Road Test - 2004 Chrysler Crossfire

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jun 21, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,593
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    The beauty extends beneath the skin. But not quite into the engine bay.

    [​IMG]

    BY TONY SWAN
    PHOTOGRAPHY BY AARON KILEY
    July 2003

    It's been five years since the merger of equals led to the creation of the DaimlerChrysler Corporation, and whatever you may think of the founding fiction, this car represents the first real offspring of that union.

    Consider the genetics: sheetmetal conceived in Auburn Hills, Michigan; hardware conceived in Stuttgart, Germany; gestation and birth courtesy of limited-production specialist Karmann in Osnabrück, Germany. Limited in this case means 20,000 units per annum, some 17,000 of them destined for North America. The numbers are calculated to preserve a measure of exclusivity and also recognize the realities of the marketplace. Even so, with a sports-car market that's increasingly crowded, thanks to the arrival of the Nissan 350Z and Mazda RX-8, that goal looks ambitious. Consider Chrysler's last foray into the realm of limited-production high-profile cars, the Prowler: 2631 copies went out the door in 2000, its best sales year.

    Then again, to understate things a trifle, the Crossfire is a far better effort than the Prowler, which was essentially a kit car with a factory warranty. And an expensive kit car at that. The Crossfire, starting at a healthy $34,495, is solid goods, with never a quiver from its railroad-trestle chassis, and its formidable foundations—Chrysler claims a body-shell rigidity number north of 51 hertz, which would be consistent with an Abrams tank—are clad in some of the most seductive sheetmetal we’ve seen in this era of uninhibited styles. Christina Aguilera has software in her closet that might attract more attention, but it would be close.

    Although it’s clearly the stylish fastback exterior that’s going to get butts into the Crossfire’s bucket seats, it’s the Benz bones and powertrain that will be responsible for keeping them there to the point of actual purchase. The bones, as we’ve already suggested, are robust, with rigidity characteristics that are not entirely astonishing, in light of their origin: the same platform supports the Mercedes SLK-class roadster. The wheelbase of the two cars is identical at 94.5 inches, and the Crossfire interior-design team was limited by the same hard points: notably, the front and rear bulkheads, making the cockpit a little snug for drivers six feet or taller. More on this later.

    Although the SLK is far from rubbery, its rigidity doesn’t compare with the Crossfire’s, which tells you something about cars with fixed roofs versus cars whose roofs are foldable. Chrysler says its coupe is stiffer than a Porsche 911, and our experiences provided nothing to refute this startling assertion. The design may be American, but there’s plenty of Teuton in the Crossfire’s backbone, and it knows how to follow orders.

    The suspension pieces bolted to this mobile minicitadel are also from Stuttgart. The upper front control arms are from the previous-generation E-class sedan, the lower from the C-class sedan (and SLK), and the multilink rear suspension is also from the SLK. Chrysler did make some adjustments to the foregoing, in part to accommodate the enormous (7.5-by-18-inch front, 9.0-by-19-inch rear) aluminum alloy wheels, in part to give the Crossfire its own dynamic persona. The coupe has a heftier rear anti-roll bar (19 millimeters versus 16) and firmer damping in its gas shocks.

    Considering the bigger wheels (the biggest SLK wheels are 17-inchers), you might expect larger brake rotors tucked in behind them. But the cost-conscious development team stuck with the SLK320’s brakes: 11.8-inch vented front rotors, 10.9-inch solid rears, with four-channel ABS. And the parts-bin brakes obviously do a good job, arresting the car from 70 mph in 161 feet, with never a trace of fade.

    [​IMG]

    This performance is as much a function of tires as it is of brakes. With the substantial contact patches and low profiles of its Michelin Pilot Sport tires—225/40ZR-18 front, 255/35ZR-19 rear—plus the support of those wide wheels, the Crossfire’s rubber does an excellent job of transferring braking power to the pavement. In light of this, we also expected pretty respectable lateral-g numbers, an expectation that was vindicated on the skidpad: 0.91 g. That’s better than any lateral-g number we’ve recorded for the Nissan 350Z and equal to the performance turned in by the new Mazda RX-8 in our April comparo “Rotary Revival.”

    Plentiful grip combined with suspension tuning that strikes an acceptable balance between compliance and limited body roll make the Crossfire a generally eager, cooperative, and predictable companion for back-road banditry. Perhaps you noticed the qualifiers in there. Acceptable? Generally? Chrysler’s new coupe does stick to smooth pavement like sun-softened bubble gum, and understeer isn’t the dominating trait that it is in the Z, even though the Crossfire has a slightly higher forward weight bias: 54.5 percent of the 3111 pounds of our manual-shifting test car pressed down on the front wheels. The rear stays planted, unless the driver wants a little playful kick-out, which can be induced provided the electronic stability program is switched off. It’s also possible to drift the car across apexes without excess drama, but lurid power slides aren’t on the menu: There’s not enough muscle to overpower those big rear stickies.

