By Larry Edsall
On Sale: Summer 2003
Expected Pricing: $30,000
When Daimler-Benz acquired the Chrysler Corp., many automotive analysts said the "best case" scenario would be a merger of Chrysler design with Mercedes-Benz engineering and production capabilities. The first true fruit of that scenario will be the 2004 Chrysler Crossfire, a stylish new sports coupe due on the market by the summer of 2003.
The Crossfire promises to blend American styling and passion with German precision. In fact, the Crossfire will be built in Germany, by Karmann, and will be comprised of nearly 40 percent Mercedes parts, including its engine and transmission. "Route 66 meets the Autobahn," is how DaimlerChrysler phrased the Crossfire's debut as a pre-production concept vehicle at the 2002 Los Angeles auto show.
The Crossfire is designed to compete with the Audi TT and even the Porsche Boxster, but also should compete with the Mercedes SLK-Class. Crossfire will share many of its components with the new Mercedes CLK.
The Crossfire is powered by a 3.2-liter 18-valve V6 engine tuned to provide 215 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque. That power reaches the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. The car will have four-wheel antilock disc brakes. It also will be equipped with Mercedes' anti-spin electronic stability program and all-speed traction control. The front suspension will be double wishbones with an independent five-link setup in the rear. The car rides on 18-inch front and 19-inch rear low-profile tires mounted on alloy wheels that are 7.5 inches wide in front and 9 inches wide in back.
"Chrysler Crossfire is the sports coupe of the future, it's an American dream machine come true," said Dieter Zetsche, Chrysler Group president and CEO. "Following the footsteps of Dodge Viper and Chrysler PT Cruiser, it's a great concept-to-reality story that combines head-turning design with world class engineering.
"Chrysler Crossfire symbolizes what this merger is all about," Zetsche added. "It's a great example of what we call disciplined pizzazz, or the ability to bring a got-to-have-it vehicle to market profitably by working together, combining strengths, and effectively leveraging resources. Chrysler Crossfire represents the future of the Chrysler brand as it incorporates proven quality and technology in a stunning wrapper."
And that wrapper is stunning. Chrysler says it's nothing short of the "reinvention of the American sports coupe."
The Crossfire has a long hood and a rounded, fastback roofline Chrysler calls a "boat tail." The name Crossfire comes from a character line that runs from front to rear. Chrysler designers say the line "crosses" to a negative formation from a positive formation as it travels quickly from the front of the car through the rear fender. The car also has a center spine that runs the length of the car, from the grille in front to between the dual, center-mounted rear exhausts. The spine contributes to the car's chiseled look. There also are six grooves that run the length of its hood and strakes behind the front wheels. The Crossfire's athletic stance is enhanced by rear tires that are larger than those in front, and by its broad shoulders, tall body sides and minimal glass surface. Chrysler calls it "a carved, sculptured appearance."
"We wanted to give the driver that special feeling of being inside the cockpit of something very special, serious and protective, "said Trevor Creed, Chrysler's senior vice president for design. "With a high beltline, you sit deep within the car."
The car's center spine reappears as an element in the car's interior design. The car's two bucket seats are trimmed in two-tone leather. Gauges have white-on-black faces with metallic bezels and chrome trim rings. The center console has metal-faced controls set into a metallic background. Metallic accents also highlight the interior door panels and the steering wheel. Other features for the two-seat coupe include a speed-activated (at 50 mph) rear spoiler, six-speaker audio system with dual subwoofers and a manually telescoping steering wheel.
Although its design makes it look larger, the Crossfire is only 159.8 inches long. It rides on a 94.5-inch wheelbase and is 68.9 inches wide and 50.7 inches tall. The car will weigh around 3,000 pounds. That means it's about the same length and has about the same wheelbase as the Audi TT, but also is about four inches narrower, nearly three inches lower and about the same weight.
"Chrysler Crossfire will attract incremental consumers who may have never before considered buying a Chrysler. More specifically, we think Chrysler Crossfire will attract new buyers including luxury import owners or intenders," said Tom Marinelli of the Chrysler/Jeep global grand center. "Crossfire is the ultimate expression of the Chrysler brand," he added.
Obviously, that's the new Chrysler, the DaimlerChrysler.