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2006 Chrysler Crossfire Roadster Review

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SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Chrysler

MODEL: Chrysler Crossfire Roadster
ENGINE: 3.2-liter V6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 215 hp @ 5,700 rpm/229 lb.-ft. @ 3,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 94.5 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 159.8 x 69.5 x 51.8 in.
TIRES: 225/40ZR18 (front)/ 255/35ZR19 (rear)
CARGO VOLUME: 6 cu. ft. (est.)
ECONOMY: 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway
PRICE: $36,730 (includes $875 destination charge)

The Chrysler Crossfire is the most exciting vehicle to come out of the Chrysler Group since the (originally) Plymouth Prowler. And there's some similarity between the designs of those two cars, with the cropped rear and long hood.

But the Crossfire is definitely its own car, even though it's built in Germany and uses underpinnings from the Mercedes-Benz SLK. And there's nothing Mercedes about this car, except a few parts taken from the M-B parts bin, like the cruise control stalk, which proved to be a problem occasionally when I hit the wrong stalk. Crossfire is unique and exciting anyway.

The first thing you notice about Crossfire is its styling. The cropped-off tail is unique, but it still houses a decent trunk that's capable of carrying a couple of suitcases. I didn't try to stuff golf bags back there, but I'm certain they wouldn't have fitted.

We tested the Roadster, and the dropped top does impinge on carrying capacity to a certain extent. In order to lower the top, you have to arrange panels in the trunk to accommodate the lowered top. Still, there's enough capacity for a long weekend trip for two if you're so inclined. The top is powered. I had trouble lowering the top on the ONE day it was possible. Once again, my having a convertible to test prompted Mother Nature to deliver a monsoon.

Front styling is also unique, although there are the corporate grille and Chrysler wings to identify the car. Along the hood are horizontal "stripes" or indents that serve primarily to strengthen the hood, but also give it an interesting character. Since most hoods are either flat or curved or have some simple shape to them, this is different, as one would expect.

Under the hood is a 3.2-liter V6 that delivers 215 horsepower. Power reaches the rear wheels through a 5-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode and lockup torque converter. I found the engine/transmission combination to be very good, and while it was possible to shift manually, it wasn't necessary. It's possible to leave the car in automatic and let it do its own thing. If you really want to get sporty on curvy roads, then you might want to shift manually, but again, it isn't necessary.

At speed, there is some wind noise through the cloth top, but I didn't find it intrusive. In general, the engine has a nice "sports car" sound to it.

I liked the instrument panel. It features three dials with white-on-black gauges. The speedometer was in the center, tachometer on the right, and fuel and water gauges on the left. For a sports car, there should have been a complete complement of gauges, but that's the way it was.

In the brushed aluminum center console the HVAC controls are different, especially with regard to temperature and fan setting. These are wheels that you adjust, rather than conventional knobs. Once you get the hang of it, they're easy to use.

The audio system was very good, with an AM/FM stereo radio and in-dash CD changer.

Storage areas included pockets in the doors and a small cubby in the center console that was ideal for a cell phone. There was no space behind the seats, although the glove box was a decent size.

Vanity mirrors behind the visors were small.

With the top up, some rear visibility is lost. This is exacerbated when the spoiler is deployed. You can deploy it with a switch on the dash to impress the neighbors and teenagers, or it will deploy automatically when the car reaches 60 mph. However, when the spoiler is deployed it improves the rear-end styling.

The leather-covered seats offer excellent side support, and with the capabilities of the Crossfire, this is necessary.

While the styling of the Crossfire is impressive (you can either love it or hate it), I was initially dubious about whether the performance could live up to the promise. It did. The Crossfire is a good highway cruiser as well as a decent sports car on winding roads.

Compared to the competition, the $36,730 bottom line isn't bad. You can drop it by more than $1,000 if you delete the Autostick transmission, which in my mind would be a good deletion.

2005 The Auto Page Syndicate