults.
Things were a bit rough from the beginning as Eagle’s initial big sedan offering was a Renault built Premier. The Premier was more a proof of concept more than anything else, a kind of placeholder until Chrysler could get its stuff together. Eagle had the right ideal, but the Premier would not be the car to execute it. Chrysler was stuck with AMC’s baggage when it acquired it and Jeep.
Chrysler set off early at designing a successor with a series of concepts. It would be Chrysler’s ownership of Lamborghini that would seal the direction of this new full sized sedan. After Lamborghini rejected Chrysler’s sedan concept called the Portfiono, Chrysler would use it to guide the styling theme for the LH platform. Later it would be would be refined with the Eagle Optima and final Vision show cars.
The final result was a revolutionary series of cars that would change Chrysler’s fortunes as each of its divisions would get their own version of the LH large car platform. The cab forward design made any LH car look like it was moving while parked with motion implied by the sleek raked windshield. Eagle, in keeping with it’s European inspired image, styled the Vision to look like a four door counterpart to it’s popular Talon sports coupe, although the connection was too subtle to be called a four door Talon.
The Eagle brand got the Vision, arguably the second best looking version after Dodge’s Intrepid. Design-wise the Vision looked more like the Chrysler Concord, with more aggressive wheels and front end. In fact they shared the same tail light cluster. You’d be hard pressed to tell one year from the other because the Vision got very few changes on the outside with the exception of chrome wheels on later models.
As the least popular LH car (based on sales), the Vision had the most exclusivity if not the most distinct personality. Eagle even played on this by proclaiming in ads that the Vision was not for everyone. It came in two trims ESi and TSi. The ESi was the base car coming with a 3.3 liter V6 making 153 hp. A year after it’s introduction engine enhancements would push power up to 161 hp.
Most ESi cars came with 15 in wheels, which looked small on a full sized performance sedan. The TSi bumped up power to 214 thanks to its 3.5 liter 24 valve V6 engine. The SOHC unit’s power rating stayed consistent through out the Vision’s run and was good for a sub 9 second run to 60 mph. All Visions came with a four speed automatic and were front wheel drive. Other Eagle cars with the TSi trim were either turbo, all wheel drive or both.
The Vision was not just about good looks or even speed. It was an attempt to engineer a car from the beginning that could steer and stop with the best of them as well as cruise comfortably on the highway. The Vision made quite an impression on the writers of Motor Trend who named it the 1993 Car of the Year for those reasons. It was fast, comfortable and could be loaded with advanced safety features like anti lock breaks and driver and passenger airbags.
The Vision’s most distinctive feature (in its segment) was its cab forward design. Amoung its LH platform mates, it appeared lighter and more focused due to the lack of lower body cladding In TSi trim the 16 in aluminum wheels filled the wheel wells with a purposeful stance that was made all the more tasteful due to the lack of add ons like ground effects.
The Vision’s distinctiveness was not enough to save it or Eagle for that matter. A new Vision was teased on the auto show circuit with Talon like design cues, but it was nothing more than a styling exercise. It shared the Intrepid’s subtle ground effects and featured a new front end, similar to the Talon. It was a little too late for the Vision and Eagle.
When the LH cars reached their second generation, the Vision would not follow, but it’s spirit lived on in Chrysler’s 300, becoming the banner carrier of European style performance amoung Chrysler’s large sedans. Today the Chrysler leaves that function solely to the 400 which proudly carries that banner.