2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6
2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Laurance Yap

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On the face of it, the 330-horsepower supercharged Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6 doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Priced at more than $62,000 for a car based on a last-generation Mercedes platform with two seats, it can seem a bit of out of its depth when Mercedes-Benz is offering a new SLK with a folding metal roof (albeit with less power), when BMW has just launched a similarly-powerful and all-new M Coupe and when Audi is about to enter the ring with a brand-new TT. All of these cars, for similar money – more in the Mercedes’ case – offer more technology and newer designs.

Then again, coupe purchases are hardly ever driven by common sense.

What people are likely to buy the Crossfire for – whether it’s a standard one or an SRT6 – is the styling. Though the looks certainly are polarizing, more people that I spoke to about the car found its toothy grille, central spline, grooved hood and big rear wing attractive than not. They all loved its aggressive stance, huge wheels and the way the character lines “crossed over” on the side panels, flaring out at the rear into powerful rear arches.

2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6
2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6
2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6
2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6
2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6. Click image to enlarge

There are also lots of neat details: the vintage-looking winged Chrysler badges, the finned alloys, the aluminized strakes in the side and the twin exhaust pipes jutting from the middle of the rear bumper.

Accommodations are comfortable but intimate. The power-operated seats, upholstered in SRT Crossfires with a tasty combination of leather and faux suede, are comfortable on long trips but offer plenty of side support for cornering. Standard equipment includes a fine Infinity CD stereo, clearly-marked gauges and a killer climate control system that was able to blow frigid air during one of the summer’s hottest weeks. Build quality is impressive: the plastics have a nicely-grained finish but feel like they’ll last for decades; the console is draped in attractive metallic panels; the doors are trimmed with real leather and shut with a resounding bank-vault thunk.

Driving the Crossfire, it can sometimes feel like you’re in a bank vault. While the cabin is roomy enough for sub-six-footers, the combination of a chopped-down windshield, shallow side glass and a near-triangular rear window can make it feel claustrophobic for bigger drivers and passengers. The blind spots are huge, the mirrors are small and the fenders bulge out beyond where you might expect them to; this is not a fun car to parallel-park. On the other hand, useful storage space abounds in the cabin: there are netted pockets on each door, a deep console bin, spaces behind the seats and a trunk that is voluminous, if not conveniently shaped.

2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6
2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6
2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6
2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6. Click image to enlarge

Unlike the rest of Chrysler Group’s SRT lineup, the hot Crossfire is powered by a 3.2-litre V6, which has been supercharged to develop 330 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Essentially a development of the old supercharged V6 used in Mercedes’ C32 and SLK32 AMG models, it pulls like a train when you floor the gas and sounds great, with a muted snarl overlaid with the faintest bit of supercharger whine. The only transmission option is a five-speed automatic, but you can tip it back and forth when in “D” to select gears manually; it also offers the choice of a less-aggressive winter driving mode. Together, the engine and transmission give the SRT6 a healthy dose of extra thrust over the standard Crossfire, but it never feels truly fast; the throttle response is a little lazy and the transmission can be hesitant to order a downshift. The M engine fitted to BMW’s new Z4 coupe, which produces similar power, feels much, much more aggressive.

The SRT6 is one of the few cars I’ve driven that feels both too hard and too soft at the same time. On urban streets, the big wheels – 18 inch in front and 19-inch in the rear – slap and crash over every bit of rough pavement. If you’re travelling at more than about 50 km/h, the car gets tossed around a fair bit as the suspension struggles to deal with ridges and ruts in the pavement. On the other hand, frost heaves on the highway and gentler bumps send the Crossfire heaving up and down like an airport limousine.

2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6
2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6
2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6
2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6. Click image to enlarge

Turn into a corner and the feeling of softness remains; despite a performance-oriented suspension that’s stiffer than the regular Crossfire, the SRT6 will lean over while it hops around over bumps. Which is not to say that the car doesn’t handle well; indeed, fitted with Continental performance tires (225 mm up front, 255 mm in the rear), my tester would generate huge levels of grip while cornering – more grip than you would give its short wheelbase and slightly aging chassis architecture credit for.

Given that, in a sense, the Crossfire was already a generation old when it was introduced (being based on the last-generation Mercedes-Benz SLK platform), it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that its reflexes feel just a bit dull. While the SRT treatment has certainly upped the speed and grip over the base Crossfire, the car still has woolly steering, soft-pedal brakes and a transmission that even in its more aggressive setting seems geared more for fuel economy than acceleration.

Dig deep past the SRT6’s initial sense of softness and there’s a very capable core – of supercharged power and impressive cornering speeds -but when not being driven hard, it feels heavy, sometimes even lethargic. Which is a shame given not only what it’s capable of, but how the rest of the SRT lineup (powered by Hemi V8s in the Dodge Charger and Magnum, Chrysler 300 and Jeep Grand Cherokee) feels so alive from the moment you twist the key in the ignition.


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