Chrysler says the front-wheel-drive PT Cruiser blends the elements of a sedan, wagon, sport utility vehicle and minivan. Four trims are available: base, Touring, Limited and GT. A new PT Cruiser Convertible went on sale in spring 2004 as a 2005 model.
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The PT Cruiser vaguely resembles a panel truck 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 the PT Cruiser 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.
A liftgate-mounted spoiler is standard on the GT and optional on the Limited. The potent PT Cruiser GT has a larger, lower grille opening for its air-to-air intercooler. Additional GT features include a large-diameter chrome exhaust tip and all-season performance tires on 17-inch chrome wheels.
Up to five occupants can fit inside the wagon'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.
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 folds flat, leaving enough space to haul an 8-foot ladder. Performance seats, silver cluster gauges and a satin silver gearshift knob are included in the GT.
Under the Hood
The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder in the wagon PT Cruiser produces 150 horsepower. Two turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinders are also offered; they produce either 180 hp or 220 hp. The 180-hp engine comes only with a four-speed-automatic transmission, but the other power plants can mate with either the automatic or a five-speed manual. The automatic in the 220-hp PT Cruiser GT incorporates AutoStick manual gear selection.
Antilock brakes are standard on the GT and available on other trim levels. Side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard in the GT and Limited editions and available in 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 base-engine PT Cruiser is far from overpowering, its performance is more satisfying than some critics suggest. Throttle response is rapid, even if the action that follows is a little lackadaisical. As expected, the high-output turbocharged GT delivers extra performance.
The PT Cruiser's terrific handling is confident and nimble. This wagon maneuvers with utter crispness and can take corners with impressive speed. Body lean in curves is moderate, and the stable PT Cruiser is exceptionally easy to drive.
PT Cruiser Convertible
Introduced at the 2004 North American International Auto Show, the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible went into production in early 2004 as a 2005 model. Styling features include a broad sport bar above the passenger area.
Convertibles come in base, Touring and GT trim levels. The split folding rear seat is the same height in both the convertible and wagon and provides theater-style seating.
A normally aspirated 150-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder and two turbocharged four-cylinders — rated at 180 hp and 220 hp — are offered in the convertible. A five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic are available. Standard equipment includes a powered convertible roof, a rear window defroster and a security alarm.
The convertible's driving characteristics are nearly identical to the solid-roofed PT Cruiser; the soft-top model yields a supremely sweet experience. The thick roof bar doesn't detract from the pleasures of the sun. A top-down GT with an automatic performs and handles with a light touch, responding friskily to the throttle. Rearward visibility with the top up is somewhat limited but acceptable, and the roof goes up or down easily. Nearly no wind annoyance is evident, at least at lower speeds. Back to top
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