San Francisco: Chryslers decided that they need a halo car, you know something that
sits up there to draw your attention to the brand. It doesnt have to be a model that
sells in the hundreds of thousands. Dodge has the Viper. Plymouth (now gone) had the
Prowler. Whats Chrysler got? The 300M? As nice as it is, the 300M really is not the
halo Chrysler wants heck, its a four-door sedan. So, Chrysler, in just 24
short months, developed the Crossfire.
What is the Crossfire? It is Chryslers first
2-seater, its first real sports coupe but most importantly, at least corporately, it is
the first real product of the Daimler and Chrysler marriage. The Crossfire is designed in
the USA, on a German designed chassis, with a German produced engine and transmissions,
and built by Karmann in Germany. Chrysler is expected to price the Crossfire in the high
I found the Crossfire to evoke the future as seen through the
eyes of someone in the 1930s or 1940s. There are retro touches but the overall effect is
futuristic. The Crossfire is only available as a coupe, a fastback coupe. It is especially
handsome in the front three-quarter view but is distinctive from any angle.
The Crossfire is small; it has a wheelbase of 94.5", is
159.8" long, 69.5" wide, and only 51.4" tall. It is built on the Mercedes
Benz SLK chassis but it looks bigger. The body has a lot of character lines. The hood has
six (three per side) longitudinal lines that flank the beginning of a central spine. The
rear window is tiny, in fact some may have problems seeing out of it. Up front is the same
distinctive grille design and winged emblem seen on the Chrysler Pacifica.
To aid the look of muscularity, the rear tires are
P255/35ZR19 and the fronts are P225/40ZR18. Those are big tires. There is no mistake about
it, the Crossfire is a masculine car.
Inside, the Crossfire is a comfortable, if tight,
transportation module. At 6 tall, I did not have any trouble feeling comfortable in
the Crossfire but a taller driver, at 6 3" had just about no headroom at all.
And, with the seat moved as far back as possible, the seatback would not recline enough to
give the poor fellow a break. So, it was either scrape the roof or move the seat forward
and bend his knees.
Driving a Crossfire is not unlike driving a M-B SLK. Under
the hood is M-Bs 3.2-liter, SOHC, 18-valve (2 intake, one exhaust), V6. It produces
215 hp and 229 lb-ft. You can order it with a 6-speed manual (my recommendation) or a
5-speed automatic. The Crossfire is rear wheel drive. With the manual transmission, the
Crossfire weighs 3,060 lbs and increases by 24 lbs with the automatic, not a terrible
penalty but weight is weight.
Maybe because the Crossfires chassis started life as a
roadster and now sports a fixed roof, it is incredibly rigid. Daimler Chrysler did not
take anything out of the structure, they just added a roof. This rigidity makes for
excellent ride and handling; if anything it is better than the SLK.
I drove the Crossfire on some exciting roads to the east of
San Diego, CA. Regardless of the transmission type, it was a real fun-to-drive car. The
automatic uses Chryslers AutoStick, which virtually turns the automatic into a
manual transmission with brains. The big, beefy tires held on regardless of the road
condition. There are two tire types available on the Crossfire. The standard tires are
Michelin Pilot Sport 2 with ZR-rated Continental All Season Performance tires optionally
available. I drove on both tires and really could not tell the difference but I
never drove the Crossfire at its limit. I did drive through some snow and with the full
time traction control there was never a problem.
Daimler Chrysler expects to sell about 20,000 Crossfires in
the first year, not a great sum. As a halo car, the numbers do not have to be large to be
a success. The Crossfire is being launched at a difficult time. The economy is in a slump,
auto sales are down, unemployment is up, and our nation is at war. The Crossfire is not a
car many people will need. Lets hope for Daimler Chryslers sake, it is a car
enough people will want. By Bruce Hotchkiss © AutoWire.Net - San
Chrysler Home Page
Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©
Download the Microsoft Word version here: 2004 Chrysler Crossfire
Column Name: Chrysler's new Halo Car from Germany
Topic: 2004 Chrysler Crossfire
Word Count: 794
Photo Caption: 2004 Chrysler Crossfire
Photo Credits: Chrysler Internet Media
Series #: 2003 - 43
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