The Chrysler Crossfire Misadventure

From several annoying mechanical and electrical issues to the angry picket sign I waved in front of the Chrysler dealer that mistreated me, my experience with this car was as doomed as DaimlerChrysler’s merger.

You could call the styling cartoonish, and you would be right. Its also childishly satisfying, like a bright yellow Hummer. I favor the looks.

A couple years ago a friend offered me his 2005 Chrysler Crossfire SRT6. Powered by Mercedes-AMG and draped in a flamboyant aero blue, I had my reservations. The ride was harsh and the interior was tight for a girthy 250lb man. The supercharger’s intercooler pump was flaky and the power locks didn’t work, among other problems.

Of course, I changed my mind when I mashed the throttle and catapulted the blue beast across an intersection in Tampa. With reservations, and because of the low mileage, I adopted the car for a low price.

How low? He paid $16k for a car with less than 20,000 miles. MSRP was $45,000, so imagine the last owner’s depreciation loss.

I wrote about this car a couple years ago, so I’ll reformat what I wrote earlier and paste it below.

——————————————————

Originally written November 2008:

I went down to Tampa for a minivacation. Did the usual eating, driving, drinking, and more eating. Helped a friend move. Anyway, while I was there, I took his little Crossfire for a spin.

27,000 low miles and a spotless body. The cheap plastic on the center console is covered in nicks and scratches, however.

The Infinity-branded head unit looks like a K-Mart special, but it sounds decent enough and works with RDS. Bass is there, pounding away mercilessly behind the front seats, and treble is present but muffled. Unfortunately, there’s no available auxiliary input, so all you have are single CDs and AM/FM. Seems lacking for a $45k premium sports car. It would be difficult to find an aftermarket head unit that matches the rest of the bright center console.

Visibility from any direction but the front is terrible. You can’t see other cars, and other cars can’t really see you. The dashboard material is some kind of awful. It feels like the sole of a cheap pair of beach sandals.

The door panels, conversely, feel nice but look cheap. The door pull and handles are REAL metal, not painted plastic, and the section surrounding the upper handle is real padded leather. The design is plain, but it works. A friend of mine later described the interior as “Dodgey”.

The seats aren’t typical sports car firm, but they are sports car supportive.

There’s room for only one dead hooker in the trunk, but even a chubby one would fit. I actually managed to shoehorn two large copy machines into the hatch and front seat.

Chrysler probably anticipated selling these cars to older drivers (a profile issued to dealers revealed that Chrysler expected a Crossfire buyer to be a 50 or older male earning $100,000 or more per year). Ingress and egress are actually quite easy, and seats are wide and supportive. I can’t tell if I’d enjoy them over a long distance, but I felt no discomfort. Still, it was narrow inside and the low roof made it seem tighter than it was.

So, let’s talk about raw impressions. After stopping for oysters at Landry’s, he handed me the keys.

THIS CAR SCARES THE CRAP OUT OF ME. I’m still a bit jittery after the last little car accident I had, and my distrust of other drivers is at an all-time high. In the Crossfire, you can’t see back, can’t see to the side, and worst of all no one can see YOU. It might be below the mirrors of vans and SUVs.

Driving through Tampa during rush hour, among the transplanted guido retards who ran south from New Jersey to escape the winter, is a hair-raising experience. People always joke about the elderly population in Florida, but I hardly notice them. Its the folks from up north who muck up the works.

Fears aside, the ride quality is shockingly decent on the highway, at least compared to what I expected. With 45-inch wheels spanning a two-inch wheelbase (I’m exaggerating, obviously), I was worried about having to see the chiropractor, but I was wrong. Except for city driving — potholes, blemishes, and expansion joints — the ride was fairly smooth. It was never supple, but it wasn’t jittery either. Mercedes-Benz left the big bumps in while smoothing out the tiny ones.

[A few months later, drove this car through downtown Chicago, and it was quite miserable.]

That brings me to another issue, the Mercedes influence. This is, for all intents and purposes, an SLK 32 AMG. The interior, except for the silver plastic, is directly out of the SLK. The switches are from the SLK. The turn stalks are from the SLK. The engine and transmission are too. The difference is that it was assembled by a coachbuilder in Germany (Karmann) who attached a Chrysler-designed hatchback shell.

