ROCKY FACE, Ga. — Running over a narrow strip of pavement warped by Blue Ridge ripples in Georgia, Chrysler's agile flagship sedan wiggles around a dicey downhill curve with the sure-footed manners of an internationally flavored touring car.
Its sleek body maintains a flat stance around each subsequent turn despite the lateral forces of motion at work. Its taut independent-strut suspension stifles larger bumps and dips, while its steering translates those same nuances in the road into clear signals of the road ahead.
A powerful new engine provides the pulse for this expressive machine. Press the pedal, and it leaps to action through the next straightaway down the valley with a velvety purr that most recent Chryslers haven't approached.
Clearly, a drive in Chrysler's 300M reveals the car has an attitude to match its aggressive streamlined silhouette. Remember the name — it's destined to become an icon of the former Chrysler, an embodiment of advanced automotive design and powerful mechanical aptitude. And it's absolutely beautiful, a treat to the eye.
A daring design
The daring shape of the 300M begins at its abbreviated prow, capped by articulated quad headlamps and a bulging low hood. A massive canted windshield follows: The glass initiates a smooth arched roof that extends over sensuously shaped doors and blends C-pillars in graceful descents to a curt high tail.
The 300M looks clean and pure in the absence of superfluous elements. Its sophisticated design theme continues inside to a luxury suite for five with plush leather seats and elegant graphics for the analog instruments.
The 300M puts a slinky uptown spin on the Concorde/Intrepid/LHS theme.
1999 Chrysler 300M
To see the significance of this car, you must first understand the name and its place in Chrysler's heritage. Beginning in 1955 with the C-300, Chrysler produced a series of powerful flagship vehicles that merged the speed of a sports car with the comfort of a full-size sedan. The 300 sedans, which stretched to the 300L of 1965, became hallmarks of high performance and engineering advancements for Chrysler in that era.
Today, Chrysler's progressive ideas drawn from the current decade — cab-forward architecture, design themes of understated elegance, virtual planning in cyberspace through supercomputer technology — have come together in the 300M.
The foundation of the 300M traces to the second-generation design of Chrysler Concorde, with shared platform, door panels, roof and front fenders. The wide track and long wheelbase work to create a stable platform and contribute to the aggressive attitude the 300M exhibits in motion. Compared against the Concorde's platform, this new foundation has been fortified at critical flex points to forge a stiffer structure for smoother ride sensations and crisper handling traits.
In addition, different front and rear independent suspension components are mounted to set up more reactive and adaptive handling characteristics. Front suspension components include a MacPherson strut tied to single-pivot lower control arm and tension strut. In the rear, a multi-link Chapman strut mates with an aluminum cross member. Together, they make one of the most well-balanced suspensions Chrysler has ever offered — a neat blend of firm response and taut ride.
Options for suspension settings
For the 300M in North America, two versions differ in suspension tuning. The standard edition has a sporty feel with touring settings, while an optional handling package, geared for more aggressive driving, gets stiffer tweaks coupled to high-performance tires and larger disc brakes.
Innovations in production techniques and materials for the 300M build strength, shave weight and reduce noise and vibrations. A magnesium steering-wheel structure and aluminum hood pare weight, as single-unit components like stamped doors trim labor costs and improve quality and fit, and foam injected into body cavities isolates noise by sealing the passenger compartment.
1999 Chrysler 300M
Chrysler developed three new aluminum V-6 engines to propel the 300M, but the two smaller units drop only into the export editions. All 300M versions in North America draw from a technologically advanced 3.5-liter V-6 with single-cam configuration and four valves in each cylinder. It runs up to 253 horsepower. Despite the high output, this plant operates on regular gas and earns respectable fuel-economy figures.
The engine teams with a new electronically controlled automatic four-speed transmission that marks a significant improvement over previous Chrysler shifters. It's quiet and efficient when running through gears, and not intrusive.
To enhance the sporty performance, the transmission adds Chrysler's AutoStick, which offers the shift-it-yourself choices of a manual stick without requiring a clutch pedal to pump. Couple the muscle of 253 hp to extensive applications of lightweight aluminum in engine and suspension, even structural components like the aluminum hood, and the 300M ends up feeling even more active with its sizable power-to-weight ratio.
Inside, curves and creases continue
The passenger compartment of the 300M extends the graceful exterior theme of gentle curves and contrasting sharp creases in a space that's spacious and airy. Two firm bucket seats upholstered in plush leather flank a center console in front of a back bench for three with folding and split seatbacks for trunk access. Despite a slinky exterior profile with low roofline, adults riding in back will find more than adequate headroom and enough space to stretch legs, too. Up front, a dash design anchored with magnesium structure for the steering column installs concealed airbags and analog instruments with bold black-on-white graphics ringed in chrome bezels.
Tipped toward luxury plus performance, the 300M provides a long list of standard equipment, from power controls for seats and windows and doors to an automatic climate system and an Infinity audio system with nine speakers, plus safety devices like anti-lock brakes and a traction control system. The European-style performance excitement begins at $28,950, with an additional delivery charge of $595.
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