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Test drive: 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible GT

Awww, it's sooooo cuuuuute!!!!

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

By Jason Fogelson

2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible

2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible

© Jason Fogelson
Cute! That's my first thought when I look at the 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible. Taking the top off its "love-it-or-hate-it" retro bread wagon, the 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible adds performance to the package with a zippy turbo engine. With a 3 year/36,000 mile basic warranty and 7 year/70,000 mile powertrain warranty, the 2005 PT Cruiser GT Convertible carries a base price of $27,830 ($29,435 as tested with heated front seats and fancy stereo). Let's drop the top and cruise.

First Glance

I love the styling of the original PT Cruiser Sedan. The rounded corners, the high roofline, the big grille – it all just works for me. The Convertible is a major reworking of the concept. Not only did Chrysler lose the top, they lost two doors, which makes the Convertible look smaller (it's not). With the top up, the roof has a completely different line than the Sedan's, lower and rounder. Drop the top with the turn of a latch and the flick of a switch, and behold the "Sport Bar," a beefy body-colored beam that bisects the car from side-to-side like a roll bar. Wider and flatter than the bar in the old VW Cabriolet, the Sport Bar looks like a basket handle. Some giant Little Red Riding Hood could come along and pick the car up by the handle and carry it off to Grandmother's house, filling it with flowers along the way. The Sport Bar helps address two important considerations for any convertible: Safety and Structural Integrity. Taking the top off of a car is an obvious compromise for engineers and designers. I like the way it looks, and I felt safer driving the PT GT than I usually do in a convertible. The car also felt solid, completely shake- and shimmy-free – the mark of a well-engineered convertible. And did I mention cute?

In the Driver's Seat

2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible

2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible: Good back seat, but a few cheap-looking bits

© Jason Fogelson
I’m a stickler for sight lines, because I've got a long narrow driveway in a neighborhood that's full of kids. With the top up, the PT Convertible has terrible visibility to the rear. The glass window in the back is up too high, and the blind spots at the corners are massive. It's an act of faith to back this car up, and lane changes are nerve-wracking. Top down, there's some improvement – the blind spots disappear, but the folded top still sits too high. I would gladly trade some trunk space for a lower deck height. The interior of the PT is simple and uncluttered. Comfortable leather-trimmed seats and a spacious foot box are great for driving. Nice GT style pedals, too. Some cost-control items I could live with, some drive me crazy. Window controls are clustered at the top center of the dash, instead of on each door. Fine. The molded plastic center console between the seats offers cup holders and other slots, but no covered storage. Fine, I can live with that. But the plastic shift knob, steering wheel spoke covers and door handles just scream "cheap," and they are elements that the driver has to touch on every single drive. I'd replace these from the burgeoning PT Cruiser aftermarket the minute I drove this car off the lot.

On the Road

Remember your old nemesis Torque Steer? You met it during the 1980s, the height of the front wheel drive era. With 245 lb-ft of torque on tap, the PT GT falls victim to its own power. Put the pedal to the metal, drop the clutch and you'd better hold on, because the front wheels develop a mind of their own. Attempt to correct the effect, and you'll have difficulty maintaining acceleration and control at the same time. Traction control keeps the wheels from spinning or sliding, but only your self-control can keep this car pointed in a straight line. You have to ease away from a stop. Luckily, the PT's smooth tranny and light clutch help. Once underway, the ride is pleasant and spirited. Sport suspension lends confidence, and the turbo kicks in predictably and strongly. With the top up, the PT GT is almost as quiet as a hardtop, well-insulated with great seals around the edges. Top down, the PT GT is fun in the sun. The wind will blow your hair around (if you've got any), but it won't punish you. The cabin remains relatively quiet at speed. To extend your top-down driving season, I heartily recommend the heated front seats (a $250 option). On a bright chilly day, you can enjoy a ride in the sun without freezing your tush off.

Journey's End

2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible

2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Convertible: For a perfect day on the road, just add sun

© Jason Fogelson
A convertible is a paradox: Both more and less than what meets the eye. For the privilege of a drop top and two fewer doors, the base price of the 2005 PT GT Convertible is a whopping $4,900 higher than base price the 2005 PT GT Sedan. The Sedan is a marvel of functional design, with versatile storage and innovative styling at a reasonable price point. The Convertible is substantially less functional, with a trunk that's a challenge to access and a capacity of just 7.4 cubic feet. There are several other convertibles in the price range: The Toyota Camry Solara, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, the VW New Beetle and (soon) the Ford Mustang Convertible, all very different vehicles, and none of which offer the rear seat comfort of the PT GT Convertible. As with any new vehicle purchase, it all depends on what you're looking for in a convertible. For a relaxed cruise in the sun, the PT GT Convertible does the job with style and flair. If you need to look macho on your drive, look elsewhere, as "cute" is the word of the day. I would definitely test the non-turbo "Touring" edition of the PT Convertible ($4855 less expensive) before buying the GT, and see if it suits your day-to-day driving. You may opt for less power, more Cruiser.
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