Chrysler 300M cars: big, luxury-tinged sporty sedans

chrysler 300M

Chrysler 300M logo The second-generation Eagle Vision became the Chrysler 300M almost at the last moment; there are photos of 300Ms with Eagle trim and badging, but when Eagle was cut, there was a quick readjustment.

The use of the name 300M offended some more loyal fans and would confuse shoppers for years, especially when the 300 and 300C were brought out, but the links to the past — and the controversy — brought the 300M to pages of many glossy car magazines. Once past the comments of “this isn’t a real 300 letter-car,” reviewers were generally pleased, and some called the 300M the best big front-wheel drive car every made — all things considered. The 250 horsepower engine pushed the big car with alacrity, but it was fine with sharp turns, too.

2000 chrysler 300m

The original 300 letter cars were unique, low-production items, doing battle with the best of the rest, cornering better than many smaller sports cars, with a fearsome engine (a Hemi in early years), unique interior, and a price to match; the 300 letter-cars were always a limited edition, not a mass market car, and, with the Imperial, they were the absolute best Chrysler could sell.

Chrysler 300M clockThe 300M was given the LHS’ elegant instrument panel, along with a similar interior, devoid of some minor Concorde niceties. The 300M had been shortened for sale in Europe, where the LH was too large; the shorter length also resulted in lower weight, for better acceleration, accentuated by more aggressive gearing. That brought 0-60 times down to about 7.5 seconds, better than some of the original 300 letter cars (to be fair, the originals also had better torque for instant-on acceleration). The ride was also firmer than the other LH cars, a tradeoff for superior handling - better than many cars with active suspensions.

300M dashboard

The LHS was another Concorde derivative, this time longer than the standard LH; the LHS and 300M shared the same dashboards and interior looks, though. The LHS, geared for comfort and economy, achieved better mileage than the 300M despite its greater size, was quieter inside, and rode more smoothly; but it got little publicity and did not sell well. Both came with an impressively faked woodgrain trim; a wood steering wheel came in 2001 (pictured above is a 2000 car), and the 300M Special replaced the woodgrain with fake carbon fiber.

Interior of the standard Chrysler 300MThe Chrysler 300M was benchmarked against the BMW 5-series, Audi A6, and other high-end cars. Based on the same platform as the $20,000 Intrepid and Concorde, the $30,000 300M was faster, firmer-riding, and better-handling. It still failed the Eurotest in some ways (no turbo option, no diesel option, no five-speed), but when it came out, most reviewers considered the comparison to be fair.

Only one engine was available, the 3.5 liter V6 exclusive to the top of the LH series for many years; it was connected to a four-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick, a manual-override shifter. A 300M Special model included a slightly more powerful engine and high-intensity discharge headlamps.

Praised for the 300M’s upscale interior quickly went to slams for its cheap-looking interior, as the press fleet went from standard 300Ms to the 300M Limited, which had stiffer springs, high-intensity discharge headlights, and clearly fake carbon-fiber trim replacing the more realistic fake wood trim. Another factor was the wolf-pack journalism converging on Chrysler, as Daimler announced that the company was losing money and producing shoddy vehicles, as an excuse for extensive cost-cutting.

cutaway drawing

Chrysler 300M handling

Project team member Burke Brown talked about the launch:

There’s a very famous press guy [who] was always doing crazy stuff, and we had four or five [300Ms] out in Arizona, on public roads, and we were doing say a 20-minute ride and there was a pre-determined place to stop and we’d rotate. People would go to different cars, because there was a mixture of Intrepids and Concords. I was in the 300M, and he gets in the seat. We’re talking about my responsibilities and so forth, and he said, “You know, it would make quite a story if I blew this 3.5 up when I was driving it.”

wiring harness

... All the other guys are still kind of getting buckled in, and he’s gone. And he just held it to the floor, and those things would run, I don’t know, 130? Something like that I guess? And I had to almost grab the ignition switch and say we need to stop here and wait for the other guys because this is the next trade spot, otherwise it’ll goof up the whole rotation and all the other guys waiting to drive it and so forth. I think it was supposed to be a 20-minute run and I think we waited 12 minutes for the other guys to get there. He just ran it flat out at whatever it would do, 130… The temperature gauge was down. I kept nudging over, looking at the temperature. It was a hot day, probably 110°.

