A family looking for a well-rounded, roomy sedan with lots of performance and way-out styling.
Comparable models in this class:
Acura TL, Buick Regal GS, Infiniti I30, Mazda Millenia, Mitsubishi Diamante, Nissan Maxima, Pontiac Grand Prix GTP, Toyota Camry V6
Since we told you about the 300M when it wasfirst introduced in 1999, the Chrysler Corporation has undergone major changes. Mercedes Benz now controls this company and has completely revamped itscorporate structure. Many key Chrysler executives, feeling out of stepwith the new DaimlerChrysler management style, have left for greener pastures or, in some cases, earlyretirement. While Chrysler is no longer considered an American carcompany, it is too early to predict whether this upheaval will help or hurt thisprogressive manufacturer that has designed some of the world's most innovativeand beautifully styled cars.
In our'99 article, we sampled a 300M equipped with the standard suspensionsetup and we reported that,with the exception of the tires, it was a very competent, good handling sedanthat was fairly quiet and had a comfortable ride. For our 2001 test, we decided to try one with the optional Performance Handling Group. This option package includes stiffer struts, firmer steering with a faster ratio for less turnslock-to-lock, higher performance four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and highperformance P225/55R17 Michelin Pilot HXMXM4 tires. These 17" tires are an improvement over the16" rubber that was originally used with the performance group in previous years and avast improvement over the standard shoes that came with the base suspension.
Other improvements for 2001 include: chrome dual exhaust outlets, optional side air bags for front occupants, an internal glow-in-the-dark emergencyinside trunkrelease, folding side view mirrors, clear taillight lenses and an optional luxury group that includes genuine California Walnut wood trim, partial wood steering wheel, and chrome shift knob insert. Other features of this luxury option package include automatic adjusting outside mirrorsthat tilt down when the shifter is placed in reverse (so you can see thecurb before you hit it), automatic dimming inside and driver-side outside mirror andan overhead console-mounted Electronic Vehicle Information Center.
Ourtest car was a beautiful Deep Sapphire Blue, a new color for 2001. Itgarnered a number of favorable comments during the week that I had the car and Inoticed it catching the eye of people as I drove by. The derogatorycomments that I made about the fake looking wood in the previous article are history. The real California Walnut wood trim on this car looks absolutelygreat, like the kind that you find on cars costing twice as much.
Once behind the wheel, I remembered why I like this car so much. This isa fun car to drive, made even more so by the Performance Handling Group, whichsharpens the steering response and increases the ultimate cornering grip dramatically.
On the downside, the optional suspension and the high-performance tiresexacted a penalty in ride and added road noise. This car had a noticeably hardride on choppy roads and the tires were noisy on coarsepavement. If you like to drive fast, especially on winding roads, thisminor discomfort is a small price to pay for the improved handling that this packageoffers, but if you're like most people who are in the market for a large,comfortable family sedan,you would be happier with the standard suspension..
I had anopportunity totake this car out onto a racetrack and push it to its limits and came away quiteimpressed. This big Chrysler handled better than some sports cars. It was so nimble that the only cue that reminded me that I was in a large sedanwas the distance between me and the passenger door. Cornering power with those Michelin Pilot tires was substantial and quitecontrollable while the upgraded brakes brought this two tonbeast to a stop in short order with excellent pedal feel.
Butthis car was meant for public roads, not race tracks, so that is where I headed. The large front buckets were extremelycomfortable with good support where I wanted it. The steering wheel feltgood in my hands and the AutoStick was an absolute joy, allowing me to shiftwhen I wanted to or just leave it in automatic during the times when I felt lazy. The gauges were clear and easy to read, both day andnight. During the day, the gauges were white with black markings andpointers. At night, the meter faces glowed with a soft aqua blue light thatmade those black markings stand out. I liked this effect back in '99 and I like iteven more now. The small round clock is the exception to my enthusiasm forthis dash. I made a recommendation in the previous article that the clockshould be larger and have a more functional look, but the only change that theymade was to add the Chrysler winged emblem to the clock face which made iteven harder to read since the wings resemble hands at a quickglance.
