2004 PT Cruiser New Car Test Drive
The Chrysler PT Cruiser has become a familiar sight. The Cruiser combines the retro looks of a late-1930's American sedan with modern styling and features. It made a big splash when it was introduced as a 2001 model. That was back in March 2000, and Chrysler has been selling more than 135,000 of them a year. In spite of this, the PT Cruiser still attracts attention. People are intrigued by the Cruiser's difficult-to-define character. Chrysler says the PT Cruiser is too cool to categorize. It's the only car we can think of that offers flames as an option.
Making the Cruiser more attractive is its combination of practicality and affordability. It boasts the interior volume of a sport-utility vehicle. Fold the seats down and you can carry an eight-foot ladder. Pull the rear seats out and it'll haul a load of building materials or a big TV box. Yet it's shorter in length than many compact cars, making it easy to park. It's also easy on gas.
Adding to the fun is the driving experience. The Cruiser is based on the Dodge Neon, a compact car noted for sprightly performance. New turbo models add fire under the hood. The GT (aka PT Turbo) features a 220-horsepower engine that gives the Cruiser a real boost. That kind of speed costs money, of course. A more affordable 180-horsepower turbo available for 2004 Limited Edition and Touring Edition brings the cost of speed down. We like speed. We also like affordability. On the downside, the PT Cruiser has all the refinement of a compact car.
New features are available for the 2004 models to enhance the Cruiser's sophistication. Sirius Satellite Radio and a Bluetooth system that allows hands-free cellular telephone conversations are on the options list for 2004.
Four models are available for 2004: PT Cruiser ($17,395); Touring Edition ($19,170); Limited Edition ($21,410); and GT ($25,365). All are four-door hatchbacks, though a convertible will be available early in 2004.
All PT Cruisers are powered by a 2.4-liter, twin-cam four-cylinder engine, but it comes in three states of tune. The standard 150-horsepower engine comes standard in base, Touring Edition, and Limited Edition models. A five-speed manual is standard with this engine; four-speed automatic is optional ($825).
A 180-horsepower turbocharged version of this same engine is optional on Touring Edition ($2,105) and Limited Edition ($2,090) models. The price of this option includes the four-speed automatic transmission, plus a body-color front fascia with larger lower opening, a large diameter chrome exhaust tip, and special badging. New 16-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels are standard on 180-horsepower Limited Edition models, optional ($700) on 180-horsepower Touring Edition models.
A 220-horsepower High Output turbocharged variant of the 2.4-liter four comes on the GT. This engine comes with a heavy-duty five-speed manual transaxle made by Getrag; a four-speed automatic is optional ($440).
Standard on the base model are air conditioning, power windows, rear defroster and wiper, six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, an anti-theft engine immobilizer, and 15-inch steel wheels. An optional Power Convenience Group ($705) adds remote keyless entry, automatic power central locking, and power exterior mirrors, and cruise control. New for 2004, an aluminum wheel/touring group ($579) adds 16-inch painted cast-aluminum wheels, 205/55R16 all-season touring tires, and a touring suspension.
The Touring Edition gets everything in the convenience package and the aluminum wheel/touring group, plus fog lights, security alarm, and other features. The Limited Edition comes equipped with just about everything: leather upholstery, power height adjuster for the driver's seat, side-impact airbags, glass sunroof, and chromed 16-inch aluminum wheels.
The GT 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 Edition's luxury goodies. Leather sport seats are standard, but cloth upholstery is available.
Stand-alone options include a glass sunroof for Touring Editions ($695), heated front seats for Limited Edition and GT ($250), and side-impact airbags for base and Touring ($390). A new option for 2004 is Sirius satellite radio, which is offered on all models. The cost of the receiver ($325) includes a one-year subscription. Also new for 2004 is UConnect, Chrysler Group's hands-free, in-vehicle communications system ($360), which uses Bluetooth technology to link the user's cellular phone with the Cruiser's stereo speakers. Appearance packages include Woodgrain Exterior Accents, the Chrome Accent Group (expanded for 2004), and the chrome-and-leather Dream Cruiser 3.