2008 Chrysler Crossfire Limited
The sense of touch is an extremely important part of being a human Dont think so? Ask Helen Keller if she agrees with that first sentence. We constantly surround ourselves with things that please us to touch or come into contact with. There is a reason that blankets are not made with whale blubber. It might be the best insulating substance on earth, but when you are sick at work with swine flu, you dont long to be home nestled under a comforting pile of vascularized fat. Ice baths might be good for you, but we had reasons long before George Costanza as to why we would rather wrinkle in a tub of water whose contents have a temperature similar to the furnace prepared for Shadrach and his comrades, than revitalize our bodies in waters that make Jennifer and Angelinas relationship look toasty.
Car makers finally caught on that we like to be in comfortable places where what we touch what we are surrounded by is pleasing to the touch. This is especially true in sports cars where the experience is supposed to be emotional and involving. Why else would you pay some Italian the annual salary of a Congressman for the right to have $15,000 in maintenance costs each year? Most sports car makers go to great lengths to make sure that the driver is ensconced in an environment that suits the personality of a car. This is the reason a can of Folgers has more amenities that the interior of a Lotus Elise. Their main concern is that their cars weigh less than an Olsen twin before a weigh-in. Because of this, an Elise driver is extremely pleased that there are no carpets, sound deadening, or engine options larger than Al Gores coal collection. That would only add unnecessary weight.
On the other end of the spectrum, a buyer of a luxury car like the Lexus LS460 is going to be gravely disappointed if his vehicle doesnt ride like a teddy bear being supported by a host of cherubims as they wistfully pass over a road of cashmere so soft it would make a newborns skin feel like 4 grit sandpaper. These people believe that Colin Chapman is a recluse Scottish poet, and that Laguna Seca is that seasonal drink at Starbucks Unfortunately for Chrysler, I think they not only missed these two groups, they invented a third group of car buyers that dont fall anywhere in between: the shopper looking for a car that is garbage.
The Chrysler Crossfire looks like it was born nine months after a marriage was consummated by Quasimodo and a bride with leprosy. The genetic ramifications of being the hunchbacks son are obvious when you look at the roofline of the Crossfire, but it is not until you get inside that you realize the real dissapointment.
A quick quiz for anyone who has every driven a vehicle with a proper gearbox. What is the most involving part of any good manual? Is it A) The clutch pedal, B) the gear change, C) the shift gate, or D) the involvement involved in getting around the shifter while getting involved during an involving Friday night? The correct answer is B, and that is why the Chrysler will never build a proper sports car until they start caring about what goes into a good sports car. The Crossfire is like a Winchester Model 70 with no firing pin. It might look like a rifle, and load a cartridge like a rifle, but when you are sitting in your tree stand and Bambi's dad walks out from behind the cedar, you have a better chance of bringing him down with poison laced acorns than with your with that gun in your hand.
When you first lay your hand on the gear lever to massage it into first, you instantly realize two things: 1) this car is much better looking when you dont have to look at it, and 2)the actual gearlever is made with a type of plastic that makes McDonalds toys look coach-built in their quality. The most involving part of this car, the gear change, is topped of with a molded plastic handle that would be rejected by a Chinese quality control officer as being inferior for use. This instantly tells you everything you need to know about the Crossfire. It is an exercise in profit, not enjoyment, corporate parts sharing, not passionate engineering. Dont get me wrong, any business needs to make money, but when you would rather save $2.95 by using a plastic gear knob, you should stick to making minivans.
When the Chrysler accountants have their next board meeting and discuss what to do with the airport runways filled with Crossfires over in Germany (yes, seriously), I genuinely hope it comes to their mind that people pay for quality products that they want. Why does the SLK which it is based on sell more examples when it is much more expensive? Because Germans care about their cars quality like the good residents of Mercer, Wisconsin care about their Loon population. When you put passion into the products you make, it shows. Right now Chrysler is showing all the passion of an atheist at Sunday service.