- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Chrysler’s 300M combines elegant styling with dynamic performance, giving this full-size, front-wheel-drive vehicle a sport sedan personality.

But the current 300M will soon see the exit door as the automaker readies its replacement for 2005.

The 2004 300M has a base price of $29,185 while the more performance-oriented 300M Special starts at $32,615 — and this uplevel model was my tester for the week. As soon as I got behind the wheel and began to glance around the inside, the instrumentation panel caught and held my attention. Simply put, the design on the tachometer, speed-ometer, fuel and oil readings was elegant and easy on the eyes.

New for 2004 is the availability of a $1,455 GPS navigation program, and a 360-watt sound system including Sirius satellite radio. My test car had this feature, as well as one of the new exterior colors for 2004 that I thought gave the sedan a magnificent richness: midnight-blue pearl coat. Premium leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob also added to the rich appointments.

The distinction between the 300M and the 300M Special is performance. The Special has more horsepower and torque, as well as a sport-tuned suspension. The Special’s High Output 3.5-liter V-6 powerplant delivers 255 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 258 foot-pounds of torque at 3,950 rpm. To achieve these ratings, the automaker recommends the use of premium gasoline. The four-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick has been performance-tuned to match the higher output of the engine. The engine on the basic 300M produces 250 horsepower and 250 foot-pounds of torque and features a touring-tuned suspension.

The 300M Special’s sport-tuned suspension is equipped with firmer performance struts for better handling. Also available on this model is the Ultimate Performance Tire and Wheel package. It includes aluminum wheels and high-performance Michelin Pilot Sport Unidirectional 18-inch tires, which Chrysler says keeps the suspension “glued” to the road.

The Special is further distinguished by a 1/2-inch lowered body height, dual-exhaust tailpipes, high-intensity discharge headlamps, and body-colored mirrors with integrated turn signals. The bottom portion of the body has aerodynamic ground effects, giving this full-size vehicle more of a sport sedan look. The interior trim echoes the sporty flair of the exterior with a smart-looking carbon fiber appearance in the door accents and dashboard. Brushed aluminum decorates the door-sill plates.

Safety equipment on the 300M Special includes traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, tire-pressure monitoring, dual front air bags, and three-point seat belts for all five seating positions. Side-impact air bags are optional.

Chrysler discontinues the 300M sometime in 2004. It will be replaced by another full-size sedan based on the 300C concept car. The all-new 2005 model goes into production during the first quarter of next year as a rear-wheel-drive vehicle and will include a V-8 engine.

The 2005 car could be close to the current 300C concept, which Chrysler describes as being reflective of classic styling from the mid-1950s with a long hood, short deck, dramatic profile, and 20-inch tires.

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