Unforgetting: 2003-2007 Chrysler Crossfire

One of these cars flashed past me today, prompting this small item. Now that I come to think of it, there was one parked on my road a few years back. It was the Chrysler Crossfire (2003-2007).

2003 Chrysler Crossfire. In 2003 it cost £1000 more than the faster Nissan 350Z: yakmee.com
2003 Chrysler Crossfire. In 2003 it cost £1000 more than the faster Nissan 350Z: yakmee.com

We all have small car moments, don’t we? For reasons unclear, our synapses fizz and fuse a little harder when we see a car and forever more the image, time, feeling and moment are irremovably etched on our memories. It’s a wholly random process, note. Some of my car moments involve worthless heaps of mediocrity.

The Chrysler Crossfire is taking up some of my limited and diminishing RAM with a set of memories related to seeing one parked in a shopping centre somewhere in Mainz. I was with a friend who was working in the car industry. Seeing a Crossfire in the metal offered a chance to talk shop. We had both been reading about the Crossfire which had generated a considerable buzz. There it was, on a stand and we both peered closely at the point on the bodywork where the feature lines cross-over. The surface didn’t look right. I winced.

If you recall, the name of the car was supposed to represent the literal crossing over of the feature lines but also the relationship of Mercedes and Chrysler. The car itself was a cross-breed, being based on the R170 platform used on the 1996 Mercedes CLK. And that platform was derived from the Mercedes C-class which had its roots in the late 80s.

I think that Mercedes planned to re-use its older platforms on Chryslers and the Crossfire showcased this strategy. (The 300C of 2005 used rather newer bits from the W211 Mercedes). If the competition did not develop new platforms all the time, then this strategy might have worked. Did Mercedes think the R170 platform so good as to be future proof?

And if Chrysler was allowed to improve the R170 underpinnings the strategy might have had a chance. The world did not cooperate.  Competitors in 2003 were using new platforms. The Nissan 350 Z trounced the Chrysler in tests. And Chrysler only built in cheapness which made an outdated platform even worse. I suppose Mercedes thought that with a new set of clothes the otherwise good R170 architecture could live on another decade and in so doing save Chrysler money it didn’t really have.


The Crossfire ended production in 2007 with a not-terrible run of 75,000 cars. There came no replacement though, as for one thing Mercedes had become tired of the whole tie-up which was as problematic for them as Rover was for BMW.

I haven’t addressed the styling: in Mainz 2003 I was unable to give the car the thumbs up, secondarily because I disliked the hunch-back fast-back and the forced curve of the side glass. Primarily because the crossfire motif had been botched, a fraction of a millimetre out but it was right there in the centre of the car, glaring at me.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

17 thoughts on “Unforgetting: 2003-2007 Chrysler Crossfire”

  1. Coincidentally (or not?), this article makes a perfect entry for this month’s theme, regarding the use of the Mercedes platform.

    1. That’s a good point Simon. Possibly we should run a series on secondhand Mercedes platforms, with the most unlikely being the SsangYong Rodius.

    2. Are there many second hand Mercedes platforms around, besides Chrysler and Ssangyong? I thought there was also a Link with Tata, and their pick-ups in the ’90s had quite some resemblance with the Mercedes 190. But was there any platform sharing? An admittedly quick and superficial google search shed no light on this.

    3. Did SsangYong actually use whole MB platforms, or just engines?

    4. I am not quite sure, but i think the Lancia Thema still has the Mercedes-engineered platform of the first Chrysler 300C.

    5. That’s an interesting question Laurent. I used my memory when writing that, with the definite thought that I read so in Car Magazine back when it was introduced. Things about the Rodius tend to stick in your mind – in the worst possible way. But looking it up on Wikipedia, I see no mention. Might Car have been wrong in the first place (could that be possible!)? Or have M-B suppressed the truth?

