Big changes are in the air at Chrysler and company these days as the rear-drive LX platform heads into the sunset. With a longevity of two decades – well beyond the reach of the majority of current platforms – it seems appropriate to praise the LX at this point. The end of the LX represents more than the end of Chrysler’s rear-wheel-drive internal combustion vehicle.
It’s also the end of two gas-powered Dodge muscle cars, the Charger and the Challenger (only the Charger is returning as an electric vehicle). The LX is also the basis for the last two remaining American full-size sedans: the Charger and the 300C. In 2023, all the latest LX-based vehicles will roll off the line, sporting their various showy gingerbread special editions. Before that time comes, we should consider all the cars that have gotten us to this point.
The LX immediately replaced Chrysler’s successful LH platform. When they debuted in 1993, the full-size Chrysler, Dodge and Eagle LH sedans featured innovative, forward-thinking styling. The new design direction maximized space efficiency and made Chrysler’s sedans look newer than anything anyone was offering at the time.
The LH has been compared to the theoretically excellent but utterly failed Eagle Premier, the large American sedan that was a redesigned version of the Renault 25. the platform was used on 9 different sedans. He managed to pull Chrysler out of the mud that was the long, painful, painful end of all things K-cars.
But by the end of the LH cars, they’d developed a reputation for less-than-precise build quality, lackluster longevity, and looked a bit long in the tooth. Also, some cars with the EER 2.7-liter V6 had major problems with oil sludge and timing chain tensioner failure. Those issues aside, the luxury-focused LH models (Concorde, LHS) sold to the type of aging customer who was at the end of their driving days in the early 2000s (Intrepid and 300M had younger appeal ). Time for a new direction.
All five LH-based nameplates were dropped, in favor of two new four-doors for 2005: Dodge Magnum and Chrysler 300. It had been a long time since Chrysler had produced a rear-drive sedan, and their last in 1989 was the awkwardly covered Chrysler Fifth Avenue. It was even longer since they had made a rear-wheel-drive wagon like the Magnum.
The goal was to bring new excitement and credibility to the Dodge and Chrysler portfolio, and it worked. Over the next two decades, LX has spawned five different platform variants and will see its 20th year of production in 2023. It’s been an incredibly long time for a modern car platform.
Before we dig into the rear-drive products that kept Chrysler and Dodge sales afloat for so many years, let’s talk about the LX-based concepts that didn’t make it. The first ideas canceled from the original LX platform were the Chrysler Airflite and Nassau.
One of the first appearances of the LX platform was in 2003. At that year’s Geneva Auto Show, Chrysler debuted an exciting concept called the Airflite. Airflite did not use the full wheelbase of the LX but was shortened slightly.
This edited platform has never, ever been given a new designation. Chrysler admitted the concept had a mixed mission and said it blended “…the passion for Chrysler design, the styling of a coupe, and the practicality and functionality of a sedan to create a unique interpretation of the five-door sedan. What?
Some dimensions of the Airflite were hidden deep on the internet, and notably included the Airflite’s 116-inch wheelbase. It was four inches shorter than the standard LX platform. Airflite was 190.4 inches long, 73.6 inches wide, and 57 inches tall overall. Crossfire-style wheels were 20-inch 235/45 front and 21-inch 255/45 rear. If built, all Airflites would have been rear-wheel drive.
In general, the shape of the Airflite was ahead of its time. The “four-door coupe” of the 2000s was still just an idea, with Mercedes’ CLS being the first in 2004. The Airflite shared many of its styling themes with the upcoming Chrysler Crossfire, which at that time had already been unveiled in its final form. .
Airflite was designed by a two-person team at Chrysler: Greg Howell designed the exterior, while the interior was designed by Simeon Kim. The pair drew inspiration from the shapes of yachts, contemporary furniture and, in theory, the Chrysler building in New York.
Airflite used the 3.5-liter EGG V6 from the contemporary 300M sedan, along with its five-speed automatic. The front end of the concept was a mix of what a next-gen 300M might have looked like, combined with the angularity of the Crossfire. Short front and rear overhangs emphasized its rear-drive roots, while its satin-finished A-pillar and other chrome details emphasized the “retro modern” style that was then popular at the turn of the century.
Notably, the Airflite had a pillarless hardtop form factor, with a steeply sloped roof that led to a truncated rear end. Most of the rear lifted on two gas struts, as a large hatch revealed a bifurcated cargo area with a wooden floor. The area was divided by a tunnel that ran the length of the interior and formed a spear shape that started at the dashboard level.
Inside, the Airflite had more retro-modern details which included lots of red leather and chrome accents. Four-person seating was available, although shorter passengers were required for the rear seats due to their lack of headroom.
The interior theme was meant to reflect nautical shapes and used floating designs for the seats, center console and armrests. (Such floating car interior designs never took off in the early 2000s, although floating center consoles were put into production by Volvo.) Overall, the Airflite was very close to what the one would expect from a four-door Crossfire.
At the time, journalists expected the Airflite to be a taste of the upcoming Chrysler 300C. While that speculation turned out to be wrong, some of the Airflite’s side profile design cues were (sort of) used years later in the 2007 Sebring sedan. There’s a Sebring here for reference, and it’s That’s all the consideration we have to give the Sebring right now.
For some reason the Airflite was not put into production. As obscure as it has become in the years since, the other LX concept is probably even lesser known. It was big, luxurious, powered by a V8 and had a shooting brake. Next time we’ll talk about Nassau.
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