Chrysler’s retro-looking PT Cruiser wagon became available in 2003 with a turbocharged engine, which addressed some complaints about the PT Cruiser being underpowered. Operating with a 14-psi boost, the GT model’s high-output turbocharged engine produces 220 horsepower and 245 pounds-feet of torque.
Available in Touring and Limited models, a lower-priced 180-hp turbocharged engine went on sale for the 2004 model year. The Cruiser’s non-turbocharged engine makes 150 hp. Sirius Satellite Radio and a liftgate-mounted spoiler are available on the new models. The Chrome Accent Group has been expanded this year.
The potent PT Cruiser GT has a larger, lower grille opening for its air-to-air intercooler. Additional features include a large-diameter chrome exhaust tip, all-disc antilock brakes with traction control and all-season performance tires on 17-inch chromed-aluminum wheels. Performance seats, silver cluster gauges and a satin silver gearshift knob are featured.
According to Chrysler, the front-wheel-drive PT Cruiser melds the elements of a sedan, wagon, sport utility vehicle and minivan. A PT Cruiser Convertible went on sale in spring 2004 as a 2005 model.
The PT Cruiser vaguely resembles fastback-panel trucks of the 1930s, overlaid with street-rod styling from the 1950s. Bulging fenders, fender-mounted headlights and taillights, and a tall, wide eggcrate grille help give this vehicle its unique look. Another distinctive feature is its basic stance, which makes the wagon look like it’s leaning forward. Built on a 103-inch wheelbase, the PT Cruiser is 168.8 inches long overall and 63 inches tall.
Five people fit in the PT Cruiser’s versatile interior. Two bucket seats are installed up front and a 65/35-split, folding rear bench holds three. Outboard passengers have adequate space, but the center rear position is cramped.
The rear seatbacks lay flat, and the entire backseat tilts forward. Removing the rear seat expands cargo volume from a moderate 21.9 cubic feet to a sizable 64.2 cubic feet. The front-passenger seatback also folds flat when desired, leaving enough space to haul an 8-foot ladder.
Under the Hood
The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 150 hp, compared to either 180 hp or 220 hp for the two turbocharged models. Each engine mates with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. The automatic in the 220-hp PT Cruiser GT incorporates AutoStick manual gear selection.
Antilock brakes are standard on the GT model and optional on other trim levels. Side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard in the Limited Edition and optional in the other models.
Only a few cars make a visual statement that’s as strong as the PT Cruiser’s proclamation. Imaginative and distinctive styling may be the main attraction, but the PT Cruiser’s roomy and flexible interior keeps buyers interested.
Though the original PT Cruiser is far from overpowering, its performance is more satisfying than some critics suggest. Its throttle response is rapid, even if the action that follows is a little lackadaisical. As expected, the high-output turbocharged GT delivers some welcome extra energy.
The PT Cruiser’s terrific handling is confident and nimble. The wagon maneuvers with utter crispness and can take corners with impressive dispatch. Body lean in curves is moderate, and the stable PT Cruiser is exceptionally easy to drive. It seldom encounters a truly troublesome bump or hole.