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1978 Dodge Diplomat

Consumer Guide's Auto Test 1978

Dodge's Diplomat is a difficult car to classify. Its exterior size is on the borderline between the traditional mid-size and compact categories. The four-door sedan offers the interior room of an intermediate. The two-door coupe has the look of a "personal luxury" car that sets it up against such favorites as the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Pontiac Grand Prix, Ford Thunderbird, Mercury Cougar XR-7, Chrysler Cordoba and Dodge's own Charger/Magnum series.
    Everything we said about the Chrysler LeBaron applies equally to Diplomat, since the cars are identical except for grille, headlamp arrangement, taillamps and interior details. Based on the compact Aspen's four-door shell, Diplomat coupe, sedan and wagon body styles share a 112.7-inch wheelbase. Since the sedan and wagon are taller and longer than the coupe by a couple of inches, they offer superior headroom and more room in the rear seat. The rear seat in the coupe is cramped.
    CONSUMER GUIDE Magazine's test car was a Medallion series coupe with nearly as much interior luxury as anything we have driven. The front seats have thinner backs than before to increase rear legroom. They come in a variety of styles and trims, including leather. A reclining driver's seat is available.
    The instrument panel is well designed and handsome in appearance, but one detail annoys us: Chrysler's interior designers have chosen to mount the optional digital clock so that it takes up much of the space in the small glovebox.
    Diplomat's driving quality is somewhere between the excellent handling and feel of General Motor's new downsized intermediates and the overly soft feel of the big intermediate sedans from both Ford and Chrysler. Diplomat is no sports car, but its steering is light and precise. The car manages to get around corners without the feeling that it is about to fall over on its side. Chrysler still favors unibody construction and torsion-bar suspension, but the engineers have done an excellent job of insulating Diplomat from unwanted road noise and surface irregularities without making it too soft for stability and control in emergency maneuvers.
    Another strong point is the car's excellent braking system, which can bring it dowm from 60 mph in 150 feet with a minimum of rear wheel slide and little fade after three successive hard stops.
    The Diplomat's fuel economy is fair for a car in the mid-size class. The standard 225 cubinc-inch Six was rated by the Environmental Protection Agency at an average of 19 miles per gallon. The optional 318 V8 got an 18-mpg rating, and the 360 was rated at 17. Those figures are for Diplomats with automatic transmission. A four-speed manual transmission with overdrive is available for ultimate Diplomat economy when used with the Six. A slight increase in mileage is said to result from Chrysler's new lock-up torque converter. The system is supposed to reduce slippage in the automatic transmission.
    While Diplomat is equal in every respect to Chrysler's LeBaron, it has not been quite as popular because of Chrysler's more impressive name amung luxury-car shoppers. Apparently, buyers would rather have a small Chrysler than a mid-sized Dodge even though the two cars are basically the same and the Dodge costs less.
    Yet Diplomat has become Dodge's second best-seller car (after the compact Aspen), after just six months on the market. We believe it offers a lot of luxury in a reasonably sized package. The very plushy appointed Diplomat wagon, added to the lineup this fall, may help to broaden the line's appeal.

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