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Old 10 Jul 2003, 12:04 am
Gary04GT Gary04GT is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington State, USA.
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Default 2003 PT Turbo Review by AUTOTEST FILE

--AUTOTEST FILE--
(20:47:50 July 09, 2003)

2003 Chrysler PT Turbo
Turbo Troubles Away: Wherein we come to find that normal aspiration is for mouth-breathers



LIKES

Huge jump in power

More performance from suspension

Very utilitarian
DISLIKES

Turning radius of the Nimitz

Steep sticker

Flames not standard
OTHERS CONSIDERED

Ford Focus

Subaru Outback

Buick Rendezvous


EVERYBODY LOVES THE Chrysler PT Cruiser GT, also known as the PT Turbo. That is not to say everybody didn’t love the original PT Cruiser. Almost everybody did. It was an inexpensive, utilitarian retro hot rod, so what was not to love? A few owners and near owners said the original didn’t have enough power and torque, but most were so in love with it they overlooked that flaw.

Well, as Dr. Joyce Brothers often says, there is no problem in this world so difficult that it can’t be solved by turbo-charging. Maybe it wasn’t Dr. Brothers who said that, but the point is well taken. Same goes for a stiffer suspension and a better wheel/tire combination, which also comes with the PT Turbo.

The PT’s turbo boosts peak horsepower from 150 to 215 and peak torque from 162 to 245 lb-ft. It’s hard to argue with those numbers so we didn’t, we just took them straight to the drag strip. With a curb weight of 3182 pounds for the automatic-equipped Cruiser, the weight-to-power ratio of the PT goes from 21.2 in the normally aspirated version (meaning each horsepower has to pull around 21.2 pounds of vehicle) to 14.8 in the Turbo. Those are two more numbers that are hard to argue with. On paper it looks like this car should be darned sprightly. And it was.

The normally aspirated PT we tested two years ago went from 0 to 60 mph in 9.49 seconds, which is on the slow side for any type of vehicle. If we had to pick competitors for this category buster they would be small SUVs, and all of them we’ve recently tested beat that figure. The new Honda CR-V returned a 0-to-60 time of 8.16 seconds, the Ford Escape 8.18 and the Subaru Outback 8.62. Our PT Turbo test vehicle got to 60 in 7.27 seconds, and that was with the autostick automatic transmission, the box chosen by most owners we spoke with. You can usually knock almost a second off a 0-to-60 time with a manual transmission, and the five-speed manual is standard in this car.

The PT Turbo stopped just as well as it accelerated, going from 60 to 0 in 126 feet, about 10 feet shorter than the small SUVs we’re looking at as competition. All PT Cruisers have four-wheel discs with ABS, vented in front. The rear discs are bigger on the PT Turbo. With a stiffer suspension and low-profile 205/50 tires mounted on 17-inch rims, it handled well, too. The Turbo went through our 490-foot slalom at 43.8 mph—better than those small SUVs by more than 2 mph and almost 2 mph faster than the original PT Cruiser’s speed of 42.0. For its dimensions and utilitarian appearance, the PT Turbo turned out to be fun to drive, too.

Inside it was more comfortable and versatile than anything in its size range. We loved the upright seating position, the fold-down-or-remove rear seats and the flip-up, flip-down or take-out rear parcel shelf. It was perfect for groceries, small or large dogs, almost all reptiles and even most medium-sized kitchen appliances.

There are drawbacks, of course. The PT Turbo we drove had a turning radius of 42 feet, or most of the north end of the Lambeau Field parking lot. With the base-model wheels and tires, that figure goes down to a more reasonable 36.7 feet, still not exactly gymnastic. The mirrors aren’t the fancy breakaway kind that pop back into place when someone staggers into them in the parking lot, either. And most people who bought PT Turbos missed the $2,500 rebate Chrysler began offering on Jan. 7 and will continue through Feb. 28, though there were few stories of gouging by dealers on this model.

That could be because price on the turbo model was a bit steep, by the standards of Neon-bas
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