2001 Chrysler 300M
This 2001 review is representative of model years 1999 to 2004.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Many owners of the first Chrysler 300 probably would give a thumbs-up to the current model, which stacks up well against costlier foreign sport sedans.
The 1955 C-300 was the initial 300 model. It was the first American car with a 300-horsepower engine since the supercharged 1930s Duesenberg, which was a low-volume auto strictly for wealthy folks.
As with the cleanly styled C-300, which became an instant champ on the NASCAR stock car racing circuit, the slick 300M is big, fast, luxurious and generally affordable.
The C-300 was a two-door, rear-wheel-drive coupe powered by Chrysler's famous-but-complex "Hemi" V8, which got its nickname from ultra-efficient hemispherical combustion chambers.
Derived From LHS
But let's not throw bricks because the legendary 1955-65 Chrysler 300 coupes and convertibles also were derived from regular Chrysler models for the same reason: to hold down costs.
Also, side mirrors now fold to prevent parking lot damage, and there is a new internal emergency trunk release.
The engine works with a responsive 4-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted like a clutch-less manual.
Fuel economy isn't bad for such a big, fast car—an estimated 18 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway. I only got in the low- to mid-teens in town, but actual highway economy matched the estimated figure.
The trunk is impressively large. Its opening is low, but should be shaped to allow easier loading of bulky cargo. Also, reaching objects at its far end calls for an awkward stretch. A 60/40 split-folding rear seatback significantly increases cargo capacity.
The 300M has key styling differences—inside and out—that make it look sportier than the LHS, which is aimed at traditional U.S. luxury-car buyers.
Handling Option for Buffs
The option shows DaimlerChrysler still has a ways to go to make the 300M as refined as, say, a BMW.
Besides, the 300M without the option has 17-inch wheels, an all-independent sport suspension, wide tires that aren't noisy and easily modulated brakes. The result is a supple ride and excellent road manners.
Easily Driven Fast
There's too much average-looking plastic in the interior, which has comfortable front seats and is quiet unless the 300M has the Performance Handling Group option.
The ornate gauge markings look as if from a classic 1930s Bugatti. But they occasionally make the instruments hard to read quickly, compared to conventional sport sedan instruments. The markings make it seem like the 300M is straining for visual effect.
Anyway, the small analog dashboard clock is a nice touch. Not so nice are the small audio and climate controls that call for too much driver attention. But the power window controls are strategically positioned on the driver's door and cupholders are large. Powerful windshield washer jets show good attention to detail.
Sport sedan fans who like a bargain should love the accomplished 300M.