Chrysler 300M changes, year to year

The 1999 300M and LHS both included the 3.5-liter V-6 engine, rated at 253 horsepower (188 kW), and 255 lb.-ft. (345 N•m) torque. Standard items included 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels with chrome, dual front airbags, Sentry Key® theft-deterrent system, automatic headlights, Indiglo gauge backlighting, leather, cassette/four-CD stereo, traction control, antilock brakes, trip computer (EVIC), and the analog center clock that would become de rigeur for Chrysler cars. The Handling Group took off the top speed limiter.

black chrysler 300M

In 2000, an interlock prevented shifting from Park unless the brake was pressed; and anchors were added to the rear shelf for child seats. The 300M and LHS gained new colors, updated gauge vacuum-fluorescent display shapes, a four-disc CD changer (in the cab) with Infinity II stereos (early models had bounce issues with CDs), cupholders in the rear center armrest, chrome window and lock switch rockers, and color-keyed mirror switches; the rear suspension was modified to cut noise, vibration, and harshness (in spring 1999), and the gas cap was changed. The 3.5 V6 was LEV compliant in California-like regions.

2001 chrysler 300M

The year 2001 brought an optional luxury group with an automatic dimming driver-side mirror; slight cosmetic changes; and supplemental side airbags. A more advanced EVIC (trip computer) was optional. Child seat anchors were now integrated into the seats, as well. Chris Carpenter wrote that there were also Daimler-inspired cost cutting changes:

They dumped the chrome switches for black ones, and the speaker grilles on the front doors went from the nice wire-mesh Infinity labeled units, to grey plastic grilles with “Premium Sound” embossed on them. The 2001-04 models also lost the tilting head rests, and the rear door courtesy lights got replaced with reflector stickers. The front door courtesy lamps got decontented to non-styled lenses, where you plainly see the bulb with a silver painted reflector.

cars

In 2002, electronic brake distribution was added; a new computer combined engine and transmission controls; and “natural” evaporative emission monitoring was added.

Midyear, the 300M Special was introduced with a 255 horsepower 3.5 liter engine (running on premium gas) with 258 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.89 final drive ratio. The 300M Special also had high intensity dischrage headlights and cheap-looking fake carbon fiber trim, higher performance brakes, and optional Michelin Pilot Sport 255/35R18 performance tires. Power output from the standard 3.5 was dropped slightly, but this may have been a “marketing change” to make the 300M Special seem more “special.”

1999 Chrysler 300M interior

trip computerIn 2003, new colors were added, a six-disc CD changer replaced the four-disc changer, and the changer controls were added to the stereo. 2004 brought optional Sirius Satellite Radio and an optional stereo with DVD-based GPC navigation.

All 300Ms had traction control and ABS, optional front side airbags, a rear defroster, body color door handles, fog lamps, solar control glass, automatic headlamps (2000 and later), dual power folding heated mirrors (auto-dimming and auto-down-tilting-on-reverse on Special), speed-sensitive variable-delay wipers, automatic temperature control, dual-density carpets, soft touch door panels, sun visors with illuminated mirrors and sliding extensions, a tachometer, trip computer, garage door opener, heated front seats with two-person memory for the driver’s seat, radio, and mirrors; eight-way power driver and four-way power passenger bucket seats; antenna built into the rear window; cruise; tilt wheel; power remote trunk lid release; and power locks and windows with remote and alarm.

300M doorThe suspension was a four-wheel independent design with power rack and pinion steering, front MacPherson struts with integral gas-charged shocks and coil springs, single transverse lower links, tension struts, and a link-type stabilizer bar; and rear Chapman struts with integral gas-charged shocks, dual transverse lower links, lower trailing links, and a link-type stabilizer bar with concentric coil springs.

