The market for specialized two-door platforms in North America has gone through some rough times. For decades, the concept of a personal luxury coupe lead the way for many domestic car companies as their halo vehicle, the automobile at the top of the lineup that would draw buyers into showrooms and give loyal customers a goal to work towards. The idea of trading up along a particular vehicle product line was a popular one for Detroit-based automakers, and it informed their management decisions for many years. Consumers were expected to start out in a compact car, work their way up through sedans and then park a large coupe in the driveway as their reward for having achieved their life's goals.
This strategy worked fine during the heyday of American iron in the 1960s and 1970s, but by the end of the 1980's the bloom was off the rose as dull designs and questionable build quality began to cause many drivers to look elsewhere for their luxury or performance two-doors. As large coupes began to disappear from the market, buyers were left with two-door editions of compact sedans or perennial choices like the Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro if they wanted to stay in the domestic family.
Chrysler had stopped offering full-size coupes in the 1980s, preferring to import compacts and near-luxury two-doors vehicles through their Mitsubishi subsidiary. Interestingly, it was through the intervention of another foreign car company, in this case Daimler-Benz, that Chrysler would come around to releasing their first new coupe in years. Upon the merger of the two corporations, Chrysler was able to access a great deal of engineering resources through their new relationship with Mercedes-Benz. One of the fruits of this collaboration was the creation of the Chrysler Crossfire, which would in many ways share its philosophy - and its parts - with the Mercedes- Benz SLK roadster. The Crossfire coupe was a unique offering for an American car company, a small two-seater with no real competition in the home market.
This article discusses the two best used coupes wearing the Chrysler badge: the Crossfire and the Sebring. While the sports car may get most of the press, the Sebring has been a mid-size mainstay of the company's coupe effort for more than ten years, and is also worthy of attention from buyers interested in a stylish two-door vehicle that doesn't sacrifice practicality.
2001 - 2005 Chrysler Sebring Coupe
The Sebring is more commonly known as Chrysler's primary mid-size sedan, but it has also shown its face in both coupe and convertible forms, making it one of the most versatile brands in the company's portfolio. The Sebring coupe actually shares very little with either of its namesakes, being built on the same platform that is used for the Mitsubishi Eclipse in partnership with the Japanese company.
With this Mitsubishi platform comes two engines developed by that company. The entry-level coupe is found with a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder motor that develops 142 horsepower but is only outfitted with a 4-speed automatic. The plush LXi edition of the Sebring gets a boost with a 3.0-liter, 200 horsepower V-6 engine and the option of a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic. The larger engine is also the better choice for drivers interested in performance, as its extra torque helps to move the coupe much more quickly off of the line. Optional anti-lock brakes are a good idea to help keep the mid-size two-door under control when slowing down under slippery conditions.
The interior of the 2001 - 2005 Chrysler Sebring coupe is well thought out, and the platform's wheelbase allows for a full-size rear seat that doesn't sacrifice too much comfort when it comes to accommodating a pair of adult passengers. The LXi feels much more upscale than the base trim, thanks to a center console, a leather wrapped steering wheel and a CD player. Leather seats are also more comfortable than the entry-level cloth. The Sebring is an easy coupe to live with on a daily basis, as access to the back seat is excellent with little twisting or contorting required to retrieve a backpack, package or child seat.
The 2001 - 2005 Chrysler Sebring isn't glamorous, but it is easy to look at, and with available V-6 power it provides a fun driving experience and good value as a used coupe.
2004 - 2007 Chrysler Crossfire
There are times when a certain vehicle model seems to come out of nowhere, an answer to a question that was never asked. The Chrysler Crossfire fits that description perfectly. Whereas other American car companies were content to chop two doors off of a compact sedan and call it a coupe, Chrysler went whole hog and released a luxury two-seat sports car with an aggressive front end and radically sloped rear featuring a retractable wing. The Crossfire is truly a unique automobile, one which caught the market completely unprepared.
Underneath the vehicle's beautiful sheet metal, the 2004 - 2007 Chrysler Crossfire is almost entirely a Mercedes-Benz. The vehicle's 3.2-liter V-6 is sourced from the German automaker, and it produces 215 horsepower and 229 lb-ft of torque, shifted through a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission with Autostick manual control. In 2005 and 2006 an SRT-6 model of the car was offered. Developed by Chrysler's Street and Racing Technology division, the vehicle's engine was supercharged to the tune of 330 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, which turned the already peppy 3,000 lb car into a veritable cheetah. The SRT-6 is automatic only.
The interior of the 2004 - 2007 Chrysler Crossfire is small, but definitely not cramped. A small rear package shelf helps to increase the sense of size in the vehicle's cockpit, and comfortable seats grip both driver and passenger. The gauges and switches will be familiar to anyone who has ever spent time inside of a Mercedes-Benz, particularly the SLK or C-Class. The passenger compartment's trim feels as though Chrysler is trying very hard to impart the Crossfire with a luxury gloss. The deep trunk is under 10 cubic feet, but is fine for small bags that fit into the narrow opening.
For drivers who don't require a rear seat, and who enjoy being able to flog a small, tight chassis along a twisting road, the 2004 - 2007 Chrysler Crossfire is a hard to beat used coupe option.