New Car/Review

1999 Chrysler 300M

By Tom Hagin

Daimler/Chrysler Full Line factory footage (39:14) 28.8, 56k or 200k Part 1 and 200k Part 2

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 28,300
     Price As Tested                                    $ 29,170
     Engine Type              SOHC 24-valve 3.5 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 215 cid/3518 cc
     Horsepower                                   253 @ 6400 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               255 @ 3950 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  113.0"/74.4"/197.8"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3582 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  17.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                         Performance 225/60VR16
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                 85 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            18/27/23         

     0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     16.5 seconds @ 88.5 mph
     Top speed                                           120 mph

     * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

In 1955, Chrysler introduced what some called "America's first full-sized sports car," the Chrysler C-300. The company's "Letter Series" cars of the '50s and '60s combined dramatic styling and awesome power with luxury and reasonably responsive handling - for those times.

This year Chrysler has introduced a new model, the 300M. This high- performance near-luxury sedan is built as a "world car," with American styling and European road manners.

OUTSIDE - The 300M uses a bold, muscular shape, with an angular profile and a chrome-less outer shell. Chrysler designers were given the task of creating a look that is appealing to buyers here, as well as to those on in Europe. It has short front and rear overhangs, and is almost 10 inches shorter than its corporate clone, the Chrysler LHS. The large grille opening has Chrysler's new/old winged medallion badge attached dead center, while the large halogen headlamps use fluted bezels as accents, and are scalloped down into the front bumper. The windshield is massively raked, then continues up and over to the equally raked rear glass, which terminates at the thick, squared-off deck lid.

INSIDE - Cab-forward design, mainstreamed for today's market by Chrysler a few years back, means that there is plenty of room inside for passengers - four plus the driver, in this case. A 60/40 fold-down seat adds space to an already-roomy, 19.2 cubic-foot trunk. Soft leather upholstery is standard, and the white-faced instruments are trimmed in chrome and glow a warm electroluminescent hue with the headlights activated. Other standard features include heated, eight-way power front seats with a memory system for the driver's chair, outsider mirrors and radio presets. Climate control is also standard, as is speed control, rear window defroster, auto day/night rearview mirror, keyless entry, universal garage door opener, and power windows, door locks and outside mirrors. A 240-watt, nine-speaker stereo system is standard, while a 320-watt upgrade with sound that would do justice to a concert hall, is optional.

ON THE ROAD - While the Letter Series cars of yesteryear sported big-displacement V8 engines that guzzled gasoline, today's 300M uses more economical V6 power. It displaces 3.5 liters, uses a single camshaft atop each cylinder head, with 24 valves and sequential multiport fuel injection. At 253 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque, it's very powerful for a V6. In fact, many of today's V8 engines don't produce this much power. The new, all-aluminum unit is mounted lengthwise and delivers its power through the front wheels. It gives sharp performance figures: 0-60 mph in under nine seconds; almost 90 mph in the quarter-mile, and up to 27 highway miles per gallon. Mated to the engine is a four-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick. Accessed by a special notch at the lower end of its shift gate, Autostick allows the driver to operate the gears like a stick-shift. Traction control, which limits wheelspin on slippery surfaces, is standard.

ON THE ROAD - Handling is where the new 300 and the original differ the most. Granted, the original had independent front suspension but the solid rear axle of the original cars would be more at home in a truck. The '99 version has fully independent suspension, with MacPherson struts and lower A-arms up front, and a multi-link system in the rear. Coil springs, tube shocks and anti-roll bars are fitted at both ends. Handling is firm and stable, with very little body roll or tire squeal in corners. A performance handling package is available that adds better tires and different suspension bushings, and deletes the speed governor for flat-out flying. Four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock are standard, but is upgraded with the Performance Suspension System. These upgrades add stiffer brake calipers, "grippier" brake linings and externally vented rotors.

SAFETY - Dual, next-generation airbags, side-impact beams and anti-lock brakes are standard.

OPTIONS - Performance/handling group: $255; destination: $595; smoker's package: $20.

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