In late 2002 Chrysler initiated a whole series of major cost cuts on all components. Plastic used for the dash, for example, was thinner and lesser quality. All plastics in the vehicle were affected, not just the dash. After '02, the dash will sometimes crack, near the center, for no reason other than it i cheap. Basically, the cost cuts sucked the majority of the materials quality right out of the car. Lights in the glove box deleted, quality of the wiring and connectors throughout the car were degraded, etc. Even the quality of the paint was reduced.
Now, from the initial creation of the intrepid through 2002, I personally rated Chrysler's quality right up there with any foreign car. There are several things that go towards quality in a car: the design, the materials, and the manufacture of the car. Not a good design? Then materials and build can never make it a good car. Bad materials? Your well-designed car will not last long and/or have a bunch of issues, especially as it ages. Poorly made? Good design and materials can';t compensate for something thrown together without care.
Chrysler had a great design for the car, one of the best ever in my opinion. The cars were assembled by Canadians, who can turn Yugos into Mercedes, so it wasn't build quality that was affected. It was materials quality that took the big hit as Chrysler fought their way to sub-mediocrity, and their materials have been poor ever since late 2002.
I had two pre-'02 Intrepids, a '99 and '01. Both had the 2.7 engine. I put 230K miles on both of those cars and I never had a problem with either one of them. Not one single problem from those cars. I bought my '04, and within one month seval switches broke off. The rear defroster stoppe working. The cruise control switches went flaky. The list goes on and on. I have fixed all of these things myself, but it's a good thing I have otherwise I would have gone broke.
I have had six cam position sensors in this car. The first five were all Chrysler OEM parts. The current one is a Borg-Warner aftermarket item. The difference in the qualityand performance of the two sensors is night and day, the BW sensor is way superior to the Chrysler items.
That is why it's good to have a pre-'02 LH-platform car.
This might seem dumb, but what makes the 2002 3.5 ho the "best year"?