With that wide brash grille, the Chrysler Crossfire makes its presence felt, and that boldness in style carries on through the car – it looks good. The boat tail is not quite as successful, and on the Roadster which I drove it’s made worse by the high tail needed to stow the hood. Not that it leaves much luggage space.
Slip into the driver’s seat, and it feels right, and the driving position is pretty good. The steering wheel moves in and out, but not up and down, and allows a clear view of the instruments. The bad news is that the speedometer is the biggest instrument, center stage, with a small rev-counter off at the right.
Another poor first impression on the Roadster is that if you’re over 5ft 11 in tall your eyeline will be only just below the bottom of the screen rail. Good if you want to drive incognito.
“Start your engine.” The key isn’t on the column – hidden – but in the fascia, where it’s easy to see. When you turn the key, you’re rewarded by a nice muffled throaty V-6 note, which actually has the right tone, even if well muffled at high revs.
Nice, but when you look around inside the car, you’re less impressed; the interior is a bit cheap and cheerful compared with its competitors. On the road, though, this is a quiet car except that the Continental Sport Contact 2 tires can be a bit noisy on some road surfaces.
It isn’t just the noise that’s right about the engine; it also delivers plenty of power when you want it, smoothly. You can use all the 215 bhp, which is delivered at 5,700 rpm, maximum torque of 229 lb ft coming in at 3,000 rpm.
I was driving an automatic, and it’s a good one, even if it is a slushbox. The lever has a simple gate, like any other auto, but you have a manual option. Just give the lever a nudge to the left to shift down, and a nudge to the right to change up. You don’t need to grasp the knob at all. On a cold day, without driving gloves that would be just as well; when it came to the Crossfire Chrysler was in that must-have-an-aluminum-gearlever-knob mood that afflicts the big styling studios from time to time. Good shape though!
With that free-revving engine, and the manual override, the car is a pleasure to drive on motorways and most fast roads – it would be better in the coupe, which is quieter. As with most convertibles, quite a bit of noise comes through – there are one or two honorable exceptions.
Remarkably, the ride is quite supple – the car has wishbones at the front and five-link wishbone system at the rear so there’s none of this stiction upsetting the ride you get at low speeds with struts. On smooth road, the car handles well.
Not surprising really. On fast roads, you want good grip and understeer, and this is what the Crossfire has. The tires are 225/40ZR18 on 7.5 inch rims at the front, and 245/35ZR19 on 9.0 inch rims at the rear. These are very low profile tires for a car of this performance. Notice that the rear tires are almost 10% wider than the fronts, yet the engine sits squarely between the front wheels. Meaning? The weight distribution is something like 54% front 46% rear yet the rear tires are wider.
Clearly they don’t want the rear tires to break away. I didn’t work all this out till after I’d driven the car, which most of the time is a pleasure to drive, although even in ordinary driving you’re aware of the lack of precision in the steering. There’s not much feel, but you get a bit of feedback on bumpy surfaces.
Once on some more testing roads, the manual/auto works well, although sometimes the five ratios are rather too widely spread. Top speeds in the gears are 35, 60, 95 and 145 mph. Often you find you have to shift up midway through an overtaking maneuvre, and you’re wishing for a slightly taller first and second, or a bit shorter third.
Throughout our twisty, bumpy, up and down roads, some well surfaced some poorly surfaced, the car rode well, and kept us in our seats. But it wasn’t all beer and skittles. On roads with small changes in direction, the car doesn’t go exactly where you want because there’s a little play in the steering at the straight ahead position – you don’t get that with rack and pinion steering, but this has a recirculating ball system – generally reserved for limousines these days. They couldn’t get ia rack and pinion unit into the Crossfire because the engine is too far forward.
It’s a different matter on sweeping bends or tight corners, because once you get the lock on, the car goes where you want it. Not so good though when you’re driving fast on undulating roads with gentle curves – especially if they’re a bit narrow. You just don’t have the precision you need. Once, I just moved out to the white line to open up a corner, and the Crossfire decided to move an extra couple of feet out – not what I wanted at all.
The handling is basically understeer and understeer – thanks to those fat rear tires and the stability control. Oh yes, it has one of these, but you can turn it off. Either way, when you push hard you understeer, and if you hold the throttle steady or accelerate gently, you understeer more and more. On slow bends you can get the back end out if you ease off just before the apex and turn in sharply. A very controllable step outwards results – but a minor one.
The brakes are powerful and smooth, and the Crossfire is comfortable on a long run. Performance is good across the range, and in most circumstances, the car handles safely and comfortably. But it’s not the car for driving around twisty roads, especially if they’re a bit narrow. It’s horses for courses, and the Crossfire’s course is as much as a commuter as a long distance cruiser, but not a sporty entertainer. Maybe the more powerful SRT-6 version will do that.
|Price:||$35,000 upward (UK £27,000)|
|Car type:||Two-seater coupe or roadster|
|Main dimensions (L x Wx H):||160 x 69.5x 51 in (4,070 x 1,766 x 1,296 mm)|
|Wheelbase and track:||94.5 x 58.8/59.1 in (2,400 x 1,493/1,502 mm)|
|Kerb (curb) Weight:||3,060 lb (1,388 kg)|
|Engine and transmission|
|Type:||V-6, 90-degree, 3 valves per cylinder|
|Power output:||215 bhp @ 5,700 rpm|
|Torque:||229 lb-ft (310 Nm) @ 3,000 rpm|
|Transmission:||Six-speed manual or five-speed automatic|
|0-60 mph:||6.5 seconds|
|Top Speed:||150 mph|