Autos: Adding Fuel to the Crossfire

<< Back to Robb Report, September 2004

Despite valiant efforts throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Chrysler failed to capture the premium cachet of Cadillac and Lincoln. However, Chrysler did have the high-output Hemi engine, which gave its Letter Series cars a level of performance that neither Cadillac nor Lincoln attempted to duplicate.

Chrysler continues this practice of dropping powerful motors into handsome sedans and coupes, having unleashed the exceptional Hemi-powered 300C earlier this year before again channeling its muscle-era Mopar roots to produce the SRT6, a high-performance variant of the Crossfire.

Based substantially on the Mercedes-Benz SLK, the standard-form Crossfire utilizes a 215 hp normally aspirated version of that car’s 3.2-liter V-6. The SRT6 (starting at $45,700 for the coupe and $50,000 for the convertible) likewise shares its 5-speed automatic transmission and supercharged 3.2-liter V-6 from AMG—rated at 330 hp and 310 ft lbs of torque—with the SLK32. The extra impetus moves the SRT6 with authority—from zero to 60 mph in 5 seconds, says Chrysler—and it makes a truly wonderful noise along the way.

Do not mistake the SRT6 for a warmed-over SLK32. For instance, the SRT team had its own way with the suspension, which gives the SRT6 a more rough-edged and aggressive feel than the SLK32. The Chrysler remains impressively flat even in hard cornering, yet the trade-off is a stiff ride that can be harsh even on smooth roads. This is, however, appropriate for the SRT6’s sporting nature, and Chrysler should be credited for stressing performance.
 
Inside the cabin, space is at a premium. Even those shorter than 6 feet will have to choose between the angle of the seat back and the distance of the seat from the steering wheel. A comfortable driving position can be had, but it takes some work to achieve. Suede seats provide visual appeal—and hold driver and passenger in place during spirited maneuvers.

The Crossfire boasts elegant sheet metal that balances Art Deco themes with modern sensibilities, and Chrysler carefully edited external cues for the SRT6—a refreshing approach, given past American tendencies to emphasize the hood’s appearance rather than what resided beneath. The most notable examples are 15-spoke alloy wheels—18 inches up front and 19 at the rear—and a fixed rear wing in lieu of the standard Crossfire’s retractable version.

Chrysler’s use of SRT tuners—coupled with substantial Mercedes-Benz and AMG engineering—could eventually catapult its top products firmly and credibly into the premium category. Until then, brand snobs might balk at driving a car with Chrysler’s badge on the hood. That would be their loss, for the SRT6 looks terrific and drives even better.

Chrysler
www.chrysler.com

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