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Worst Car Wednesday: Chrysler Crossfire Misfire

When you have a 230-day supply of product as Chrysler had with the Crossfire sports car, you’ve got a loser on your hands. At that point, Chrysler started selling the Crossfire on overstock.com and eBay. No, we’re not kidding. Top Gear even included it in their “13 Worst Cars of the Past 20 Years.” In the end, rather than naming it Crossfire, Chrysler should have branded it “Misfire.”

The Crossfire was not a bad car, but it was cursed with some basic bad choices and a lack of interest. As Top Gear said, “It was outdated before it was even launched.” That’s because it borrowed heavily from the previous version of the Mercedes SLK. Mercedes had earlier bought out Chrysler and so there was a cornucopia of obsolete bits sitting on the shelf. 

RELATED: Was the Chrysler Crossfire Really That Bad?

Using old Mercedes parts to make new Chrysler cars

Chrysler Crossfire during The 2003 Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival Filmmaking | WireImage

The idea of using old Mercedes parts to make new Chrysler cars was endemic of how Mercedes saw Chrysler. Once it had drained Chrysler of surplus cash to help develop new Mercedes it had little use for it. Chrysler had the Crossfire concept that had been received well when it was shown at the 2001 Detroit Auto Show.

Getting a green light the engineers began looking for a platform. The old SLK would do in a pinch. Top Gear’s summation was, “The ultimate triumph of style over content, only without the style. Or much content.”

The rear-drive Crossfire was available as a coupe, then a few months later as a convertible. Most prefer the looks of the convertible. Unfortunately, since the coupe was the first to appear it turned many people off before seeing the better-looking version. The Crossfire was built by Karmann in Germany. By 2006 Chrysler was importing convertibles into the US almost exclusively.

Soon the Crossfire saw an avalanche of critical reviews

The Chrysler Crossfire concept car on display at the North American International Auto Show | Getty

Soon there was an avalanche of critical reviews. AOL called it the worst car of the 2000s. Edmunds said it was “one of the top automotive failures of the last decade.” The final blow was from Car & Driver with their graphic comment suggesting a used Infiniti G35 or BMW 3-Series would be more fun and that neither “looked like a dog in the middle of a life-altering dump.”

Jeremy Clarkson was exceptionally unkind, likening the rear end to a “dog defecating.” He went on to say it handled poorly, had a cheap interior, and bad road feel while suggesting anyone who wanted one should just buy a used SLK instead. 

For all of the bad talk, one of the highlights of the design was how the beltline undercut at the front but pulled out as it transitioned to the rear. There was never a design element like it before or since. Some have called the design hideous but the unique beltline was bold and entertaining. 

Handling was already a disappointment but the trade-off should have been a smooth ride

A silver 2003 Chrysler Crossfire coupe parked by a scenic outlook.
2003 Chrysler Crossfire | George Pimentel/WireImage via Getty Images

A weird bit of engineering was the recirculating ball steering. Why dip back to the early automobile days when you could just use rack-and-pinion? This made the steering slow to respond. Handling was already a disappointment but the trade-off should have been a smooth ride. Instead, it was harsh and numb. The lackluster Mercedes V6 didn’t help things.

The first two years of production it sold at its projected numbers of 25,000 in 2004 and 35,000 in 2005 worldwide. So far so good. In its third year sales tanked 75%. It never regained the traction it started with. In its final year of production in 2007 as a 2008 model, it sold 1,786 units.