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2004 Chrysler Crossfire New Car Review
Primal Attraction for Both Sexes

by Ann Job

2004 Chrysler CrossfireWho needs to pay a matchmaker when the new Chrysler Crossfire attracts men like crazy?

Let's see, there was the guy at the pet supply store who had to know all about this sporty two-seater.

And the fellow in the Dodge Viper who — get this — slowed down his super sports car so I could pass him and in the process, give him a closer look at the Crossfire.

My favorite was the man driving a $350,000 Bentley who followed me into the bank parking lot.

"Nice Bentley," I said to him as I got out of the Crossfire.

"Nice car you have there — what is it?" he responded.

So, we chatted. It seemed tacky to tell this guy, right there at the bank, that he could buy 10 Crossfires for what he likely paid for the Bentley. So I left that part out.

Still, the 2004 Crossfire's price — it carried a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of under $35,000 at introduction in summer 2003 — is one of the surprises of this two-seat looker.

Coming some five years after German carmaker Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, bought Detroit area-based Chrysler Corp., the Crossfire is the first true joint product between the two formerly non-affiliated automakers.

The Crossfire rides on a chassis borrowed from the 2003 Mercedes SLK — along with sharing an engine and manual transmission —which is priced some $10,000 more than the Crossfire.

And I found the ride in the Crossfire, which has a wonderfully rigid body, to be Mercedes-like. So, in a way, buyers could think of this stylish new model as a decently-priced Mercedes, especially given that the Crossfire is built in Germany by coachbuilder Karmann, a longtime partner of Mercedes' parent.

Some 40 percent of Crossfire's parts come from Mercedes, and judging by the comments of the guys who were interested in the Crossfire, they believed this showy car was an expensive model.

To be sure, the SLK underpinnings used here are in the SLK model that's destined to be replaced by a newer model.

And the Crossfire has a Chrysler label on it, not Mercedes.
Buyers also will note that some Crossfire competitors have much lower starting prices. At the time of the Crossfire intro, the 2003 Nissan 350Z started at just under $27,000, including destination charge, and the 2004 Mazda RX-8 started at less than $26,000.
But the Crossfire still comes across as impressive, and its unique looks mean Crossfire drivers get plenty of attention.

Don't expect to get the full effect from pictures. I don't think pictures do the Crossfire justice.

2004 Chrysler CrossfireThey soften the squat "boat tail" rear end where big, 19-inch tires propel this rear-wheel-drive car forward. Photos do show a Mercedes-Benz likeness at the front, where the broad hood is reminiscent of a Mercedes SL roadster.

In fact, I think it's the Crossfire front end that made each man react with surprise when he learned this is a new Chrysler model. Not a single guy I spoke with would have guessed Chrysler.

Chryslers are getting more and more influence from the luxury German brand, and Chrysler officials readily admit the Crossfire comes with "German engineering."

The ride is firm, but not stiff or harsh, even over typical road bumps, and the Crossfire didn't seem to sway or lean in any aggressive maneuvers. There's a sophisticated feel to the ride, as the chassis seems to manage bumps and keep rough stuff mostly away from riders. Note that the suspension is not identical in feel to the SLK, because suspension components are tuned specifically for the Crossfire. I heard some road noise from the tires, but the Crossfire's aerodynamic shape and styling keeps wind noise, even at highway speeds, to a minimum.

The only other thing I heard was the confident power from the V6. This, too, is from Mercedes. This 3.2-liter, single overhead cam, 90-degree V6 is found in such models as the Mercedes SLK and C-Class and even the ML-Class sport utility vehicle.

In the Crossfire, it delivers its 215 horses smoothly and efficiently. And depending on how you want to drive, the Crossfire's 229 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,000 rpm can shove riders' heads and butts straight back into the seats or come on at a more leisurely rate.

The 350Z also has a V6 — at 3.5 liters, it's a larger displacement — and offers more power: 287 horses and 274 lb.-ft. of torque.
Mazda's RX-8 has a rotary engine and can generate 250 horses with a manual transmission. Torque is 159 lb.-ft. at 5,500 rpm.

2004 Chrysler Crossfire InteriorI liked that finding gears with the six-speed manual in the test Crossfire was never a problem, though it took some getting used to the slick-feeling, silver-colored shift lever. Many cars provide a leather-covered area for your hand to grab, but in the Crossfire, there's an entirely different shift lever sensation.

Premium fuel is recommended, and fuel economy is about on par with other sporty hatchbacks: just 18 miles a gallon in city driving with manual transmission and 27 miles per gallon on the highway.

Chrysler also offers a five-speed automatic in the Crossfire. Riders sit low to the ground, low enough for me to view the rear bumper of a Ford F-150 pickup in intimate detail. Riders also must drop down into the sculpted leather seats. I found it was a bit of a workout for an elderly passenger to climb back out of this car.

The rear window doesn't provide a lot of room for scanning behind you for cops, and believe me, you want to be keeping a lookout all the time when you're driving the Crossfire.It also can be difficult to back up out of a parking space in the Crossfire because the pillars beside the rear window obscure a lot of the rear-side view.

Long-legged drivers likely will fare best in the car. At 5 feet 4, I had to push the driver seat up so far in order to depress the clutch pedal, my knees nearly touched the underside of the dashboard. This awkward adjustment, and the smallish side windows, can convey a cramped feeling inside.

2004 Chrysler CrossfireBut I was glad to see 7.6 cubic feet of cargo space under the Crossfire's handsome rear liftgate. On a trip to the airport, it handled two suitcases and a computer bag and still had room for more.

Click here for more information on the Chrysler Crossfire.

For the Chrysler 2004 Model Guide : Click Here