2002 Chrysler 300M Special
2002 Chrysler 300M Special, Click image to enlarge

Although inspired by the furious 300-horsepower hemi-engine, big tail-finned Chrysler “letter series” cars of the late fifties and early sixties, the 1999 Chrysler 300M is a well-mannered and modern interpretation. This 300M offers a nice balance of performance, handling and fuel efficiency, along with a luxurious and a very spacious interior.

A large, stout nose, a monster-size windshield and stubby back-end give the 300M a distinctive and dynamic appearance. Its 1999 introduction also coincided with the revival of the Chrysler “winged medallion”, which is very prominently displayed on the grille.

The 300M is built on a shorter and stiffer version of the Chrysler LH platform, also used in the Intrepid, Concorde, and LHS cars. All are assembled at a Chrysler plant in Brampton, Ontario and exported to Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East, in addition to supplying the North American market.

A high-output version of Chrysler’s all-aluminum, SOHC 3.5-litre 24-valve, V6 that’s rated at 253-horsepower. Flat-out it can move the 300M from 0 to 100 km/hr in under 8-seconds and has a top speed of about 225 km/hr. Fuel consumption in the city is 12.9-L/100 km and on the highway it’s rated at 8.1 L/100 km.

The power is transferred to the road through a 4-speed AutoStick transmission. This gives the driver a choice of full automatic operation or semi-manual gear selection, a side-to-side shifter action.

The roomy and comfortable interior makes the 300M a particularly pleasant drive. The leather-trimmed and heated front seats are generous and have eight-way power adjustable and two-person memory features. Back-seat legroom is also expansive and headroom is better that most, although the sloping roofline forces you to duck as you enter, or suffer the consequences.

2002 Chrysler 300M Special

2002 Chrysler 300M Special

2002 Chrysler 300M Special

2002 Chrysler 300M Special
2002 Chrysler 300M Special
Photos: Grant Yoxon
Click image to enlarge

A vehicle security system is standard, as is anti-lock brakes, low-speed traction control and second-generation (de-powered) front air bags. An optional performance package can also add V-rated performance tires; externally vented four-wheel disc brakes; a tighter-feel steering gear; and firmer springs and shocks.

Upgrades for year 2000 version of the 300M included a multi-disc CD player, more cup-holders, extra soundproofing and a brake/park interlock safety feature. Apart from some extra chrome there was no-change in 2001, however in 2002 a 300M Special was added to the product line.

The 300M Special has an extra 5-horsepower under the hood, a lower and firmer suspension, bigger 18-inch wheels, Xenon headlights and the door mirrors have turn indicators and a tilt-down in reverse feature.

Four safety recalls apply to the 300M. A 1999 version may have the wrong vehicle emission control information label. The mounting bolt for the upper front seat belt turning loop should be replaced on ’99 and 2000 models. The 2000 may also have a moulding flash on the driver’s side seat belt retractor that may interfere with proper operation and the passenger side air bag may not have the correct inflator charge.

The 300M gets mixed signals from the established safety indicators. Although they differ somewhat on the possible outcome, crash test ratings by both NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) were below par, with intrusion into the passenger cell area. However, if you look at insurance (also IIHS) statistics from actual on-road accidents the 300M gets a �better than average” rating for protecting its occupants.

A big car isn’t supposed to handle like this, especially one made on this side of the Atlantic. Surprisingly nimble for its size, the Chrysler 300M is a nice balance of comfort and performance and used prices are quite reasonable.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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