Base tires were P225/55R17 Michelin Pilot MXV4 Plus black sidewall all-season radials, with the same-size Pilot HX MXM4 for the Performance Group and 245/45R18 Pilot Sport in Ultimate Performance Tire and Wheel Group. Six and ten spoke wheels were optional or used in various option groups. The engine was longitudinal, with front wheel drive. All 300Ms were made in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, and were classified by the EPA as large cars.

The Chrysler 300M Special and the Performance Handling Group included stiffer front calipers, outboard-vented rotors, and high-performance linings at all four wheels.

Chrysler 300M repairs

chrysler 300m interiorWhen your 300M gets past 70,000 miles, it might be a good idea to start looking at batteries. The battery is hard to reach, and problems with corrosion and battery acid leaking onto connectors appear to be common starting around this mileage. Dealer prices for battery/cable replacement appear to be around $250 - $360.

Keep the trunk area (around the hinges/shock absorbers on top) clear of leaves to avoid rust. So far no rust problems have been reported to us, only the potential.

The ignition key tends to stick for some people. If you can’t turn the key, try hitting the ignition lock moderately gently a dozen or two dozen times until the small bit of dust inside gets knocked loose. (As always we can’t be responsible for your results!) - blowing compressed air in may be safer but we haven’t tried that (the knocking trick comes from the dealer.) This isn’t cause for panic - it seems to happen rarely but the fix does eventually work.

The seat-warmer switches tend to fail after six or seven years. Taking them out is very easy - with the ignition key NOT in the car, you can push them out from underneath, or you can gently pull/pry them out from above. Removing the connector cable is usually easy. You can try taking them apart and cleaning the contacts, or just order one from a dealer. List is $42 (as of January 2008) but we got ours from Pomoco for a grand total of $30 including shipping, because cleaning the contacts - one badly damaged, apparently by a coffee spill - didn’t quite work. Here’s what the old switch looked like when we broke it apart into its four components: shell, rocker, transparent contact-holder, and circuit-board. If you have different color seats, your outer shell will be a different color.

chrysler 300M heated seats switch repair

Some early CD players (1999-2000 models) skipped over bumps; replacing the CD changer fixes that.

On many 300Ms (and other 2000-04 LH cars) with automatic headlights, the interior lights flash, suddenly change brightness, or flicker. The solution is to pull the connector at the switch, clean the contacts if needed, apply dielectric grease, and re-assemble it. This is not the five minute job it sounds like, since the steering column shroud and instrument panel end cap have to come off along with a bunch of screws to allow the instrument panel cluster bezel to be gently pried out. All work must be done with the battery disconnected. Chrysler advises dealers not to replace the headlamp switch. (Thanks, ImperialCrown, for referring us to TSB 08-022-03).

The platinum spark plugs need to be replaced at around 80,000 miles. The plugs are right under the coils, on top of the engine; use a flat-bladed screwdriver to push up the lever on the electrical connectors, and gently slide the connectors apart. Then carefully use a good quality Torx screwdriver of perfect size to take out the two screws - they are attached very firmly and are easy to strip. Push down hard while breaking them free. Once the first quarter turn is done, they should unscrew easily, but they don’t come all the way out. When both screws are unthreaded, gently pull out the coil, which is held in now by the airtight seal. Then the spark plug can be taken out with a standard 5/8 inch spark plug socket, replaced with new ones (with a dab of antiseize on the threads), and tightened to specifications using a torque wrench (aluminum heads!). The hardest part is getting those coil screws removed without damaging them.

front suspension

To replace the tie rod bushings for the 1992-2003 Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler 300M, Concorde, LHS, and New Yorker, or Eagle Vision, you can use a CarQuest inner tie rod end repair kit, which uses a two piece bushing to eliminate special tool sand lubricate; these bushings snap into place (and the kit includes a bolt lock plate). The kit is part number K7349. (Thanks, John Kaderka.)

