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Styling Misfires: The Chrysler 300M

July 29, 2012 by Matt

Chrysler 300M Silver Gray Grey

This truly is a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Astonishingly, the Chrysler 300M was Motor Trend‘s 1999 Car of the Year and placed in the coveted Car and Driver 10 Best for both 1999 and 2000.

I have one question: Did they look at it? If they did, what other explanation could there be for the accolades it earned? Were the editors paid off by the automaker’s marketing department? Or was there some other reason for the peer pressure that seems to have prevented them from calling Chrysler on their styling disaster?

Chrysler 300M Black

Mercifully, the car was only with us for 6 years, from 1999 to 2004. An example of Chrysler’s “cab forward” platform architecture, the 300M’s front wheels were powered by a 255-hp V6. Billed as a sports sedan and formulated in large part for the European market, its handling, power and interior space were by all accounts respectable.

But for heaven’s sake, just look at it. The 300M’s length was reduced for more size-conscious European sensibilities by simply lopping the end off the trunk, creating a massive disconnect with the rounded lines everywhere else on the car. The overall proportions are blobby and distended, and the nose, oh the nose. The car’s fascia seems more like a random collection of shapes sprayed onto the front bumper with no relationship whatsoever to each other. It’s just a disaster.

So the question remains: Why on earth did no automotive journalist pipe up and topple Chrysler’s stylistic house of cards? I suppose we’ll never know.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series wherein I discuss unsuccessful cars whose styling was their overlooked (or denied) Achilles heel. Read the other installments here:

Filed under: Aesthetics, Chrysler, Styling Misfires


  1. Ryan says:

    They certainly have come a long way because the new 300M looks absolutely phenomenal, or at least in my humble opinion. Gotta get the SRT8 though. ;)

    • Matt says:

      The new 300 is a much, much more handsome car. With the whole bankruptcy and buyout by Fiat (and we taxpayers…), Chrysler didn’t have a lot of money for a complete redesign, so they just tarted up the details some, with mixed results, I have to admit. Pre-refresh SRT-8 for me, please.

  2. CentralScrew says:

    You have no clue, tell us; how many full size sedan models in the from 99 in the 300m’s price range or close can you hold up as better designed cars?

    Your comments read like you received your design education must have came from a crackerjack box.

    • Matt says:

      That’s beside the point. It’s an ugly car, no matter how many or few attractive cars were available when the 300M was offered.

      Anything constructive to contribute to my blog? :)

  3. Urm Om says:


    Your post read like someone who must have been borne yesterday, like the other comment; get a clue wanna be car designer critic!

    You Idiot!

    • Matt says:

      That, good sir, is the very definition of putting lipstick on a pig. Wheels and a body kit don’t cure fundamental styling deficiencies.

  4. Gegembauer says:

    The Chrysler 300m is a masterpiece.
    Beautifully designed – it was the first Mopar that realistically could compete with the BMW 5 series.
    It’s 3.5 engine, had actually more HP per litre than the BMW engines of the same era.
    Its body has a better drag coefficient than its successor – and with the same 3.5 engine, it would also have a better performance and better fuel efficiency than the 300c.
    This car was one of the first American cars to have a good performance in sales in every continent on the planet.
    It is truly a collectible car.
    And with all due respect – you don’t know what you’re writing about.

  5. Davide says:

    Unbelievable. This was one of the best an very few late ’90s American car designs. Bold, strong, masculine, handsome, dynamic. Look at the horror Ford and Cadillac of the time for comparison, impotent and bubbly, flabby shapes.

    Futuristic with its cab forward design, strong wide stance, very beautiful with its high tail…study the 1970’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta to see where it comes from.

    I always felt it deserved so much more success. But people…they just are not educated enough.

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