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Crossfire gains some oomph, options with a little help from Mercedes' tuner friends

October 01, 2003|Dan Neil | Times Staff Writer

Long before the import-tuner craze brought turbocharged buzz bombs to a quiet suburban street near you, boutique speed shops in Europe were amping up the Continent's great road machines.

Ruf tuned Porsches, Alpina and Schnitzer tuned BMW, and AMG tuned Mercedes-Benz. In the last decade AMG was brought under Stuttgart's wing, leaving Brabus in Bottrop, Germany, as the biggest and baddest independent Mercedes tuner.

If, for instance, you find the new 469-horsepower E55 AMG just too lily-livered, you could opt for the new Brabus EV12, a modification package that offers a slightly more spirited 630 horsepower for a mere $250,000. Mercedes E-Class not included.

In the wake of the DaimlerChryler merger, and the increasing commonality between Mercedes and Chrysler Group products, Brabus is expanding its lineup to include tuning packages for all Chryslers.

Under the new Startech badge, Brabus will unveil a tuned Startech Crossfire concept at the Greater L.A. Auto Show on Dec. 29. The Crossfire's 3.2-liter engine gets an increase in stroke amounting to 3.8-liter displacement, as well as a sport suspension, wheel and tire upgrades, bigger brakes, spoilers, body cladding and black-and-azure leather upholstery.

The full Startech treatment for the Crossfire will cost $50,000, but Brabus gladly mixes and matches options according to customer requests.

Startech also will offer appearance packages for not-so-fast-and-furious rides such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chrysler Pacifica.

In a like vein, Dinan Cars, the famous tuner of BMW products based in Morgan Hill, south of San Jose, is developing performance upgrade packages for Mini Coopers (Mini is owned by BMW). The Dinan Mini upgrades, to be unveiled in the spring, are comparable to the John Cooper Works package offered through Mini dealerships.

But company founder Steve Dinan said it wasn't the commonality of parts that led him to tuning Minis.

"Most of the gear is not really BMW gear," he said. "We're doing it because BMW owns the company, and we were getting requests for it from BMW dealers, a lot of whom also have Mini dealerships, and some are our distributors."

Can a Dinan Rolls-Royce be far behind?

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