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2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible - Fun in the Sun!
2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible Road Test Review

by Ann Job

I'm not sure if Americans like retro-styled new cars as much as they used to. But if you're a convertible buyer, don't let the looks of the retro-styled, 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible stop you from checking out this car. It's the lowest-priced drop-top auto on the market with a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $19,995 at its introduction.

2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible - Interior View The PT convertible also comes with four usable seats that sit up a bit from the floor, allowing passengers to enter and exit more easily than they can in many other convertibles where riders sit close to the floor. And the PT convertible's "sport bar" - a metal structure behind the front seats that helps provide a solid, rigid ride - adds a stylish touch when the fabric top is down.

The next lowest-priced, four-seat convertible is the 2004 Volkswagen New Beetle Convertible, which starts at more than $21,000, and the two-seat Mazda Miata roadster starting at over $22,000. Granted, the PT Cruiser, which debuted as a four-door hatchback with retro looks, has lost its luster. Sales of 107,759 in calendar 2003, for example, were off 25.5 percent from the peak 144,717 sales in 2001.

But there's much to like in this drop-top PT, whose looks belie the extensive engineering that was needed to create a solid-riding, shake-resistant convertible. The PT convertible "is not a coupe with a top chopped off," said Larry Lyons, vice president of small vehicle product team engineering.

To make the convertible, officials said they changed the PT hatchback from the windshield pillars and back. They added new "smart glass" windows that automatically lower and rise back up when the doors are opened in order to retain good sealing against the fabric top. These windows first debuted years ago on some of the luxury convertibles. Engineers took away two of the PT hatchback's doors, leaving the convertible with two long doors, instead. 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible - Interior View

They strengthened the rear seat structure, re-tuned suspension components and designed the novel sport bar that extends, wing-like, above the rear seat area. Besides contributing to the car's rigidity, this bar also serves to direct air over and beyond the rear seat for less wind buffeting for passengers.

But the PT convertible does share the same engines and transmissions, as well as the basic suspension setup - MacPherson struts in front and twist axle beam with Watt's linkage in back - of the PT hatchback. It has the same platform and overall size, too.

In fact, during the test drive, the PT convertible - with an almost-bustled-at-the-back fabric top - didn't draw attention, except from people driving PT hatchbacks. Other drivers paid no mind.

The tester was a mid-range Touring Edition with optional 2.4-liter, turbocharged, double overhead cam four cylinder. It produces 180 horses, up from the 150 of the base, non-turbo engine, and 210 lb.-ft. between 2,800 rpm and 4,500 rpm, up from the 165 at 4,000 rpm. There are two available manual transmissions, for this model, but the tester was equipped with the four-speed automatic transmission.

The engine worked well to power the convertible, which weighs at least 150 pounds more than the PT hatchback. The response from the engine wasn't instantaneous, but the lag was minimal when pressing the accelerator and seeking to move aggressively. Note there also is a second, more powerful turbo, with a 220-horse, high-output turbocharged, 2.4-liter four with 245 lb.-ft. of torque between 2,400 rpm and 4,500 rpm. This is available in the convertible GT model. The PT convertible is not offered with a V6 or V8, as buyers would find in the Ford Mustang convertible. Meantime, the New Beetle and Miata each offers two four-cylinder engines, one turbo and one not.

Fuel economy in the test PT convertible was rated at a rather ho-hum 20 miles a gallon in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway. Regular unleaded being the recommended gasoline.

2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible - Top View Beyond the retro look and the two turbos, though, the most impressive part of the PT convertible is the solid ride. I looked for the characteristic convertible shudder as I traversed road bumps and found precious little evidence of it. This is especially true when the top is up on the vehicle. Just about all I saw was a bit of shake at the rearview mirror when I went over bumpy railroad crossings. When I hit sizable road bumps, it felt like the whole car hit them solidly. There wasn't a sensation that the bump jiggled through the entire vehicle structure.

The front-drive test car rode on standard 16-inch wheels and tires. There was some wind and road noise, but nothing that prevented one from conversing with passengers, even with the top down.

The three-layer fabric top, available in black or taupe, is easy to put down. There's one manual chore inside: Grabbing hold of a circular handle at the front of the roof and turning it to release the two latches at the windshield. Then, it's merely a push of a button, and the "smart glass" windows drop a bit - or all the way, depending on which detent you've activated - and the fabric top, with glass rear window, folds down and stows at the back. Note the boot, or cover, for the top must be hauled out of the trunk and installed manually. There are two snaps to hold it in place. But even with the boot on, the top sort of sits up at the back of the vehicle and doesn't allow a clear rear view. The mechanical process reverses when you put the top up.

Seats in this convertible are upright and supportive and a welcome surprise because they don't sit close to the floor. Rather, they're up a bit, with the second-row of seats up even higher than the front ones for a theatre seating effect. However, the rear seats sit on a tall ledge that rises from the floor and the plastic attachments for the seats were always the first things I saw when I climbed into the back. Still, all riders in the PT convertible have a sense that even if it's difficult for them to see around vans and trucks in front of the vehicle, they're not scraping along the pavement, either.

But note that when the top is on, the large rear window pillar blocks the driver's view out to the back and side. And the sport bar as well as sizable front head restraints curtail the views for back-seat riders. Looking for the window buttons? They're in the center stack of the dashboard, not on the doors.

I liked that the retro styling is retained inside the PT convertible as parts of the dashboard sport plastic pieces that coordinate with the exterior paint. And the PT is one small car that doesn't come with a small-car, "beep-beep" horn. Its horn sounds more like that of a larger auto.

There is a lot of weather-stripping on the doors and windows of this car; on the test vehicle, it looked as if it had been installed in a sort of ham-handed manner.

2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible - Side View Rear-seat headroom of 36.4 inches is less than the 37.2 inches in the New Beetle convertible. The New Beetle has more front headroom, too, and each time I was in the PT convertible driver's seat I noticed how low the fabric roof came down to join with the top of the windshield. Quite frankly, with the driver's seat adjusted up a ways for me to drive comfortably, I felt as if the roof was located at my forehead. Note the PT convertible's front and rear headroom is also less than that of the PT hatchback. At 60.6 inches tall, the convertible is shorter than the 63-inch-tall hatchback.

For More Information Click: Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible For the Chrysler 2005 Model Guide : Click Here