We have “the ultimate LH steering fix” for sloppy steering (usually diagnosed as a bad steering rack).

Power lock actuators are a weak point after around eight years. They are part of the door lock assembly, and hard to replace for the amateur (the dealer may be worthwhile). First, disconnect the battery (locks are always energized); then remove the door trim panel, by removing the trim plug from the door-pull area and the remote bezel; removing the screws thereby shown, and the three on the bottom of the trim panel. (Oh, isn’t it wonderful to have screws instead of clips?)

rear suspension

Then use a trim tool (or a similar tool — something flat, firm, and unlikely to damage the paint or trim panel) to disengage the rest of the retaining clips, (in our case, two at the rear and one at the front of the panel.) Flip the trim panel up, and hold it securely.

Now remove the speaker wire, the power window switch wire connector, the courtesy lamp wire, and the wiring harness clips. Disconnect and remove the old part; put the new one in. Then reconnect the wires and remote handle linkage, and put on the water shield, making sure the locator holes align; reseal the shield (you may need to get more sealant.) Put the trim panel in place in the retainer on the top of the door, insert the four-way alignment guide, and the rearward two-way alignment guide; put in new retaining clips; and put the three screws on the bottom back in (they take just 15-20 inch-pounds of torque, which isn’t much). Put the other two screws back in (same torque spec) and reinstall the trim plugs.

Chris Carpenter wrote:

Since my first winter with the 300M, it handled terribly in the snow, even the slightest hint of brakes and the back end would swing out. I replaced the tires, but the problem remained. My mechanic discovered that the driver’s side rear brake wasn’t functioning at all — no caliper movement. Replacing the caliper did not help. We removed the proportioning valve to check the brake line and fluid was running freely through it — but it was literally fused shut. Penetrant did no good. It took several tries mounting the valve in a table vice opposite a metal punch just to get it to open slightly.

My mechanic said that this is the first time he’s ever seen something like this, since usually proportioning valves aren’t used on rear brakes unless it’s a “very high end vehicle,” and at that, most systems with them employ only one proportioning valve for both brakes, and not one for each side. His response was “This has to be either Chrysler’s top of the line model, or darn near close to it. And it must have one beefy master cylinder to require two of these.” Unfortunately, we had to order the entire brake line assembly from Chrysler to get a replacement valve.

Chrysler 300M Specifications

For full specs on the engine, see our 3.5 liter V6 engine page.

Compression Ratio, Redline 9.9:1, 6800 rpm
Power (SAE net, 2004) 250 bhp @ 6400 rpm (normal)
255 bhp @ 6500 rpm (300M Special)
Torque (SAE net, 2004) 250 lb.-ft. @ 3900 rpm (normal)
258 lb.-ft. @ 3950 rpm (300M Special)
Max. Gross Trailer Weight 2,000 lbs.
EPA gas mileage (City/Hwy) 18/26 mpg
Electrical 130-amp, high-speed alternator; 600 CCA battery
Ratios, 1st-4th gears 2.84 - 1.57 - 1:1 - 0.69
Final Drive 3.66 — 300M; 3.89 — 300M Special
Overall Top Gear 2.52 — 300M; 2.68 — 300M Special
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES in inches (mm)
Wheelbase 113.0 (2870)
Track, Front / Rear 61.9 (1573) / 61.6 (1565)
Overall Length x Width 197.8 x 74.4
Overall Height 56.0 — 300M; 55.5 — 300M Special
Ground Clearance 5.1 — 300M; 4.5 — 300M Special
Curb Weight (estimated) 3,581 lbs.; Special, 3,650 lbs.
Weight Distribution, % F/R 64/36
Frontal Area 23.9 sq. ft.
Drag Coefficient 0.313
Fuel Tank Capacity 17 gal. (64L)
ACCOMMODATIONS
Head room F- 38.3 or 37.1 with moon roof; R, 37.7
Leg room F/R 42.2
Shoulder room F/R 58.8
Seat travel 8.6
Recliner angle range 50°
Rear Knee clearance 3.9
SAE Cargo Volume 16.8 cu. ft.
EPA Interior Volume Index 121.9 cu. ft.
Overall Steering Ratio 17.0:1
Turning Diameter (curb-to-curb) 37.6 ft. (3.1 turns lock to lock)
Front brakes 11.7 x 1.02 inboard vented disc with single-piston caliper,
swept area: 287.3 sq. in.
Rear 10.6 x 0.5 solid disc with single-piston caliper and ABS,
swept area: 184.6 sq. in.

