SAN FRANCISCO: Chrysler is credited with "inventing" the tall car - short truck
minivan in the mid 1980s. Now it has introduced another unique vehicle with the PT Cruiser
that is part car, part truck for the 2001 model year. PT stands for Personal
Transportation and it is basically the same vehicle that debuted as the Pronto Cruizer at
the 1998 Geneva Auto Show. With rave reviews from the public, Chrysler wisely decided to
put it into production.
Of course, the PT Cruisers most noticeable feature is its retro, street rod
styling that recalls a 1937 sedan delivery. Retro styling cues include the fat fenders,
1930s style grille, bullet-shaped taillights, a slant back tailgate and a windshield that
gives the appearance of being flat like those used before curved ones became practical.
Whether you like the styling or not, it definitely will elicit lots of second glances. The
PT Cruisers uniqueness will last since Chrysler plans to sell 90,000 of them in the
U.S. and another 40,000 worldwide in model year 2001. This will jump to 235,000 in 2002,
with 185, 000 slated for the U.S. market alone.
If the favorable comments I received while test-driving a black PT Cruiser are any
indication, Chrysler should not have any problems meeting these sales goals. In fact the
backlog of dealer orders would indicate they could be at a 250,000 sales rate now, and for
the next three years if they can build the cars. It seems everybody, and I mean everybody,
regardless of age, wants one. The PT Cruiser would then be Chryslers volume leader
for the entire product line and would increase their market share considerably.
Only one engine is currently offered, a four-cylinder, 2.4 liter one that features a
dual overhead camshaft (DOHC) and four-valves-per-cylinder. The smooth and quiet running
engine produces 150-horsepower at 5600 rpm and 162 ft-lb of torque at 4000 rpm. Either a
five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, both with overdrive, are
available. While offering adequate performance in an urban setting, the engine is
definitely on the slow side when asked to lug up over two tons (about 3200 pounds for the
PT Cruiser plus up to 900 pounds of payload) in hilly terrain, especially when fitted with
the automatic transmission. The 5-speed stick trans makes the PT Cruiser a bit more fun to
drive plus you get a neat cue-ball shifter knob to play with.
The DaimlerChrysler engineers did an outstanding job in putting lots of carrying
capacity in a small package. While only about 169 inches long, about six inches less than
the Dodge Neon on which the PT Cruiser is loosely based, it can carry 64 cubic feet of
cargo with the rear seats removed. This is only about two cubic feet less than a much
larger Jeep Cherokee SUV and the PT Cruiser also comes with a 1000 pound towing capacity.
As innovative as the styling is, the versatile interior design is the key to the PT
Cruiser. The seats can be arranged into no less that 25 different configurations for
seating one to five people. The rear seats are both foldable and removable. If you order
the optional folding front seat you can carry 8-foot lengths of lumber. The floor is
completely flat when the rear seats are removed, just like an old panel truck. The split
35/65 rear seat can be removed in two parts and both are fitted with small rollers for
easy movement. There is also a multi-position removable shelf panel. The large rear slant
back door means easy loading and unloading and has a cool look to it too.
The PT Cruiser is not only fun to look at it is also fun to drive. Steering is precise,
the ride is very good, and handling on twisty roads is great, while the braking provides
quick, controlled stops. Indeed, it feels like a much larger vehicle. And like in a small
truck or SUV you sit high up for very good visibility. The PT Cruiser has a rugged,
built-to-last feel and high quality materials appear to be used throughout the retro-look
The PT Cruiser is priced right starting with a MSRP figure of $16,000 and with the
"Limited Edition" Option a PT cruiser can reach past the $21,000 mark. The base
price includes items like air conditioning; tilt steering wheel; AM / FM / cassette; dual
outside power mirrors and power steering, windows and brakes. The Anti-lock brakes with
traction control at $595 are definitely a worthwhile investment.
The PT Cruiser is not without faults, albeit small ones. For instance, the three deeply
recessed and rather smallish instrument pods are somewhat difficult to read in the
daylight. The switches for the power front windows are conveniently located on the center
of the dashboard, but those for rear windows are located on the back of the center
console, where they are difficult to reach from the front seats. And while the PT Cruiser
is easy to park, the turning diameter seems excessive for such a short vehicle. Minor
gripes for sure. All in all, this is the Retro vehicle that will be taking the new car
market by storm for the next three years, if production can keep up with the demand.
The bottom line is that the PT Cruiser is a serious hauler whose utility will last
years after its unique looks have grown old. It represents a very affordable alternative
for those considering a small SUV and want the convenience, but not the looks, of a small
minivan. And on top of all that it will still be the "Coolest Car in America"
for years to come, so you better order yours today! By Bill Siuru & Tony Leopardo
© AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Chrysler Home Page
Byline: By Bill Siuru & Tony Leopardo© AutoWire.Net -
Column Name: "Coolest Car in America"
Topic: 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser
Word Count: 958
Photo Caption: 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser
Photo Credits: Chrysler Internet Media
Series #: 2000 - 27
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