Chrysler PT cruiser combines the retro look of a late-'30s American sedan with modern performance, efficiency and features. The PT Cruiser is based on the Dodge Neon, a compact car noted for its sprightly performance. The Cruiser's taller body adds not only a unique look, but also extra room for people and cargo.
Its interior volume and versatility compares well to a small SUV. Fold the seats down and you can carry an eight-foot ladder. Pull the rear seats out and you can haul a load of building materials or a big-screen TV. Yet the PT Cruiser is shorter in length than a Neon, making it easy to park. And it's easy on gas.
Now in its fifth year, with annual sales of more than 100,000, the Cruiser is a familiar sight, but people are still intrigued by it. For starters, it's difficult to define within existing automotive marketing segments, leading Chrysler to call the PT Cruiser too cool to categorize. It's the only car we can think of that offers flames as an option.
Turbochargers are available to add fire under the hood. That fire comes in the form of 220 horsepower in the GT; a more affordable 180-horsepower turbo is also available.
If there's anything cooler than the standard PT Cruiser, it's the PT Cruiser convertible. The base model may be the least expensive convertible you can buy, though options quickly drive the price up. It looks like a chopped-top gangster-mobile with the top up and puts the wind in your hair with the top down. Roomy seats make it great for four passengers, but an awkward trunk makes it terrible for cargo.
Chrysler has lowered the base price of the 2005 PT Cruiser by almost $4,000, pitting this unique and stylish vehicle against some of the lowest-priced compact sedans on the market. However, the lower price means that base and Touring models are not as well equipped as they were last year; air conditioning, for example, is a now an extra-cost option on base models.
The 2005 PT Cruiser is built in two body styles: the original five-door hatchback/wagon, which Chrysler now calls the sedan; and the two-door convertible.
The sedan is available in four trim levels: base, Touring, Limited, and GT. The convertible comes in base, Touring and GT trim only.
All PT Cruisers are powered by a 2.4-liter, twin-cam four-cylinder engine. In base, Touring, and Limited versions, this engine is tuned to deliver 150 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, a four-speed automatic is optional ($825).
A 180-horsepower turbocharged version of this same engine is optional on Limited sedans ($2,000) and Touring convertibles ($2,105). The price of this engine includes the four-speed automatic transmission, plus a body-color front fascia with chrome accents, a big chrome exhaust tip, and special badging.
A 220-horsepower High Output turbocharged version of the 2.4-liter four-cylinder is standard on the GT. This engine comes with a heavy-duty five-speed manual transaxle made by Getrag; a four-speed automatic is optional ($440).
The base sedan ($13,405) comes with six-speaker AM/FM/cassette stereo; bucket seats and floor console; tilt steering; power windows; tinted glass; rear window defroster, wiper, and washer; 65/35 split folding rear seat; and 15-inch steel wheels. The base convertible ($19,405) is similarly equipped. Its black cloth powered top features a glass rear window with electric defroster.
The Touring sedan ($15,405) adds air conditioning, CD player, power central locking with remote keyless entry, power mirrors, a fold-flat front passenger seat with storage drawer, and other interior features. To that list the Touring Convertible ($23,075) adds a soft boot cover for the top and 16-inch painted aluminum wheels. Leather seats are optional on the convertible.
Limited ($17,315), offered only as a sedan, comes with side-impact airbags, cruise control, AM/FM/CD/cassette audio, upgraded cloth upholstery, lumbar support and power height adjustment for the driver's seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, security alarm, HomeLink universal garage-door opener, and unique Touring suspension on 16-inch painted aluminum wheels. Fog lamps and a chromed exhaust tip add to the Limited's identity.
The GT sedan ($22,905) adds four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, a performance-tuned suspension, traction control, and all-season performance tires on 17-inch chromed aluminum wheels. The GT also comes with side-impact airbags and most of the Limited's luxury goodies. Leather sport seats and a power moonroof are also standard. The GT convertible ($27,830) comes with all the Limited and GT sedan goodies, except that its 17-inch wheels are painted rather than plated. The GT gets its chrome on its grille (optional on GT and Limited sedans).
