Information Compiled and Edited by: Reed Miller (InfernoRedM)
Motor Trend – Car of the Year in 1999
It’s quite appropriate that, as Motor Trend begins the celebration of its 50th anniversary, one of the most evocative American nameplates during that span should reemerge, flanking a car that will propel us into the next millennium with equal doses of performance and pizzazz. Despite wearing a moniker that first appeared in ’55, the ’99 Chrysler 300M is one of the freshest statements to come out of Detroit in years. It’s a solid testament that America really can build a machine that masterfully blends performance, luxury, styling and value into a five-passenger sedan shape. It’s a car, quite simply, we have long awaited. We’re proud to commemorate our 50th year as an integral part of the American automotive scene by naming the Chrysler 300M as Motor Trend ’99 Car of the Year.
One look at the 300M and you can see it features an unusual combination of soft and edgy shapes, producing a powerful visual signature recognizable from a block away. Designers told us they drew on Alfa Romeo and Lancia influences to arrive at a treatment that blends stately grace with a courageous edge. It perhaps hasn’t been since the Viper that a domestic maker rendered a more boldly beautiful and unique-looking automobile.
Chrysler’s renowned design staff knocked one out of the park with the sleekly aggressive nose, prominent prow and jewel-like quad halogen headlamps of the 300M. The 300M’s steel skin is as wind-cheating as it is beautiful. Wind-tunnel tests reveal a fuel-economy-enhancing 0.31 drag coefficient. A sleek body shaping also ensures low wind noise, particularly important at the higher speeds at which a true sport sedan is often driven.
What the staff feels is the most attractive angle is the car’s neatly proportioned, edgy rear deck and the generous taillights plugged into the top edges of the back end. This is the automotive equivalent of buns of steel. Chrysler designers describe the 300M’s tail work as blending full body shapes with the chiseled edges of the shortened rear deck to project an image of muscularity in the car’s flanks. At the bottom edge of the rear fascia sprout dual exhaust tips, the better to emphasize the role of its gutsy 3.5 V-6 powerplant.
Speed and fun are truly what this Chrysler is built for, moving solidly in the fast slice of its class with a 7.7-second blast to 60 mph and a quarter-mile blast of 15.9 seconds at 89.2 mph. Other sedans with V-8s or turbochargers may be quicker. But there are price and fuel-economy penalties to pay.
Few engineering feats impress auto cognoscenti more than large cars that feel light on their virtual feet. In this case, Chrysler has pulled a ride/handling hat-trick of monumental proportions by providing a big, smooth-riding, agile sedan that carves bends like a smaller, lighter, tighter coupe.
On our handling course, the Performance Handling Group-spec 300M cut a remarkably precise line through the 600-foot slalom with a surprisingly fast pass of 65.9 mph. That’s faster than the last BMW 528i tested by Motor Trend and is less than one mph behind a Corvette coupe.
Brakes that provide powerful, linear, fade-resistant stops are a key item in any maker’s sport sedan. What our drivers liked about the brakes in this sedan were low noise, an excellent and easy-to-modulate pedal, and remarkable fade resistance even with repeated applications on the steep grades. The brake-lane performance of the 300M was top drawer, with a 128-foot 60-0-mph best. That puts this car in the realm of pricey sedans like the BMW 540i and the Audi A8, and it even challenges the Dodge Viper.
In sum, Chrysler’s brilliant new 300M challenges the great road cars of Europe and Asia with strong power, good fuel economy, excellent handling and accurate steering, while trumping most of them with its outstanding roominess and stunning looks.
Chrysler’s engineering staff told MT editors that the company spent somewhere between $1.8 and $2.3 billion bringing the new 300M and its platform sisters-Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Concorde, and Chrysler LHS to life. It was clearly to be money well spent.
We selected the Chrysler 300M as the ’99 Motor Trend Car of the Year because it embodies performance, comfort, quality and excellent driving dynamics with a smooth ride and top-notch safety engineering at a great price. With a very well-equipped starting price of $28,895, the 300M significantly undercuts many competitors stickered above $35,000 with similar features and performance.
There’s no other domestic sedan with such a deft combination of performance, luxury, style and value. It’s a truly worthy bearer of the legendary “300” moniker.
Road & Travel Magazine
Chrysler 300M Special souped-up sedan set in limited numbers Bob Plunkett
Sparse traffic on Northwest Highway, which slices through the Dallas suburb of Grapevine near DFW airport, flows at a quick pace and affords some wiggle room to flex the muscles on a souped-up special-performance sedan from Chrysler.
With a one-inch drop in ride height, the sleek machine hunkers against the highway as it rolls on huge 18-inch aluminum wheels capped by sporty low-profile Michelin Pilot tires. To emphasize its low stance, special ground-effects skirts wrap around the body and improve aerodynamic efficiency when running at high speed. And, understand this, it can run. A break in the traffic quickly demonstrates the point with a neck-snapping surge that pops us well ahead of the freeway pack.
Beneath the crimped hoodline, the car packs a progressive 3.5-liter V-6 with single-cam configuration and four valves in each cylinder. Special tuning boosts the output to 255 hp at 6,500 rpm, with torque skewed to 258 lb-ft at 3,900 rpm. The beauty of this Chrysler engine is that it delivers dynamic power yet still operates on regular gas and earns respectable fuel economy figures – up to 26 miles a gallon.
