Road Test - 2004 Chrysler Crossfire

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Sep 26, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Where style is substance

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    The Crossfire blends Art Deco touches with a contemporary flair, although the bright windshield surround jumps out on dark-colored models. The fixed roof allows for more than 7 cu. ft. of cargo space beneath the hatch.

    By Matt DeLorenzo • Photos by Guy Spangenberg
    October 2003

    On paper, the Chrysler Crossfire has all the makings of a sports car: two seats, a 6-speed manual, wide 18-in. front and 19-in. rear tires, a curb weight of just over 3000 lb. and 200-plus horsepower. In metal, the Crossfire's execution of those attributes is more gran turismo than flat-out road racer, which is part of the allure of Chrysler's new icon.

    While the Crossfire can certainly hold its own when the road begins to bend, this car's attraction lies beyond handling and straight-line performance. It's about how it looks and how it makes you feel. The Crossfire is one of those rare automobiles that turns upside down the strong emotional connection engendered by 2-seaters. Rather than form following function, the function comes from the form.

    The Crossfire takes the 1930s' Art Deco styling of French coupes from such legendary marques as Talbot Lago and Bugatti and blends it with modern, Machine Age surfacing. The long hood, the teardrop-shape cabin and boattail rear end, along with such cues as the hood strakes, center spine line and even the Chrysler winged emblem, which is part of the grille cap, recall those classics.

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    And yet, the Crossfire comes across as a thoroughly modern automobile, the result of the crisp character lines and the machined look of flat surface areas. It's from this modern edgy styling that the car derives its name. On the sides, the negative space formed by the side scallops behind the front wheels turns into the positive space of the wide rear fenders. The side character line, which turns itself inside out just after the outside mirror, according to the designers, is like being caught in a crossfire.

    With its cab pushed all the way to the rear, and its large wheels and muscular rear fenders, there is no other car like the Crossfire out on the road today. To say that it is a head-turner is an understatement.

    Attention to smaller details, such as the projector-beam headlamps, the satin-finished highlights, the three bars over the side air extractors, the door handles and the windshield surround, for instance, add to the Crossfire's upscale aura. While the side detailing adds some texture to the Crossfire's profile, the windshield surround, especially on the red and black cars, is a bit too prominent for my tastes — it blends much better with the silver and platinum-blue paint schemes.

    Another prominent exterior feature that's more about function than style is the rear spoiler that automatically deploys at speeds over 60 mph. The car looks much better with the spoiler stowed, although when up, it doesn't really affect the view out the rear window all that much. The sound of the spoiler going up and down does take some getting used to.

    Inside, the design is consistent with the exterior execution. The center spine theme is repeated on the dash and the center console and even the shift lever has a small character line that matches up. The center console is finished in a bright aluminum satin paint, which is augmented by accents on the steering wheel, door handles and bezels around the instruments. The Crossfire is equipped with analog gauges with white lettering on a black background, which are easier to read than retro white-faced instruments. These graphics also lend a contemporary air to the Crossfire.

    There are few, if any, amenities that the Crossfire lacks. Both bucket seats are heated and have power adjustments (8-way for the driver, 4-way for the passenger), and there are power windows and door locks, a telescoping steering wheel, cruise control and dual-zone air conditioning. Also standard are stability control, traction control and a tire-pressure monitoring system, the last necessitated by the lack of a spare tire, although there is a temporary fill and patch kit.

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    A highly styled engine cover sits atop Mercedes' sohc 3.2-liter V-6. The engine produces 215 bhp, leaving us wishing for a bit more. Could a supercharger be in the Crossfire's future? Let's hope so.

    The controls and switches are logically placed and easy to use, although the LED readout on the 240-watt Infinity sound system is difficult to read in bright daylight. The fit and quality of the materials in the production model are first-rate and although the interior has a close-coupled feeling, there is good storage in the center console and a number of cubbies and netted bins to hold loose items.

    With 36.3 in. of head room and 43.0 in. of leg room, it is fairly easy to settle comfortably into the supportive bucket seats. Despite the small greenhouse, outward vision is remarkably good to the sides and forward. Naturally, rear three-quarter views are limited due to the large C-pillar treatment of the boattail rear end and although the rear window has a fast angle to it, this long piece of glass provides acceptable rearward vision with no distortion. The side mirrors also provide excellent coverage, so at no time did I feel I couldn't see what was going on behind me.

    Beneath the rear hatch is 7.6 cu. ft. of storage space, which is good for a pair of suitcases. A couple could travel on an extended trip fairly comfortably, although a set of golf clubs might be a bit of a challenge to haul around.

