Chrysler, Road Test Reviews

2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible GT – Road Test

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Driving to Chrysler to pick up the PT Cruiser Convertible GT, I was looking forward to it, but not completely thrilled about the prospect. After all, the PT Cruiser convertible has been around for a number of years now and I personally am getting a little tired of the car. To me it feels like it’s been around for a decade or more – but actually it’s only been available since 2005 – really?! Yep it’s still new. Oh ooh, this isn’t going to be good. However, thirty seconds after climbing inside, I was grinning from ear to ear – I LOVE THIS CAR!!!! It’s sooo cool. I couldn’t wait to spend the next week driving this Retro-mobile!

First Impressions
I love the push button door handles, so very retro. Getting into the PT Cruiser is very easy with the large doors swinging open to seats that are large and sit high, much like bucket seats of the ‘50’s, but firmer and with the added bonus lumbar adjustment – something you couldn’t get back then. Using the power adjustments on the leather seat (8-way driver seat and 4-way passenger), it was very quick and easy to get comfortable. The cabin feels very retro, yet very modern. Reminiscent of the past, the chrome-ringed tachometer and speedometer dials sit directly in front of the very large leather-wrapped steering wheel. The wiper stalk sits at the 3 o’clock position and the turn signal/light switch stalk at the 9 o’clock position. Although quite large, the steering wheel is thin – just like the cars of yesteryear, keeping it perfectly in character. Another retro feature is the trunk release – it’s in the glove box. When was the last time you found the button there? I think Chrysler would really have topped off the retro theme perfectly if they’d have put the horn button in the spokes like the old cars. At present, it’s on the centre where the airbags is and it was quite hard to get it to work – it was very stiff. By the time you actually got the horn to blast, the danger had passes.

The cowl is low, with a short distance from the dash to the base of the front window, and with the seats sitting fairly high it gives the sense that the car has come right out of the past. Just as Ford did a great job of making the new Mustang very ‘60’s retro, Chrysler have done an equally superb job of making the PT Cruiser look and feel like it came out of the 1930-1950’s era. To the right in the center console is an analog clock and power window buttons, with the audio system below that, and the climate control further below. Between the audio and climate controls is a row of buttons where the bum warmers, rear window defogger, power roof, traction control off and hazard lights are located. Lower still, on the floor there are 2 cup holders and a power outlet. The gear lever is very tall by today’s standards, but again in perfect keeping with the whole look and feel of the car. It’s 10 inches tall and finished in chrome with a large round knob on top. Between the seats is a sliding armrest that incorporates two storage areas and an additional power outlet. The vents are round and close completely, as well as rotating 360 degrees to make it the air blow where YOU want it to blow – very well thought out.

The 4-spoke steering wheel offers a modern touch with the cruise control buttons inside the spokes to the right. The steering tilts, but doesn’t telescope which I didn’t find a necessity since it was perfectly placed. The steering is quite good, being sharp and weighted properly – giving enough feedback, without being light and sloppy like steering of the past. Because the shift lever is so tall it took a couple of shifts to get used to, but the Getrag 5-speed manual transmission is a treat to use. The clutch/shifts are silky-smooth and easy to use with nicely balanced take up of the clutch as you let it out. Unlike a number of gearboxes I’ve used this year, this is a superb fit making the PT Cruiser a fun and easy car to drive – if only all gearbox/clutches worked like this one. An interesting feature – and my first experience with something like this – was a ringing bell when you got the shifter into reverse, and it turns out a very necessary warning. It was always a problem to get the shifter into the reverse slot because it was so close to the first gear slot. Pushing down and to the right didn’t always get you into the required reverse gear. When the ringing came on it was like: Congratulations!! You’ve found reverse!!! I’m glad someone at Chrysler decided on that warning bell because it was very useful. However, I should say that with practice, locating reverse became easier and easier. While we’re on the subject of clutches and shifting gears I should mention the foot pedals – they’re metal with rubber nibs on them for grip and they work perfectly – very cool!

Power from the 230 hp turbocharged engine is smooth and certainly doesn’t overpower the front wheels. Driving around town or on the freeway, I always got the response when I needed it, with very little turbo-lag. With the low cowl/high seat/long gear shifter combination there was a feeling that I wasn’t driving just any car – it was different. It’s hard to explain, but I did catch myself smiling for no apparent reason while driving. Sitting at the lights I caught myself looking around at the bored drivers in their boring cars thinking: “You have no idea how much fun I’m having!” The PT Cruiser is a blast to drive without the need for excessive speed – or maybe it was because it has just the right amount of speed/horsepower for the car. Torque-steer wasn’t a problem; it was very easy to modulate the power going to the front wheels. However, on one occasion I did have a problem and that was in the rain. I goosed the gas and was surprised to find the front end heading off towards the curb. It could have been the power to the front wheels or it could have been the Goodyear RSA Eagles that were the problem in the wet. Other than that one occasion, I had to dump the clutch to get the front end to break away and lose grip.

