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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
the base-engine PT Cruiser is far from overpowering
accelerates decently once the turbo is spooled up
transmission is responsive, despite a tendency to lurch
The 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser is no great performer, particularly in convertible form.
Car and Driver reports that the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser comes with "either a 2.4-liter inline-four making 150 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque or a turbocharged 2.4-liter inline-four that cranks out 180 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque." ConsumerGuide says the Chrysler PT Cruiser 2008's "150-hp engine is fine for around-town cruising but weak on hills or in highway passing." Edmunds advises that when "equipped with the turbo 2.4-liter engine, the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser accelerates decently once the turbo is spooled up," but warns that "buyers will want to avoid the base engine, which leaves the car feeling lethargic." The convertible weighs significantly more than the wagon, so performance suffers.
Automotive.com reports that "a five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional...The manual gearbox is surprisingly precise, not sports-car grade, but not bad for a unit with a longer-throw gate and foot-long shifter." ConsumerGuide mentions that the Chrysler PT Cruiser 2008 "manual-transmission version did 8.9 seconds 0-60 mph in our tests," but adds "automatics are significantly slower." Nonetheless, the "automatic transmission is responsive, despite a tendency to lurch when downshifting."
At today's fuel prices and for what it is, the Chrysler PT Cruiser's fuel mileage is not stellar. "With the manual transmission, the base engine is EPA rated at 21 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway. With the automatic, the ratings are 19/24," reports Automotive.com. In actual road tests, ConsumerGuide determines "150-hp models averaged 18.5-23.0 mpg with automatic transmission and 18.3-22.1 with the manual. With the 180-hp engine, test Limited wagons averaged 19.5-20.3 mpg," adding "all PT Cruisers use regular-grade gas."
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. According to Automotive.com, "even the base PT Cruiser handles more like a sedan than a minivan, maintaining its composure in the corners." However, "in quick, hard, slalom-type maneuvers any PT Cruiser starts to feel top heavy...you can almost feel the high mass of the car try to continue in one direction as the front wheels turn in the other. It feels tentative when turning in for high-speed corners and does not inspire confidence."
However, Cars.com says "the [Chrysler] PT Cruiser's terrific handling is confident and nimble. This wagon maneuvers with utter crispness and can take corners with impressive speed." ConsumerGuide reports that "all models absorb bumps reasonably well, [and] the convertible is less prone to body flex than many four-seat droptops...PT Cruisers have good grip in turns from the 16- and 17-inch tires." Edmunds contends that "apart from a wide turning circle, all PTs are easy to steer, and the suspension consistently soaks up road irregularities, yielding a smooth, composed ride."
Pure power is off the menu, but the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser handles fairly well, even in hefty droptop form.