- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2003

DaimlerChrysler’s newest cross-cultural offspring, the 2004 Chrysler Crossfire, offers a little of a few different worlds: European handling, American brawn and unique sport coupe styling that falls somewhere in between — and goes beyond both.

Wearing American heritage and German engineering, Crossfire is intended to be DaimlerChrysler’s automotive ambassador, bringing its not-too-European, not-too-American message to both sides of the Atlantic. Throughout 2003, both left- and right-hand-drive versions will be introduced across Europe and in Puerto Rico, South Africa and even Down Under.

This two-seat coupe, introduced as a concept at the Detroit auto show in 2001, will be built in Germany by Chrysler and Karmann, a manufacturer that has collaborated with Daimler-Benz for years. Sales of Crossfire will begin midsummer 2003. Target buyers will be mostly male, with an average income of more than $150,000.

A long, aristocratic nose and short “fastback” cut the profile of this new vehicle, which sports a traditional Chrysler grille and updated, trapezoidal headlamps. A wide air dam hangs low on the front end and is capped by fog lamps. The hood is raked, echoing horizontal vents behind the front wheels.

Eighteen-inch wheels in front are matched to 19-inch wheels in back, which emphasizes the angled stance of this sports car. From the side, echoes of PT Cruiser styling are evident in the belt line and the prominent sections behind the rear wheels. The rear is truly unique looking, with a long, narrow hatchback and a window that resembles the inverted bottom of a glass-bottomed boat.

Under the hood is a 3.2-liter, 18-valve V-6 power plant making 215 horsepower and 229 foot-pounds of torque. The engine is matched to a six-speed manual (standard) or five-speed automatic (optional) — both transmissions are in use for the first time in a Chrysler, and an AutoStick manual shift option is available for the five-speed automatic. Drive is rear-wheel.

Inside, Crossfire has a two-tone cockpit dominated by brushed-metal surfaces.

The center console is large and bold, extending almost into the windshield on top and through the center of the car floor between the seats.

Gauges are white-on-black, rimmed in chrome and easy to see.

The steering wheel telescopes and the ignition switch is mounted on the dash — a design shared with Chrysler’s new Pacific multipurpose vehicle.

Two-tone leather bucket seats are heated, with power eight-way driver adjustments and four-way passenger adjustments. Passenger seats also come with the LATCH safety system. Dual-zone, semiautomatic air conditioning is standard, as is a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, universal garage door opener and cigar lighter.

Space is at a premium, but several storage pockets and a storage space in the center console help. A three-piece custom-fit luggage set is included.

Independent suspensions front and rear keep the vehicle responsive and crisp on the road. Standard systems include electronic stability program, all-speed traction control and four-wheel anti-lock brakes. Brakes are four-wheel discs. The front discs are ventilated.

Safety equipment includes driver and passenger front and side air bags. A security alarm is standard, along with tire-pressure monitor and keyless entry.

Overall, the Crossfire looks poised to ignite affection across the Atlantic, with its American sports-car appeal, European road manners and futuristic styling.

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