The Mercedes influence unfortunately introduces some flaws. The vacuum locks are faulty, water leaked into the cargo area and shorted out the vacuum pump, the trunk doesn’t lock, and the cruise control stalk is right next to the turn stalk. This means that half the time, when attempting to use the signal, you end up hitting ACCEL. Speeding up when trying to slow down and turn is unnerving. People on the Crossfire forum have reported rust in the doors due to a flawed door seal design that retains water.

The SRT6 doesn’t have the handling slop that Top Gear complained about with the base Crossfire. Cornering is firm, but communication from the steering and suspension are seriously lacking.

And just because the SRT6 manages to avoid body roll doesn’t necessarily mean it handles well. There’s more to good handling than a lack of body roll. The Mazda Miata, which has an MSRP of just over $22k, puts you in the dead center of gravity. The Miata’s perfect balance from bumper to bumper means that you, the driver, are the pivot around which the Miata rotates. It’s a satisfying feeling, one that you may never experience in a Crossfire.

Crossfire has to achieve its driving enjoyment with daft brute force and big, fat, wide tires. And indeed, there’s enough grip and torque to counter the earth’s rotation, but none of it feels natural, delicate, or interesting. Typical AMG brute over brains.

I do -like- the car, despite its majors flaws. I might even kind of love it. There’s charm in its child-like stupidity. Everything from the gimmicky body to the supercharged 330hp engine say “LETS ROB A BANK AND GO TO A TITTY BAR! AND I WANT ICE CREAM!”

When I stomped on the throttle, the supercharger whined aggressively, the exhaust roared like an angry midget, and I chuckled like I was six years old, playing tag outside with my pals.

Powertrain: 5/5 The transmission behaves oddly, but not enough to interrupt the fun. Apparently this is by design. 0-60 in under 5 seconds.

Audio/Electronics: 4/5 The Infinity audio is reasonable. Not perfect, but pleasant. There aren’t really any other luxuries to mention. Stuff works.

Steering/Suspension/Handling: 3/5 Rides hard in the city but cruises like a sedan on the highway. Steers quickly enough but lacks feedback, which makes it hard for the driver to feel in control. Handling? Imagine a big fat guy roped to a pole, spinning in circles like a tetherball. How’s that for an analogy?

Overall: 4/5 It was terribly overpriced when new, but poor resale makes it a tremendous bargain. A low-mileage SRT6 and a low-mileage Miata might be nearly the same price… something to seriously consider.

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The honeymoon quickly ended.

Originally written February 2009:

I brought the Crossfire in for an intermittent supercharger, differential noise, and door locks that didn’t work at Royal Gate Chrysler in Ellisville MO. I found the notes on the writeup amusing:

PROBLEM: “CUST STATES CORRODED HARNESS, WATER INTRUSION IN LOCK MODULE, ACCORDING TO PREVIOUS DEALER”

SOLUTION: “LOCK MODULE SUBMERGED IN ICE”

Diagnostic fee: $55 (originally $85 before I got pissed)

— That’s right, I got charged $55 for them to tell me what I told them, that the wire harness was corroded and the lock module was subjected to water.

In addition, it took them ten minutes to get my car out. I stood outside where they said it would come around. It started raining. I kept asking around and complained. I even asked a service writer, “Did you guys get lost?” She assured me that it was in the back and would take time.

FINALLY they brought it around. The kid told me it was parked behind a car that was dead, so they had to push the dead car out of the way. I -told- them I was picking it up Monday afternoon! On top of that, they claimed to not be able to hear the diff whine or the engine ticking, and Greg the service writer got whiny when I questioned his diagnosis and asked for his technician’s Crossfire certifications.

His exact words: “What, you don’t believe me?”

[I thought to myself, “No, I don’t believe you.”]

List of problems at 30,000 miles:

Broken power locks

Corroded wire harness

Engine ticking

Cargo area water intrusion

Faulty supercharger intercooler pump

Oil leak Broken heated seats

Differential whine

Pathetic. I had a good time driving the Crossfire home, at least.