2004 Chrysler 300M Blather from Chrysler

The 2004 Chrysler 300M offers driving enthusiasts an uncompromised mix of performance, premium amenities and style.

chrysler 300 Limited and Chrysler 300M“Evocative styling and brilliant engineering set the Chrysler 300M apart from the crowd,” said Tom Marinelli, Vice President — Chrysler Marketing. “The Chrysler 300M continues to be a strong competitor in the sport sedan market because it has the right combination of performance and style that makes the driving experience a true pleasure.”

The 2004 Chrysler 300M offers drivers a fun-to-drive premium vehicle with all of the amenities one would expect in a sport sedan. Chrysler also continues to offer the 300M Special, which adds even more performance and premium options to the already well-equipped Chrysler 300M.

The foundation of the 300M is as advanced as its features. Its unibody chassis offers a solid feel. Four-wheel independent suspension is touring-tuned for smooth, yet responsive handling. The 2004 Chrysler 300M is equipped with four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake force distribution (EBD). For distinctive styling in addition to performance, Chrysler 300M is equipped with 17-inch aluminum wheels and Michelin Pilot MXV4 Plus P225/55R17 tires. The Chrysler 300M’s High Output 3.5-liter V-6 engine produces 250 horsepower (186 kW) at 6400 rpm and 250 lb.-ft. (339 N•m) of torqueat 3900 rpm for true performance from a fuel-efficient V-6. The engine’s power is delivered through a four-speed automatictransaxle. Every 300M is equipped with an AutoStick®transaxle, which offers the convenience of an automatic transaxle and the control of a manual.

Every Chrysler 300M is equipped with a host of luxury and convenience features as standard equipment, beginning with leather-trimmed, heated power seats. The driver seat includes eight-way adjustment and a personalized memory system. The memory system controls seat adjustment, driver’s side exterior mirror and radio presets.

The instrument panel of the Chrysler 300M features electroluminescent lighting. Selectable automatic headlights turn on at nightfall and activate with windshield wiper operation as well. An overhead console relays compass and temperature information and has a four-function trip computer. A Homelink®universal three-channel transceiver is built-in and offers programmable features, including a garage door opener and security lighting. The interior is finished with woodgrain accents.

More information

What might have been? The 300M II

Doug Miske wrote (around 2001) that a special project engineer at the Brampton plant had said:

One 24-valve 3.8L V6 showed up for a special installation into a “300M - II” mule, needing a modification to the hoodline of the 300M (the 3.8 is a bit taller). Output was estimated at about 290 hp @ 6200 rpm, 290 lb-ft @ 4200 running on 91 octane (not 89 as on the 3.5L). Maintaining traction on full-throttle launches was a challenge and generated some nice stripes when the traction control was switched off. The 300M - II had P225 55ZR17 Michelin Pilot XGTZ4 tires.

The other 3.8 was installed in a 1999 SWB Caravan Sport, and was tuned to run on 87 octane unleaded. Output was estimated in the 240 hp, 260 lb-ft area. We may see the 24-valve 3.8 engine in the next generation minivan, but not likely in year one [it did arrive]. The 3.8 burned less fuel than the current 3.3L, with lower emissions.

300M and LHS Development  • Chrysler 300Ms at Indy, 2013 • Reviews: 2000 Chrysler 300M2002 Chrysler 300M Special

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