2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 23, 2008

The 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible gets the axe midway through 2008, so if you want one, act quickly, but the wagon is here if you need flexible utility with retro flair.

TheCarConnection.com’s car experts read a wide variety of road tests to write this consensus review of the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser. Experts from TheCarConnection.com have driven the Chrysler PT Cruiser (including the convertible and turbo-powered versions) to help give you a definitive opinion on this wagon. This review also compares the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

The first production Chrysler PT Cruiser was a 2001 model. Beyond year-over-year updates, not much has changed for this wagon crossover, though a moderate revamp for 2006 brought a new style and a better interior. The 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser brings some new standard safety features such as standard side airbags and a tire pressure monitoring system.

The retro-styled, five-passenger Chrysler PT Cruiser is available in LX, Touring, and Limited trim levels. In addition to the standard wagon body style (one that TheCarConnection.com editors still mostly like), there is also the awkwardly misshapen PT Cruiser Convertible.

A 150-horsepower 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine is standard, with a 180-horsepower turbocharged version optional. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard, while a four-speed automatic is optional on base cars and standard on the Touring. Neither engine sets the world ablaze with amazing performance, but they get the job done. The chassis under the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser is still a derivative of the old Dodge and Plymouth Neon--sophisticated and refined it's not. The driving character is described by some editors from TheCarConnection.com as "rental car like."

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Special edition PT Cruisers have been a marketing ploy Chrysler has used to maintain interest in the PT; remember, this car debuted as a 2001 model and has only had minor updates since. Continuing with this tradition, a special Sunset Boulevard Edition is available in 2008 and gets bathed in warm Sunset Crystal paint. It's also given a unique, five-bar grille, special badges and trim, and brightly chromed 16-inch wheels. Inside, the Sunset Boulevard Edition features sporty cloth seats, silk-finished sill plates, a chromed gauge bezel, and painted dashboard accents that match the exterior color. This new limited-edition model started out as a base PT Cruiser LX, but it gets a variety of upscale standard features, including a sunroof, power windows and mirrors, an AM/FM/CD audio system with MP3 input, and a tilt steering column.

Side airbags are now standard on all models for 2008, along with tire pressure monitors. Anti-lock brakes are optional on the LX versions. The LX and Touring models get a new body-color grille. A 368-watt Boston Acoustics premium sound system with MP3 capability is available, as are Sirius Satellite Radio, Bluetooth, and 17-inch wheels.

As Chrysler LLC makes hard choices about what products to support, it has been announced that the 2009 model year will be the last one for the PT Cruiser Convertible.

Even though the PT Cruiser shares some powertrain components with the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass, that's about all the common ground between these three Chrysler LLC vehicles. The Dodge and Jeep are built on newer platforms than the PT Cruiser, and they drive better. Both of these competitors offer all-wheel drive. The PT Cruiser doesn't.

The Mazda3 and Scion xB are two other potential Chrysler PT Cruiser competitors. The Mazda3's wagon body style is practical, and its general driving attitude is very sporty. The xB is a funky box on wheels that has been recently redesigned. Like the HHR, the xB offers more interior room than the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser.

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