Chrysler's 'voice' is fun -- until it starts nagging.
At first ride, it's just plain fun.
The synthesized male voice tells you: ''Your parking brake is on.'' Fine. You release it. The reminder to buckle up the safety belt makes sense. Too, you can't stop the car, pull out the ignition key, and slam the door with the headlights left on.
The electronic voice alert (EVA) system won't let you.
But EVA simply blabs too much, and now the Chrysler engineers have taken action to muzzle it. By activating a screw-type adjustment in a module under the dash, a motorist can put a gag on EVA. However, Chrysler recommends that the motorist go to a dealer for the adjustment.
Thus adjusted, a tone signal alone urges the motorist to buckle up the belts or alerts him the headlamps are still on when he untwists the ignition key.
Without the adjustment, the system, developed in less than a year by Chrysler's electronics people in Huntsville, Ala., just doesn't know when to shut up. And when it speaks, it overrides the radio and you may miss the weather forecast or that crucial weekend sports score on the 7 a.m. newscast.
With or without EVA, the new full-size Chrysler E-class cars, which cost Chrysler a bundle ($200 million) to design and develop, are a long step in the right direction. Too, the '83-model Chrysler cars, including the E-Class Chrysler and Dodge 600, underline the corporation's drive once again to assert its historic reputation for solid engineering and attention to detail.
Chrysler sees the E-Class as tomorrow's standard in family-size cars.
The E-series sedan seems to grow on you. In other words, the longer you drive it, the better you like it. The early perception may be that, fitted with the standard 2.2-liter Chrysler-built engine, the car lacks sufficient ''vrooom'' when you need power - folding into an Interstate traffic stream from an on-ramp, for example. Yet a second driver may be more than satisfied. A 2.6-liter Mitsubishi ''4'' is an option, however, and in midyear a fuel-injected 2.2-liter power plant will also become optional.
The car is quiet inside because of the noise-muffling acoustical package, a standard.
Based on the K-car platform, the E-class Chrysler and Dodge 600 are another indication of the super mileage which the corporation is getting from its versatile K-type base platform, including a sports car and mini-van that are coming up.
The front-drive ''stretched'' E-cars are aimed, not only at the imports, but at such cars as the Buick Century and the Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. With the dealer discount at 18 percent, the manufacturer is trying to give its dealers a little more room to jockey on price.
Base price of the 4-door E-class Chrysler sedan is $9,341.
''The E-series cars represent a major breakthrough in automotive engineering and design,'' asserts John B. Naughton, head of sales and marketing for Chrysler. ''They're going to change America's thinking about 4-cylinder engines and front-wheel drive.'' That's the corporation's hope as it looks for an upturn in vehicle demand in 1983.
Chrysler also offers the only domestically built 5-speed transmission for its front-drive cars.
Wheelbase of the E-Class sedan is 103 inches, width 68.3 inches, and length 185.6 inches.
The car with the base 2.2-liter engine is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency at 23 miles per gallon for the automatic and 24 for the optional manual. Highway mileage, according to Chrysler, is 32 and 38, respectively. Will the average motorist get that kind of mileage? Some may, but others may not.
Does the E-type Chrysler give a good ride? Indeed it does. The big-car ride, plentiful space, and overall handling qualities combine to make the Chrysler ''E'' a commendable up-market version of the ''K.''
Even so, the inside of the E-Class Chrysler, at least the car that I drove, did not project the full degree of ambiance that the company is after.
For one thing, Chrysler has used a low-ball dashboard (the speedometer-odometer cluster didn't include a trip meter - a goof, in this writer's judgment). Also, the wood-simulated plastic trim looks - well, plastic. And the woolly fabric on the door panels and interior side walls of the car detracts from the upscale feeling that the car should project.
In total, however, the E-Class Chrysler, and its Dodge version, the 600 and more-sporty 600-ES, are good examples of full-size cars in modern dress. They provide ample room for six adults, assuming the riders are not outsize. The E-class Chrysler suspension was a little too soft, but not the Dodge.
A boon to the motorist is the 5-year, 50,000-mile warranty on its engines, transmissions, and transaxles.
As for the talkative EVA, assuming you do nothing to quiet it, ''the voice'' still has the last word as you react to its message.
It verbally pats you on the back with a ''thank you'' when you do what it tells you to do. And if you follow the book when you sit down at the wheel, including buckling up the belts and releasing the parking brake before inserting the ignition key and engaging the starter, EVA still has something to say. ''All monitored systems are functioning,'' it blurts out as you pull away from the curb.
The Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Sapporo, products of Chrysler's Japanese affiliate, Mitsubishi, also have a special ''voice'' package as part of their Technica option, but the system limits its prodding to six messages, not 11, and is much less polite. It doesn't, for instance, say ''thank you.''
In responding to EVA, maybe some drivers would say ''thank you,'' but ''no, thanks.''