Twin exhaust pipes at the tail have been integrated into the lower sill and foretell the performance stance of this special sedan, which also carries a stiffer suspension with firm strut damping and taller rear jounce bumpers plus a firm-feel character to the steering gear on a rack-and-pinion system for improved on-center steering responses.
Other special hardware includes beefy disc brakes with computerized connections to anti-lock and low-speed traction controls, and, to cast clear light on a dark road, vivid xenon quad headlamps grouped in corner pairs recessed behind fluted bezels.
Everything about this Chrysler seems special, in fact, which perhaps gives purpose to the nameplate: 300M Special. Consider it a spin-off from Chrysler’s flagship 300M sedan in a quantity limited to only 8,500 units.
This 2002 extension of the 300 series shows its best face – a sporty character with the sure-footed manners of an international sports touring car – when pushed through a wiggly set of curves over hilly terrain. Expect the windswept body to maintain a flat stance around every bend despite lateral forces of motion at work.
A taut independent-strut suspension stifles tire chatter from pavement swells as the quick rack-and-pinion steering tells a driver’s fingers on a steering wheel what they need to feel to sense nuances of irregular pavement.
The wide-track stance and long wheelbase work to create a stable base and contribute to the aggressive attitude 300M exhibits when pushed. And 300M Special seems to beg for hard work – as expressed by a 150-mph speedometer among the gauges.
Front suspension elements include a MacPherson strut tied to a single-pivot lower control arm and tension strut. In the rear, a multi-link Chapman strut mates with an aluminum cross member. New 2002 editions of 300M and 300M Special also show ABS brakes linked to electronic brake distribution (EBD).
The dramatic shape and styling of this Chrysler cannot be overlooked. It seems like an exotic sportster from the future beginning with an abbreviated prow and bold face featuring the articulated quad headlamps and bulging low hood followed by a massive canted windshield. Smooth glass initiates a graceful arch projected to a roof that extends over sensuously shaped doors and merges with rear pillars flowing off to a curt, high tail.
It looks clean and crisp and pure in the absence of superfluous ornamentation, a sophisticated theme of gentle curves and contrasting sharp creases that continues inside in a luxurious cabin accommodating five passengers in space that’s spacious and airy.
Two firm bucket seats upholstered in plush leather flank a center console in front of a back bench for three with 60/40 folding split seatback and trunk access. Despite a slinky exterior profile with the low roofline, adults riding in back will find more than adequate headroom and enough space to stretch legs too.
The dashboard, anchored by a magnesium structure that cradles the steering column, contains dual concealed air bags and analog gauges scored in bold black-on-white graphics ringed by chrome bezels.
The 300M derives its motivation from an all-aluminum V-6 with 24 valves and a single overhead camshaft for each bank of cylinders. Chrysler designed this engine to feel like a V-8, and it succeeds, with 250 horsepower and 250 foot-pounds of torque. The 300M Special delivers more driving thrills thanks to a higher-output version of the high-output 3.5-liter V-6. It’s rated at 255 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 258 pounds-feet of torque at 3,950 rpm – 5 more horsepower and 8 more pounds-feet than the standard 300M V-6.
Chrysler says one-third of 300M buyers opt for the Special. A 300M Special badge tells the world it’s hotter than your average 300M, which is not an average car to start with. Drivers seeking more zoom should consider the 300M Special, whose air dams and side skirts herald a lower, stiffer high-performance suspension, bold 18-inch wheels wearing massive P245/45ZR18 speed-rated Michelin Pilot Sport tires, and a slightly more powerful version of the same 3.5-liter V-6.
The 300M Special attacks the curves with a stiffer suspension, firmer strut damping and taller rear jounce bumpers. The P245/45ZR18 tires aid grip, while stiffer brake calipers and outboard-vented rotors assure swift stops. A firm-feel steering gear enhances on-center response.
The Auto Channel
The 300M Special makes its debut this year. It ups the sport level with a firmer suspension tuning, lower ride height, and high-performance brakes and adds horsepower to the 3.5-liter V-6 engine. A subdued ground-effects-look package distinguishes it from other 300Ms, without giving an excessive “boy-racer” look.
Many American sedans have attempted to re-create the ambiance of European sports sedans and have fallen short of the mark. Not the 300M Special. It delivers on the promise. The 300M Special has a European-tinged performance look, and looks right.
Suspension modifications to the 300M Special are the basics for improved handling. Firmer springs and shocks and a half-inch lower ride height increase cornering performance with no loss of comfort. A quicker steering ratio improves both steering feel and response. It’s not a hardcore sports sedan but a sports-luxury tourer, and it compares well with any such car from any part of the world.
Many will argue, the Chrysler 300M came this close to acting as lively as it looks. Close no more.
For ’02 a 300M Special edition has been added that delivers a little extra power – 255 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque – from its 3.5-liter V-6, up from 250 hp and 250 foot-pounds of torque with that engine in the regular 300M.
But more noticeable is sure-footed handling and suspension tuning that makes the 300M a spirited, fun-to-drive performance sedan. Even without the increased horsepower and torque, the 300M Special’s suspension system puts more “sport” in the sports sedan.
More macho, less meek.