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Beater That's Hard To Beat: 2002-2004 Chrysler 300M Special

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On: Fri, Jan 8, 2016 at 9:37AM | By: Teddy Field

Beater That's Hard To Beat: 2002-2004 Chrysler 300M Special

Back in the day, the Chrysler 300 'letter cars' were hot rodded luxury coupes with big honkin' V8s, and the presence of a mafia boss. The Chrysler 300M... was nothing like that. It was FWD, it looked like a bloated manatee, and it was about as fast as one. But then some engineers got ahold of it, and created the limited edition 2002-2004 Chrysler 300M Special. Sure, John Gotti wouldn't drive one. But if you had a few blocks to run, you'd think it was a beater that's hard to beat...

Based on the aging LH Platform, the Chrysler 300M was a budget-minded attempt to cash in on the 'retro' craze that was sweeping the auto industry. It wasn't much different from the Chrysler LHS or Dodge Intrepid (which weren't bad cars), but it failed to deliver the excitement promised by the badge. To rectify this, Chrysler engineers created a limited edition 300M Special, which was much more composed than the standard issue model. It wasn't a rocket ship by any means. But this manatee could thread through a narrow creek like its tail was on fire.

To make the Chrysler 300M truely 'Special', a new low-restriction dual exhaust system was fitted to improve both the power and the sound (it really does sound good at full-tilt). Next, a tighter suspension was used to reduce bodyroll (the ride height also dropped by 1/2 inch), and bigger 18-inch wheels with Z-rated Michelin Pilot tires helped this sea cow to cling to the curves. Vented disc brakes, stronger brake calipers, and a functional dark gray lower body kit also helped this fullsize cruiser to behave better in the twisties. You won't mistake it for a Miata. But for a comfy daily driver, the Chrysler 300M Special is surprisingly entertaining.

Powering the 300M Special is a 255hp/258 lb-ft 3.5L DOHC V6. The exhaust system only nets an extra 5hp/3 lb-ft, and the Special pack actually adds 70 lbs to the 3,600 lb curb weight. Needless to say, there's no real performance gain over a standard Chrysler 300M (it does have impressive highway passing power). But the handling improvements turn the 300M Special into an entirely different animal. And for $3,500–$7,000, the 2002–2004 Chrysler 300M Special is one beater that's hard to beat.

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