Optional on both convertible models is an Infinity premium sound system with an eight-channel amplifier and 368 watts peak power. Other stand-alone options include a glass sunroof for Limited ($750) and Touring ($1,100) sedans, heated front seats for Limited and GT ($250), and side-impact airbags for base and Touring ($390). Sirius Satellite Radio is optional ($195, including a one-year subscribtion) on all but base models. GPS navigation ($1100) is available on Limited and GT; so is UConnect hands-free, in-vehicle communications ($360), which uses Bluetooth technology to link the user's cellular phone with the Cruiser's stereo speakers. Limited sedans can be ordered with plastic woodgrain exterior accents ($895) for the vintage Town & Country look. Many of the standard features on higher-line models are also available as options on the less expensive models.
The truly limited edition (with production capped at 1,700 units) PT Dream Cruiser Series 4 Convertible ($30,085) features Deep Lava Red paint, a maroon cloth convertible top, chrome grille accents and Light Pearl Beige leather-upholstered performance seats. Seventeen-inch wheels
The Chrysler PT Cruiser blends the retro look of a late-1930's American sedan with new-age styling cues such as dual-beam flush headlights and teardrop-shaped taillight lenses. But that's not all there is to the PT Cruiser. The shape is intriguing, but underneath is a modern platform with front-wheel drive.
By exterior dimensions, the PT Cruiser is quite compact. It's nearly 6 inches shorter than a Neon. Yet with 63 inches from the pavement to the highest point of its roof, the Cruiser sedan is also 7 inches taller than the Neon, and nearly as tall as some minivans. That height is a crucial element of the PT Cruiser's design.
The GT sedan is distinguished from the other models by its chromed wheels, larger air intakes, and a spoiler on its liftgate. The spoiler ($150) is optional on the Limited.
The design of the convertible is quite a bit different from that of the sedan. It's a two-door rather than a four-door. The convertible looks shorter than the sedan, but isn't; maybe it's the single long door on each side that creates this illusion. It's certainly lower, by almost 3 inches. Closer examination reveals that the windshield is raked more radically and uses a different A-pillar design. With the top up, the convertible looks like a custom chopped-top hot rod. Pretty cool.
With its top down, the PT Cruiser convertible's high tail and integrated sport bar remind us of the old Volkswagen Cabrio. But where the VW's side windows sealed against its symbolic roll bar (almost as on a prewar convertible sedan), the Chrysler's windows seal against each other for a more modern convertible profile. Its slightly narrower and color-keyed sport bar sits behind the windows, inside the car, and is aerodynamically designed to minimize wind noise. A nice boot is provided that dresses up the appearance with the top down. Our GT convertible drew many admirers.
The PT Cruiser pulls its exterior styling themes into the cabin with painted inserts on its T-shaped symmetrical dashboard. The driver faces three white-faced gauges set in individual cylinders, with speedometer center, tachometer right and fuel and water temperature left. The GT's silver-faced speedometer reads up to 140 mph, while the standard Cruiser's speedo goes to 120. It's unlikely you'll peg either needle and we recommend against trying.
Accessory switches are concentrated in the center panel, with radial-type climate control dials. Window switches are at the top of the center dash, inconvenient for quick operation; you'll have to search for them until you get used to their location. The door levers have a nice action, and the switches operate with good tactile feel, though they're not world class. The standard stereo sounds tinny; we haven't spent much time with the new Infinity system. Also, there's a separate Set button for the station presets, fussier than simply holding the preset down.
A bonus of the Cruiser's tall profile is its upright seating position, with a fairly high view ahead, somewhat like a sport-utility vehicle or minivan. The front seats in the three lower-line models have a reasonable amount of bolstering to keep driver and passenger from sliding side to side. The leather package offers a rich appearance given the Cruiser's price, with suede inserts in the doors and along the lower cushion edges. The GT gets sportier seats with more padding in its side bolsters to hold you firmly in place in corners. The GT also features a leather wrapped steering wheel with satin-silver spokes, and bright accents on the pedals.
Roominess is a virtue in the Cruiser. The sedan's 121.5 cubic feet of interior volume is comparable to that of large cars such as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class or Lincoln Town Car, though it certainly doesn't have the ambience of those cars. Much of that space is a function of the Cruiser's height. The roof rises toward the rear like on a chopped-top hot rod.
