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Chrysler Crossfire 2004 Review

In an era in which $1 billion can be spent developing a new model without doing anything really fancy, that can be quite a saving.

The so-called partnership of equals between Germany's Mercedes-Benz and America's Chrysler was designed to give each car giant access to far greater markets – and major cost savings through component sharing. Chrysler's fall from grace, which coincided with the amalgamation, has left DaimlerChrysler struggling to find the financial benefits.

But there are signs the venture could be heading for a dividend following a troubled playing-in period.

Chrysler has rummaged through Merc's parts bin to come up with a sports car for the US market. The Crossfire uses the underpinnings from the former-model Mercedes SLK, including the 3.2-litre V6 engine and gearboxes, suspension, steering, seats, switches and other componentry such as stability and traction control.

Mercedes has upgraded the SLK with a stunning new body, metal-folding roof and many improvements, so why should it mind its "other side" fossicking in its heap of old spares?

From Chrysler's perspective, it gets a fun-todrive, performance sports with rear-wheel drive to pitch at enthusiast drivers, at a fraction of the going rate.

And remember, general knowledge that the moving parts are by Merc will not do the Chrysler sports any harm at all. The Crossfire coupe has exceeded sales expectations in its first year. Now, with the Roadster version¿s arrival for summer, Chrysler Australia can look forward to quite a return.

Taking a purist viewpoint, it is difficult not to get a bit irritated by a Chrysler body sitting on a Mercedes platform. In many respects, it is something of a "copy model". It certainly feels like something from the Mercedes stable, mainly because the mechanicals and chassis are exactly that. Heck, even the switchgear is handme-down material. The Yankee-doodle design is a bit hard on the eye – particularly if you want elegance and not flash. But the need to achieve cost-down measures – and they are the current bywords likely to be around for a while – sponsors strange bed fellows. And if that means bastardising pure engineering, then realists will have to live with it.

In any event, one has to accept that the Crossfire coupe and Roadster have been styled for the US market which, generally speaking, requires more of an in-your-face design than other markets.

Chrysler stylists have gone for a semi-retro profile which is acceptable in its concept, if not in its execution. The long bonnet and hunchback rear come together for plenty of movement.

But one wonders whether all the ribbing and creases in the metal body are really necessary. The large Chrysler grille and tailored headlights are far from subtle but the brand obviously wanted to project an aggressive attitude – and that has been achieved.

Crossfire¿s cabin is a bit of a problem area – short-suited on room with a shiny silverpainted centre console which calls for heavyduty sunnies. The seats are by Mercedes and that means firm and supportive. And all the switches and stalks are familiar to those who have driven recent-model Mercs. From a dynamic viewpoint, it is difficult to fault the Crossfire – again, because it is not a true Chrysler but a Mercedes in drag. And so the car has tremendous ride and handling integrity and the 3.2-litre V6 performs strongly in all speed ranges.

The 160kW motor can be mated to a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic with sequential manual mode Chrysler calls Autostick. In manual guise, Crossfire can pull from zero to 100km/h in 6.5 seconds on its way to a claimed top speed of 240km/h.

And those are good numbers for a sports car in this price range.

The car rides on superseded SLK suspension: independent double wishbones at the front and five-link set-up at the rear. Mercedes has the knack of striking a compromise between ride and handling – particularly with its sports models. Body movement is contained well during acceleration, braking and cornering, while road shocks are rapidly soaked up without appearing to confuse the car¿s chassis.

A rear spoiler rises from the rear section when the car reaches 100km/h, theoretically to increase the downforce ¿ but one wonders exactly how much benefit really is derived from its deployment.

The car comes with four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, plus stability and traction control.

All that combines for predictable, safe handling even when a corner is attacked at imprudent speed. Safety equipment includes driver and passenger front airbags and door mounted thorax side airbags.

The car rides on 18in wheel/tyre combinations at the front and 19in assemblies at the rear. This causes an obvious spare tyre problem and Chrysler addresses this by providing tyre repair sealant and air compressor. While this might get you home – unless, of course, there is a tear in the tyre in which case one has big problems – running a tyre full of repair fluid is not a good idea. And that means a puncture means tyre replacement – which is far from cheap.

Unlike the SLK, which has a fold-down metal roof, the Crossfire runs a fabric fold-down. The driver has to pull down and turn a centremounted handle before ¿buzzing¿ down the roof in about 22 seconds. When the roof is stowed, do not even think about putting much in the boot.

Finally, the price.

The two-door Roadster comes to market at $75,990, which is $6000 dearer than the coupe. That compares well with sports cars of similar firepower. In sum, not a car this writer would kill to own, but nevertheless a competent car which underscores the mass benefits of platform sharing.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

Roadster 3.2L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $8,900 – 13,420 2004 Chrysler Crossfire 2004 Roadster Pricing and Specs
(base) 3.2L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $8,000 – 12,320 2004 Chrysler Crossfire 2004 (base) Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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