Ihadn't noticed thisduring the previous test but thelarge trunk access through the fold-down rear seat cannot be locked. Thisonly becomes a problem if you often leave your car with valet parking attendantsand havevaluables stored in the trunk.
This comfortable cruiser looked as good as it felt, both inside andout. The rear seat had more room then any other car in this class and was comfortable, even for three across. Ithad a strong power train that the Auto-Stick very effectively brought to life. I would like to see a less aggressive handling package that will provide abetter ride, perhaps halfway between the standard setup and the PerformanceHandling Group. With or without the Performance Handling Group, this is a real drivers car that I would have no problemjumping into and doing a 3000 mile cross country trip. There aren't too manycars that I would say that about.
Conservative driversEasy to drive smoothly with plenty of power when you need it. A comfortable back seat with plenty of room. Stay away from the Performance Handling Group, you will be much happier with the ride and noise levels of the standard suspension.
Sporty drivers This is your car. Especially if you need a large sedan. The AutoStick is theperfect compromise for those occasions when you wish for a standard shift transmission butwould never want to live with one. Enjoy!
Fast driversThe Performance Handling Group is a must if you are a "fast driver", with the added benefit of eliminating the speed limiter which keeps the car from exceeding 118 miles per hour. This car is in its element when pushed hard and will reward you with excellent control
3.5-Liter, SOHC, 24-Valve V-6
253 @ 6400 rpm
255 lb.-ft. @ 3950 rpm
Mid-Grade 89 Octane Unleaded.
Electronic control with AutoStick feature, electronically modulated converter clutch
Tires - Standard Optional
P225/55 R17 Black Sidewall All-Season Touring P225/55 R17 Black Sidewall All-Season Performance
37.6 ft Curb to Curb
Miles Per Gallon
EPA city 18, hwy 26.
Acceleration 0 to 60
Base Sticker Price
$29,640 plus $655 Destination Charge
Price as Tested
2001 Chrysler 300M Front Wheel Drive Sedan
Air Conditioning - Automatic Temperature Control
Overhead Console Includes Compass/Outside Temperature Display, 5-Function Trip Computer, HomeLink 3-Channel Security System Transmitter
Gauges, Analog with Electroluminescent Lighting
Mirror - Automatic Dimming Day/Night Rearview
Seats - Royale Leather Buckets with Perforated Inserts
Heated, 8-Way Power Driver and Front Passenger Seats; 4-Way Head Restraints
2-Person Memory Feature for Driver's Seat, Outside Mirror and Radio Presets
Sound Systems AM/FM Stereo Radio, Cassette Player, CD Player; 3-Band Equalizer, Chrysler Infinity I Spatial Imaging Sound System, 240-Watt Power Amplifier, 9 Speakers in 7 Locations and Steering Wheel Controls
Brake System - Power Four-Wheel Disc with Anti-Lock and Low Speed Traction Control
Exhaust System - Stainless Steel with Chrome Dual Outlets
Steering - Firm-Feel Vehicle Speed-Sensitive Power
Luxury Group - Automatic Adjusting Outside Mirrors; Automatic Dimming Driver-Side Outside Mirror; Genuine California Walnut Wood Door, Instrument Panel and Steering Wheel Trim; Overhead Console-Mounted Electronic Vehicle Information Center
Air Bags - Supplemental Side for Front Occupants
Cast Aluminum 17-in. Twelve-Spoke (Chrome)
Moon Roof, Power
AM/FM Stereo Radio with 3-Band Equalizer, Cassette Player, Changer Controls; 4-Disk In-Dash CD Changer, Chrysler Infinity II Spatial Imaging Sound System, 360-Watt Power Amplifier, 11 Speakers in 9 Locations and Steering Wheel Controls
Performance Handling Group. Includes performance tires, better brakes, stiffer struts and tighter steering.