The first day with a new car is always interesting. You spend a lot of time just getting to know each other, and that is what today was like with the 2005 Chrysler Crossfire.
You might be asking yourself, why is Autoblog reviewing a Crossfire? Well, this is not your ordinary Crossfire. No,
it is not the extreme SRT6, those are a touch on the expensive side. This is the base Crossfire. It comes in only one
color, black, no leather, a manual transmission and a sticker price starting at $30,070. I think our real mission in
this review is to find out, is the Crossfire worth the money? The sport coupe segment is a little crowded, and the
Crossfire is a touch on the expensive side, especially when you’re comparing it on paper to its competition.
In all-black, the Crossfire is a little bit like the Maybach Exelero’s baby brother. It has a touch of sinister, but not too much. The hard lines of this little car still turn heads after being on the market for a couple years. One of the touches that do not make it to the base Crossfire is the bright work on the car’s fender vents. Those are not available until you upgrade to the Limited, and subsequently increase your starting price by $3000+. I don’t know about you, but I tend to enjoy the back to basics appeal of a car like this, especially in the face of more expensive models that offer little in the way of additional ‘performance’ enhancements. Chrome on the side vents does not qualify as a performance enhancement to me.
Like I said, the real question is where this little American/German fits into the grand scheme of things. So far, fitting into it is my biggest problem. At over six feet, four inches, it is a touch on the cramped side. I encountered the same problem at the SRT track event, but when you’re driving that fast you hardly pay attention to these things. Outside of the headroom, the interior is comfortable enough for long distances. My head would occasionally touch the roof, but I have yet to have a problem with it. Entry into the Crossfire poses more of a problem than sitting in it. We will see how it goes over the next few days. I plan on going over each of the car’s various traits over the course of the week. Hopefully we will be able to answer that ultimate question, “How does the Crossfire fare in a such a diverse sport coupe segment?”
I ended up skipping yesterday's post because I spent way to much time trying to wring the Crossfire out. In the process I found out that the huge tires fitted to this tiny sport coupe contribute to very high limits of adhesion.
Those are huge meats on the Crossfire’s seven spoke wheels. With 18-inch front wheels and 19-inchers in the back, the Crossfire has an interesting wheel combination. I’m sure it’s even more interesting to try to buy tires for this car, but that is beside the point.
What is it like to drive? It is almost like a trip back in time, but not the same trip that you would take in the Mustang. Instead of a send back to the muscle car era, the Crossfire is the essence of the Teutonic stormers of just a few years ago. Solid, predictable handling, sublime turbine-like thrust, and all in a package that is not entirely overrun with frivolous electronic gadgets. Of course, the traction control is that irritating type that halts the fun way to early, but press that override button and forget about it. The only problem is the 3.2-liter does not have the grunt off line to override the back rubber. With rear tires like these, you have to work hard to spin them. No smoky burn outs for me, and I’m sure Chrysler would love to have their precious Crossfire back with a roasted clutch.
What happens when you take a roadster platform, the previous generation Mercedes SLK, and put a roof on it. You create what has to be one of the most rigid chassis in the business. That is what the crew at Chrysler has done. Designing the Crossfire with Mercedes components may seem like an easy task, but creating a package this well integrated out with what the team had to work with is impressive. This little German-American is so tight, swing the door open and you feel it hit the stops through the seat. And try as I might to upset the Crossfire, it has some serious limits. Actually, I would love to keep it a couple weeks and take it to a track event or two. All this sportiness does not translate into a rough ride either. Under most conditions, the ride is well under control without being harsh. On some roads, the short wheel base does become a liability, but all things considered it’s more than tolerable.
Any complaints? While it has that German mid-to-redline thrust, it’s tough getting those steam rollers in the back rotating. Good luck getting them to spin, like I said. So, add 50 horsepower and this would be one mean little road demon. Of course, you could pay the coin for the SRT6 which has a lot more power, but the row your own gearbox is not available. In addition, the steering, while nicely weighted, is not as communicative as the rest of the car.
There is a delicious character to the Crossfire. Clearly, the German influence of this car is evident. For the enthusiast who wants the feel and atmosphere of the Germans of a few short years ago without buying used or paying thousands more. For those of you who have a past with machines from Deutschland, you know what willing and enjoyable dance partners they make. I feel like the Crossfire is in the same league. Tomorrow, I plan to go over the rest of the car’s qualities before wrappiing it up Friday.
After all the time spent with the Crossfire, it is still a little nebulous to me. For instance, try as I might to find the limits of this car, it would handily eat up any twisty road I could throw at it. That is the great tragedy of this review, in my opinion. The crisp turn-in and ferocious lateral grip of the Crossfire would be better at home on the track that around suburban sprawl.
