We've driven and reviewed several editions of the two-passenger Crossfire from DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, including the soft-top Roadster. Until now, we found them lacking one critical ingredient--horsepower. We also thought the Crossfire was rather expensive for a Chrysler product, considering all the similarly-priced premium competitors.
With the arrival of the Crossfire SRT-6, Chrysler appears to have resolved one of our concerns.
We tested a 2005 Crossfire SRT-6 Roadster with $1,200 worth of options, including a GPS navigation system. Bottom line: $51,195.
SHE: Sometimes, our star rating system fails me. When we tested the standard 215-horsepower Crossfire Roadster last spring, I gave it four stars. I thought it was gorgeous-looking and lots of fun, albeit getting fairly pricey at $40,000. The SRT-6 version of the same car merits only three stars, for one huge reason--I wouldn't pay over $50,000 for a Chrysler product, not when I can buy a Porsche, a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz for the same price. So I knocked the SRT-6 down a star.
HE: I gave the base Crossfire Roadster four stars, too, but thought the soft-top, like the coupe, was grossly underpowered. I've been waiting for the hot-rod SRT-6, with its supercharged 3.2-liter V-6 that makes 330 horsepower and 310 pounds-feet of torque. I figured the new fire-breathing engine and some of the other go-fast hardware would really make a difference in the car's personality, and unquestionably it has. The SRT-6 is lots more fun to drive -- but costs a staggering $11,000 more than the car we tested in April. I'm having a hard time swallowing that.
SHE: So you're giving it three stars, too?
HE: Nope, four again, with reservations. I mean, 330 horsepower must count for something, right?
SHE: I could care less about a supercharged engine or some of the other modifications that Chrysler has made to the SRT-6, with the help of parent company DaimlerChrysler's AMG tuning division. In fact, I thought the ride was a little harsh on the base model.
HE: That's one of the things I really like about the SRT-6. I just wish we could have tested the car with a manual gearbox, instead of the five-speed automatic AutoStick. Can you imagine sticking an automatic into a BMW M3 convertible or other German performance car?
SHE: You sound very wishy-washy about the whole thing. Let me state it again simply: If you have to have the Crossfire Roadster, spend your money on the base model. I can't believe a "fire-breathing" engine, as you so eloquently put it, is worth another 10 grand.
HE: I agree with you that all the elements that made the standard Crossfire Roadster so appealing are still there. With the top down, the car looks stunning. The safety features are exceptional--standard antilock brakes, traction and stability control, and side air bags.
SHE: I still think the cabin is elegant, with those lovely bright-metal touches and exquisite gauges. I appreciate little details, like the dual-zone climate controls, but I'm puzzled by the lack of some features that seem intuitive, like a tilt steering column, lighted vanity mirrors and adjustable pedals. I would feel a little better about the $50,000-plus price tag if the Crossfire were a bit more practical, with a bigger trunk and a power top that you don't have to fiddle with so much.
HE: You seem to be missing the point of the SRT-6, which feels even more Mercedes-like than the original Crossfire. That car borrowed heavily from the Mercedes-Benz SLK, and seemed just as bland. The standard Crossfire never seemed to deliver on the performance promise of its sporty styling, in hard- or soft-top configurations. Now, with the major tweaks from AMG to the engine and suspension, the Crossfire SRT-6 takes on a whole different personality. The car is actually fun to drive at higher speeds. It will easily keep up with a Porsche Boxster. My problem is that it still carries a Chrysler badge, not Porsche or Mercedes.
SHE: I'll bet you wouldn't have any problem paying $50,000 for a Chevrolet Corvette convertible.
HE: The Corvette's been around for more than 50 years. Come back and talk to me when the Crossfire celebrates its golden anniversary.
Anita and Paul Lienert are partners in Lienert & Lienert, a Detroit-based automotive information services company.