Reviews

2001 Chrysler 300M Road Test

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Category:$25,000 – $35,000 Luxury Sports Sedan
Who should buy this car: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 was first introduced in 1999, the Chrysler Corporation has undergone major changes. Mercedes Benz now controls this company and has completely revamped its corporate structure. Many key Chrysler executives, feeling out of step with the new Daimler Chrysler management style, have left for greener pastures or, in some cases, early retirement. While Chrysler is no longer considered an American car company, it is too early to predict whether this upheaval will help or hurt this progressive manufacturer that has designed some of the world’s most innovative and beautifully styled cars.

In our ’99 article, we sampled a 300M equipped with the standard suspension setup and we reported that,with the exception of the tires, it was a very competent, good handling sedan that 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 turns lock-to-lock, higher performance four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and high performance P225/55R17 Michelin Pilot HXMXM4 tires. These 17″ tires are an improvement over the 16″ 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 emergency inside trunk release, 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 mirrors that tilt down when the shifter is placed in reverse (so you can see the curb before you hit it), automatic dimming inside and driver-side outside mirror and an overhead console-mounted Electronic Vehicle Information Center.

Our test car was a beautiful Deep Sapphire Blue, a new color for 2001. It garnered a number of favorable comments during the week that I had the car and I noticed it catching the eye of people as I drove by. The derogatory comments that I made about the fake looking wood in the previous article are history. The real California Walnut wood trim on this car looks absolutely great, 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 is a fun car to drive, made even more so by the Performance Handling Group, which sharpens the steering response and increases the ultimate cornering grip dramatically.

On the downside, the optional suspension and the high-performance tires exacted a penalty in ride and added road noise. This car had a noticeably hard ride on choppy roads and the tires were noisy on coarse pavement. If you like to drive fast, especially on winding roads, this minor discomfort is a small price to pay for the improved handling that this package offers, 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 an opportunity to take this car out onto a racetrack and push it to its limits and came away quite impressed. 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 sedan was the distance between me and the passenger door. Cornering power with those Michelin Pilot tires was substantial and quite controllable while the upgraded brakes brought this two ton beast to a stop in short order with excellent pedal feel.

But this car was meant for public roads, not race tracks, so that is where I headed. The large front buckets were extremely comfortable with good support where I wanted it. The steering wheel felt good in my hands and the Auto Stick was an absolute joy, allowing me to shift when 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 and night. During the day, the gauges were white with black markings and pointers. At night, the meter faces glowed with a soft aqua blue light that made those black markings stand out. I liked this effect back in ’99 and I like it even more now. The small round clock is the exception to my enthusiasm for this dash. I made a recommendation in the previous article that the clock should be larger and have a more functional look, but the only change that they made was to add the Chrysler winged emblem to the clock face which made it even harder to read since the wings resemble hands at a quick glance.

I hadn’t noticed this during the previous test but the large trunk access through the fold-down rear seat cannot be locked. This only becomes a problem if you often leave your car with valet parking attendants and have valuables stored in the trunk.

This comfortable cruiser looked as good as it felt, both inside and out. The rear seat had more room then any other car in this class and was comfortable, even for three across. It had 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 a better ride, perhaps halfway between the standard setup and the Performance Handling Group. With or without the Performance Handling Group, this is a real drivers car that I would have no problem jumping into and doing a 3000 mile cross country trip. There aren’t too many cars that I would say that about.

How would I improve this car?

How does the 300M fit yourdriving style?

Conservative drivers. Easy 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 drivers. The 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

Specifications

Engine Type3.5-Liter, SOHC, 24-Valve V-6
Horsepower253 @ 6400 rpm
Torque255 lb.-ft. @ 3950 rpm
Fuel RecommendationMid-Grade 89 Octane Unleaded
TransmissionElectronic control with AutoStick feature, electronically modulated converter clutch
Drive TypeRear wheel drive
Tires – Standard

Optional

P225/55 R17 Black Sidewall All-Season Touring

P225/55 R17 Black Sidewall All-Season Performance

Overall Length197.8″
Wheelbase113.0
Width74.4″
Turning Diameter37.6 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight3,591 lbs.
Fuel Tank17 Gals.
Miles Per GallonEPA city 18, hwy 26.
Acceleration 0 to 607.5 Seconds
Base Sticker Price$29,640 plus $655 Destination Charge
Price as Tested33,925

2001 Chrysler 300M Front Wheel Drive Sedan

Standard Equipment

Major Available Options

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Author

Charles Ofria

Automotive Expert

Charles Ofria was an automotive journalist who was active in the automotive industry for over 40 years. During the '70s, he was owner-operator of Ofria Automotive, a thriving auto repair shop in Brooklyn, NY. During that time he became involved with auto mechanic training when he set up courses to help prepare mechanics to take the then new A.S.E. (Automotive Service Excellence) mechanic certification exams.

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