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Chrysler designed the 300M as an American sports sedan, a contemporary interpretation of its historic "letter cars" sold from 1955 to 1965. With firm suspension tuning, the 300M is designed to deliver the handling and performance benefits associated with European sedans. It isn't a BMW 5 Series, but its handling is exceptional for a full-size front-wheel-drive sedan and that makes the 300M a joy to drive.
Drivers who want to increase the sports appeal further should look at the new 300M Special. This special model comes with a lower, stiffer high-performance suspension, bold 18-inch wheels on massive P245/45ZR18 speed-rated tires, and other performance goodies.
For 2002, all 300Ms get a new tire pressure monitoring system, Electronic Brake Distribution, and the child seat LATCH system.
300M comes with a high-output 3.5-liter V6 and AutoStick transmission. Standard tires are P225/55SR17 all-season touring tires.
An optional performance handling package ($560) includes a high-performance suspension, steering, brakes, and P225/55VR17 all-season performance tires. Other options: power moonroof ($895), chrome wheels, premium 360-watt stereo system with four-disc in-dash change and 11 Infinity speakers in nine locations ($390).
300M Special comes with a specially tuned version of the high-output 3.5-liter V6 rated at 255 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 258 pounds-feet of torque at 3900 rpm, an increase of 5 horsepower and 7 pounds-feet of torque over the standard 300M V6. 300M Special also comes with high-performance 18-inch Michelin Pilot Sport tires, a special performance brake system, a stiffer suspension, firmer strut damping, taller rear jounce bumpers, and a firm-feel steering gear to enhance on-center response.
This is a full-size sports sedan. It feels stable at high speeds and the steering is direct and precise. The ride quality is smooth, yet the car feels connected to the road; it does not isolate the driver from what's going on. We felt confident driving briskly on a wet, winding road through Georgia's Chattahoochie National Forest in spite of vertical drops on the outsides of the turns.
A 3.5-liter high-output aluminum V6 delivers 253 horsepower and 255 foot-pounds of torque to the front wheels of the 300M. Designed to deliver strong torque like a V8, this V6 features 24 valves and single overhead cams. Mid-grade 89-octane gasoline delivers the best performance, but it will run fine on 87 octane. It meets Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) standards. The 300M comes standard with DaimlerChrysler's AutoStick transmission, which gives the driver a choice of conventional automatic operation or manual control.
Plenty of power is on tap for accelerating off the line, climbing mountain roads and passing other cars. The engine is smooth and quiet, but growls when provoked. A broad torque curve means it's ready to provide instant throttle response at any speed. Chrysler's AutoStick is entertaining on the daily commute and gives the driver better control on winding roads. Usually, though, we found normal automatic operation the best way to go. It's an efficient transmission that selects the appropriate gears and does not hunt excessively.
The standard suspension works extremely well with quick, responsive steering response. Overall, the 300M feels like a refined luxury sports touring sedan. Noise and vibration are not at Lexus levels, however. A small amount of wind noise can be heard and a bit of road vibration comes through.
The optional handling package includes firmer strut damping, taller rear jounce bumpers, a firmer feeling steering gear, Michelin HX all-season performance tires, high-performance brake linings, stiffer front brake calipers and externally vented brake rotors. The suspension tuning is designed for a more controlled ride, sharper steering response, improved stability in transient maneuvers and increased cornering grip. The brakes are designed to increase stopping ability, enhance pedal feel and resist brake fade in hard use.
This is a full-size car designed for people who like to drive. It's a sports sedan with performance and handling that belies its size. An exciting exterior design and an elegant interior with all the creature comforts add to its appeal. Best of all, it's available for a price that makes it even more attractive.