Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6, timeless beauty and masterful performance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

When the breathtakingly gorgeous 2004 Chrysler Crossfire sports coupe finished drawing ooh’s and aah’s while it was in our possession a couple years ago, we were left happy with the week-long experience, but wishing for more horsepower.

This space-age beauty demanded more muscle. Not that the 215-horsepower Mercedes 3.2-liter V-6 was a dog under the long Crossfire hood. It wasn’t. With some skill at shifting through the six manual gears, the Crossfire could be induced to break the 7-second mark from 0 to 60.

But, egad, this car looks fast just standing still. It looks faster than any 215-horsepower engine on the planet could possibly move it. The car simply begged for more oomph.

We were dismayed because here was a car that attracts attention at every street corner, but played second fiddle in performance to the likes of the Nissan 350Z, Porsche Boxster S and BMW Z4.

Well, gentlemen and/or ladies, start your engines.

The SRT (Street Racing and Technology) people have got their hands on the Crossfire and turned it into the rocketship it was designed to be from day one. The Crossfire was the first Chrysler product to wear the SRT badge, up to that point reserved for Dodge products. Since then the Chrysler 300 has too been endowed with SRT upgrades.

The SRT-6 gives the Crossfire a supercharged 3.2-liter V-6 rated at 330 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. It’s basically the same engine found in the 2004 SLK32 AMG.

Other performance tweaks include beefed up spring rates and shock valving, larger brakes both front and rear, and sticky Michelin Pilot Sports tires measuring 18 inches front and 19 inches on the back wrapped around 15-spoke wheels.

This baby will not only do the hustle in a straight line, but it will stay flat through the corners when the road becomes twisty. Balance performance best describes the experience.

Zero to 60 comes in at around 4.8 seconds and a quarter miles rolls around in just a tad over 13 seconds at about 107 miles per hour. This performance is accomplished through a dynamic 5-speed automatic transmission. A manual shifter is not available in the SRT-6.

The SRT-6 can keep up with and perhaps even push a few vaunted, famous name sports car contenders on the winding back roads of America putting it in the class of exceptional performers.

If the driver gets ahead of his abilities, the SRT-6 is endowed with the Mercedes’ Electronic Stability Program — which integrates single brake application and throttle intervention for yaw control and for wheel spin control — to help get things back in line.
Extra large brakes will bring the Crossfire down from 60 miles per hour in a breathtaking 115 feet, according to published statistics.

This kind of excitement comes at a price. Be prepared to pay for the extra amount of fun pumped into the Crossfire; the SRT-6 coupe starts at $45,695 and the SRT-6 convertible begins at $49,995. That’s nipping at the heels of Corvette territory, which is pretty heady territory.

In comparison the standard-edition Crossfire coupe begins at $29,970 and the drop top at $35,010. Is the nearly $15,000 premium worth the performance upgrades? That’s a question that only people who like the Crossfire look and want Corvette-like performance to go with it can answer. If you have lots of disposable income and want the look of a sports car that’s just a bit different then our question is – Why Not?!

One thing a prospective buyer may want to test before plunking down the long green is the stiff suspension. We were okay with the ride for short jaunts (the younger you are the longer the jaunts), but it might be more than some people can take for a long journey.

The Crossfire scores big time in styling, but it also falls short because of the styling.

For instance, with its high beltline creating small windows and a large B-pillar, sightlines to the rear are severely hampered. The tiny window in the hatchback creates another visibility problem. But like every thing you learn how it works best and go on from there.

Inside, the sloping roofline makes for tight head room for taller drivers. And some drivers have complained about the lack of legroom. If you are shorter than 6-feet, it’s not a concern. We’re not concerned (darn it).

Inside, the SRT-6 gets race-inspired seats, designed to provide increased support of everyday driving, trimmed in nappa pearl leather with alcantara suede inserts and bolsters. The “SRT-6” emblem is embroidered on the headrests just in case you forget what you’re crawling into.

With the exception of a 200 mile per hour speedometer (the Crossfire’s top speed is electronically limited to 158 miles per hour), the remainder of the interior is standard Crossfire.

The dashboard is handsome with a satin finish center stack and quality-looking material in other places.  But, some of the switchgear is needlessly hard to use. Colored and lighted dots — blue for cool and red for hot — are employed in the two temperature wheels, but are hard to read in the sunlight. And we haven’t figured how to determine the exact temperature setting.

Likewise, the stereo readout nearly washes out under strong sun. It’s simply impossible to read. And the pre-set buttons are small and packed together making it hard to hit the right one, at least with our big, clumsy fingers. The spouses’ slender and dainty fingers had problems as well.

Steering wheel controls would be helpful, but they weren’t available on our test car.

Oh yeah, don’t forget the lone cupholder. Cupholders are normally a Chrysler strong suit, but it looks like an afterthought in this Mercedes-engineered car, mounted as it is below the shifter on the center console in what is already an awkward space. It is as flimsy as it is ill placed and anything set there is sure to end up on the passenger floor, seat or passenger. But in our opinion it is better to drive than fool with drinks, or cell phones or make-up while behind the wheel anyway.

Options, which are few, are not needed on the Crossfire. Standard equipment includes four-wheel antilock brakes, side impact airbags, brake assist, traction control, electronic stability control, tire pressure monitor, heated power seats, dual-zone climate control, 240-watt Infinity stereo with compact disc player and power windows and doorlocks .
Add on a three-year, 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a seven-year, 70,000-mile powertrain warranty and you’re set to go.

The Crossfire SRT-6 is dramatically good looking with what we consider a timeless design. It will attract attention. And the performance is exemplary and just plain fun.

If you can get past the price and overlook a few interior styling quirks, you will have a sports car that should be just as stylish and just as much fun a decade from now.