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    Gauges (left) are traditional analog with contemporary graphics, while the 6-speed's shifter (right) has a spine that mimics the exterior style.

    Riding on a 94.5-in. wheelbase, the Crossfire is a compact 159.8 in. in overall length, and yet has a beefy stance with a width of 69.5 in. It stands 51.4 in. tall.

    While the Crossfire's appeal is tilted heavily in favor of its striking looks, that's not to say there aren't competent mechanicals beneath the sexy skin. The heart of the Crossfire, a true hybrid of Mercedes-Benz engineering and Chrysler design, is M-B's 3-valve 3.2-liter V-6, which is mated to a choice of a 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic transmission. The rear-drive coupe also utilizes Mercedes' 5-link rear suspension.

    You'd expect that these bits would be the Crossfire's strong suit, but rather, they are some of the soft points in what is a nicely executed vehicle. The engine produces 215 bhp at 5700 rpm and 229 lb.-ft. of torque at 3000 rpm. This output is below such erstwhile competitors as the Nissan 350Z, the Audi TT with the hotter 225-bhp 1.8-liter turbo four and the base Porsche Boxster. Still, to Chrysler's credit, by keeping the Crossfire relatively svelte at 3060 lb., it offers respectable performance, accelerating from 0-60 in 6.4 seconds and covering the quarter mile in 14.7 sec. at 95.9 mph.

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    Likewise with the transmission — the 6-speed manual, taken directly from the SLK/C-Class, lacks the short-throw precision of its competitors. It's competent in its operation, especially when combined with the low-effort, easily modulated clutch, but isn't class-leading. For most buyers, those who buy the Crossfire for the styling statement it makes, this drivetrain is more than adequate — on both two-lane highways and Interstates, the car has more than enough passing power. Those looking for a little more off-the-line snap should petition Chrysler for a supercharged version of the car. I suspect their requests may not go unheeded.

    Although the powerplant could be stouter, the car's handling is a delight. The fully independent suspension with its 18-in. front and 19-in. rear wheels fitted with Michelin Pilot SX tires is well balanced between the compliance needed to soak up bumps and tautness required for tackling turns. (An all-season Continental tire is available as an option.) At the test track, the Crossfire pulled 0.89g on the skidpad and posted a speed of 67.5 mph through our 700-ft. slalom, which compares favorably to the base Porsche Boxster (0.91g and 68.6 mph) and the Track version of the 350Z (0.88g and 67.3 mph).

    The Crossfire's suspension is tuned for mild understeer, but the car feels more neutral on the open road. The traction-control system does permit some wheelspin, which allows for a bit less understeer in spirited driving. The action of the power-assisted recirculating-ball steering is solid and precise with good on-center feel. Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS do yeoman's work in hauling the Crossfire down from 60 mph in just 113 ft. and from 80 mph in 203 ft.

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    Not only does the Crossfire handle well and stop quickly, it goes about its work in relative silence. The stiff body and attention to insulation minimize wind and tire noise. This car has the kind of solid feel usually associated with Mercedes' large sedans. Of course, having a fixed roof certainly makes the job easier, with the side benefit of always having more luggage space than a convertible.

    Much will be made of the fact that the Crossfire relies heavily on the same parts bin used for the Mercedes SLK, but the bottom line is that the Crossfire excels in design, packaging, suspension tuning and build quality — areas in which the Chrysler team had primary responsibility, especially when working with coachbuilder Karmann, which assembles the cars in Osnabrück, Germany. For Chrysler, in getting a new icon that it can sell for less than $35,000, the sum of the Mercedes parts and ownership is greater than the whole.

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    Chrysler Crossfire

    Current list price $33,620
    Engine 3.2-liter sohc 18-valve V-6
    Horsepower 215 bhp @ 5700 rpm
    Torque 229 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
    Transmission 6-speed manual
    0-60 mph 6.4 sec
    Braking 0-60 mph 113 ft
    Lateral accel (200-ft skidpad) 0.89g

    EPA city/highway 17/25 mpg
    Length 159.8 in.
    Width 69.5 in.
    Height 51.4 in.
    Wheelbase 94.5 in.
    Track, f/r 60.0 in./59.3 in.
    Curb weight 3060 lb

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  2. Bobby Ballsack

    Bobby Ballsack I could be a friend to you

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    They copied the SLK interior to a fucking T.
     
  3. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Well, it IS a SLK, so that should be no surprise.
     
  4. kré

    kré ae86 driver.

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    i'd hit it.
     

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