2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser: Sunset Boulevard EditionPosted on September 15th, 2008
Pint-sized crossover with a hot rod attitude
By Nina Russin
Ten years ago, Chrysler rolled out the production version of the PT Cruiser show car: a compact crossover styled after classic American hot rods. The pint-sized Cruiser is the embodiment of what Chrysler does best: combining edgy styling with a versatile interior that takes minivan packaging into a whole new segment.
Other manufacturers have tried to mimic the PT Cruiser formula with similar products such as the Chevy HHR. But none of its competitors do the job quite as well as the original.
With a base price starting at $15,015, the PT Cruiser is an affordable, fun car that can hold everything from long boards to bicycles. Passengers sit higher up than in a conventional car: theater style seating gives everyone a good view of the road. The forward-raked roof makes for exceptional headroom in the back.
Built to customize
One of the coolest things about the PT Cruiser is that it’s built to customize. Since the first models rolled out, Chrysler has produced eleven factory custom editions. Businesses can use panel truck models to wrap graphics, while car buffs cruise in style with flames or woodie side panels.
An available turbocharged four-cylinder engine adds thirty horsepower over the base block. Buyers who want better fuel economy can opt for a five-speed manual transmission on the naturally-aspirated car: average fuel economy is 23 miles per gallon. The automatic model (tested) averages twenty-one miles per gallon for city and highway driving.
Sunset Boulevard edition pays homage to Southern California car culture.
Personally, I would have called it the Riverside Drive edition, since Riverside Drive in Burbank is home to Bob’s Big Boy: one of the greatest cruise night destinations in the country. For readers who have never been to one, cruise nights are where people who love cars go to find other people of the same mindset.
On Friday nights, the line to get into the parking lot stretches out for blocks. To protect the spot against future development, its fans had Bob’s registered as a historic landmark.
Getting back to the Cruiser, the Sunset Boulevard Edition is mainly a paint job: “sunset” red pearl coat, with some extra chrome accents, bigger wheels, and a couple of custom badges. The power sunroof, tinted glass and special wheels add $845 to the car’s base price. The special paint is another $150.
With the exception of the upscale Limited grade, antilock brakes are an option. I would recommend them, especially for drivers living in four-season climates. Traction control comes with the antilock brake option. Neither side curtain airbags nor electronic stability control are available on the Cruiser.
Music aficionados can upgrade the standard audio system to a Boston six-speaker acoustics system that adds Sirius satellite radio. A second sound upgrade replaces the single disc CD player with a six-disc unit. The standard audio system is MP3 compatible.
Cruising through Phoenix
Despite its styling, the PT Cruiser is no hot rod. But it is a pleasant car to drive. The standard four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic transmission provide plenty of power for urban commuting. The automatic transmission shifts smoothly with a minimum of shift shock, though a five-speed unit would probably improve fuel economy.
The base LX does not come with power mirrors, which can be an inconvenience if multiple drivers are sharing the car. Small levers inside the car manually adjust the side mirrors. Manually adjustable seats are easy to position.
Lower back support is adequate, but not exceptional. Upscale Touring and Limited grades come with adjustable lower lumbar controls.
The high seating position is one of my favorite features about the PT Cruiser. Though the car itself sits much lower than most light duty trucks, the driver is able to see around the high-profile vehicles more easily.
Visibility around the car is pretty good. The high seating position enhances forward visibility and makes cornering on highway ramps much easier. Side mirrors do a pretty good job of compensating for blind spots to the sides and rear of the car.
Room for four adults and a variety of cargo
Despite its small footprint, the PT Cruiser has a remarkably spacious and configurable interior. Though Chrysler calls the Cruiser a five-passenger car, the middle seating position in the second row lacks legroom, due to interference from the center console and floor tunnel.
But four adults will be quite comfortable, even on long road trips. Both rows have access to plenty of cupholders and map pockets in the door. In front, a twelve-volt power point on the base of the center stack recharges electronic devices.
A tilt steering wheel adapts to drivers of different sizes, as does a sliding center armrest. A two-piece bin under the center console holds compact discs in one section and small electronic devices up top.
The optional moonroof brings ambient light into the rear of the car, which would otherwise be rather dark. Front row passengers get dual overhead reading lamps. There is also a small light in the cargo area to the right of the liftgate.
Second-row seats fold flat by using a levers on the seatbacks. A pull strap on the seat cushions releases the seats so they can tumble forward, and be removed. Tumbling the seats forward creates an uninterrupted load floor large enough for a road bike with the front wheel removed.
A rear shelf panel installs in horizontal guides in the cargo bay to create an extra horizontal shelf, a table for tailgate parties, or a vertical divider. Upscale models come with a fold flat front passenger seat that further extends the load floor, and can also serve as a work surface.
Lifetime powertrain warranty
As with all Chrysler products, the PT Cruiser comes with a lifetime powertrain warranty that protects owners against repair costs due to manufacturing defects. The warranty includes three years of 24-hour towing assistance.
Chrysler builds the PT Cruiser at its Toluca, Mexico assembly plant.
Likes: A small affordable car with room for four passengers and a configurable interior. The high roofline maximizes headroom for rear passengers and vertical load-in space. A low liftover height makes it easier for small people to load up the back.
Dislikes: Base model does not come with standard power windows, air conditioning or antilock brakes. Electronic stability program and side curtain airbags are not available.
Model: PT Cruiser LX: Sunset Boulevard Edition
Base price: $15,015
As tested: $18,475
Horsepower: 150 Hp @ 5100 rpm
Torque: 165 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Optional
Side curtain airbags: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Comments: Base price does not include a $640 delivery charge.
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