Last year witnessed the launch of the Mazda RX-8 and Nissan 350Z, but before the year ended there came another assault from across the pond.
The Chrysler Crossfire draws on two disciplines in the hope of success – flamboyant American styling linked with robust German engineering, sharing its engine and transmissions with the Mercedes-Benz SLK.
Exclusivity is guaranteed with the company only planning to sell about 1,000 units a year, a fact that has already fixed strong predicted residual values.
CAP Monitor has set manual versions at 47% after three years/60,000 miles, with autos at 46%, significantly higher than its main rivals.
Mike Arthur, Chrysler national corporate sales manager, would like to see Crossfire sales split at 60% retail and 40% fleet this year. He said: 'At the moment, our split is about 34% for fleet business across Chrysler and Jeep.
'There are no business sales figures as yet for the Crossfire as it has only just gone on sale, but we are expecting it to be mainly retail for 2003. However, this year fleet business will move more towards 40%.'
The Crossfire is only available with one engine – a 215bhp 3.2-litre V6 with a choice of five-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission and it is the automatic version Arthur believes will get the fleet vote with about two-thirds of company car drivers selecting the lower-emission auto.
He also believes that the potential for extended service intervals on the Crossfire, with its variable regime, will appeal to fleets as garage visits on some rivals are as low as 9,000 miles.
With prices starting from £27,260 on-the-road for the manual and £28,500 for the automatic, you wouldn't necessarily go for the Crossfire on list price.
The Audi TT 180 is priced at £24,805 on-the- road, Nissan's 350Z (with 276bhp) starts at £24,000 and the Mazda RX-8 from £20,000.
But as there are likely to be fewer Crossfires on the road, it might just be worth it for the exhibitionists out there.
Behind the wheel
DESPITE its attention-grabbing looks, Chrysler has been careful not to compromise style over practicality.
Unlike some coupes where it is difficult to fit a few weekend bags into the luggage compartment, the two-seater Crossfire offers a generous amount of boot space – so much in fact you could probably fit a suitcase behind the front seats.
And with its £28,000 price tag, you can see where much of the money has been spent, with leather, heated, electrically-adjustable seats, automatic climate control and CD player all standard. However, more effort could have been made with the metal-effect plastic on the dashboard – real aluminium would have been better.
Despite producing a mediocre 215bhp from its considerable 3.2-litre V6 engine, the Crossfire doesn't feel particularly slow, but it doesn't feel as fast as some other coupes at this price.
The refined engine makes road and wind noise more noticeable at higher speeds, while the Crossfire also felt surefooted with plenty of grip in faster bends. The automatic is better to drive than the manual, offering smoother acceleration with little compromise on performance.
IF coupes are all about looks, then the Crossfire is bound to succeed, as long as drivers are prepared to look beyond some poorly-chosen materials and relative lack of pulling power.