Atlanta--Everything's included. Well, almost everything. The only options on Chrysler's 1999 near-luxury performance sedans, the 300M and the LHS, are a sun roof, chrome wheels, stereo upgrade, and a handling group for the 300M.
The LHS is a smooth operator with considerably better handling, braking, and performance than any previous Chrysler flagship. Its classic American "soft ride" reminds me of sitting in my living room, with the exception that this writer needs more leg room.
Considering the car's spacious rear passenger area and cavernous trunk, I'm bewildered as the driver's seat slides to the rear, then stops just short of comfort. I think Chrysler should add one more option: An additional inch or two of longitudinal seat adjustment toward the rear.
On a more positive note, everything else about these cars is great! Rekindling the heritage of Chrysler's powerful "letter series" cars of the 50s and 60s, the 300M is a domestic, high- performance sport sedan with a distinct European twist.
At first glance the 300M is compelling. The front reminds me of a Honda Accord on steroids, and the chopped off rear looks like a muscle-bound Mercedes. Along with Chrysler's Minivans and Jeeps, the 300M fits in well with the global mix. A 200 bhp, DOHC, 2.7 liter V-6 and a handling package are standard on European exports. After seeing this car, the Daimler-Benz/Chrysler merger news almost made sense to me.
While designers sculpted the curved surfaces of the LHS, the 300M uses more crisp body creases. Both cars are mechanically quite similar in terms of body structure, powertrain layout, electrical and electronics, suspension, and foundation braking components. But there are large differences in transmission calibration, steering feel, ride quality, and suspension tuning.
While it certainly doesn't sound like a V-8 when I stomp on the accelerator, the aluminum, 3.5-liter, SOHC V-6 takes off like one. Rated at 253 bhp at 6,400 rpm and 255 lb-ft of torque at 3,950 rpm, the engine and four-speed electronically controlled transaxle yank the car through steep winding turns. Chrysler's Autostick, standard on the 300M, acts as a clutchless manual shifter and helps conserve brakes while descending steep switchbacks.
The suspension up front uses MacPherson struts, coils, and an anti-roll bar. In the rear, the car rides on Chapman struts with dual lateral links, a trailing link, coils springs, and an anti-roll bar. The handling package on the 300 uses more aggressively tuned struts, springs, and taller rear jounce bumpers.