If I had it for a few more days, perhaps I could run it through an autocross course. It would do very well, I’m
sure. And the engine produces such buttery delicious power that you’ll run out of legal cushion before you’ll want to
stop spinning its top. Before I get into a discussion of more practice concerns, it is important to relay the character
of the Crossfire. It is balanced, in that German sense. The engine is powerful, but not too powerful. The handling is
sporty, but not too sporty. It is as if every ingredient is carefully measured and applied in a formulaic manner.
The interior of the Crossfire is rather spartan. There are not many distractions, but there isn’t room for any either. Everything is laid out in a very logic manner, and there is no unnecessary stylistic fluff to mess with. Now, I have heard the Crossfire has cup holders. Either I did not look hard enough, or they aren’t there.
The Crossfire is a small car. What else is there to say? The small size makes the car fun to drive, but it can be uncomfortable for those taller than six feet. It all depends on your proportions really, but it is small. My shins were almost always in the lower part of the dash. Once inside the cockpit, the small amount of discomfort was easily ignored. I did manage to find a comfortable driving position, but when the seat is all the way back your options are limited.
As I wind down, one interesting feature to mention is the Crossfire’s deployable spoiler. At about 65 mph, the spoiler will fully extend. When you slow down below 40 mph is will automatically retract. It’s pretty cool, but at U.S. highway speeds it probably doesn’t do much. You can also manually extend it, to give your ride that high performance look (I’m not serious).
Back to our original question, does the Crossfire represent a value in the crowded sport coupe segment? If the price was lower, I would say yes. Perhaps the $25,000-$27,000 range would be a good fit for the car. That is just based on its immediate competition. If you consider the German character of the car, however, you could cast the Crossfire as a bargain. I honestly can’t see how Chrysler is making much money on these cars. Granted, the development cost of the platform is probably paid for, but they are still assembled in Germany. For the next generation, I would suggest making the interior accommodations more generous, assembling the car in the U.S., and maybe installing the 3.5-liter Chrysler V6 over the 3.2-liter Mercedes unit.
Otherwise, if you can fit in the Crossfire and want that blast for the past German feel without a lot of fluff, then this base Crossfire might be the ticket. Fuel consumption is pretty reasonable, with the Crossfire getting 21 mpg around town. Honestly, when you talk about German cars without the fuss of the current generation, there are only two options out there. They’re not even from German makes, but the Mini Cooper and the Chrysler Crossfire are two choices for those who want to terrorize some twisties without spending a lot of change or being bombarded with a lot of gadgetry. However, if you simply are looking for a beastly powerful coupe, the Crossfire probably isn’t for you.
New Car Test Drive
New roadster and high-performance models.
The Chrysler Crossfire is a two-seat sports car that brings exciting styling to the class. For 2005, Chrysler is adding a roadster for top-down motoring. Plus, a powerful new SRT-6 model is available, both coupe and roadster body styles.
The Crossfire combines American design with German engineering. Look underneath and you'll find a lot of Mercedes parts, including the V6 engine, multilink suspension, and steering. It's based heavily on the Mercedes-Benz SLK.
Chrysler excels at design and we love the Crossfire's romantic shapes and sleek, athletic lines. The long hood and fastback make the coupe instantly recognizable.
Not surprisingly, the Crossfire runs like a Mercedes. It has a firm, but comfortable ride and precise steering that reminds us of the SLK. The 3.2-liter V6 feels and sounds like the engine from the previous-generation SLK. Though Chrysler points out that it has more torque than the BMW Z4 roadster, Porsche Boxster, and Audi TT Quattro, the three-valve Mercedes V6 simply does not offer the free-revving sportiness those other three deliver. Nor does it have the power of the Nissan 350Z or Infiniti G35 coupe. But that's okay. The Crossfire is relatively light at just 3060 pounds. It's performance is plenty thrilling enough for most drivers and its rear-wheel drive gives it that classic sporty feel. In short, it's fun to drive and delightful to ride around in.
To kick it up a notch, the new Crossfire SRT-6 features a supercharged version of the V6 rated at 330 horsepower, a huge jump from the standard 215-horsepower engine. Chrysler claims the SRT-6 can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 5 seconds, which is very quick indeed. The suspension and brakes are upgraded for spirited driving. The big rear wing that comes on the SRT-6 models detracts from the Crossfire's svelte styling, though. Also new for 2005 is an entry-level coupe dropping the price of entry below $30,000.
