Side-impact airbags for the front seats and real wood interior trim are new options for the 300M, the flagship of Chryslers sedan fleet.
The 300M is built from the same design as the Chrysler Concorde, Chrysler LHS and Dodge Intrepid, but it is the only one of the four sold outside of North America.
In addition to the optional side airbags, the 300M gains a three-point shoulder belt, instead of a lap belt, for the middle rear seat. Antilock brakes and low-speed traction control are standard.
The California walnut interior trim is part of the optional Luxury Group, and it adorns the door panels, steering wheel and dashboard.
Though the 300M shares some of its styling with the LHS and Concorde, it is about 10 inches shorter and has a shorter rear deck with sharper creases instead of rounded lines. The 300Ms 198-inch overall length is designed for export because garages and parking spaces are smaller in many foreign countries.
The four-door 300M rides on standard, 17-inch tires and cast-aluminum wheels. The optional Performance Handling Group, which formerly included 16-inch wheels and tires, now has 17-inchers. New taillights and chrome exhaust tips add a fresh look at the rear.
Leather upholstery and heated front bucket seats are standard on the five-passenger 300M. The rear seat has adequate space for taller passengers, though there is less legroom than in the LHS or Concorde. A split, rear seatback folds to expand the 16.8-cubic-foot trunk, which has a smaller opening and less space than the other models.
New standard features include a HomeLink door opener, trip computer and steering-wheel audio controls.
Under the Hood
The 300Ms 253-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine delivers potent performance, with a lusty growl at full throttle and a refined hum when cruising. The smooth-shifting four-speed automatic comes with the Autostick feature, which allows manual gear changes by tipping the shift lever left or right.
The optional handling package includes a different engine controller that raises the 300Ms top speed from 118 mph to over 140.
A good engine, great handling, outstanding styling and surprising quality make the 300M a strong entry against European and Japanese luxury sedans. The optional handling group makes the 300M more athletic but also stiffens the ride, so test-drive it over bumpy pavement before you buy one.