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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2002 Chrysler 300M Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2002 Chrysler 300M Overview

The 300 Heritage Lives On

The 300M is the 13th iteration of Chrysler's 300 letter-series cars that began life in the early 1950s. The early 300s were basically full-sized Chrysler sedans with powerful Hemi-head V8 engines and beefed up suspensions; the series survived right up until 1965 when the last 300 L rolled off the assembly line. The 300 designation continued for a short time without the letters but the looming fuel crisis and emerging emissions controls spelled the end of the 300 in 1971. There were a few odd attempts to resurrect the name—the 1979 300 series Cordoba being one of the less memorable 300s—but for the most part, Chrysler allowed an entire generation of drivers to come of age without ever knowing the joy of driving a legend.

For 2002, the Chrysler 300M returns the former glory of its namesake to drivers everywhere. Though Chrysler's merger with Daimler-Benz somewhat changes its status as an all-American entity, the 300M was conceived before the merger, so for those who insist on buying only cars born and bred in North America, the 300M still qualifies as true blue and is rivaled only by the Pontiac Bonneville in this segment. Though now powered by a V6 engine, the heart and soul of the original 300 is still intact. If you are seeking a performance-oriented American made sedan that can dance around curves, accelerate like a rocket and turn heads at every stoplight, the 300M should be your next car.

The 300M begins its life sharing the same tightly-tuned chassis as the Chrysler Concorde and Dodge Intrepid. It then loses a few inches off the trunk, gets a new rear window, unique front end and revised interior treatment. The cavernous interior dimensions of the Concorde remain intact inside the 300M; there is ample leg, head and shoulder room for five adults. The 300M's interior does receive some nice upgrades that include supportive heated driver and passenger seats adorned in leather, a memory function for the driver's seat, beautiful art-deco-style font on the gauges and center-mounted clock along with a host of standard features that leave a select few items as optional equipment.

For 2002, Chrysler has added a 300M Special to the line. The Special is lowered an additional inch and receives custom ground effects that improve the vehicle's aerodynamics and give the 300 a particularly menacing appearance. Huge 18-inch alloy wheels are surrounded by a set of uni-directional Michelin Pilot tires that cling to the asphalt with unrelenting tenacity. The ride is somewhat compromised by the larger tires and stiffer suspension, but overall. The 300M Special is still a comfortable cruise so long as the road beneath you has been well maintained. You will notice that extra care must be taken when parking the 300M Special as its low ground effects and front air dam tend to snag easily on parking blocks and high curbs—speed bumps and dips in the road are also easy targets for the plastic moldings.

The true joy of owning a 300M or M Special is driving it. Whether late at night on a long stretch of open highway or early in the morning on a serpentine ribbon free from the annoyance of traffic, the 300M justifies its existence with each mile it carries you. For a front-drive car, the 300M's handling is nothing short of astonishing. The heavily-weighted steering wheel allows you to direct the 300M exactly where you want it without fuss or histrionics and the wheel returns to dead center in almost all instances. You may have noticed that unlike a rear-wheel-drive car, a front-wheel-drive car sometimes requires the driver to assist the steering wheel back to dead center after executing a turn; this is especially true when the front wheels that are directing the vehicle are also accelerating it at the same time. When the front wheels pull a car in a direction other than the one intended by the driver, it is known as torque steer—and to its credit, the 300M reveals very little of it. As you push your 300M you will also notice how it remains level as it sweeps around turns, another testament to the expertise of the Chrysler's suspension design team.

You'll love the throaty sound of the 255-horsepower V6, quick acceleration and ample torque it provides. The Autostick feature, though clever, is really not as much fun to drive as a standard manual; there are some things in life that cannot be replaced by a computer chip and a cable actuated clutch pedal with a slick shifting a 6-speed gear box is one of them. The problem with using the Autostick is that it allows a momentary pause between shifts as the computer tries to figure out how best to handle your commands and that just takes all the fun out of shifting for yourself. We found that by leaving the 300M's transmission in D position, the automatic worked well and allowed us to keep both hands on the wheel. Given the 300M's ability to carve up the road, you'll probably find the wheel is exactly where your hands will want to be anyway.

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