The Car Connection Plymouth Prowler Overview
The Plymouth Prowler is a small convertible—based on the 1993 concept car of the same name—that was sold at dealerships for three model years from 1997 through 2001, in limited numbers.
After an initial run of 457 cars, there was no 1998 model year for the Prowler; most of the vehicles produced were 1999, 2000, or 2001 model years. In all years combined, the automaker made around 11,700 Prowlers.
With its design and styling inspired by 1930s-era roadsters—the cars that had a part in 1950s 'hot rod' culture—the Prowler was arguably only a step more developed than a concept car. Its exposed front wheels and suspension, staggered track, and teardrop body shape, with huge rear wheels and over-the-top fenders, gave a serious nod to custom-built hot rods.
Power for the Prowler was provided by 3.5-liter V-6, making 253 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque (first-year 1997 cars had a 214-hp version). It was essentially the uplevel engine that powered Chrysler's LH sedans of the time (the Chrysler LHS and Dodge 300M), but longitudinally mounted and given a throaty, somewhat rattly exhaust note that served the purpose but was no substitute for a V-8. It was hooked up to a rather rough-shifting four-speed automatic transmission—but it did include a quick-responding manual mode.
Altogether, the Prowler felt like a kit car in the way it drove and responded—and especially in the level of noise and harshness in the driving experience. While the interior did include some power accessories, cruise control, and air conditioning, the soft tops were ill-fitting and excessive wind noise and rattles were the norm. Ride quality was abysmal, and there was almost no stow space, even back in the cargo area (a matching small trailer was optional).
To call the Prowler a sports car would be a stretch; it's more of a cruising car, really, as while it was relatively quick in the straight line (0-60 in under six seconds) its handling limits are poorly defined and unpredictable on anything but perfectly smooth tarmac. The Prowler has no stability control, traction control, or even anti-lock brakes, and its wide performance tires tended to hydroplane in the wet.
Like the Chevrolet SSR, the Prowler is the epitome of a halo car—a model that didn't have practicality in mind, but was positioned to get more people excited about the brand. Chrysler produced it alongside the Viper
Since Plymouth was shuttered while the Prowler was still being produced (some of the later cars wear a Chrysler badge), we can't say the Prowler succeeded in that mission; but the car itself remains a very interesting piece of automotive history.