Based on the Mercedes-Benz SLK, the Crossfire burst onto the scene with high hopes in 2004. But despite its elegant styling and quality build, sales were disappointing; most buyers, it seemed, found the car too cramped, or just not sporty enough for its hefty price tag.

For 2005, in addition to a de-contented model that drops the coupe’s starting price to $40,095 ($7,650 under 2004’s base), Chrysler increases headroom (on sunny days, anyway) with a new roadster version, and addresses the performance issue with the supercharged SRT6.

Pretty as a coupe, the Crossfire becomes elegant as a convertible, with an automatic roof that lifts at the touch of a button and folds under a metal tonneau for a smooth, effortless finish, with windows that go down with it if the button is held longer.

The coupe and roadster’s base engine is a 3.2-litre V6; the SRT6 engine is optional in both coupe and roadster. Short for Street and Racing Technology (and Chrysler’s adamant about the “and”), it adds a helical supercharger and water-to-air intercooler that delivers 90 per cent of its peak torque across a broad range of the power band. Handling is tighter in the SRT model and a fixed rear wing replaces the speed-sensitive one on the naturally aspirated engine. Unfortunately, the manual transmission isn’t available with the auto-only supercharged version.

The coupe comes in two lines; the base model includes cloth-faced seats, CD player with four speakers, leather-wrapped wheel, tire pressure monitoring system, dual-zone climate control, power locks and windows, cruise control, variable intermittent wipers, black grille, body-coloured louvres, power mirrors, rear speed-sensitive spoiler, 18-inch painted cast aluminum wheels and body-colour windshield surround. The Coupe Limited adds stainless steel door sills, floor mats, HomeLink universal remote system, leather seats with eight-way power driver’s seat and four-way power passenger seat, Infinity Modulus stereo system, bright exhaust tips, fog lamps, grey grille, satin silver louvres and windshield surround, heated mirrors and heated windshield washer nozzles.

The regular roadster comes in a single Limited trim line, including dual-zone climate control, power windows, heated power mirrors and power locks with keyless entry, locking centre console, heated leather seats with eight-way power driver’s side and four-way power passenger, CD with six speakers, leather-wrapped wheel, tire pressure monitoring system, fog lamps, 18-inch front wheels with 19-inch rear, four-wheel-disc brakes and touring suspension. The steering wheel telescopes but does not tilt, a function that would help in the car’s tight cockpit.

On both coupe and roadster, the SRT6 package adds suede-and-leather seats, 320 km/h speedometer, chin spoiler, spoked wheels, 3.07:1 rear axle, larger brakes with ventilated rear discs, and performance suspension.

The Crossfire SRT6 faces an uphill battle: getting buyers to part with over $66,000 for a car whose brand name also appears on a minivan. The 300C has brought some prestige to the marque, but the base Crossfire roadster still faces fierce competition. The stunning Nissan 350Z roadster has 72 more horses for $1,205 more; the Z4 2.5i is only 184 hp, but you get the BMW nameplate for only $205 more.

In 330 hp SRT6 form, the Crossfire faces the Audi TT (250 hp but $1,475 less), its cousin Mercedes SLK (268 hp for an extra $1,975) and the Porsche Boxster ($4,025 less in 240 hp form, although it’ll take another $9,175 over the Crossfire to move up to the 280 hp Boxster S).

The Crossfire is built in Osnabrück, Germany.

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