Driving at speeds up to 90 mph, the car was incredibly quiet. It was so quiet I didn’t even have to turn the stereo up once I got on the freeway! It was hard to believe it was actually a drop-top. Compared to convertibles costing almost twice as much as the PT Cruiser, THIS is the noise level all manufacturers should be striving to attain, there’s no excuse for them not to match the PT Cruiser.

With the top up I expected a problem with the blind spot on the right side, but thanks to the rear side window, that wasn’t an issue. The top still fills a large area, but it isn’t too bad overall, although when backing up out of a parking spot, you do have to be careful because it tends to hide people and other cars. If you go slow and take care – as you always should – you won’t have a problem. The large and slightly oval side view mirrors also help considerably.

As for trunk space, it’s very usable whether the top is up or down, and unlike the Mustang, the seats fold – making the cargo area exceptional. The trunk is surprisingly large and very deep with 13.3 cu/ft with the seat up and a very impressive 62.7 cu/ft with the seats folded. As a comparison, the Mustang’s trunk is 9.7 cu/ft. The middle section of the rear seats split 50/50, fold forward and lock in place, but they also tumble forward creating a very large cargo area behind the front seats, with even more when combined with the trunk. Additionally, the front passenger seat folds forward and locks flat for even more cargo convenience. The PT Cruiser is without a doubt the most versatile convertible I’ve found so far, with more than ample room for people and cargo. This is about the only convertible that I would consider to be perfectly acceptable to own as a one and only car. Most convertibles compromise so much, they are only practical if you’ve already got a practical car.

Dropping the top is quick and painless. Pull down the big handle and rotate it clockwise to unlock the roof from the header. Pressing the power top down button once allows the windows to go down and the top to pull away enough for you to re-seat the handle (very important). Then press and hold the button as the top folds away into the rear. There’s a very handy button on the dash that allows you to put all 4 windows down and up at once – a great feature in any car, but a necessity in a convertible. The top looks rather awkward and unsightly when sitting folded up, but there is a tonneau cover that conceals the roof when it’s down. Installing the cover is straightforward and makes the whole car look finished. I thought the top would be an issue while driving around as it sits so high up, but it wasn’t a problem at all, I just moved the rear view mirror and there wasn’t even a hint that it was there. Times for opening and closing the roof were: 8.5 seconds to put it down, and 9 seconds to raise it. Once the top was dropped the roll hoop became more visible from outside. I’m not a big fan of the roll hoops, but Chrysler have done a great job in making it look a part of the PT Cruiser instead of a hoop stuck on to appease the lawyers. It’s nicely finished and incorporates the interior lights for the car. One added feature of this chunky hoop was noted by our backseat drivers – it seems to block out some of the wind that most passengers have to suffer – kudos Chrysler!

After dropping the top and going off for a drive – a big grin is mandatory in this car – the PT Cruiser convertible is very civilized. There is a bit of wind buffeting, probably more to do with the large roll bar than anything else, but it’s not annoying in any way. It’s very easy to have a normal conversation without raising you voice too much. It’s almost as quiet as when the roof was up! Cruisin’ down the road with my woman, the tunes cranked up, and the wind in my hair – is there any better way to enjoy a summer evening?

Factory installed stereo systems have come a long way in the past few years, and this one is no exception. Cranking up the tunes using the optional in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 player, with a 368-Watt amplifier and 6 Boston Acoustics speakers, adds to the pleasure of open top driving. What a fantastic set up! There’s no shortage of bass, while the highs are nice and clear.

The suspension is quite firm, but very compliant, not passing road imperfection through to the passenger compartment. After having driven several convertibles this summer, I wasn’t surprised at the solid feel of the body and suspension even going over railroad tracks. Designers and engineers of modern convertibles have done an incredible job of making topless driving a shake-free occasion. The PT Cruiser’s roll hoop probably helps better than a car without one, but the quality of convertibles is nothing short of amazing when compared to cars of only a few years ago. If you were to blindfold someone and drive them around in the PT Cruiser, there would be no way to tell if it was a convertible or regular car – that’s how good this car is – it’s a solid and quiet ride.

The PT Cruiser convertible comes in three variations in the U.S. (Base, Touring, and GT) and two in Canada (Touring and GT) and three engine choices: a naturally aspirated 2.4L with 150 hp and an optional 2.4L 180 hp turbo. The PT Cruiser GT comes with a 16 valve DOHC Turbocharged 2.4L inline 4-cylinder as its only engine.

