Chrysler Crossfire

Designed in America, named as a Chrysler, but engineered by Mercedes and assembled in Germany by Karmann. Is it an American car, or a German car, or an American-German car? Chrysler admitted it is developed base on Mercedes SLK and employed 39% Mercedes components, so, is that meaning the remaining 61% content is American, like some American magazines said? No. With a bit common sense and a bit understanding about how car industry work, you will know the non-Mercedes parts are either made by Karmann itself or supplied by mostly European suppliers. Crossfire is strictly a German car. 

The concept was born in 2001 Detroit Motor Show, well received by the public thus immediately got greenlight for production. The stunning look of Crossfire was penned by Andrew Dyson in America. It follows Tom Gale’s school of radical, emotional yet retro styling theme which brought Viper, Prowler and PT Cruiser straight into production. However, the Crossfire’s shape is more practical, less nonsense for production than the aforementioned cars. Under the hands of German engineers, it was further rationalised. Anyway, this is still one of the most stunning-looking production car you can see on the road. 

To save money and cut development time, Crossfire is built on the Mercedes SLK floorpan. This seems not very promising, because the SLK is now 7 years old and is to be replaced next year. The Chrysler version shares the same 2400mm wheelbase and is merely longer, wider and taller by a whisky. That guarantees the engineering work is relatively easy. However, one thing giving it an upper hand over the Mercedes sister car - its closed roof make the chassis a lot stiffer than the SLK.  

Sharing an old Mercedes platform is not necessarily a bad thing, you know, because Mercedes is Mercedes while Chrysler is just Chrysler. If it were by Chrysler itself, will the Crossfire get a rear-drive layout? or a lightweight 215hp 3.2-litre V6? what about a 6-speed gearbox and a world-class 5-speed automatic? will it get double wishbones front and multi-link rear suspensions? undoubtedly, most of the answers would have been "No" if it were done by Chrysler. 

So, is it a coupe version of SLK? surprisingly, the Chrysler version is superior in dynamics. It is simply better than SLK320 in every way. For example, the V6’s installation is better, smoother and generates sexier exhaust resonance. Suspensions make better use of the stiff chassis and provide a more compliant ride yet crisper body control. Even the traditionally dull recirculating-ball steering system now delivers plenty of feedback. Mercedes’s engineers seemed save nothing for themselves and do all they know to improve every area of the SLK platform.  

The down side? the Mercedes 3-valve V6 starts showing age now by the way it respond to throttle input. It is still smooth and delivers plenty of torque, but BMW and Audi build better 6-cylinder engines. Besides, brake feel is numb. However, the biggest flaw is the 6-speed manual gearbox. Like that in the Mercedes applications, shift action is rubbery. The 5-speed automatic is a much better choice. 

What will it rival with? Audi TT is most obvious, then there are BMW Z4, SLK itself and Nissan 350Z. As the Crossfire is built in Germany, actually in the same line where Karmann used to build SLK, it won’t be as cheap as the Chrysler name suggest. Expect it to cost the same as the 225hp Audi TT in Europe. The good side is that build quality is German-grade. 

Is it our cup of tea? I’m afraid not. The 1388kg Crossfire powered by a 215hp engine accelerates from 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds, far slower than Z4 3.0 (5.4 sec) and 350Z (5.4 sec) and edged out by Audi TT V6 (6.1 sec). Its engine is relatively civilised and performance is relatively relaxed. While handling is fine, you can’t (or you won’t) enjoy shifting gears by yourself. Moreover, beside a Mazda RX-8 it seems overpriced and not good enough. 

The above report was last updated on 7 Apr 2003. All Rights Reserved.

Crossfire SRT-6

As the standard Chrysler Crossfire was derived from Mercedes SLK320, it can also receive the same engine as the outgoing SLK32 AMG. This is the supercharged version of the 3.2 V6. It employs a very good helical type supercharger made by IHI. The aluminum supercharger is installed neatly into the V-valley thus takes virtually no extra space. In Mercedes form, it generated 349 horsepower and 332 lbft of torque. In the Crossfire SRT-6 (in which SRT stands for "Street and Racing Technology" while 6 is the cylinder count), it is detuned to 330hp and 310lbft due to whatever reasons only DaimlerChrysler knows. Despite that, it is still a full one hundred horsepower up from the standard Crossfire. 

The SLK32’s 5-speed automatic is the only choice. As such equipped, the SRT-6 sprints from zero to 60 in 5.1 seconds and to 100mph in 12.4 seconds. That’s faster than Lotus Elise 111R, Nissan 350Z, BMW Z4 3.0 and the new generation Mercedes SLK350. But for a US$46,000 car, we expect more. By today’s standard, such acceleration is not exactly astonishing. For comparison, the 4-seat BMW M3 is slightly faster at 4.8 and 11.5 sec respectively, while Chevrolet Corvette C6 and TVR Tamora are even faster, capable of finishing 0-100mph under 10 seconds ! 

Crossfire SRT-6 also lacks an exotic appearance to attract buyers. Apart from a fixed rear wing it differs nothing from the standard Crossfire, even running on the same wheels and tires. For a car at such performance level, it is too short and too narrow. It is 6cm taller than a Corvette. This body profile looks more like a hot hatch (like Audi TT) than a true sportscar. Again, if you pay US$46,000, you are unlikely to appreciate that.

The SRT-6 gets much stiffer suspensions setup than the standard Crossfire - spring rate has been increased by 50% and 42% front and rear respectively. Damping rate increased 40%. That compensates the narrow tracks and high center of gravity, but in the price of ride quality. On broken surfaces, it can rock you eyeballs off. Low speed ride is so poor that it feels as if the wheels are connected rigidly to the chassis. We hope it could be tuned softer, but who knows by then whether it can handle the extra 100 horsepower yet maintaining tight body control? remember, this chassis is based on an outdated Mercedes design. It is a full generation behind the current Mercedes SLK.

Car journalists used to appreciate the handling of Crossfire and cry for more power. Now they finally got it. Unfortunately, SRT-6 is not the right answer. It lacks the right look, the right performance and the right ride comfort to justify its price tag. It is neither a super-exciting sports car like Lotus Elise and TVR Tamora nor a versatile coupe like SLK350 and BMW M3. Life won’t be easy for it.

The above report was last updated on 19 Jul 2004. All Rights Reserved.


Crossfire SRT-6
Front-engined, Rwd
Front-engined, Rwd
L / W / H / WB (mm)
4059 / 1750 / 1308 / 2400
4059 / 1765 / 1308 / 2400
V6, sohc, 3v/cyl, VVT,
twin-spark, var intake,
bal shaft.
V6, sohc, 3v/cyl,
twin-spark, bal shaft,
3199 cc
3199 cc
215 hp
330 hp
229 lbft
310 lbft
Suspension (F/R)
Double wishbone / multi-link
Double wishbone / multi-link
Tyres (F/R)
225/40 ZR18 / 255/35 ZR19
225/40 ZR18 / 255/35 ZR19
1388 kg
1460 kg
Top speed
150 mph (c)
155 mph (limited)
0-60 mph
6.4 sec* / 7.0 sec**
5.1 sec***
0-100 mph
16.1 sec* / 17.4 sec**
12.4 sec***
Figures tested by: * R&T, ** Autocar, *** C&D

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