    On the other hand, it is possible to provoke rear-end wagging by hurrying the car around corners clad with broken or lumpy pavement. Although the tuning of the various suspension components is mostly harmonious, there are times when the shocks don’t quite keep pace with the springs. When that happens, the rear end can begin contributing more to the steering than the driver might really want. We wonder how much the mass of those big rear wheels—54 pounds each—contributes to this effect.

    Steering is another soft point in the Crossfire’s dynamic menu. It’s the same recirculating-ball system used in the SLK, which translates as a little slow (3.1 turns lock to lock), a little heavy, and a little numb. The six-speed manual transmission is also SLK hardware, and it, too, leaves something to be desired, with its reluctant engagements and heavy-handed feel. But we prefer that to the leisurely responses and stick waggling that go with the Mercedes five-speed automatic, which has been adapted to Chrysler’s AutoStick manumatic controls.

    We also think the manual will help you hustle your Crossfire to 60 mph a little quicker than the automatic, although we’re not entirely sure about this, since the engine-control program won’t allow unloaded revving beyond 4000 rpm, which inhibits launches. In any case, propelled by its 3.2-liter Mercedes V-6 (215 horsepower, 229 pound-feet of torque), the Crossfire surges to 60 in 6.5 seconds, to 100 in 16.1, and through the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds at 96 mph. This is a wink quicker than we forecast in our May preview, but slower than the numbers posted by the Infiniti G35 and Mazda RX-8 in the “Rotary Revival” comparo and more than a second slower to 60 than the Z we tested in August 2002. You get the picture: No one could call it slow, but it’s not as quick as some key competitors. With a chassis capable of handling 300 horses, a power increase wouldn’t hurt this slick little coupe at all.

    Another something that wouldn’t hurt is a little more longitudinal space in the cockpit. Taller drivers reported difficulties with achieving a comfortable combination of legroom and seatback angle. The steering wheel does adjust for reach, which helps, but a rake adjustment would help more.

    Remarks related to roominess were mixed, but complaints related to rear sightlines were universal. The sweeping sail panels that flank the Crossfire’s sexy boattail hatchback severely limit the driver’s vision in the rear quarters, the back window looks like a smallish soft trapezoid in the inside mirror, and it gets even smaller when the retractable rear wing deploys at 57 mph. Chrysler says this device reduces lift at high speed. We can’t say for sure. We can say it reduces the rear view to a slot better suited to an armored personnel carrier.

    [​IMG]

    Aside from space and sightline issues—and counterintuitive power-window switches—the Crossfire’s interior is a pleasant and stylish place to be. Chrysler has done a nice job of making relatively inexpensive materials look classy. The satin-finish brightwork of the dashboard center stack and the interior two-toning look spiffy, the leather-clad seats add an upscale touch, and if some of the secondary controls—for cruise, headlights, wipers, power seats—are obvious to us as Mercedes pieces, that may not be so obvious to folks who stop to check out the Crossfire up close and personal. And if it is obvious, there are worse automotive sins than using Mercedes fittings in a Chrysler.

    At the end of the day, the Crossfire represents a little more friction between form and function than we’d expect from a company that prides itself on design. And even though it’s loaded with standard luxury features, it could use a little more thrust to justify its rather ambitious price. But this is nevertheless the most seductive Chrysler two-seater in recent memory. Suddenly, the Audi TT is yesterday’s news.

    [​IMG]

    Highs: Look-at-me styling, granitic structure, driver-friendly dynamics.

    Lows: Stevie Wonder rear-quarter sightlines, snug for the long of leg, a tad short on snort.

    The Verdict: Only 50 horses short of stardom.

