When Chrysler unveiled the Crossfire, there was some skepticism about its roots. It arrived with the platform and drivetrain of the Mercedes SLK - of course, a car like this was expected in the five years after the merger between Daimler-Benz and Chrysler. But timing mattered: the SLK was to be succeeded by a completely new one this year. So why not wait a bit with Chrysler sports car as well?

The criticism has mostly melted away, since the Crossfire has been praised as a gorgeous vehicle that's pleasant to drive. But with only a 215-hp, 3.2-liter V-6 under the hood, smart shoppers held out for the inevitable high-performance version. And that's what they get with the 2005 Crossfire SRT-6.

SRT stands for Street and Racing Technology (the number indicates the amount of cylinders) and is used already by Dodge for the Viper, the Ram, and the Neon. The Crossfire is the first Chrysler with the SRT badge.

The SRT-6 has more power, larger brakes, a stiffer suspension, and fatter rubber. You recognize this version by its deeper chin spoiler up front and the fixed rear spoiler. They reduce lift and provide better aerodynamics at higher speed.

Under the hood is the supercharged 3.2-liter V-6 engine teamed to the five-speed automatic Speedshift transmission (Chrysler calls it AutoStick) that we know from the SLK 32 AMG. In the Crossfire this powerplant delivers 330 hp and 310 lb-ft.of torque. That is slightly less than in the SLK, because Chrysler chose different parameters in the engine management system.

The underpinnings of the SRT-6 have been upgraded to deal with the higher power and torque. Engineers applied 30-percent stiffer springs and shock absorbers with a sportier setting. Power gets to the road via the large 15-spoke wheels (18-inch front and 19-inch rear) with second-generation Michelin Pilot Sport Ultra High Performance tires. ESP is tuned specifically for a sportier drive. With its European roots it is no surprise that also the SRT-6 also was tested on the famous N'ring racetrack and the German autobahn.

We drove the Crossfire SRT-6 on the handling course of the Chrysler Proving Grounds inMichigan . This Crossfire really feels at ease on the track. Its power can be heard and felt by the force of the six cylinders and the howl of the compressor. There is always power available and a press on the accelerator gives you strong thrust, no matter if the engine revs at 3000 or 5000 rpm. According to Chrysler, the SRT-6 should be able to sprint from 0-60 mph in less than five seconds, while it should reach an electronically limited top speed of 158 mph. For the sprint we timed the SRT-6 at 5.2 seconds.

Straight-line performance is very stable and cornering is tight and composed: the SRT-6 does not roll much and handles very well in the corners and the chicane. It's a pity Chrysler did not work on the steering system, though. It is a bit vague as was the previous SLK's steering, but with its stiffer set-up, the SRT-6 reacts better than the normal version. Four ventilated disc brakes with dual-piston calipers and ABS and brake assist stop the fast Crossfire without drama: it should brake from 60 to 0 mph in approximately 115 ft and do 0-100-0 mph in less than 16 seconds.

The Crossfire SRT-6 Coupe will arrive in the Chrysler showrooms soon, while the Roadster will begin to arrive in August. The prices are set at $45,695 for the Coupe and $49,995 for the Roadster, including $895 destination charge.

2005 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6
Base prices: $45,695 (coupe), $49,995 (roadster)
Engine: supercharged 3.2-liter V-6, 330 hp/310 lb-ft
Drivetrain: Five-speed automatic sequential transmission, rear-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 159.8 x 69.5 x 51.5/51.8 (coupe/roadster) in
Wheelbase: 94.5 in
Curb weight: 3240/3328 lb (coupe/roadster)
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 17/25 mpg
Safety equipment: dual front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, emergency brake assist, traction control, electronic stability program
Major standard equipment:Air conditioning, AM/FM/CD player, power windows/locks/mirrors, convertible top (roadster)
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles; seven years/70,000 miles (powertrain)



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