The 2005 Chrysler Crossfire line has grown to include eight variants. The standard Crossfire coupe ($29,045) comes with a six-speed manual transmission, while the Crossfire Limited is available with a choice of six-speed manual ($33,745) or five-speed automatic with AutoStick ($34,820). (MSRPs do not include $875 destination charge.)
Similarly, the standard Crossfire Roadster ($34,085) comes with the six-speed manual, while the Roadster Limited comes with manual ($38,045) or automatic ($39,120).
The Crossfire SRT-6 coupe ($44,820) and SRT-6 Roadster ($49,120) come standard with the automatic.
The base coupe comes standard with power windows, speed control, dual-zone temperature control, four-wheel anti-lock brakes with brake assist, Electronic Stability Program (ESP), and all-speed traction control. Limited models heated leather power seats, tire-pressure monitoring system, touring gear, heated mirrors, fog lamps, and a universal garage door opener. Options are limited to a navigation system ($1,200) and all-season tires ($185) in place of the standard high-performance tires. Crossfire comes in Classic Yellow, Aero Blue, Alabaster, Black, Blaze Red, Graphite Metallic and Sapphire Silver Blue.
The Crossfire originally appeared as a concept at the 2001 Detroit auto show, while the roadster was revealed at the 2004 Detroit show. The Crossfire still looks like a concept car, particularly when ordered in one of the wilder colors like Classic Yellow.
The Chrysler Crossfire uses retro styling somewhat like the Mini Cooper, PT Cruiser, or Beetle. Unlike those other cars, however, Crossfire is patterned after parts of classic French Bugattis and Talbot Lagos from the elegant pre-war period of auto design. Collectors of classic cars recognize the shape of the rear hatch, the curve of the fenders, and the subtly bubbled roof from designs they covet, although the Crossfire is a blend of many lines, not a copy of any particular model from the golden age. Chrysler styling cues are here as well, particularly at the front of the car, where the quad headlamps and big grille with horizontal bars evokes the look of the new Chrysler 300C and Pacifica.
The Crossfire impressed us when we first saw it and we still love the looks and enjoy looking at its styling details and nuances. The strakes that dimple the hood and the non-functional vents behind the front wheels have drawn some criticism, but we like them. The hood strakes are best appreciated from directly overhead, where they work with the fenders and a ridge that runs from the center of the hood and is carried back through the center of the roof. Big-shouldered rear fenders and a stunted rear end look sporty and classic at the same time. The chopped roof with slits for side windows remind us of something from a 1930s gangster movie or cartoon. This car looks distinctive and has lots of character.
The roadster has a more traditional profile than the distinctive fastback rear of the coupe, but we like both designs. It looks good with the top up, with its short rear deck. And it looks even better with the top down, the body colored panel behind the rear seats looking like a classic sports car with raised humps behind each seat. Even after a year on the road, the coupe attracts attention, and the new roadster gets a lot of looks.
The Crossfire is built at the Karmann factory in Germany, which is the same place the Mercedes SLK and CLK are built, at a rate of nearly 20,000 per year, and it's sold in many other countries. Chrysler says the name Crossfire is derived from the crossed lines of the front and rear body sections.
The first thing you notice when you get in the Crossfire is its contemporary interior styling, a clean and elegant design with an interesting mix of materials and colors. Interior colors are keyed to the exterior and range from a subdued gray to a pale yellow to a rich red, depending on the model, offset with a black dash. A silver center stack brightens the interior and feels good to the touch. The top of the dash is textured and reminded us of a sprayed-on bed liner, but we like it and it looks like it will hold up well.
Inside the Chrysler Crossfire is the familiar Mercedes adjustable wheel and pedal arrangement with a low seating position similar to the SLK roadster's. It's tight inside for a six-footer, yet the driver's seat slides back far enough for an NBA hopeful. We found the seats outstanding, firm, comfortable and supportive. The instruments look classic and are easy to read. Just as in a Mercedes, we were constantly hitting the cruise control lever when we wanted to signal a turn; Mercedes owners adapt to this. Switches for the power windows are on the center console, less convenient than having them on the doors; they feature auto-down but not auto-up.
The Crossfire cockpit is tight and coddling like a sports car's. It's reminiscent of the SLK, yet has curiously tiny sun visors. Bins and cubbies are more prolific than you'll find in the Mercedes SLK or even the top-dollar SL two-seaters.
The Roadster has a high-quality top with a glass back light (rear windscreen) with a defroster. The top goes down in 22 seconds. To drop the top, simply pull down the handle on the windshield header, turn the handle, which releases the convertible fabric top and lowers the power windows, and lift the front of the top about eight inches. Then press the button on the center console and the hard tonneau opens up, the soft fabric top folds in, and the hard tonneau closes again.