    COUNTERPOINT

    The Crossfire is a Mercedes SLK roadster in dressed-down form, the first fruit from Daimler’s purchase of Chrysler five years ago. It has radical styling, good power, and an interior that has lesser materials but is quite snazzy in color scheme and dashboard silverware. The structure is confidently solid—and the car is $11,000 less than the SLK320, although it’s essentially the same car without a fold-down roof. But somebody has goofed—I just do not fit in the driver’s seat. I can’t get comfortable, and my knees are right up on the edge of the dash, even though I’m only a hair over six feet. The SLK, oddly enough, fits me with a little room to spare. Go figure. —Steve Spence

    The technology that underpins this stylish boattail coupe is about to be made obsolete by a new Mercedes-Benz SLK, but it is more than adequate to the needs of the Crossfire. And the big advantage of using existing (and paid for) vehicle mechanicals is that a Crossfire owner can enjoy the kind of performance—albeit it in a coupe instead of a convertible—that normally stickers somewhere in the mid-40s for about 10 grand less. (What price a three-pointed star?) As long as you aren’t six foot five, that makes the car a good deal. Unfortunately, the Crossfire shares its donor car’s pinched interior space, and that’s a disappointment. —Barry Winfield

    If you are moved by the styling of this little two-seat coupe, there is nothing in its operation that should dissuade you from purchasing it. I’m moved by the looks—more in person than in photos. This surprisingly small vehicle has the compact visual power of a .38 snub-nose revolver. Mercedes SLK mechanicals, even if they’re getting a bit old, are still not a bad bunch of bits. The engine is smooth and the suspension reasonably comfy, and the switchgear feels quality. The only things that would prevent me from buying it are the Nissan 350Z, the Infiniti G35 coupe, the Mazda RX-8, and a (used) BMW M coupe—all of which are more fun to drive. —Daniel Pund

    C/D TEST RESULTS

    ACCELERATION (Seconds)
    Zero to 30 mph: 2.1
    40 mph: 3.5
    50 mph: 4.7
    60 mph: 6.5
    70 mph: 8.2
    80 mph: 10.2
    90 mph: 13.1
    100 mph: 16.1
    110 mph: 19.8
    120 mph: 25.5
    130 mph: 32.2
    Street start, 5–60 mph: 6.9
    Top-gear acceleration, 30–50 mph: 10.2
    50–70 mph: 9.5
    Standing 1/4-mile: 14.8 sec @ 96 mph
    Top speed (drag limited): 151 mph


    BRAKING
    70–0 mph @ impending lockup: 161 ft
    Fade: none light moderate heavy

    HANDLING
    Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.91 g
    Understeer: minimal moderate excessive

    FUEL ECONOMY
    EPA city driving: 18 mpg
    EPA highway driving: 27 mpg
    C/D-observed: 18 mpg

    INTERIOR SOUND LEVEL
    Idle: 46 dBA
    Full-throttle acceleration: 77 dBA
    70-mph cruising: 73 dBA

    Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 3-door coupe
    Price as tested: $34,495

    ENGINE
    Type: V-6, aluminum block and heads
    Bore x stroke: 3.54 x 3.31 in, 89.9 x 84.0mm
    Displacement: 195 cu in, 3199cc
    Compression ratio: 10.0:1
    Engine-control system: Bosch Motronic ME2.8 with port fuel injection
    Emissions controls: 3-way catalytic converter, feedback air-fuel-ratio control, EGR, auxiliary air pump
    Valve gear: chain-driven single overhead cams, 3 valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters, variable intake-valve timing
    Power (SAE net): 215 bhp @ 5700 rpm
    Torque (SAE net): 229 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm

    Redline: 6000 rpm

    DRIVETRAIN
    Transmission: 6-speed manual
    Final-drive ratio: 3.27:1
    Gear ... Ratio ... Mph/1000 rpm ... Max. test speed
    I ... 4.46 ... 5.1 ... 31 mph (6000 rpm)
    II ... 2.61 ... 8.7 ... 52 mph (6000 rpm)
    III ... 1.72 ... 13.3 ... 80 mph (6000 rpm)
    IV ... 1.25 ... 18.4 ... 110 mph (6000 rpm)
    V ... 1.00 ... 22.9 ... 137 mph (6000 rpm)
    VI ... 0.84 ... 27.3 ... 151 mph (5500 rpm)

    DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
    Wheelbase: 94.5 in
    Track, F/R: 58.3/58.2 in
    Length: 159.8 in
    Width: 69.5 in
    Height: 51.4 in
    Frontal area: 20.6 sq ft
    Ground clearance: 4.9 in
    Curb weight: 3111 lb
    Weight distribution, F/R 54.5/45.5%

    Fuel capacity: 15.9 gal
    Oil capacity: 8.5 qt
    Water capacity: 11.8 qt

    CHASSIS/BODY
    Type: unit construction
    Body material: welded steel stampings

