2004 Chrysler Crossfire Coupe

Like a bolt of lightning in the evening sky, this shockingly styled piece of sheet metal showed up at my office for an all too brief test session.

Yes, the above description may seem overly dramatic, but this is perhaps the most dramatic statement from any car manufacturer in recent memory. Based on a modified Mercedes Benz SLK platform, Daimler Chrysler has introduced what may be its most heralded product in recent memory. From all angles the Crossfire is unlike anything on the road.

The Crossfire design is quite astonishing given that the sheet metal of the Crossfire is more appealing than that of the Mercedes SLK roadster. The blend of curves and straight lines creates a visual treat for the eyes. All at once the vehicle appears graceful, elegant and muscular. The large and wide 19 inch tires on the rear add much of the muscular appearance to the vehicle.

Power for the Crossfire comes from a Mercedes-Benz 3.2 litre V6 engine that is rated for respectable 215 hp, much less than the AMG tuned 349 hp supercharged unit in the current SLK 32. However, given the fact the vehicle will still surpass 240 km/h and it has the handling prowess is in keeping with its German heritage, I cannot take issue with the horsepower figure. The car is definitely built in the style of Grand Touring car with a sporty flair as opposed to track qualifying, and the refinement in the suspension compliments this approach. The firm yet comfortable suspension combined with the massive low profile tires allowed for fast and furious cornering experience.

The interior of the vehicle is as pleasing as its exterior, with dark grey leather contrasting against silver coloured console trim. It also exudes a European flair that Daimler Chrysler has not yet brought to the North American market. The biggest test of any vehicle’s interior is the ability to feel at home – – especially when it is a rather small cockpit. The Crossfire did allow for some seat and steering adjustment but there was no tilt function (just telescoping). Furthermore, the seats only went back so far and only in the rear most could I find a comfortable driving position. Drivers over 6-feet may have some difficulty settling into the cabin. The biggest drawback with the interior is the limited rearward view. The letter-box slit is too small at the best of times. When the rear spoiler lifts, the rear view mirror becomes all but redundant.

On the road the vehicle suited my driving style. The drive train is responsive and refined, and the exhaust note suitably sporty. The brakes on this gem are massive discs front and rear with a sophisticated anti-lock system. It remained on the sidelines just long enough to allow some semblance of sporty driving, but without any real risk of losing control. The other safety equipment includes electronic stability control, side impact airbags, and a child’s safety seat “LATCH” system anchor for the passenger seat. The passenger airbag can be disarmed when the seat is occupied by an infant. However, as the switch is located inside the passenger door jamb it is somewhat inconvenient.

The rear hatch lifts upward to reveal a surprisingly adequate storage area in the Crossfire. This is due mostly to the absence of a spare tire in the rear cargo area or anywhere else on the vehicle for that matter. The spare has been replaced with a can of tire sealant and an air compressor.

The rear hatch gracefully closes into what could well be the most attractive rear end on a car today. The boat tail design harkens back to the former glory of another American classic the Auburn Boat-tail speedster. The Crossfire is built on a different and more compact scale than the Auburn however the effect of the vehicles styling is so dramatic that whether Chrysler intended it or not, styling is the main point the Crossfire makes. I commented to Tom McPherson, of Chrysler’s media relations department, that the vehicle was somewhat unnerving to drive around town and on the highway due to people’s desire to get close and take a look at the sheet metal or maybe even more so the name plate on the car. In one experience at 100 km/h on the Highway 407, an excited driver was mere centimetres from the rear bumper trying to identify the make and model of the vehicle.

The lure of a $50,000 vehicle that draws the attention usually reserved for exotic cars surely has to sit well with a buying public no longer content to buy efficiency on a bland box. It also doesn’t hurt that the vehicles engine compartment is adorned with numerous 3 pointed star Mercedes emblems reflecting the fact that these vehicles were designed and manufactured in Germany and shipped across the pond to our shores.