Chrysler 300M (2001)
SEE ALSO: Chrysler Buyer's Guide
By Matt/Bob Hagin
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 29,540 Price As Tested $ 34,175 Engine Type SOHC 24-valve 3.5 Liter V6 w/SMFI* Engine Size 215 cid/3518 cc Horsepower 253 @ 6400 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 255 @ 3950 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 113.0"/74.4"/197.8" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 3600 pounds Fuel Capacity 17.0 gallons Tires (F/R) 225/55R17 all-season Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content 87 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.32 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 18/26/22 0-60 MPH 8.5 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 16.0 seconds @ 89.0 mph Top-speed 125 mph * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
(The new Chrysler 300M is a different breed from its predecessor, the 300L, says Bob Hagin. Matt says things have changed since then.)
BOB - When the first Chrysler 300 came out in '55, it was a hopped-up New Yorker two-door sedan. The 300 number referred to the 300-horsepower V8 "Hemi" engine that outshone its plebeian stablemates by 50 ponies. The concept stayed in production until '65, when the Muscle Car genre supplanted the big thunderbuckets and the 300 became the "Grandpa" car of the corporate line. This new "M" model is a nice little car, but it's a misnomer to give it a Letter Series designation.
MATT - Dad, most of the people who buy this new Chrysler 300M are in their mid-`50s, which means that they were only little tykes back when the car was new. If they're auto history buffs, they may know something about those old-timers, but most owners don't know and don't care. What they were looking for is up-to-date and almost "Concept Car" styling and enough power and handling to put considerable "sport" into their driving. They also want four doors and seating for five. The new 300 doesn't have the pavement-burning power of the old ones, and its front-wheel drive platform is based on the more sedate Chrysler LS sedan. But the all-aluminum, 3.5-liter V6 is still pretty hot at 253 horses. It's got single cams atop each head and four valves per cylinder, all providing enough torque to more than stay up with traffic.
BOB - It does, indeed, handle very well, and like those 300s of old, they're somewhat smaller and more modern looking than the other Chryslers. At 17-inches, it's got bigger tires and wheels too, and the spare tire and wheel are clones to the other four, which usually means the a five-way tire rotation is do-able. It's one of the few American cars whose makers are marketing them in Europe and England, and the company is even going to try to penetrate the Japanese market with the 300M next year. Oddly enough, the press kit that came with the car says that overseas versions will carry a smaller, less powerful version of the one used in the domestic model.
MATT - Chrysler has a world-wide reputation for classy styling and in lots of overseas social circles, it's very chic to own an American car. It has a lot going for it, like the very sporting dash that has big, round dials for the tach and speedometer, and a no-nonsense cockpit. The front seats are traditional "buckets," but for my taste, they could be a little firmer to be in synch with the rest of the car. The back seat is OK for two adults, but I don't think it would be comfortable for three across during long-distance touring. Double-dating maybe, but not much more.
BOB - The rear seatback folds down in the prescribed 60/40 split for carrying long items, but I think Chrysler had in mind it being used for skis rather than to carry two-by-four studs home to fix the fence. At 3500 pounds, its pretty much middle-of-the-pack in its class weight-wise, and while the AutoStick shifter is getting pretty old-hat now, it's still fun to "stir" the four-speed automatic through the gears. The automatic headlight switch is pretty neat in that it turns the headlights on at dusk and keeps them off during the daylight hours. Its side mirrors have a some distinctive features, too. When the car is going in reverse for parking, the mirrors tip down for a view of the curb, then up when it goes forward. They're also heated, which is great on frosty mornings and for whatever reason, they can be laid flat against the doors. This feature is usually reserved for fancy SUVs, but I can't see a 300M being pressed into off-road service. Another nicety for cold weather areas is a system to pre-heat both the engine and the battery for frigid startups. This does wonders to prolong engine life.
MATT - The grapevine says that the next Letter Series Chrysler will be a front-engined V8 with rear-drive and based on the Chrysler 300 Hemi C Concept Roadster.
BOB - When that one comes around, Matt, I want first crack at it.