Rearward visibility from both the coupe and Roadster is limited to a narrow slit in the rearview mirror, but the outside mirrors are generously sized.
The coupe offers 7.6 cubic feet of cargo space; it's deep and can swallow a fair amount of stuff, but the opening is relatively small and precludes big boxes. The roadster offers 6.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the top up, less with the top down; accessing the roadster's trunk is very easy, however, compared with some of the more awkward convertibles such as the PT Cruiser or Beetle. No key is needed to open the trunk when the Crossfire is unlocked, which is convenient.
We found the Crossfire accelerates with strength and force even though the output of 215 horsepower is ordinary these days. The three-valve engine sounds mildly sporty. It sounds louder and more purposeful than the same engine in various Mercedes models, but not as sweet as a free-revving sports car engine should be. We particularly like the quick throttle response, which gives the impression that the engine is stronger than its 215 horsepower would suggest. Chrysler claims the Crossfire will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, and our test car felt like that would not be a problem. But that's significantly slower than sports cars such as the similarly affordable Nissan 350Z and pricier Boxster S.
We love the sporty handling. The Crossfire does not overpower its chassis, in fact it feels just the opposite. The A-arm front and multilink rear suspension and the monster tires feel like they can cope with more speed than the engine is capable of providing.
We drove the Crossfire over winding mountain roads east of San Diego, smoothly paved with lots of combinations of tight bends and fast sweeping curves. The chassis of our Crossfire felt stiffer than the Mercedes SLK roadsters, likely because the coupe body of the Chrysler has a structural advantage. The Crossfire shares its floorpan with the SLK, but in the Chrysler it's modified with extra tie bars and frame gussets that prompt Chrysler to proclaim class-leading chassis stiffness. The Crossfire corners as flat as a sports car. Though not harsh, the suspension is firm, so sipping a hot cappuccino on the way to work might be risky.
At the limits of its cornering ability, the Crossfire will begin plowing sooner than a 350Z or BMW Z4. Chrysler says this is a function of the car being tuned for more relaxed cruising than all-out sport driving. The Crossfire sports huge 225/40 by 18-inch front and 255/35 by 19-inch rear tires. Two tire designs are available, a Michelin Pilot Sport 2 and a new Continental Z-rated (high-speed) all-season. The tires are relatively large for a car that is not intended to be an uncompromised sports car, such as Nissan's 350Z, and we suspect the Crossfire's large tires were specified for styling appeal.
The six-speed manual gearbox, a Mercedes unit, somehow didn't seem to feel as direct and quick shifting as we remember from previous Mercedes roadsters. We actually preferred the Crossfire with the five-speed automatic, which worked flawlessly and felt perfectly matched to the 3.2-liter engine. This automatic has an adaptive function, which learns how you drive by measuring how quickly you apply the accelerator in each gear. It has a manual-shifting gate, which Chrysler calls AutoStick on its cars.
The brakes are sensitive and responsive. The Crossfire can stop like a sports car, a result of its large 11.8-inch vented front and 10.9-inch solid rear rotors matched with massive tires. Our drives took us up and down 4,000-foot elevations, and the brakes gave us confidence charging downhill as quickly as we drove uphill. Like the SLK, the Crossfire makes use of a comprehensive stability and traction control system. It's the first time the Mercedes system has been used on a Chrysler. When engaged, this system makes the Crossfire nearly impossible to upset in tricky conditions.
At 60 mph a rear spoiler pops up just under the rear window, and it cuts slightly into rear vision, but noise from the spoiler's motor was not intrusive. What we did notice was that the sporty exhaust note was still audible while we cruised on the highway. It sounded distant and came from the rear of the car, which tells us there's very little noise from the rest of the car on the highway. The roadster is surprisingly quiet when the top up.
We really like driving the Crossfire, and we like looking at it, and those are by far the two most important things you can say about any car.
Its manners and drivability are the best part about the Crossfire. It doesn't offer the performance and handling of a true sports car, such as the Nissan Z, but the Mercedes V6 offers quick throttle and the Crossfire accelerates with force. It corners flat, its Mercedes suspension always feels controlled and it has the latest in Mercedes anti-skid technology.
The SRT-6 models promise dramatically increased performance and are aimed at driving enthusiasts.
Chrysler Crossfire coupe ($29,045); coupe Limited ($33,745); coupe Limited automatic ($34,820); Roadster ($34,085); Roadster Limited ($38,045); Roadster Limited automatic ($39,120); SRT-6 coupe ($44,820); SRT-6 Roadster ($49,120).
Options As Tested
automatic transmission ($1,075); AM/FM/CD with GPS navigation ($1,200).
Chrysler Crossfire Roadster Limited ($38,045).
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