DaimlerChrysler is going straight for the target with its Crossfire coupe - these pictures show that engineers are carrying out benchmarking work against the popular, stylish and accomplished Audi TT. And the Crossfire certainly looks good in action - even better than on a motor show stand.
Seen for the first time at the Detroit Motor Show, the Crossfire is a crucial image-builder for the struggling Chrysler brand, and is tipped to be the model to return the company to profit. It's not due to go on sale until 2004, however, even though it looks production-ready right now. Using components shared with Mercedes will no doubt speed up the development process; demonstrating the growing tendency to share parts amongst the different DaimlerChrysler brands and the need to cut Chrysler's costs, the Crossfire has, under its attractive skin, a certain amount in common with the SLK, and is much more of a European car than any previous Chrysler.
The Crossfire's engine is also Mercedes-sourced: the familiar smooth 3.2-litre V6, delivering 215 bhp and 229 lb ft of torque - less power than the TT 225 bhp and another goodlooking newcomer, the Nissan 350Z, but a useful amount nonetheless. The engine will be teamed with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission.
This car will also have to handle as well as it looks to live up to its hype; driving dynamics are likely to be engineered with the European market in mind. The suspension comprises a front independent double-wishbone and rear independent five-link layout, with coil springs and gas-charged dampers all round; the Crossfire sits on 18-inch wheels in front and 19-inch wheels at the rear. The electronic driver aids such as traction control and stability control will be Mercedes-derived too. Showing further its sporting intent, it features a nice little aerofoil spoiler, automatically activating at 50 mph and retracting again as speed drops.
Chrysler intends to expand its brand outside the US, and the Crossfire, with its styling overseen by British designer Trevor Creed, is the ideal model to achieve that aim. Building on the success of the PT Cruiser in Europe, it provides an American alternative to the usual German performance coupes - in image terms, at least. The Crossfire is actually to be built in Germany, by longtime DaimlerChrysler collaborators Karmann, though Chrysler expects a good 85 percent of sales to be back 'home' in the US of A. An anticipated 20,000 Crossfires are tipped to be sold in its first year of production, with that number doubling the following year.
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