Chrysler PT Cruiser is First Produced
The Chrysler PT Cruiser is a retro-styled compact automobile that was first launched by Chrysler as a sedan/hatchback in the late 1999 (for the 2000 model lineup) and as a coupe/convertible in early 2005 (for the 2005 model lineup).
Originally conceived as a Plymouth model, the PT Cruiser received the Chrysler nameplate on introduction — in anticipation of the 2001 discontinuation of the Plymouth brand. The PT Cruiser was designed by Bryan Nesbitt, who later also styled the Chevrolet HHR. The name PT Cruiser includes the initialism PT, standing for and designating the car's platform as well as production code. The name also recalls the 1930s line of Plymouth Trucks known by the "PT" moniker.
The convertible officially ceased production December 21, 2007, but the last 2007 convertibles were marketed as 2008 models. On January 12, 2009, Chrysler LLC, under the private equity Cerberus Capital Management investor, also announced the gradual discontinuation of the main model.
On July 6, 2009, after reorganization into the "New Chrysler", the company changed plans to discontinue the model by specifying that it will do so for Canadian and Mexican markets only. However, strategic product plans may call for a discontinuation of this legacy model under Fiat management.
The PT Cruiser is a front-wheel drive 5-passenger vehicle, classified as a truck in the U.S. by the NHTSA for CAFE fuel economy calculations but as a car by most other metrics. Chrysler specifically designed the PT Cruiser to fit the NHTSA criteria for a light truck in order to bring the average fuel efficiency of the company's light truck fleet into compliance with CAFE standards. A turbocharged GT model was introduced for the 2003 model year. A convertible was introduced for the 2005 model year.
The PT Cruiser is manufactured at Toluca Car Assembly in Toluca, Mexico. On March 8, 2006, DaimlerChrysler announced that it had built 1,000,000 PT Cruisers at the Toluca plant since February 14, 2000. The PT Cruiser was also assembled in Graz, Austria, for global markets (outside North America) in 2002, using the production code PG. European PT Cruisers built in 2001 or from 2003 onwards are built in Mexico under the PT production code. The American version features a 2.4 L four-cylinder gasoline engine. In addition to this standard model, a 2.2 L four-cylinder diesel engine built by Mercedes Benz is also available in Europe, Asia, and South Africa. A 2 liter engine (D4RE) was available outside the U.S. It produces 140 hp (100 kW) SAE at 6500 rpm with 130 ft·lbf (180 N·m) of torque at 4800 rpm.
When initially introduced, demand for the car was, in many cases, much higher than dealer supply, seeing customers put on waiting lists. Anticipation of the car was high, making for a debut that was among the most successful in company history.
In 2001 Car and Driver acknowledged the PT Cruiser on its Ten Best list and the PT Cruiser also won the North American Car of the Year.
In 2002 Euro NCAP gave the PT Cruiser a three (out of five) stars rating. Results in the frontal impact test (6 out of 16 possible points) were in part due to the fact that the PT Cruiser is designed -under U.S. regulations- to protect also unbelted occupants. Height of the seats and side airbags helped to attain a maximum score of 16 points in the side impact test
For 2009, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the PT Cruiser the highest rating of Good overall for occupant protection in frontal crashes and the lowest overall rating of Poor for side crashes. It was the only small car to earn Poor marks in both side and rear evaluations as well as the only small car to not offer electronic stability control.
While the body style remains remarkably consistent from year to year, there are actually multiple models of the PT Cruiser, designated by unique badges in the lower left hand corner of the rear lift-gate. Models include the Classic Edition, Limited Edition, Touring Edition, "Dream Cruiser", "Street Cruiser", "Pacific Coast Highway Edition" and PT Cruiser GT. Turbo edition models are identified by a "2.4L Turbo" badge on the lower right hand corner of the rear lift-gate. The GT model has a badge on the right hand corner of the lift-gate says "2.4L Turbo High Output" (indicating it is the 220/230 hp engine version).
A four-seat convertible model was added for 2005. It is a two-door car with an integrated "sport bar" for added rigidity and rollover protection. It was discovered that the sport bar also caused air to flow over the rear passengers, resulting in a less drafty ride for those in the rear seats.