—-

The service writer found my complaint online somehow, weeks later, and replied with the following:

If you would only tell the true story it would be amazing. How about you bring in a crossfire to a dealership (having bought it at some second hand place) You buy it from a place knowing the problems that it has (it is listed on your paperwork) and don’t have them fix it????????????? the car is out of it’s basic warranty so you have some half a** aftermarket extended warranty through them. Of course their not going to cover it because it is listed on the paperwork that you bought it with those problems. So, who is the retard???? As for the remainder of the story you can tell it however makes you feel better. You did not make a scene and blah blah blah. Also who post comments about their chrysler crossfire on a site for Nissan, Infinit….Duh. Oh, lets not forget that the person who brings the car in for repairs—-none of the paperwork matches for the owner of the car. Your title of your article should have been “my own incompetence”

—-

Well, that was quite colorful, so I posted this reply:

Hey genius.

Congratulations on bumping an old discussion and reminding people about how horribly incompetent, petty, and unprofessional you are. And thanks for helping me discover how friendly and well trained the staff are at Reuther Jeep Chrysler in Creve Coeur.

[Editor’s Note: After the incident I never returned to Royal Gate again and established a relationship with Reuther Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep, an oustanding service facility that no longer has a Chrysler franchise. I continue to bring all of my cars there since the continue to function as a service facility for all makes and models.]

I also made sure to post this on local sports car forums, Chrysler forums, and Cadillac forums (I’ve had a lot of cars, what can I say?). Amusingly, it was the guys on the Chrysler forum who confirmed what a bunch of incompetent idiots you were. Your dealership has a track record of stupidity.

By the way, the intercooler pump is NOT working JUST LIKE I TOLD YOU. Your technician needs to be retrained. You tried to scam the warranty company out of a $7000 supercharger when all the car needed was a $300 water pump.

Second, you didn’t wash or vacuum the car and you returned it DISASSEMBLED.

As a reminder, here’s what the car looked like when I picked it up:

I prepared a letter to send to your superiors as well as your regional Zone office, but this is far more satisfying.

I let go of this issue and decided to move on and have the car serviced elsewhere until you reminded me. Thanks for the reminder, pal. I’ll be sure to tell more people.

—-

Ian, my friend and the registered owner of the car, replied as well:

You truly are as dumb as you sound on the phone. First you couldn’t get the ownership of the car straight after it was clearly CLEARLY spelled out when the car was dropped off to the rest of your incompetent staff (what, no one has ever driven in to that sorry excuse for a dealership driving someone else’s car?). THEN, when the problem was ACCURATELY and COMPLETELY described to you, you charged a diagnostic fee merely to repeat what had already been disclosed AND managed to foul up the Warranty claim to the point the work could not be done.

The details of your post further exacerbate the severity of your illiteracy. You mention that the seller included paperwork documenting what had happened to the door lock module? This is completely false, the documentation that was with the car was from a semi-censcient part of your network called JERRY ULM DODGE/CHRYSLER/JEEP in Tampa, FL. The KNOWLEDGEABLE service staff there CLEARLY transcribed the problem so that I’d have a record if I had to move or gave the car to a friend or family member. They were also more than happy to file the claim for me in a PROPER manner so as to not get the claim tossed out immediately. THIS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE DEALER WHO SOLD ME THE VEHICLE. I know it is a difficult concept to grasp, but reading comprehension does wonders for individuals in your line of work.

Also, FYI dumbass, the warranty company which you so ignorantly call “half-assed” is a NATIONWIDE WARRANTY BACKED BY GM and provided by the LOAN company, not the selling dealership.

Fortunately, Mercedes-Benz techs can EASILY work on this car, negating the need for your half-baked excuse for a dealership to exist once you’re gone.

Greg the service writer, or whomever it was at the dealership who posted that message, never replied again, but I took some action.

My letter to city of Ellisville MO:

From: Jesda
Sent: Saturday, March 07, 2009 1:18 PM
Subject: Sign permit for sidewalk

Ada:

I recently had a negative experience at Royal Gate Chrysler. I would like to stand on the sidewalk in front of their building and hold up a sign expressing my dissatisfaction.

I don’t know if this requires a permit or what the regulations are, or if your department even handles these things, but I figured I would ask you first. Do I need a permit to do this, and if so who do I contact or how do I obtain one?

