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Chrysler Crossfire

Review

It's been the case since the sleek Audi was first launched: it mixes affordability, style and, most importantly, it has the right prestige badge on its bonnet. It was also the only car in this particular model niche but things are about to change.

Nissan is preparing to launch its 350Z (Fleet NewsNet July 17) and Chrysler is aiming directly for the TT with its Crossfire coupe which goes on sale here in October. With underpinnings from the Mercedes-Benz SLK, the Crossfire is only available with one engine, a 215bhp 3.2-litre V6 and the choice of automatic or manual transmission.

Where it differs from the SLK is its appearance. The Crossfire is clothed in a dramatic body which heralds the beginning of a new design direction for Chrysler, featuring retro touches such as a wide silver grille with winged badge atop and a high-waisted design which enhances the car's muscular appearance.

It is the first production car to echo the looks of the numerous design studies that Chrysler has displayed at various motor shows around the world for the past couple of years and the firm is pinning its hopes on the Crossfire to build its business.

Steve Gray, marketing director for Chrysler and Jeep at DaimlerChrysler UK, said: 'This car will take our business further and faster than any other model we have had. Crossfire is a whole new step for us – this is the future of the Chrysler brand.'

Already 500 of the 600 models due in the UK this year have been sold, despite the car not going on sale until October. However, Chrysler is not aiming for huge sales because supplies of right-hand drive models will be limited.

So in a market worth 30,000 sales a year, the Crossfire is going to be a small player. Even in a full year of sales Chrysler is only expecting to sell about 1,200 units.

But there is no underestimating how quickly a car can become a cult fashion accessory. With Audi TTs almost two-a-penny, the Crossfire could well be the car that people choose in a bid to stand out.

Expect to see the majority of Crossfires sold cruising around city streets. So the Chrysler will certainly stand out, but with Audi's TT 180 priced at £24,805 and Nissan's 350Z (with 276bhp) costing from £24,000, competition is going to be pretty tough for the pricey Crossfire

THE Crossfire is a striking looking car from the outside, so opening the doors and settling in behind the wheel is a rather disappointing experience.

The cabin is a cosy two-seater and the Mercedes-Benz influence is clear in some of the dials but the quality of materials used is not good for a car costing upwards of £27,000.

The dashboard and fascia panel feature brittle-feeling plastics which look unpleasant and silver-effect plastics are used for the door pull handles and gearknob when really they should be made of metal.

Compared to the solidity of the Audi TT's interior, the Crossfire comes a poor second. My first drive was in a manual gearbox model on a test route which took in twisting country roads and sections of de-restricted autobahn on the outskirts of Frankfurt.

The manual gearbox felt awkward to use and didn't like to be rushed when changing gear. However, this car is more cruiser than out-and-out sports car, which is why the automatic gearbox model is the best solution for this car. Being a Mercedes-Benz unit it offers seamless shifts with the option of 'manual' changes if you so desire.

On our test route the Crossfire cruised happily at very high speed, which is all well and good but on twisty and bumpy roads it felt less composed. Part of this is because the Crossfire has larger wheels at the rear than the front (19-inch diameter against 18-inch). This makes the rear of the car feel excessively 'lively' and uncomposed on uneven roads.

Driving verdict

THE automatic model is the pick of the bunch because it suits the cruising nature of the car ideally, but at £28,500 it faces some serious rivals. And for this money, I would have expected a much better quality interior. For now the Audi TT's position is safe.

Model: Chrysler Crossfire
Engine (cc): 3,199
Max power (bhp/rpm): 215/5,700
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 229/3,000
Max speed (mph): 150
0-62mph (secs): 6.5
Comb fuel consumption (mpg): 22.7 (auto: 23.4)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 256 (auto: 239)
On sale: October
Price (OTR): £27,260 (auto: £28,500)

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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