The Crossfire is Chrysler‘s smallest-ever model and first-ever sports car, and it pioneers the marque’s return to rear-wheel drive. And, aside from the Plymouth-born Prowler, it’s the first two-seat Chrysler since the ill-fated TC by Maserati.
Like the powertrain and brakes, the suspension is a Mercedes design as well, with upper and lower control arms up front and a multi-link setup at the rear. But the actual pieces used here are different, with unique spring heights, anti-roll bar diameters, bushings, spring rates, and shock valving.
The Crossfire won’t be confused with anything in the current lineup. Andrew Dyson led the team that transformed Eric Stoddard’s show car into a production-ready reality. The front-end styling is obviously changed, but Dyson was otherwise pretty faithful to the concept considering he also had to widen the boattail rear and take eight inches out of the wheelbase.
The wheelbase is only 94.5 inches, and both the front and rear overhangs are minimal. The wee dimensions are apparent inside as well. This is a true two-seater, without even vestigial rear seats.
A high bulkhead immediately aft of the front seats precludes tossing anything behind them, and there’s only 7.6 cubic feet of cargo space under the rear hatch. You’re cocooned inside, with a high beltline rising toward the rear, a sloping roof, and a pinched view out the back.
Combine the Crossfire’s chassis with its ultra-rigid body (stiffer than that of the , the engineers brag) and you get a car that responds very well in hard driving. The Crossfire turns in sharply and corners flat.
The interior’s SLK pieces are obvious, despite the Chrysler designers’ restyling. Still, the Mercedes starting point gives the Crossfire hands down the best-quality interior of any Chrysler product in recent times.
There is a choice of two transmissions. Chrysler gives the five-speed automatic its AutoStick label, but in fact this is the superior Mercedes Touch Shift unit, which can be manually up- and downshifted without first moving the selector out of drive.
The eighteen-valve, 3.2-liter SOHC V-6 is a staple of the Mercedes lineup; in this application it makes 215 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque.
Peak torque comes on stream at 3000 rpm, which helps make the Crossfire sports car quick at low speeds. But open it up on the highway, and the rush doesn’t continue with the same urgency. The four-wheel disc brakesaided by Mercedes’ Corner Brake Control and Brake Assistdo a commendable job hauling the Crossfire down from high speeds.