What's New for 2001
DaimlerChrysler ups the feature content for the 2001 Chrysler 300M by including standard steering wheel controls for the stereo, offering the option of side airbags and adding a luxury group package that includes real wood trim and an overhead console-mounted vehicle information center. The rear end gets a makeover in the form of clear lens taillamps and chrome dual exhaust outlets while new 17-inch wheels and anodized aluminum window trim dresses up the 300M's profile. There's now a three-point shoulder/lap belt for the central rear seat passenger and an internal emergency trunk release. Additional luxury package features include an auto dimming rear view mirror and exterior mirrors that tilt down automatically when the vehicle is placed in reverse. Two new exterior colors, Black and Deep Sapphire Blue, plus three new interior colors, Sandstone, Dark Slate Grey, and Taupe, round out the changes for 2001.
The 300M is a 2-year-old iteration of Chrysler's sport sedan. Its styling and letter-series designation pick up where the original '55-'65 muscle cars left off -- take one look at its big center grille and fin-like taillights, and you'll be just a notch ahead of your flashback. But the sleek, fluid lines and the streamlined dash remind you that this vehicle does indeed represent the 21st century. This year the 300M gets clear lens taillamps, aluminum side window moldings and chrome dual exhaust outlets to further its performance car image.
For this driver-oriented modernized muscle car, there's a 3.5-liter, aluminum high-output V6 (shared with the Chrysler LHS and the Prowler) that offers respectable power for its size: 253 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 255 foot-pounds of torque at 3,950 rpm. That's more power than you'll find in such performance sedans as the Nissan Maxima (a 3.0-liter V6 with 222 horses) and the Buick Regal GS (a supercharged 3.8-liter V6 with 240 horsepower). For muscle car fans with a green streak, the 300M's engine is now LEV certified.
The performance theme of the 300M continues underneath. The fully independent suspension has a soft-ride setting as standard, but there's an optional, more aggressive European-tuned performance choice should you want to let the car strut its stuff. We'd opt for the European suspension, just for the promise of an enhanced driving experience. In either soft or taut setting, however, the steering remains first-rate. See, you can bring along the whole canasta club and still have a blast driving them to the Jimmy Buffet Extravaganza in Branson!
The 300M is affectionately known as a 5-meter car (its length is 197.8 inches, or 5.02 meters). Chrysler says that the length was an important consideration from the start, and claims that it can be parked in smaller European garages despite its big-car cabin. The 300M's platform is shared with the Dodge Intrepid and the Chrysler Concorde and LHS, but the 300M is the most fun to drive, thanks in part to its tidy dimensions.
We're disappointed that the 300M's only transmission is an automatic. Chrysler tries to make up for it with AutoStick, which gives manual control of the slushbox, but it's definitely not the same thing as a true manual. In addition to the automatic, other standard features include a leather interior with heated, eight-way power driver's seat, air conditioning, 17-inch wheels, four-wheel ABS, an Infinity 240-watt sound system with new-for-2001 steering wheel controls, heated eight-way power seats, and 17-inch wheels, available painted or with a chromed aluminum finish. Options include side airbags, real wood trim, an overhead console and an in-dash four-disc changer.
Says Chrysler chief engineer Bob Rodger, "The 300 idea is the idea of a powerful, nimble, responsive automotive machine." Of course, Rodger made those comments more than 40 years ago. Amazing how history really does repeat itself.