A few days ago, I wrote about the Eagle Vision and how I was considering it for LeMons. Well, the Chrysler 300M was actually intended to be the replacement for the Eagle Vision, but since Eagle was killed, the design had a Chrysler badge and an iconic name slapped onto it. Though the 300M was a somewhat popular car in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it's largely been forgotten in favor of the 300C.
As one of the better-looking American cars in the late 1990s. I still vividly remember the print ad campaign for the 300M. It had a large picture of the new car in the middle with the border full of photos of the older 300s. With what I know now, Chrysler ruined the good name of the 300 line of cars of the 1950s and 1960s. But back then, I thought it was cool. I actually spent a good deal of time attempting to look for that particular ad, but couldn't find it. The heritage aspect was played up a good deal though.
Despite the 300M having a starring role in The Bourne Ultimatum as the car favored by CIA damage control operatives, 300 makes us think of that Gerard Butler where they fight for Sparta or the Chrysler with Bentley pretensions we see with a mesh grille and Dubs in the not-so-great parts of town. This is despite the fact the 300M was Motor Trend's Car of the Year in 1999 and even on Car and Driver's 10 Best list for two years.
It was also considered a good-handling car (this was the 90s, remember), and had a power rating considered much better (250 hp) than any of its competitors, despite the fact it was front-drive. Now, I actually rode in a 300M since the dad of a grade-school friend had one. I have to say it was surprisingly okay (nice and comfortable), though not particular remarkable, considering my dad had an E39 530i by that point and knew what proper sport sedans were like.
The reason I wrote about the 300M was because of a story Bob Lutz told in Car Guys vs. Bean Counters. The design was considered very good-looking when it debuted in 1997, especially considering the LH platform Eagle Vision it was replacing. Meanwhile, General Motors was foundering and the design department was facing many questions about why they couldn't create a good-looking car like the 300M.
Like most automakers do when they want to find out what their competitors are doing, GM bought a 300M and put it in the design studio. When Lutz, as GM's new Vice Chairman of Product Development, was touring the design center, he came across a 300M with a bunch of Post-It notes stuck on it about how the design would never make it past the GM internal reviews to standardize the design. Considering GM had the normal looking Cadillac Seville to compete with the 300M, it was a laughable effort to illustrate why certain things couldn't be done at the 1990s General Motors.
So is the 300M a good buy these days? No, considering it was intended to steal buyers from Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, and so on, with its luxury pretensions, but has depreciated so much more than any of them. And it's not because the LX-platform 300 exists for a good price. There are many, many problems with them, from the automatic transmission (a common 1990s Chrysler sore point) to the numerous electrical issues (especially with the lights). The engine overheating issues have been widely reported as have the engine sensor issues.
However, considering the rear-drive 300 exists, and the fact it was available with a powerful V-8, makes it much more worth considering. And with its memorable design, the 300 has held its value a lot better than the 300M. The 300M will be a money pit, even though it still looks pretty good, considering it was from the "cab-forward" design days of Chrysler.
Though please don't buy it. Even for LeMons. The fact that you'll be replacing engine sensors, and that overheating is a major problem doesn't make it worthwhile.