I suppose that before I start I had better put my cards on the table – I don’t own the Crossfire; it is my wife Janice’s car. I don’t drive it very often and have never been overly fussy about my cars – they are there to do a job as far as I am concerned. I put my mechanical passion into things on two wheels. So, upon attending the postponed Christmas Lunch, my conscience was pricked by Ken with his opening gambit of “Now where is this newsletter article you promised?”
Let’s go back to the spring of 2006: Janice had come up with the idea that she would like to have a coupe style for her next car, but really had no idea what make of vehicle that might involve. There were two criteria, however, to be satisfied. The first was that it had to have style and that this should manifest itself, in part, in the colour – which could only be red. The second was that it should have a luggage space big enough to be able to take her tenor sax to band practice (more of this soon). It was more or less around this time that the infamous Clarkson commentary about the rear quarter styling of the Crossfire was aired. Contrary to putting us off, that report really emphasised the visual qualities of the car, so it was logged away as “one to look at”.
Eventually we ended up at a Chrysler dealership in Watford, crawling all over their display model. The salesman rubbed his hands in glee at the prospect of selling one of these and was happy with the part exchange deal that had been negotiated. Then his face fell! Janice told him about the need to transport the tenor sax case and you could see his euphoria begin to evaporate. She turned up a few days later with said case and he held his breath as it slotted in to place. Deal done – the new car was ordered and we came away with the usual anticipation of awaiting the arrival of a new car.
First impressions from the Janice’s point of view were very favourable – the engine was strong, the exhaust sound-track exhilarating, the styling touches had just the right amount of showiness and the cabin with its multipoint seat adjustment was very comfortable. From my point of view, during the few times I travelled in the car, I found the suspension harsh, the view through the rear end limited and the automatic volume adjusting radio intrusive. Having said that, I liked the body shape and the strong Mercedes underpinnings.
The car has been a daily driver since it was first bought, commuting the forty two mile return trip between Aylesbury and Watford every day as well as working as a shopping car. It sits outside in all weathers and is not pampered in any way apart from the odd professional valet/clean. So how reliable has it been? If we discount a very annoying incident with some contaminated Tesco petrol which blew three oxygen sensors in succession, it has done very well. In the sixty odd thousand miles so far completed, apart from things like tyres, the occasional bulb and brake pad replacements, it has cost very little beyond the normal servicing. We have reached a stage with this car where we feel we want to hang on to it for some considerable time and are thinking of retiring it from daily commuting and giving it a more comfortable existence. So this brings me to a summary of likes/dislikes as I see them. I accept that these might not be the same as others, though there will be some points of agreement, no doubt.
Things I dislike about the Crossfire
- Constant need to check tyre pressures. I have seldom found a car so
- prone to following road irregularities or white-lining in the way this one does if the tyres are even a couple of pounds per square inch off the recommendation.
- Harsh/hard suspension that “feels” most road irregularities.
- The inaccessibility of some bulbs – particularly the side lights at the front, for which you need very slim ten inch long fingers with a grip of steel and two universal joints in each. They surely could have made replacement of such items a lot easier?
- The radio that gets louder as the car accelerates. I can see that this was an attempt to be user-friendly, though if you set the initial volume at “normal”, it gets very loud very rapidly and if you set it so that under cruising conditions it is acceptable, you can hardly hear it when travelling at thirty or so miles an hour.
- Having been used to Honda quality sat-nav systems, the one in this car is an absolute nightmare to get on top of.
- I think the ergonomics of the plastic central console in the cabin are terrible.
Things I like about the Crossfire
- Depth of colour, paintwork quality and fit of body panels. I guess this all combines into the one word style.
- The resonant exhaust system noise.
- The seats are amongst the most supportive and comfortable I have travelled in (and that from a habitual Jaguar driver!).
- The way that people look at the car. There are, relatively speaking, so few around that they always draw comment.
- The reliability of the basic engineering.
- The urge of the machine under acceleration – it’s a quite visceral experience.
I suspect that if I were the driver I might have other things to say. As with so many things in life, there is a certain amount of ambivalence in my attitudes toward the car. In the final analysis, it is Janice’s car and she loves it, does not want to part with it and, as a bonus, it has provided us with a means of meeting and enjoying the company of so many nice folk in the UK Crossfires Club.