  2. I had not considered that. The Crossfire sits with the Lexus SC430, Opel Signum, Toyota MR2 and Ford Fusion and Ford Thunderbird (the retro one) as cars lauded at first and then serially condemned. In some cases the initial view was right and the later view inconsistent. In this case the first thoughts were informed by the flashy shape and later thought by cross comparison and test driving.

  3. The idea fot this car was not too bad.
    Mercedes wanted to create more profit from the old platform of the CLK and its outsourced production at Karmann by attaching the Crossfire-Production at the end of the CLK production there. And the Crossfire can be regarded as a good addition of the SLK range – offering a
    cheaper Coupé-version of the SLK with a more sporty handling and a more emotional styling.
    And the Roadster maybe was an affordable alternative to the ridiculous MC-Laren-Formula-One-Nonsens-Nose 2004-SLK. Especially because the Karmann production has a better reputation in anti-rust-protection than Mercedes had in those days.

    The Crossfire was quite successful in my eyes – compared with cars like the beautiful Brera or french Coupés like the 407 Coupe or american Coupes that Ford was selling in Europe (Ford Probe for example).
    And compared to the famous flop Chrysler TC, it was a real Topseller 🙂
    I suggest the Crossfire-Buyers just want to buy good equipped Mercedes-stuff a little bit cheaper (and the the huge rabat was helping the sales a lot).

    For me this is the only explanation for the relatively huge number of sales. The Coupe was just ugly. American design does not work on such a small car. The Roadster was a bit better, but far away from being attractive. The Crossfire was far too uncomfortable for the US-market and typical aged Mercedes-customers. There was no V8-engine for the States and no 4-cylindre-engine for Europe. Mercedes did not install nice features like the Air-Scarf for the Roadster or a sliding roof for the Coupe.
    And it has no home market – in Germany there were not really many Chrysler dealers and in the States i wonder if it counts as an american car – besides the Chrysler-nameplate there were no american parts in the Crossfire.
    Considering all this, the Crossfire was a success.

    But there was one point i do like at the Crossfire – you can choose between a black, red and brown dash. I would have chosen the red one.

  4. That´s more useful comment on the Crossfire than I found in a decade of reading car magazines. The red interior is nearly a selling point but not enough to warm my opinions about this oddly miscegenated vehicle.

  5. Funny how no one ever mentions what a bloody tiny boot the coupe had! Such an impractical car.

    1. How tiny? Are we sub-300 litres?
      And we welcome you, Toby R, to our small college of automotive dons. What brought you to this particular neck of the woods?

      I’ve seen precisely no Crossfires since I wrote this.

    2. I was a car groomer and driver for a dealership that sold Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge – in New Zealand. I had to drive a Crossfire once and yeah, the boot, (trunk) was tiny and the cabin felt a bit cramped with poor visiblity – especially to the rear and rear three quarter views, (enormous blind spots).

  6. And then what happened but I saw one today. That feature line still looks bad and gets worse as time goes by. Do you wonder how long they spent thinking it over?

    1. No they look great and handle great too, looks get better with age, had mine nearly 16yrs now, love it.

  7. Hi Toby- you must have had plenty of opportunities to sit in some quite bad cars. Those 300s and Chargers for example never had the fit and finish people expected. Things look better today if there’s any truth in what the US car sites write.

  8. Hi guys
    It’s year 2003 and I have just come across this thread.
    Bizarrely no mention of the super charged SRT6.
    I bought my SRT6 coupe in 2011 and have spent the last 12 years loving it.
    It looks great, goes like a bullet and it turns heads. People comment favourably all the time.
    Old platform?? I have another theory called “tried and tested ”
    As for the silly argument about the boot, who says a 2 seater sports car should have a large boot?
    The irony here is that I think it’s quite big. Last year the wife and I drove to Heathrow Airport with 2 large suitcases and hand luggage inside.
    What more do you want?
    BTW this car is not depreciating anymore, mine has only 25,000 miles on the clock and probably one of the best examples in the country.
    All the best.

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