What's New for 2008
The Chrysler PT Cruiser's sporty GT trim level has been dropped for 2008. Chrysler has also reduced the convertible model's trim level availability and made minor adjustments to feature availability. However, there will be a new special-edition model coming out later in the model year, the PT Street Cruiser Sunset Boulevard Edition.
It's typically said that for dogs one year is about the equivalent of seven years for a human. Cars have even shorter lifespans -- most automakers redesign their cars every four or five years. So we might have a miracle of longevity on our hands with the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser, a vehicle that exists largely as it did way back in 2001.
Yes, it's true. The PT Cruiser, the spiffiest retro small wagon the world has ever seen, is still for sale. And it still does respectably well, should you bother to check the sales charts. Most of the qualities that were good about the PT when it debuted -- versatility, distinctive style and a comfortable ride -- are still there.
For 2008, Chrysler has discontinued the GT model. This makes the PT a bit less desirable, as the GT trim's 230-horsepower turbocharged engine gave the pudgy PT some needed excitement. Of some small consolation, perhaps, is a new special edition this year called the Chrysler PT Street Cruiser Sunset Boulevard Edition. It's similar to previous road-named PT special editions (PCH, Route 66). The name comes from the famed Los Angeles street -- presumably, Chrysler has the idealized Hollywood version of Sunset in mind and not the parking and traffic nightmare it actually is today. The PT-SCSBE (catchy, eh?) comes with specialized exterior paint and interior trim. Only 500 will be built.
Special trim or not, the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser is still a decent choice for a small wagon or inexpensive four-seat convertible. But be aware that Chevrolet has made some nice upgrades to its nearly as retro-chic HHR this year. Plus, Scion's redesigned xB is impressive, and we're still very fond of the Mazda 3 wagon. The PT Cruiser deserves respect for hanging in there for so long. But like presidential administrations, eight years is enough. It's time for this PT Cruiser to drive off into the sunset.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser is offered as a small wagon or convertible. The wagon comes in base, Touring and Limited trim levels, while the convertible is sold in a single base trim level. Base wagons come with 15-inch steel wheels, keyless entry, power windows and a CD player with an auxiliary audio jack. Most buyers will want to go for the PT Cruiser Touring wagon as it adds 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a fold-down front passenger seat, a power driver seat, power mirrors, satellite radio, cruise control and upgraded seat fabric. The Limited has those features plus 17-inch alloy wheels, a touring suspension, heated front seats, leather upholstery and a sunroof. Convertible models come with a power-operated top and are equipped similar to the Touring wagon.
Main options for the PT Cruiser include an upgraded Boston Acoustics audio system and, for the Limited, Bluetooth cell-phone connectivity. Many standard features on upper trim levels are optional on lower trims. Available in very limited quantities, the Street Cruiser Sunset Boulevard Edition is basically a base model with special exterior and interior trim, 16-inch chrome-clad wheels, window tint and a sunroof. The base models' options list also applies to this special edition.
Powertrains and Performance
The base engine for the PT Cruiser is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 150 hp and 165 pound-feet of torque. Chrysler fits this engine to the base and Touring models. It's available with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. Optional for the convertible and Touring, and standard for the Limited, is a turbocharged version of that engine that's rated at 180 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque. It comes standard with a four-speed automatic. With the turbocharged engine, the PT has a 2008 fuel economy estimate of 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway, below average for the small wagon and convertible segments. Opting for the less powerful, non-turbo 2.4-liter with the automatic only nets 1 mpg better in the city and the same gas mileage on the highway.
Most 2008 Chrysler PT Cruisers start out with front disc and rear drum brakes. Limiteds have four-wheel discs as well as standard ABS, and this upgrade is optional on all remaining models. (It also comes packaged with the turbocharged engine.) Side airbags are standard on all models. The most recent government crash test scores for the Chrysler PT Cruiser wagon rate the car at four out of five stars for all frontal- and side-impact categories, except for rear side-impact protection, in which the Cruiser earned a perfect five.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside the PT Cruiser, you'll find a spacious and versatile cabin with a retro-themed dash. Taller drivers will find plenty of room to get comfortable, but shorter drivers may not care for the somewhat flat seat design and elevated driving position. The rear seats in both variants are slightly elevated to provide a nice view, and adults will find plenty of head- and legroom. An adjustable parcel shelf makes it easy to secure items behind the backseat in the PT wagon. Remove the rear seats and the wagon boasts an impressive 64.2 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity. Convertibles have a small trunk opening (with an awkward top-hinged lid) but a fairly deep cargo hold with 7.4 cubic feet of space -- expandable to 13 cubes with the seats folded.
Equipped with the turbo 2.4-liter engine, the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser accelerates decently once the turbo is spooled up. Buyers will want to avoid the base engine, which leaves the car feeling lethargic. 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.