The Plymouth Sundance was a compact three or five-door hatchback available from 1987 to 1994 model years.
Design and Introduction
When Chrysler and Plymouth decided to end the Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni production, the Plymouth Sundance was introduced to take its place. The Sundance was also sold under the Dodge brand as the Dodge Shadow, and in the European marker it was sold as the Chrysler ES for a short stint from 1988 to 1991. It was built on the P-body, a shortened variant of the widely-used K-car platform. During the initial stages of design for the Sundance, it was going to retain the economy-focused aspects of the outgoing Horizon. But Chrysler saw that the segment was rife with competition, and instead, it chose to take the Sundance to a slightly more upscale market featuring more substantial equipment in most trim levels. The overall exterior design used many sharp corners and flat body panels. It had rectangular headlights surrounding a grille with four large openings, rather than the egg-crate design seen on many other vehicles of the time. As expected from a hatchback, the C-pillar was rather thick, but unlike many hatchbacks, it appeared to have a trunk space despite being a hatchback. Chrysler marketed this as a hidden hatchback versatility that gave it a bigger storage capacity compared to similarly-sized vehicles. This was the case on both body styles, the three-door and five-door.
Engine and Performance
At its introduction, the Plymouth Sundance featured two 2.2L inline-4 engine options. One was a naturally-aspirated version with up to 97 horsepower and 122 lb-ft of torque, but a turbocharged variant was also available, pushing output to a more respectable 146 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. In 1988, a larger naturally-aspirated 2.5L inline-4 was introduced, with 100 horsepower and 135 lb-ft of torque. This 2.5L engine was then turbocharged in 1989, pushing power up to 150 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque, a significant jump. In 1990, the 2.2L turbo engine received an overhaul that resulted in 175 horsepower and 205 lb-ft of torque. And the largest engine came in 1992, as the 3.0L V6 made it to the Sundance with 141 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque, still lagging behind the updated 2.2L turbo. A 5-speed manual transmission was available on every engine in the lineup, but most inline-4s could also be equipped with a 3-speed automatic while the V6 could have a 4-speed automatic. The available features and options for the Plymouth Sundance included things like the usual power windows, mirrors, and locks, plus some more advanced items including power driver's seat, cruise control, and compass and temperature display. Many interior lights could be fitted, such as overhead map lights, glove compartment, trunk, and under-hood lights. Premium features included fog lights, an Infinity stereo system, sunroof, interior message center with fluid level displays, and four wheel disc brakes with anti-lock brake technology. The turbocharged variants could have a boost gauge on the inside, allowing the driver to see the turbo production in real time.
Plymouth Sundance Variants and Sales
Carroll Shelby, the famous automotive entrepreneur, modified several of the Dodge Shadow variants into what he called the Shelby CSX. These used the 2.2L turbocharged engine and featured a wide array of exterior modifications like a new front end, side skirts, and more. Thanks to its lightweight construction and powerful engine, it was able to keep up with many more performance-focused vehicles of the era, despite its somewhat limited 174-horsepower output. The Plymouth Sundance sold very well throughout its production run. Although it only was produced in one generation of design, many years sold over 70,000 units, with 1988 peaking out at an impressive nearly 88,500 units. Over its entire life, it sold over 500,000 units under the Plymouth label, including over 290,000 of the five-door and over 216,000 for the three-door. In 1994, the Sundance was discontinued so the Plymouth Neon could be introduced, bringing in a more modern look.