Chrysler introduced a shapely, new, low-slung sports coupe for the 2004 model year. Unlike the company’s departed Prowler, which was strictly retro looking, the new Crossfire exudes modern sophistication. Chrysler says the coupe “combines classic European proportions and technology with the power and personality of an American performance car. Nothing like it has been part of Chrysler’s lineup in recent years.”
Dieter Zetsche, Chrysler’s group president and chief executive officer, described the Crossfire as “a combination of creative American design and solid German technology. We like to say it is when Route 66 meets the Autobahn.” The automaker says the Crossfire name refers to the car’s distinctive character line, “which moves precisely and rapidly from front to rear [and] ‘crosses’ to a negative formation from a positive formation.” Considered the first tangible result of the DaimlerChrysler merger, the Crossfire is built in partnership with Karmann in Germany.
“In addition to romantic shapes and sleek, athletic lines, the Crossfire displays a unique, new, glass-to-body proportion,” said Trevor Creed, Chrysler’s vice president of design. The bodysides are relatively tall, but the glass surfaces are minimal.
The Crossfire debuted in concept form at the 2001 North American International Auto Show. Produced in Osnabruck, Germany, the coupe went on sale in midsummer 2003. The automaker plans to manufacture about 20,000 Crossfires annually.
A soft-top Crossfire Roadster joined the original coupe in spring 2004 as an early 2005 model. In late summer, high-performance SRT-6 editions of both body styles, propelled by 330-horsepower supercharged engines, will debut.
The Crossfire’s styling is a blend of softened hard edges and subtle curves. A center spine runs the full length of the car, which serves as a dominant design feature. Chrysler claims that this “gives a chiseled, carved appearance.” A variant of the center-spine form is also used on the door handles and outside mirrors. “You’re meant to feel [like] you’re wearing the car,” says Senior Designer Glenn Abbott. According to the automaker, the Crossfire’s structural stiffness is twice that of the Porsche Boxster.
Up front, a new signature winged Chrysler badge spans the upper width of the chrome grille. Like those on the Chrysler 300M sedan, the headlights have double circular elements that “carve” their way into the front fascia. Six grooves run the full length of the long, sculptured hood. Metallic-finished side air louvers highlight the bodysides.
The automaker says the car’s broad shoulders “envelop” 19-inch back wheels, and the front wheels are only a bit smaller at 18 inches. Chrysler promises that the larger rear wheels give the Crossfire’s side profile a poised stance and make the fastback coupe instantly recognizable.
Wide rear fenders end in large, sculpted taillights above dual exhaust pipes. A tapered boat tail shape highlights the rear end, which emphasizes the large back wheels, tires and fender. A retractable spoiler activates when the Crossfire reaches 50 mph. Riding a 94.5-inch wheelbase, the Crossfire coupe measures 159.8 inches long overall and stands 50.7 inches tall. Michelin and Continental tires are available.
Only two people will fit into the Crossfire’s two-toned twin-cockpit interior. A metallic center console flows from the top of the instrument panel through the center of the car to help achieve the cockpit-style environment. A distinctive center spine shape appears on the center console, gearshift lever and instrument panel.
The seats are trimmed in two-tone leather with Chrysler’s winged badge embossed into both headrests. The ignition switch is located on the instrument panel, and white-on-black gauges have a metallic accent bezel and chrome trim ring. Metallic accents are also used on the doors, steering wheel and instrument cluster.
Creed says the Crossfire’s interior has a “clean, precise, machine appearance. And with a high belt line, you sit deep within the car.”
A 3.2-liter single-overhead-cam V-6 engine generates 215 hp and 229 pounds-feet of torque. Either a six-speed-manual gearbox or an adaptive Autostick five-speed-automatic transmission can be installed.
Side-impact airbags, all-disc antilock brakes and an Electronic Stability Program are standard.
Exhibiting truly sporty behavior with tight, precise handling, the Crossfire clings avidly to the pavement. Big tires pay off in curves, and body lean is minimal. Steering takes a bit of effort.
Though it is hardly genteel, the ride is less punishing than that of the Nissan 350Z or Porsche Boxster. The Crossfire’s suspension manages to suppress most bumps and holes. Even though performance is vigorous, engine power is less than overwhelming. The automatic transmission responds masterfully and rapidly for quick passing.
The seats are terrific — sporty but well cushioned and adroitly supportive. Headroom is good, but elbowroom is less so. The Crossfire runs quietly, but a semi-sporty exhaust note can be heard at times. Noise from the automatically rising spoiler can be annoying.