Classic CARmentary: 1999 Chrysler 300M

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

It was eye-opening driving the Q45 and the 300M back to back.  Sure, I’m comparing a V8-powered, rear-wheel drive luxury sedan to a V6-powered front-wheel drive near-luxury sedan.  But, damn, a manufacturer could throw a luxury badge on this one and charge $50k and probably get away with it.  I know quality-control issues did in most of the LH-bodied cars, but driving a new one for a week where nothing broke or went wrong, I had no issues highly recommending the 300M.  

If the Infiniti Q45 is overpriced at $50,000, then the new Chrysler 300M is a bargain at $30,000.

Built off the same platform as the Concorde and LHS but a good 10 inches shorter, the 300M is the Chrysler brand’s European flagship. The in-your-face styling, highlighted by a narrow grill, quadruple projector-beam style head lamps, and a tall, stubby trunk, manages to be both aggressive and elegant at the same time. From teenage girls to adult males, it turns heads.

The beige and tan leather interior features wood-tone trim and a tasteful center-mounted analog clock. The instruments are more like a clock face, with classic-looking black numbers on a white background. At night, the whole pod lights up like a Timex Indiglo watch, which provides good contrast as well as a unique styling touch. All the power touches are there as well as a few unusual features for this price range, such as two-memory driver’s seat/radio presents/side-view mirrors and an overhead trip computer. Although it’s two inches shorter than the Q45, its cavernous rear seat has six inches more leg room, and its trunk is six cubic feet larger. Drawbacks to the design: the steeply raked windshield and front end render the hood invisible from the driver’s seat, hampering parking maneuvers. In addition, retrieving items from the back of the trunk is difficult due to the short lid.

Unlike the V8 in the Q45, the 300M only has a V6, but it’s a powerful one, and the lighter 300M feels just as quick as the Infiniti. Traction control is standard and necessary, and the four-speed automatic features Chrysler’s “Sport Shift” for those who miss the absence of a manual transmission. Our 300M came with the Performance Handling Group, which includes performance steering, suspension, and tires. These modifications help it to become a fine dancing partner in the black-top ballroom, and I can’t imagine what the 300M would be like without them. The ride suffers, but only a little.

Power, head-turning styling, top-notch handling, and more equipment than you thought possible, with enough money left over for a month-long European vacation. You can’t beat that.

For more information contact 1-800-992-1997


Type: Four-door Sedan
Engine: 253-horsepower, 3.5 liter V6
Transmission: Four-speed Automatic
EPA Mileage: 18 city/27 highway
Tested Price: $30,110