2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser Review / Road Test

Chrysler's PT Cruiser

Chrysler's PT Cruiser burst onto the automotive scene in 2001, creating a furore with its muscular styling as it became an all-important halo car for the range while selling in bucketloads along the way.

Operative words are "in 2001," for while the Chrysler has had a good run with the Cruiser, and its GT is the logical extension of that, it may just be time for a rework (though some argue the design and appeal is timeless).

Understandably, Chrysler will be reluctant to mess with a winning formula, all too difficult to achieve in the current US market, that has resulted in more than one million sales and a vast but undocumented knock-on effect for the range.  Just look at parent company's Daimler Chrysler's market position and healthy sales  in relation to other US automakers.

Best fun in the GT was prodding the power pedal at somewhat high speed and feeling an impressive bit of grunt as you accelerate into an open freeway lane or around the car ahead on smalller roads.

The GT gets an upgraded chassis, suspension and powertrain from the base model as well as a reworked interior and a chromed-up exterior trim. Now pushing out a substantial 230hp from its 2.4 liter engine with a hefty dose of torque at 245-lb-per-foot, and you can see why this supercharged powertrain puts out pretty satisfactory performance for a four-door hatch with 0-60 mph figures of 6.8 seconds and a quarter mile time of just over 15 seconds.

Hotrod looks

Chiseled front grille

Which is pretty good for a car that boasts a high-up driving position that would certainly appeal to, well, my mother, who is short of leg but likes a better view of the road. And with all that room, and outstanding carrying ability, the Cruiser makes an excellent family car (while appealing to the kids' sense of what is, er, gnarly).

Inside is all retro feel, something the kids might not appreciate but they'll still like it alongside the Sirius satellite radio - a $200 add-on - and the banging 6-disk CD changer, another $300 on top of the car's base MSRP of $23,645. 

The dials and facia are all retro font and clear and generally where they should be, apart from the window switchgear which was inexplicably on the central dash. The retro handles on the outside of the door bamboozled me too, as you can't just yank open the door, you have to push the button with your thumb. How annoying (until you get used to it, which in fairness I did on my last day with the car).

Try as I might I just couldn't get a hang of the elongated manual shifter, which protrudes on a spidery stalk from the central console so you can reach it from the high-up seats. The car also sounds a continual beep to ensure you know you're in reverse.

I tend to know when I'm in reverse, as the car moves backward when I press the accelerator.

Outside is all GT chrome and speed-bars and wings and spoilers and all manner of other things which, while coming at a decent price of about $250, do little else than remind people this is not the base model.
The shape of this car does the talking, really, with its tear-drop tail lights and the double headlights up front, now a feature of the Chrysler range, and its high, arcing front grille.

Classic back end

17-inch rims

But the dramatic effect of the PT Cruiser I reckon has been lost amid newer releases that have eclipsed the retro-futurism so popular with designers a couple of years back.  So design heads at Chrysler are left with a puzzle wrapped up in a retro-futuristic enigma; not ideal.

What many suspect is they will take away much of the radicalness of the 2001-2006 model and build one along the same body shape and roominess lines while trading on the good name that its more radical predecessor has brought the company.

Wouldn't that be gnarly?

Retro interior

Very, very roomy

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