Thank you!
-Jesda Gulati

Jesda-
After discussing your inquiry with the City’s legal counsel, I would like to clarify that you have a right to picket and no City approvals are required. I hope this information is helpful.

Ada Hood, AICP
Director of Planning and Community Development
City of Ellisville

I went to Sign-A-Rama in Ballwin MO and paid $18 for a large printed sign. I stopped at Home Depot and picked up a wooden stake and some nails (to hold up the sign, not to kill vampires.

I bought an eight-foot pole to mount the sign so I wouldn’t have to hold it up.

Early this morning I loaded it up in the Crossfire along with a print-out of the email from the city of Ellisville authorizing me to picket and a two-page explanation of my complaint.


Stopped at Office Depot to pick up a file folder to hold my papers.

Parked across the street.


Stood on the sidewalk in front of the dealership at 9:00a, a very busy rush hour.

About ten minutes later two managers came outside to greet me. It was rush hour, so even after just ten minutes several cars had already driven by. A woman in a Town and Country leaving the dealership asked me about what happened and I told her.

The two guys offered to have me come inside and discuss the issue, so I followed them in.

The older guy on the right is Curtis Pratt, the service director. I can’t remember the name of the other guy, but both of them were friendly and professional. I handed each of them a copy of my complaint. They clarified things for me, and I did for them. I made it clear that the main reason I was out there was because Greg got online and bumped the thread with his poorly written response.

We talked about the limited amount of training DaimlerChrysler gave its dealer techs, and that the training program ended years ago. We both agreed that the Daimler merger and unmerger was difficult for everyone.

Curtis very politely apologized for what happened and I thanked him and accepted his apology. He assured me that he would have a serious talk with Greg about the incident, and I told them both that I appreciated them taking the time to kindly sort out the issue. I said I’d go online to the forums and clubs I posted on and note that I did receive an apology.

So, I’m happy! It was 40F outside so I’m glad they came outside quickly. Its highly unlikely that I’ll ever go back there for service and parts, but I’ll stop pursuing this with Royal Gate.

Later on, I fixed the intercooler pump myself thanks to the help of the knowledgeable and friendly people at http://www.crossfireforum.org/forum/index.php

The part, shared with the Ford Lightning, was $85 from ebay. I just had to swap a couple pieces off the old pump to get it to fit. Inside, the magnet was cracked, most likely from sitting and rotting away unsold for so long on a container ship. My neck hurt for weeks after fixing it outside in the cold.

The morning after, I was excited to play with the now consistently functioning supercharger, but I earned myself a speeding ticket and ended up stuck in the mud in the shoulder where I was pulled over. The police officer said, “Well, sorry!” and took off. Adding up towing fees, lawyers, and fines, I ended up spending $500 that day.

This car was bad luck from day one, but it was quite an adventure.

4 Responses to The Chrysler Crossfire Misadventure

  1. Bill says:

    What a, um, great adventure! My wife has always coveted a Crossfire roadster, if she ever gets herself one I guess it will be a good thing I have a garage, lift, and wrecker…

  2. Glen says:

    You’re kind of an A**hole but I like your sense of humor and the take on the car is accurate. This poor vehicle model was doomed, chrysler techs can’t work on it because they don’t know how, and mercedes-benz techs refuse to work on it because it’s a chrysler. The car that was supposed to be the best of both worlds was actually the worst.

  3. Jerry Jaiven says:

    At the beginning of the article, I considered you pretty much of a jerk. But I read through the whole story and just feel sorry for your bad experiences. As counterpoints, my Chrysler dealer did very well by me when I bought the roadster new and they did a great job painting my SRT6 (purchased with a dented door) and replacing the infamous intercooler under warranty. Other than that, since 2005 (roadster) and 2008 (SRT6) there have been only two minor problems: the shift linkage had to be adjusted (roadster) and I popped out a plenum plug under WTO acceleration (SRT6). Annual oil changes and one set of new tires each has been the only other requirement. Yes, these are far from perfect beasts. But they are esthetically appealing, rather unique and rare, and the SRT6 is damn fast. I also keep them garaged and out of the rain and snow, so rust and flooded electronics are non-existent. That’s the advantage of having a daily driver and using these on the weekends and for vacations.

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