To take advantage of this, the rear seat bottoms are higher than those in front, resulting in what what the industry calls theater seating. The front seats are mounted on tall boxes, leaving plenty of room for rear passengers to stretch their legs underneath. A six-foot, nine-inch passenger can fit comfortably in the front or rear seats.
Chrysler claims the cabin of the PT Cruiser sedan can be configured 26 different ways. This flexibility stems from three features: a 65/35 split rear bench that can be folded flat, tumbled forward or removed; and, on all but the base model, a movable parcel shelf in the cargo bay and a front passenger seat that folds flat. The rear seats are anchored with quick-release attachments for easy removal. Suitcase handles and steel wheels make it easier to stash the rear seats in the garage and move them about. The smaller seat weighs 35 pounds, but the larger section weighs a hefty 65 pounds.
With both rear seats out, the Cruiser provides 64 cubic feet of cargo volume. A mountain bike fits with the rear seats removed or, by removing the front wheel, with the rear seats in place. The load floor measures 40 inches between the wheel wells, not wide enough for four-foot building materials, but still enormously useful. Folding the front passenger seatback flat forms a table next to the driver, or makes room for an eight-foot stepladder or a load of two-by-fours.
Compared to the sedan, the convertible doesn't stand quite as tall (at 60.6 inches), and offers only 84.3 cubic feet of interior volume. Head room and hip room are both reduced significantly, in the front seat as well as the back. The convertibles get the sport seats from the GT across the board, which is nice. The chair-like rear seats in the convertible have lots of leg room making them very comfortable, though it's tight around the hips and shoulders. The convertible's se
The PT Cruiser is fun to drive, but it's not a sports car. In essence, it's a tall, practical economy car that goes relatively quickly. The standard engine is rated 150 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque. This is enough to propel the Cruiser from 0 to 60 mph in about 8.5 seconds and down the quarter-mile drag strip in about 16.7 seconds. Big four-cylinder engines like Chrysler's 2.4-liter have a natural tendency to idle roughly, so a counter-rotating balance shaft is used to smooth things out.
The PT Cruiser offers both a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmission. The manual gearbox is surprisingly precise, not sports-car grade, but not bad for unit with a longer-throw gate and foot-long shifter. Working the gears to get the most from the base engine is pleasing.
The automatic isn't as effective as the five-speed at getting the base Cruiser cruising, because the power is biased toward higher rpm, which is not where automatics work best. The engine's peak torque is reached at a relatively high 4000 rpm. (Torque is that force that propels the car from intersections and up steep hills.) On the other hand, kickdown shifts come fairly quickly. With properly timed dips of the accelerator, there's enough power for safe, clean overtaking on two-lane roads.
The 180-horsepower turbocharged engine that's optional on Limited produces a healthy 210 pound-feet of torque, starting at 2800 rpm and holding steady to 4000. That improves performance with the automatic considerably.
Speaking of torque, the engine in the GT develops 245 pound-feet, at 2400-4500 rpm. That makes the 220-horsepower High Output turbo feel like a bigger engine, even though it's not. A rumbly exhaust makes the GT sound more like what hot-rodders wanted when the hot-rod body was first introduced. You know it's a turbo because of the telltale whine when it spools up, though chambers in the intake manifold act as sound dampers.
The GT can get to 60 mph in about 7 seconds, which is decent but not rocket-like acceleration. Driving the GT around town, you'll likely forget to downshift, since the engine pulls strongly at 2500 rpm in any gear. Once you decide to go quicker, the GT acts a little more like the muscle car its body says it is.
The standard gearbox in the GT is a five-speed manual built by Getrag in Germany. We also drove a GT with Chrysler's AutoStick transmission, an automatic that has a semi-manual shift feature. It works well, though the tall shifter is reminiscent of an old-fashioned hot-rod setup. Stand on it at low rpm and there's a little lag as the turbo gets into the boost, but once it spools up it takes off decisively.
