When you’re wheeling Chrysler’s Crossfire through the Midwestern countryside, it’s easy to visualize you’re cruising the back roads of Europe.
That’s because the Crossfire has a German soul in spite of its American name. The German soul is even more pronounced in the high-performance SRT6.
Roughly 40 percent of the Crossfire’s components, mainly the V-6 powertrain and axles, are from Mercedes-Benz. The 94.5-inch wheelbase, 51.4-inch height and 159.8-inch length are almost identical to the last-generation SLK.
The Crossfire squares off against sports cars such as the Audi TT, Porsche Boxster and Nissan 350 Z. The standard roadster starts at just under $35,000, while the SRT6 starts at $49,120. That’s a hefty jump in price, but then, the SRT6 has a hefty jump in performance.
A 215-horsepower, 3.2-liter engine with single overhead cams and three valves per cylinder powers the standard Crossfire. The SRT6, however, is bolstered with an impressive 330 horsepower, thanks to a helical supercharger and water-to-air intercooler.
Chrysler claims the SRT6 squirts to 60 miles per hour in roughly five seconds.
The SRT6 flexes its muscles across a wide power band. It’s docile when you dawdle and fierce the second you nail the throttle. A five-speed AutoStick automatic is the only transmission available. The lack of a manual gearbox might be a drawback to performance purists, but the AutoStick can be shifted manually when you choose.
Designers have done a good job of translating the coupe’s boat tail shape into the roadster. From the rear it looks fast, wide and sleek because of a sizable rear spoiler. Up front, “speed” grooves crease the hood.
A fully independent suspension, double wishbone in front and a five-link unit in back, is again similar to that of the SLK320. The SRT6’s suspension has been firmed up to handle the extra power. Low-profile tires and tight suspension yield responsive handling, but the SRT6’s ride quality suffers as a result. It is quite stiff.
On the road, the chassis of this two-seater feels solid and secure. The high waistline enhances the feeling of sitting well down inside the vehicle. Rear vision with the top up is not great.
The Crossfire’s cabin is small, yet it doesn’t feel confining. Heated bucket seats grip the side of the driver’s torso, which is especially helpful when attacking turns. Much of the instrument panel and switchgear is borrowed from the SLK320. Dual-zone air conditioning is standard, but wheel-shaped knobs regulate the temperature settings and they seemed harder to fine tune. The center stack is a mass of bright silver that sometimes reflects light into the driver’s eyes. The gear lever has a slight ridge in the middle to mirror the one on the roof. Brushed-silver trim also rings the gauges. Interior storage space is somewhat limited, and the trunk, too, is fairly small.
Safety items include antilock brakes, traction control, tire pressure monitoring and a vehicle stability system. Side airbags are built into the doors.
The Crossfire is built at the Karmann factory in Germany.
The base price of the SRT6 is $49,120. Freight brought the sticker price to $49,995.
Three years or 36,000 miles.
Engine: 3.2-liter, 330-hp V-6
Wheelbase: 94.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,084 lbs.
Base price: $49,120
As driven: $49,995
MPG rating: 17 city, 24 highway
At A Glance
Point: Chrysler once described the Crossfire as “Route 66 meets the autobahn.” That’s especially true with a 330-horsepower, supercharged V-6 and a no-nonsense suspension. Big tires and a sport suspension give it sports-car handling.
Counterpoint: The standard Crossfire is priced well, but the SRT6 is pretty steep. The aggressive suspension provides a stiff ride. The trunk is tiny, and rear vision is limited with the top up.