Sure, the Crossfire coupé might have got sports car fans talking, but it’s the new Roadster that’s likely to get them whipping out their Visa cards. And with summer well on the way, Chrysler UK is banking on the new Roadster comfortably out-selling the hard-top version.
There’s a good reason. In addition to its folding top, it looks sexier. While the bustle-back styling of the Coupé is something of an acquired taste, the Roadster is gorgeous.
Chopping the top makes the proportions – particularly in profile – appear more balanced, those mega 18-inch front/19-inch rear alloys look even bigger and the car seems to grow in length. And it looks just as cool top-up as with the roof folded.
The Roadster’s design also has some real sports-car cues, like the satin silver-painted roll hoops behind the headrests and a hard tonneau cover featuring raised race car-like moulded fairings.
Going topless is reasonably easy. Twist a centre-mounted handle, push up so the front roof rail clears the top of the windscreen and hold down a button on the centre console.
This releases the rear of the hood, opens the tonneau and powers the hood backwards. Twenty-two seconds max, beginning to end.
It’s not perfect, however.
When you close the roof, you have to pull down on the handle to latch it to the top of the screen. And that requires the kind of Herculean effort that will make you wish you’d spent more time in the gym.
With the top raised, get used to using your door mirrors, too. The car’s high waistline and low screen results in a rear window little bigger than a letter box. Reversing from a driveway into the street, or squeezing the car into a tight parking space requires a leap of faith. If ever a car needed parking distance sensors, this is it.
But the top itself is beautifully made and seals against the side windows and windscreen extremely well. Even at 100mph-plus, there’s hardly a whistle of wind noise.
With the roof folded, the Crossfire’s cockpit is a fine place to be. You sit low in the car, hot-rod-style, with the top of the windscreen swept back almost over your head.
There’s some wind buffeting above 40mph, but it doesn’t seem to increase by much as speed rises. The optional wind deflector – it slots in between the headrests – will be a must-have when Chrysler finishes developing it, hopefully in time for the Roadster’s June on-sale date.
As with all small convertibles, expect to pack light for weekends away. With the top raised, there’s a useful 184 litres of luggage space, though only soft bags can be squeezed in through the narrow boot opening.
Dropping the top cuts the amount of usable space in half and, before the top will lower, a partition has to be pulled down to prevent bags or groceries being squished.
Behind the wheel, any driver approaching six-feet tall will know how these groceries feel. This is a tight-fitting cockpit, with the seat’s rearward travel limited by the rear bulkhead. Forget about straight-arm driving styles, or even driving in a coat. Space is at a premium here.