Even the base PT Cruiser handles more like a sedan than a minivan, maintaining its composure in the corners. With its big 17-inch wheels and tires, the GT hustles like a sports sedan, though it lacks the precision of one. Body lean is well controlled. The rear suspension design maximizes cargo space, but the twist-beam rear axle bounces a bit on rough pavement and the chassis does not feel rigid. In quick, hard, slalom-type maneuvers the PT Cruiser starts to feel top heavy, even with the GT's stiffer suspension and big wheels. You can almost feel the high mass of the car try to continue in one direction as the front wheels turn in the other. It feels tentative when turning in for high-speed corners and does not inspire confidence. It's more composed than the typical sport-utility or minivan in sudden lane-change maneuvers, but it really is more of a cruiser than a sports machine. We found it not particularly susceptible to cross winds at high speeds, though. There is little wind noise, almost no tire or road noise, and a just-audible whine from the drivetrain.
In terms of ride quality, the PT Cruiser feels like a compact car, with road vibration entering the cabin. The mirrors shake when the stereo is on. Generally, it feels a bit dated and
The Chrysler PT Cruiser appeals to people of all ages and lifestyles with its whimsical, retro design. Its affordability increases its appeal. And its practicality often closes the deal with a roomy, versatile interior that makes the price easy to justify. It isn't particularly refined, however. The GT models deliver strong acceleration performance and bring hot-rod credibility to this hot rod. The convertible offers genuine open-air fun and is great for carrying four people, but isn't practical for hauling cargo.
New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough reports from Los Angeles, with Jeff Vettraino and Phil Berg reporting from Detroit.
|Model Line Overview |
|Base Price (MSRP) |
|Model lineup: |
|Chrysler PT Cruiser sedan ($13,405); convertible ($19,405); Touring sedan ($15,405); Touring convertible ($23,075); Limited sedan ($17,315); GT sedan ($22,905); GT convertible ($27,830) |
|150-hp 2.4-liter dohc 16-valve inline-4; 180-hp 2.4-liter dohc 16-valve turbocharged inline-4; 220-hp 2.4-liter dohc 16-valve High Output turbocharged inline-4 |
|5-speed manual; 4-speed automatic; 5-speed Getrag manual; 4-speed AutoStick automatic |
|Safety equipment (Standard): |
|front airbags, seat belt pre-tensioners, LATCH child-seat anchors |
|Safety equipment (Optional): |
|front side-impact airbags, ABS, traction control |
|Basic warranty: |
|3 years/36,000 miles |
|Assembled in: |
|Toluca, Mexico |
|Specifications As Tested |
|Model tested (MSRP): |
|Chrysler PT Crusier GT Convertible ($27,830) |
|Standard equipment: |
|power windows, power locks with remote keyless entry, cruise control, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, air conditioning, rear window defroster, power side mirrors, six-speaker AM/FM/CD cassette stereo, fog lamps, center console with power outlet, 50/50 split fold-and-tumble quick-release rear seats, ABS, low-speed traction control, performance tuned suspension, 17-inch painted alloy wheels and all-season performance tires |
|Options as tested: |
|AutoStick transmission ($440) |
|Destination charge: |
|Gas Guzzler Tax: |
|Price as tested (MSRP) |
|front-wheel drive |
|2.4-liter dohc 16-valve High Output turbocharged inline-4 |
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm): |
|220 @ 5100 |
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): |
|245 @ 2400-4500 |
|4-speed automatic with AutoStick |
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: |
|19/26 mpg. |
|103.0 in. |
|168.8/67.1/60.6 in. |
|Track, f/r: |
|58.1/58.2 in. |
|Turning circle: |
|40.2 ft. |
|Seating capacity: |
|Head/hip/leg room, f: |
|38.7/49.6/40.6 in. |
|Head/hip/leg room, m: |
|Head/hip/leg room, r: |
|36.4/41.1/40.9 in. |
|Cargo volume: |
|7.4 cu. ft. |
|Towing capacity: |
|Suspension F: |
|independent, MacPherson struts, asymmetrical lower control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar |
|Suspension R: |
|twist-beam axle, trailing arms, transverse Watt's linkage, coil springs, anti-roll bar |
|Ground clearance: |
|5.8 in. |
|Curb weight: |
|3468 lbs. |
|Brakes, f/r: |
|vented disc/solid disc with ABS in. |
|Fuel capacity: |
|15.0 gal. |