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Chrysler Crossfire Roadster

Broadcast dates : 3rd October  2004
7th October 2004

The Chrysler Crossfire is one of those cars that's simply transformed by a rag-top execution.

Interestingly quirky in steel-roofed coupe form, all the elements of the Crossfire come together in the rag-top or Roadster version.

And those elements add up to fun, fun, fun, as the Beach Boys would have put it.

With its Up-Town Gotham looks softened by the removal of the hunchback steel roof, the Roadster adds an air of Ď50s romance to its overall appearance.

Those faired in roll-over hoops on the convertible tonneau are shades of Carrera Pan-Americana, harking back to the great Mexican Road Race of the 1950s.

There cars like four-and-a-half-litre Ferraris did battle with Mercedes-Benz SLRs and giant modified American behemoths like Mercurys and Cadillacs.

In its profile too, the Crossfire Convertible somehow evokes a bit of Ferrari America, albeit with a dab of hot-rodding pragmatism.

And those bonnet style channels further confuse the issue as to heritage, although on the whole this up-front car simply had to be a Detroit native.

Strengthening the body for a topless attitude added just 36 kg to the overall package, which is impressive by convertible standards. Contrary to popular belief, convertibles are often much heavier than their sedan counterparts, due to the steel reinforcement need to provide a rigid body structure when the roof is lowered.

The roof on the Crossfire is quite rudimentary, needing a rather effort-filled tug on a central lever to effect the lowering or securing process before the electric motors take over.

But the top does have an electrically-heated glass rear window, handy for those winter months.

The rigidity of the body is impressive on uneven roads, with barely any sign of scuttle shake or body-flex.

The ride is not super-stiff, the car being profiled more as a fast fun-filled cruiser than a razor-sharp back-roads device.
In this respect it works perfectly well with the 160 kW Mercedes-Benz-sourced V6 engine, and the five-speed automatic transmission on our test vehicle.

Claimed performance is a 242 km/h top speed and a zero to 100 in about six and a half seconds.

Itís available with a six-speed manual gearbox too, but as a fun-filled cruiser with more than a respectable turn of speed, the auto-box would be our choice.
The rear-wheel-drive layout works well, and the Crossfire is equipped with all the latest electronic driver aids, so the experience is fluid and fast rather than on-the-edge.

The cabin of our test car was decked out in a funky trim mix that brought out the alligator in David. On any other car it would have been The King of Kitsch, but on the Crossfire, well, it all seems to hang together somehow.

The centre console has a bit of a low-level finish, and another criticism is that the short wheelbase doesnít provide enough leg and arm room for tall drivers.

Comfort-wise it has power windows, heated seats, and an Infinity Modulus six-speaker sound system with sub-woofers based on a home-surround sound system.

There are other flashy items, like the speed-sensitive aerofoil that deploys automatically at 100 km/h, although you can raise it up manually at any speed.

The rear wheels are larger, being 19-inches in diameter as opposed to the 18-inch wheels at the front, and this adds to the hot-rodding extroversion of the car.

In a South African context this very American approach to a sports car seems anachronistic when compared to the likes of a BMW Z4 or a Mercedes SLK. And yet somehow itís so refreshing, and so well-built apart from items like the cheap-looking centre console, that itís a relevant player in our premium-priced sports car market.

Priced at R465 000 itís not cheap. Itís up against serious competition from the likes of Nissanís 350Z at around R80 000 less, although the Nissan is not available as a convertible at present.

Yet unlike the Nissan, which is a serious sports machine, the Chrysler Crossfire doesnít pretend to be an out-and-out driverís car. And in a convertible that seems to make a lot of sense.

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