Chrysler's full-size car comes four ways, and the flagship 300M is the most cosmopolitan. It is the only one of the quartet exported outside North America and is sold in Europe, Latin America and Japan.
The name holds historical significance because it revives a line of high-performance luxury cars Chrysler sold as the "letter series" starting with the C300 in 1955 and ending with the 300L in 1965.
Chrysler introduced the front-drive 300M and companion LHS luxury model for 1999. Both are derived from the Chrysler Concorde and Dodge Intrepid, which arrived for 1998.
Though the 300M shares some of its styling with the LHS and Concorde, it is roughly 10 inches shorter and has a shorter rear deck with sharper creases instead of rounded lines. The 300M's 198-inch overall length is designed for export duty because garages and parking spaces are smaller in some other countries.
The four-door 300M rides on standard 17-inch tires and cast-aluminum wheels. An optional handling package adds a firmer suspension, high-performance brakes and high-performance 16-inch tires.
Leather upholstery and heated front bucket seats are standard on the five-passenger 300M. The rear seat has adequate space for taller folks, 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.
The only major interior option is an 11-speaker, 360-watt Infinity sound system that includes a new four-disc, in-dash CD changer.
Under the Hood
The 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 300M's 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 makes the ride noticeably stiffer, so test drive it over bumpy pavement before you buy.