It looks gorgeous and goes well, but for £30,000 you expect a proper prestige badge, writes Sean O'Grady

Anyone who buys a Chrysler Crossfire Roadster in the fond belief that he has acquired a thick slice of American automotive pie will be quickly disabused of the notion by the chilling words unmistakably emblazoned on the door pillar: "Made in Germany". Oh, dear.

Anyone who buys a Chrysler Crossfire Roadster in the fond belief that he has acquired a thick slice of American automotive pie will be quickly disabused of the notion by the chilling words unmistakably emblazoned on the door pillar: "Made in Germany". Oh, dear.

For, in case you didn't know, the Chrysler Crossfire is not just made in Germany but is, in fact, a radically reskinned version of the old Model Mercedes Benz SLK series (in turn based on the mid 1990s C class). That, in case you haven't heard, is because Walter P Chrysler's venerable company is now owned by what was Daimler-Benz and is now DaimlerChrysler. Thus the traditional Mercedes dial for the main lights and multi-function stalks are dead giveaways for the Crossfire's origins. So is the lever for the cruise control, which, just like on any Mercedes, is too easily knocked on when signalling a turn or putting the wipers on. So is the smooth recirculating ball steering. Thankfully, this DaimlerChrysler deploys the sort of quality materials that were once taken for granted on all Mercedes products. With the exception, that is, of the cheap, silver-painted plastic central console. I imagine manufacturers do this to brighten up a car's interior, but it can easily just look awful, as here. Mercedes should be reminded that surfaces on their products are supposed to feel as well as look good.

And, while I'm having a good old gripe, not having controls for the audio on the steering wheel was also a disappointment. You make do on the Crossfire with a canvas hood, where the new SLK's have metal, although it does fold neatly into the boot. And I really could have done with one of those beeping rear parking sensors when the hood is up and rear visibility nil. The Crossfire may be intended as a sort of bargain basement Mercedes, but it still costs one and half times the average UK annual salary and we expect better. The Crossfire Roadster does not offer a huge amount for your money. It just doesn't seem much of a deal.

The trouble is, I suppose, that Chrysler hasn't got a very clearly defined image in this country. Decades after the Chrysler-badged Hillman and Simca cars were made in Europe (remember the Chrysler Alpine?), there isn't even much of a folk memory of Chrysler being synonymous with rubbish. The people-carrying Voyager was bought by the Blairs, but never took off, maybe for that reason. The retro PT Cruiser was just eccentric.

With the Crossfire and the forthcoming 300C saloon (based on an old E class Merc) DaimlerChrysler seem to want to position Chrysler as a value-for-money-plus-a-bit-of-prestige brand, a sort of up-priced Citroen. But that sort of strategy isn't going to work at this end of the market, especially when the value for money isn't all that apparent.

In its lustrous blaze red paintwork, my Roadster looked gorgeous, went well and stopped just fine. The gill-like strakes on the flank look superb. It's a comfortable car, if you're under six foot tall. Some 150mph is yours if you can use it, from a smooth 3.2 litre V6 and 0 to 62 comes up in 6.5 seconds. But you expect a proper prestige badge for £30,000. A BMW Z4 is better and cheaper and makes a better noise. Made in Germany, too.

motoring@independent.co.uk

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