Chrysler has reorganized the PT Cruiser's trim levels for 2008, and the 230-horsepower, turbocharged GT model is no longer offered. Trim levels now include a base LX, mid-level Touring and top-level Limited. The Cruiser has relied on innumerable special editions, turbocharged and convertible variants and a belated nip-and-tuck to stay competitive against such models as the Chevrolet HHR and Mazda3 hatchback.
Chrysler says the retro-styled, front-wheel-drive PT Cruiser blends the elements of a sedan, wagon, SUV and minivan.
A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine comes standard in the LX and Touring, while the Limited has a standard 180-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder.
A PT Cruiser convertible is available in one trim level, compared to last year's three.
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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 168.9 inches long overall and 63 inches tall.
Up to five occupants can fit inside the 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.
Standard equipment includes remote keyless entry, power windows and a CD stereo. Uplevel models include leather upholstery, a power driver's seat and heated front seats.
Removing the rear seat expands cargo volume from a moderate 21.6 cubic feet to a sizable 62.7 cubic feet. The front-passenger seatback folds flat, leaving enough space to haul an 8-foot ladder.
Under the Hood
The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder produces 150 hp, and the only turbocharged engine offered for 2008 makes 180 hp and combines only with a four-speed automatic transmission.
Antilock brakes are optional on LX and Touring models and standard on Limited PT Cruisers. Along with the federally required dual front airbags, a driver's knee airbag is standard. Side-impact airbags for the front seats are optional, and standard seat-mounted side airbags are newly standard on all models.
Imaginative and distinctive styling are the main attractions, but this wagon'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.
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 noticeable, but the otherwise-stable PT Cruiser is exceptionally easy to drive.
PT Cruiser Convertible
Chrysler's PT Cruiser convertible went into production in early 2004 as a 2005 model. Styling features include a broad sport bar above the passenger area. For 2008, it also gains seat-mounted side airbags.
The split, folding rear seat is the same height in both the convertible and wagon, and provides theater-style seating.
A 150-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder and 180-hp, turbocharged 2.4-liter are offered. A five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic transmission are available. Standard equipment includes a powered fabric 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. Rearward visibility with the top up is somewhat limited, but acceptable, and the roof goes up and down easily. Nearly no wind annoyance is evident, at least at lower speeds. Back to top