The PT Cruiser was updated for 2006 to include scalloped headlights, a new 'chrome' grille (that no longer extended below the "bumper"), new lower front fascia which eliminated the patented brake cooling ducts (US patent #6,315,091), available round fog lamps and redesigned taillights. Interior updates included an updated dash, new materials, and an analog clock to the center stack. The audio system featured a line-in jack for MP3 players integrated into the dash. The turbocharged 2.4 L engine was available in 180 hp (134 kW) or "High-Output" 230 hp (172 kW) versions. A "Mopar" cruise control unit became available as an after market unit on 2007 models. Also in 2007, Chrysler dealers were permitted to order vehicles with separate options (un-bundled options from option packages) such as anti-lock brakes and Side Impact Airbags. Sirius Satellite Radio radio also became an option which could be installed as a Dealer option with a factory appearance (i.e. roof mount satellite antenna).
The PT Cruiser was originally conceived as a Plymouth model, before Chrysler's merger with Daimler-Benz. At the time, Chrysler had planned a new look for Plymouth, previewed by the Plymouth Prowler "hot rod". Styling cues from the Prowler, particularly the grille, were used to create the Plymouth Pronto concept car in 1997. The look was refined, and in 1998, another Plymouth concept called the Chrysler Pronto Cruizer directly previewed the styling of the PT Cruiser. The Pronto Cruizer was designed as a modern interpretation of the Chrysler Airflow with Dodge Neon components, but the final design used a separate platform. The new DaimlerChrysler firm did not have much faith in Plymouth as a separate entity, and began steps to rationalize and cancel the marque. Consequently, the PT Cruiser appeared in public only as a Chrysler.
The PT Cruiser also resembles the 1997 Chrysler CCV prototype — which would evolve into the styling of the PT Cruiser.
Inspired by the panel vans of the1930s, the Chrysler PT Cruiser caused quite a buzz when it was first released in 2001. It was one of a few vehicles to herald the new retro trend and became an instant success. Eight years later, the hype surrounding the vehicle has faded, but its utility and versatility are still intact. The PT Cruiser isn't especially competitive compared to other compact wagons and convertibles, but consumers looking for a roomy vehicle with distinctive styling will find the PT an affordable choice that stands out in a crowd.
Current Chrysler PT Cruiser
The Chrysler PT Cruiser is offered as a four-door wagon in three trims with two engine options. The base and Touring levels come standard with a 150-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, while the Limited comes with a 180-hp turbocharged four-cylinder. A five-speed manual is standard on base Cruisers and a four-speed automatic is optional, while Touring and Limited models are automatic-only.
The PT Cruiser wagon shares some components with the now-defunct Neon platform, but it's better than its DNA would suggest. It is versatile, with a maximum cargo space of 76 cubic feet, and there is ample seating space and headroom. The rear seats can fold down or be removed completely, providing the wagon with up to 26 different seating and cargo space arrangements, and the capability to carry items up to 8 feet in length.
In road tests, our editors have found the Chrysler PT Cruiser to be an entertaining drive, especially when compared to Dodge's similarly sized Caliber. It handles adequately, and its overall ride quality is smooth. Performance from the base 150-hp engine is sluggish, but the turbocharged engine provides enough power and torque to pick up the slack. There are better choices, to be sure, but if you're sold on the Cruiser's styling, you won't be too disappointed with the way it drives.
Used Chrysler PT Cruiser Models
The PT Cruiser debuted way back in the 2001 model year. The turbocharged GT debuted for 2003 as an answer to critics who complained that the base engine was not powerful enough. It was originally rated at 215 hp and received subsequent updates to reach a 230-hp output. It was discontinued after the 2007 model year. The 180-hp version of the turbo engine appeared as an option in the Touring and Limited trim levels for 2004, while a convertible model with a three-layer power top arrived for 2005. The interior and exterior of all PT Cruisers were updated for 2006, and the convertible was discontinued after 2008. The Touring model could be equipped with the turbocharged engine until 2009, and the turbo was previously optional rather than standard on the Limited.