Standard features in the GT convertible include: Cloth fully lined convertible top with glass rear window, sport leather trimmed heated seats, power 6-way driver’s seat with lumbar control, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and low-speed Traction Control, tilt steering wheel with cruise controls, fog lamps, 17” painted aluminum wheels, and an AM/FM stereo system with a single CD player and 6 premium speakers, keyless entry, air, one-touch down windows (front), HomeLink universal garage door opener, side air bags, rear 50/50 split fold and tumble seats, and a Vehicle Information Centre (trip computer) tells you how much fuel you’re using, average speed and how much fuel/miles you’ve got left in the tank before you run out, as well as the exterior temperature. There are power outlets in the lower dash, inside the centre console, and in the trunk.

Options added to the test vehicle were: Boston Acoustics Audio Group (368-watt amplifier and 6 Boston Acoustic speakers) $547 [$730 Cdn]; AM/FM CD 6-disc MP3 Radio $276 [$455 Cdn] and 17” Aluminum Chrome wheels (P205/50HR17) N/C [$650 Cdn], Heated front seats $230 [N/C Cdn].

Safety 
On the safety side, features include: Seatbelt Pre-tensioners, dual-stage air bags, front seat side air bags, drivers knee airbag, Side Impact Bars, Sentry Key engine immobilizer, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes with performance brakes, all-speed Traction Control, security alarm and speed sensitive door locks.

Warranty
Basic Warranty: 36 months/36,000 miles [60,000 kms]. Powertrain: 5 years/60,000 miles [100,000 kms].
Towing capacity: 1,000 lbs.

The Conclusion
It’s a great looking car with no compromises, and yet it’s within reach of almost any budget. It’s fun to drive and is so adaptable it makes for a great every day car – unlike many convertibles out there. One potential minus point, or just a point of note: when opening the trunk lid in the rain/snow, there’s a possibility for the rain or snow to go right into the trunk because of the way the lid is designed. It cantilevers up, whereas if it went down, like the old Mini trunk lid – it wouldn’t be an issue. Unlike virtually all the convertibles I’ve driven this year, the PT Cruiser got many things right; the swiveling sun visors; plenty of storage compartments; comfortable seats and a good-sized glove box. The PT Cruiser is a true 2+2, not a pretend 5-seater.

Rear Seat Test: 10 out of 10
“Very comfortable and plenty of room, however the arm rest – is basically useless – it’s too low and too shallow to be of any use to anyone – you end up putting your arm up on the window ledge “ / “The wind is very acceptable when the top is down – much better than the Mustang convertible” / “You sit nice and high, so you can actually see out the front window” / “There’s plenty of room under the front seats for my feet”

Pricing for the 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible GT
As tested: $30,970 [$34,915 Cdn]

The 2007 PT Cruiser GT Convertible starts at $29,185 [$32,650 Cdn]
The base convertible starts at $19,965 (U.S. only) and the Touring starts at $23,730 [$28,220 Cdn]

Fuel Consumption: [Premium – 91 Octane]
The 2.4L Turbo I4 is rated at 23.4 mpg City [10.4 L/100 kms] and 30.7 mpg Highway [7.9 L/100 kms]
I averaged 20.3 mpg [11.4 L/100km] combined.

+ PLUSES: 
Looks great and very useful as a day-to-day car
Excellent fit and finish, with nice features and a very usable back seat and trunk
Fantastic stereo system
A convertible with plenty of safety features

– MINUSES:
Uhmmmm, can I get back to you on that one?

Would I Spend My Money On It?:
Yes! Without a doubt.

www.road-test.orgImmediate Competition:
Chrysler Sebring, Ford Mustang, Mazda MX-5, MINI, Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, Pontiac G6, Toyota Solara, Volkswagen Beetle & Eos

By The Numbers:
Horsepower: 230 @ 5100 rpm
Torque: 245 @ 2,400 – 4,500 rpm
0-60 mph: 8.2 seconds

Interior
10 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
10 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
9 – Special Features (Heated Seats / Sunroof, etc)

Ergonomics
10 – Ease of Entry/Exit
10 – Front Roominess
10 – Rear Roominess
9 – Driving Position/Controls

Exterior
9 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish

Performance
10 – Engine
10 – Transmission
9 – Ride & Handling

Ownership Value
10 – Bang for the $$
9 – Fuel Economy

Total 136 / 150

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Copyright © 2006 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain & Gail Shankland

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Also Published at: PaddockTalk