    INTERIOR
    SAE volume, front seat: 48 cu ft
    luggage space: 8 cu ft
    Front seats: bucket
    Seat adjustments: fore and aft, seatback angle, front height, rear height
    Restraint systems, front: manual 3-point belts, driver and passenger front and side airbags
    General comfort: poor fair good excellent
    Fore-and-aft support: poor fair good excellent
    Lateral support: poor fair good excellent

    SUSPENSION
    F: ind, unequal-length control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar
    R: ind; 3 lateral links, 1 diagonal link, and 1 toe-control link per side; coil springs; anti-roll bar

    STEERING
    Type: recirculating-ball, power-assisted
    Turns lock-to-lock: 3.1
    Turning circle curb-to-curb: 32.9 ft

    BRAKES
    F: 11.8 x 1.1-in vented disc
    R: 10.9 x 0.4-in disc
    Power assist: vacuum with anti-lock control

    WHEELS AND TIRES
    Wheel size F: 7.5 x 18 in, R: 9.0 x 19 in
    Wheel type: cast aluminum
    Tires Michelin Pilot Sport; F: 225/40ZR-18 92Y, R: 255/35ZR-19 96Y
    Test inflation pressures, F/R: 33/32 psi

    [​IMG]
     
  2. CitznFish

    CitznFish Don't live life by a single sentence OT Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2002
    Messages:
    130,760
    Likes Received:
    236
    Location:
    SoCal
    I like the looks, but I wish it had more power. :hs:
     
  3. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,593
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    Hemi option please.
     
  4. Zimmy76

    Zimmy76 I like my beer like I like my violence, domestic

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2001
    Messages:
    11,719
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    kansas city, Mo
    decent looking imo
     
  5. MR Yasir

    MR Yasir New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2001
    Messages:
    4,394
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    IL
    not bad for the price. Get more than the Benz for less.
     
  6. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,593
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    Bump for day crew.
     
  7. ZAQ786

    ZAQ786 BMW: The reason Lexus is still 'In the pursuit of

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2000
    Messages:
    33,124
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    HOUSTON, TX
  8. bioyuki

    bioyuki Ich habe Angst

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2001
    Messages:
    54,454
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    The front and side look soooooo good but the back looks like ass :ugh:

    Reminds me of the TT.
     
  9. LowkeyG

    LowkeyG OT Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2002
    Messages:
    29,188
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Toronto
    a hemi 6 cyl is in development, this DISCONTINUED mercades engine is not going to be the engine that will power this car throught its production run
     
  10. WS6Formula350

    WS6Formula350 molestache amririte?

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2001
    Messages:
    29,810
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    Birmingham, AL
    That looks like a really :cool: little car.
     
  11. Dr. Woo

    Dr. Woo Guns don't kill people

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2002
    Messages:
    31,237
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Virginia Beach
    Underpowered and overpriced. :down:
     
  12. Mr.Fusion

    Mr.Fusion feast upon my magnificence

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2000
    Messages:
    43,023
    Likes Received:
    82
    Location:
    Austin,Texas
  13. LowkeyG

    LowkeyG OT Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2002
    Messages:
    29,188
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Toronto


    daaaaaammmn homie
     
  14. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,593
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    I really like the styling in pictures.

    With looks like that, it's screaming for more power. A V8 under the hood and a manual in the interior would be perfect.
     
  15. LowkeyG

    LowkeyG OT Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2002
    Messages:
    29,188
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Toronto
    how about a 300+hp 6 cyl






    (although i would love to see a v-8 in there too)
     
  16. mucky

    mucky .

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2001
    Messages:
    44,972
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'm getting use to liking the front end now, but that rear end is still hideous, IMO.

    I'll be happier in a G35 coupe, thank you.
     
  17. midoriryu

    midoriryu Accepting Donations

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2001
    Messages:
    341
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Atlanta
    Its clearly got a lot of mercedes in it, but the lines are dead on for that Hemi wagon concept a while back. I'd give it more lovin without that tacky rear spoiler (looks flimsier than the turbo beetle), and with a Hemi V8 under the hood.

    $35k? no thanks : )
     
  18. azrael

    azrael New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2002
    Messages:
    3,976
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Texas
    you should be here trishield :mad:!!!!!!!!!!!

    -sicklife
     
  19. lawnboy

    lawnboy Robert DeNigro

    Joined:
    May 5, 2000
    Messages:
    29,405
    Likes Received:
    33
    Location:
    Pittsburgh
    how odd
     
  20. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,593
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    :wtc:
     
  21. ///TRASH

    ///TRASH Hideously Erect

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2001
    Messages:
    39,080
    Likes Received:
    421
    Location:
    San Diego, California
    does it even come with HID's? :ugh2:
     

Share This Page