Chrysler Crossfire Introduction
Back in 1998, Daimler-Benz, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, took over the Chrysler Corporation. At the time, the arrangement was billed as a merger of equals, but in retrospect, it was stated that way largely to make it palatable to the Americans involved. The fact of the matter was quite different however. According to news reports from that period, decision were made at the Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler-Benz headquarters largely without regard for the American executives at Chrysler in Auburn Hills, Michigan. In fact, the Germans treated the Americans largely as subordinates.
In other words, “merger of equals” be damned, Chrysler’s marching orders came straight out of Stuttgart. The Germans decreed the merged company’s HQ would be in Germany, its business cards would have a certain style, and rather than seek to build any sort of consensus, they demanded the implementation of their directives. Now given the fact DaimlerChrysler sank some $36 billion into the American company, it is perhaps fair to say they had a right to do pretty much as they saw fit. But it was distasteful to the American managers nonetheless.
In time, the Germans grew tired of Chrysler’s American management team altogether, and replaced them with a handpicked team of individuals from Stuttgart. Predictably, it didn’t work out very well. The whole process was ultimately doomed to failure—from both an economical and a sociological standpoint.
However, from an automotive standpoint, Chrysler’s cars got some serious traction (no pun intended) out of the affair, as the uh merger, takeover, occupation; or whatever you want to call it, gave Chrysler access to one of the best rear-drive automotive parts bins in the world. As of this writing, (February, 2012) all of Chrysler’s rear-drive cars are still based on Mercedes-Benz E-Class platforms, and its current crop of SUVs is based on the MBZ M-Class platform.
One of the first automotive beneficiaries of the deal was a two-seat sports car—badged a Chrysler—with the running gear from the 1997 Mercedes-Benz SLK. Called Crossfire, (which, in retrospect was probably an inside joke by the American management team finding itself caught up in a political one), the two-seater was introduced as a concept car in 2001. The car buying public raved over the design and it went into production in 2003, as a 2004 model (after the SLK got an all-new platform).
Here’s an interesting bit of trivia; in addition to running a lot of German componentry, the Crossfire was also built by the Karmann Company in Osnabruck, Germany—and exported to the United States. Pretty ironic, given Chrysler’s current marketing tag, “Imported From Detroit.”
The Chrysler Crossfire ran but a single generation, from 2004 to 2008.
2004 Chrysler Crossfire Used Car Buying Guide
The Chrysler Crossfire was introduced in one richly-equipped state of trim with a very short options list. Leather upholstered its heated, power-operated seats and the climate control system was a dual zone affair, albeit manually operated. Other key features, intimating the Grand Touring aspirations of the sportster, were one-touch power windows, and a 240-watt stereo audio system driven by an in-dash CD player.
Crossfire ran a staggered wheel/tire arrangement with eighteen-inch wheels on the front and nineteens on the back. A high-performance summer tire was fitted as standard equipment, but buyers could opt for an all-season tire as an option. The suspension system was all-independent with double wishbones in front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear. Crossfire ran four disc brakes with ABS and featured traction as well as stability control. On the handling front, the Chrysler’s Achilles Heel was its steering system. Rather than a rack and pinion setup (preferred because of its superior precision and feel), the Crossfire inherited a recirculating ball system from its first generation SLK benefactor.
The interior of the Chrysler Crossfire was a mix of Chrysler and Mercedes design cues and components. The overall layout was largely similar to the ’97 SLK’s, however it was all clothed in Chrysler veneers. For example, the metallic-looking silver trim predominating the passenger compartment is actually silver plastic. And while the instrumentation is identical in content and configuration to the meters found in the Mercedes, their fonts and color schemes were reflective of their Chrysler heritage.
The engine was the same 3.2-liter V6 fitted to the SLK. Producing 215 horsepower and 229 ft-lbs of torque, it was powerful enough to move the car in an interesting manner, but not quite enough to make you drop your jaw in amazement at its capabilities. A six-speed manual transmission was standard kit, a five-speed automatic was offered as an option.
Safety features included dual side-mounted airbags, electronic brake force distribution, and tire pressure monitoring.
2005 Chrysler Crossfire Used Car Buying Guide
For 2005, the Crossfire Roadster debuted, along with an AMG-based SRT-6 version of the car. Additionally, the options and equipment were juggled about a bit to enable Chrysler to offer a lower-priced version of the Crossfire, in an attempt to attract more buyers.
The 2005 models equipped with the 2004 Crossfire’s feature set was dubbed Crossfire Limited, while a decontented version was installed beneath that model and called the “Base” version. For 2005, the Base Crossfire came equipped with a manual transmission, stability control, and a dual-zone climate control system. There was also a four-speaker CD-based stereo audio system, cloth upholstery, a manually operated height-adjustable driver’s seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Rounding out the feature set were a full power kit for the windows, mirrors and door locks. Whether Roadster or Coupe, the content was the same, though Crossfire convertibles used a power folding soft top with a heated glass rear window.
To all of the above, 2005 Crossfire Limited models added an eight-speaker, 240-watt Infinity stereo system, power-adjustable leather seats with heaters, and more sound insulation. Both cars used the same 215-horsepower, 3.2-liter V6 engine, but the five-speed automatic could only be had with the Limited’s trim kit. The six-speed manual was the sole transmission offering for the base model and the standard offering for the Limited.
The Crossfire SRT-6 was offered in both coupe and convertible configurations. Featuring a supercharged version of the 3.2-liter V6, it produced 330 horsepower and 310 ft.-lbs. of torque. The SRT-6 was offered with the five-speed automatic transmission only. Outfitted largely like Limited-trimmed Crossfire models, the SRT-6 cars also got heavier-duty suspension and brake modifications, a limited-slip differential, a SRT-6-specific front spoiler, and a fixed rear spoiler—rather than the retractable one used on other Crossfire models.
A new Crossfire option for 2005 Limited and SRT-6 models was a navigation system.
2006 Chrysler Crossfire Used Car Buying Guide
Crossfire went through 2006 with no significant changes, although the SRT-6 became designated a special-order only car and the Base model was renamed Standard.
2007 Chrysler Crossfire Used Car Buying Guide
Ditto 2006, except SRT-6 was dropped altogether.
2008 Chrysler Crossfire Used Car Buying Guide
The Standard Crossfire model was dropped, leaving only the Limited to carry the model name through its last year of production.
Summary: Chrysler Crossfire Used Car Buying Guide
By the end of the Crossfire’s model run, its 1997 Mercedes-Benz SLK underpinnings were pretty well outclassed by all of its competition in the mid- $30,000 price range where it played. With stuff like the Infiniti G37, BMW Z4, and the new Mercedes-Benz SLK models out there, the Crossfire didn’t really make for much of a compelling proposition.
Similarly, if you’re shopping the pre-owned market for a car in this category, the only reason we can recommend getting a Crossfire is you like the car’s look more than anything else you’ve seen. Because frankly, everything around it is better dynamically.
That said, if you’re looking for something pretty unique, and an American nameplate is highly important to you, the Crossfire certainly fills that bill (even though the cars were built in Germany).
Of course, being based on a Mercedes, replacement parts are undoubtedly going to be a bit on the pricey side, so you’ll need to also take that into consideration when you’re shopping. You’ll also want to consult a few mechanics and get an idea of what a clutch replacement and/or a transmission replacement will cost.
The good news is, we’ve found no recalls for the Crossfire—though there were a number of technical service bulletins issued for the model. Still, we expect its reliability to be above average. To make sure there’s nothing hiding in your car’s background, running a vehicle history report against its VIN is a good idea, as well as commissioning a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted professional mechanic, one intimately familiar with the car.