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Expert Reviews 1 of 3
By Jim Flammang
January 24, 2003
Posted on 11/20/02 Vehicle Overview The 2003 Chrysler 300M sport sedan is the first model to offer a factory-installed Sirius Satellite Radio. Starting in July 2002, all Chrysler vehicles gained a new 7-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty, which is transferable to subsequent owners. The warranty covers engines, transmissions, transfer cases and axles.
This sporty spin-off of the Concorde is 10 inches shorter than that full-size front-wheel-drive sedan. Its also related to the lower-priced Dodge Intrepid. Introduced for 1999, the 300M is the only Chrysler model exported to other countries.
A 300M Special sedan joined the lineup in mid-2002. It is equipped with larger, 18-inch wheels and tires, a performance braking system, a stiffer performance-tuned suspension and a firm-feel steering gear. The Specials V-6 engine produces an additional 5 horsepower. Deep Slate Gray or Light Taupe/Deep Slate leather seats go inside the Special, and the body gains ground-effects skirting. The Specials ride height is an inch lower than that of other 300M sedans.
The four-door 300M shares some of its styling touches with the Concorde, but it features a short, stubby rear deck that has sharper creases instead of rounded lines. Measuring just less than 198 inches long overall, the 300M has the same 113-inch wheelbase as its Concorde and Intrepid mates. Standard 17-inch tires roll on cast-aluminum wheels, and the 300M Special gets 18-inch tires.
Five passengers enjoy abundant amenities, including leather upholstery and heated front bucket seats. The rear seat has adequate space for taller passengers, but theres less legroom than in the Concorde.
A split, rear seatback folds down to augment the 16.8-cubic-foot trunk, but it lacks a pass-thru provision. The 300M Special gets a nine-speaker Infiniti II spatial imaging sound system with an in-dash six-CD changer.
Under the Hood
Chryslers 3.5-liter V-6 develops 250 hp in the base 300M, while the new 300M Special uses the same engine but earns an additional 5 hp. The four-speed-automatic transmission incorporates an AutoStick feature that allows manually selected gear changes simply by tipping the lever to the left or right.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats are optional. Three-point shoulder belts, antilock brakes and low-speed traction control are standard.
Despite being closely related to the Concorde, the 300M yields a different sort of driving experience in keeping with its sporty and stylish profile. The strong V-6 power plant delivers truly energetic performance, and Chryslers AutoStick does a good job of simulating manual shifts. But the transmission shifts smoothly and easily in automatic mode.
From a standstill, the 300M virtually leaps ahead as the gas pedal approaches the floor. For passing and merging, it responds eagerly, which inspires confidence. Because the 300M has thick roof pillars and a rather plump profile, over-the-shoulder visibility isnt the best and the sedan can be tricky to park. The nautical-style gauges look exquisite. Despite the stubby appearance of the trunk lid and its high liftover, cargo space is satisfactory.
The 300Ms handling ranks a cut above the full-size norm. Its even more athletic with the Special trim level or the optional Performance Handling group, but a penalty must be paid in ride stiffness.