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CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE (some text hidden)
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Introductionword count: 136
Following the in-crowd is a trait that seems to particularly afflict coupe owners. The 'must-have' cars are easy to plot. Back in the Seventies you were really something if you had a Capri, whereas in the Eighties a Porsche 944 was the coupe du jour. It's tough to believe now, but for a while in the early nineties the Vauxhall Calibra was prime material, although this was soon superseded by the Ford Puma and the Audi TT. These days, the hot tickets are the Nissan's 350Z and the Mazda RX-8. Chrysler's Crossfire doesn't get anywhere close. This means that while it's never going to be the trendiest vehicle of its ilk, it does guarantee a certain exclusivity. With a quirky, left field appeal, the Crossfire has more going for it than you may at first think.
Modelsword count: 12
Models Covered: (2 dr roadster, 3 dr coupe 3.2 petrol [Base, SRT-6])
Historyword count: 259
It was so nearly very different. When the Crossfire was first announced, celebrity movers and shakers seemed to be falling over themselves to place their orders. Jonathan Ross famously crowed that he had the first import earmarked for him but the excitement soon died down when sniffy journalists derided the car as an old shape Mercedes SLK in drag. One commentator even likened its shape to a dog crouching down and doing what dogs do. Comments like that are tough to come back from, but despite its awkward birth, the Crossfire makes an interesting and enjoyable used proposition. The Crossfire was first exhibited at the 2001 Detroit Motor Show, most observers admiring designer Eric Stoddard's striking lines but dismissing the Chrysler as the sort of flight of fancy that would never make production. In July 2001 Chrysler's Advanced Vehicle Engineering team, headed up by Larry Achram received the go ahead. The Crossfire was being fast-tracked into production. In October the tie-up with Karmann was finalised and in January 2002 the production version was shown at Detroit. Eleven months later, production versions started rolling off the lines alongside the Mercedes CLK cabriolet and VW Beetle drop tops that Karmann also manufacture. The 3.2-litre coupe was launched in the UK in July 2003, with a Roadster version following it in July 2004. A hopped up performance model, the 330bhp Crossfire SRT-6, followed hot on its heels. A range of Startech body styling features was also launched, but many of these items are a little too American for the British motoring palate.
What You Getword count: 415
Fully 39% of the componentry is shared with the Mercedes SLK320 including the chassis, suspension and the drivetrain. It's even screwed together - rather well as it happens - at the Karmann plant in Osnabruck. The Crossfire signature design feature is the ridge on its flank that starts at the front wheelarch as an overhang and then twists Mobius-like into a shoulder, finally constituting the rear wing. The car is unusually proportioned, with a long bonnet, a surprisingly upright windscreen and a turret of a glasshouse perched atop that muscular body. The front and rear could only be American, the bluff egg-crate grille and the bold tailgate design being a bit OTT for traditionally understated Euro tastes although some of the detailing is undeniably Germanic. Take, for example, the side strakes that are reminiscent of the Mercedes SL55 AMG or the centreline rib that runs down the roof - massively removed from the Viper's double bubble design. The constraints dictated by the compact SLK chassis mean the Crossfire isn't the most spacious coupe around. Smaller drivers may well find the high window line claustrophobic whilst taller drivers may bemoan the fact that the steering column doesn't adjust for height. Having said that, the front seats have a huge range of adjustment. The boot can most charitably be described as token, the meagre 215-litre capacity being accompanied by a stratospheric loading lip, a sliver of an opening aperture and the added problem of heat being transmitted via the exhaust system. The soft-top version offers a different spin on the Crossfire theme. Many roadsters look as if they're wearing an ill-fitting toupee with the top up but the Crossfire looks stubby and purposeful. Some will find it even better looking than the coupe original. With a conventional electric-folding fabric roof, top up to top down takes 22 seconds after the driver has pulled the ripcord shaped handle in the windscreen header and pressed the button on the centre console. The Crossfire then takes over, dropping the side windows, opening the hard tonneau cover, stowing the roof out of sight and returning the tonneau to its original position. With the roof down, the Crossfire Roadster looks for all the world as if it had been designed from the outset as a drop top, the muscular sweep of the hip line giving it a tension lacking from so many other convertibles. This is one car that can never stand accused of looking skip-like in any way, shape or form.
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