Last year the Chrysler PT Cruiser Dream Cruiser Series 5 was unveiled on Detroit's Woodward Avenue. Now, on the day we find out it's not-yet-dead, we finally answer the only question we had: How much does that billet grille weigh?
When the bright white and black turbocharged PT Cruiser showed up at our doorstep for a week of driving, it was just about the time when Chrysler was doing its bankruptcy thing. Here was a nine year old car based on a fifteen year old chassis, tarted up for the big rah-rah-rah hometown cruise and largely irrelevant to the wider market. We couldn't quite muster a cohesive metaphor tying the car to the company's situation, but it felt like one was there. There was a bigger problem though, what the heck do you write about a car that's essentially been been unchanged for nearly a decade?
The thing about the PT Cruiser is the unrelenting adequacy. It makes the internal competition from the Dodge Caliber seem like a Play-School toy. It's old, and despite its long-in-the-tooth styling, it's leaps and bounds better than the Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep brand's much newer, and much crappier econobox offering. The car's always been kind of an odd duck, but that's what made it popular, riding the retro wave with a comfortable interior, durable design and plenty of utility. Such is still the case. Inside, the Dream Cruiser Series 5 gets very nice grippy seats, metallic paint on the dash inserts to match the paint on the roof and not a lot else.
The 2.4-liter turbo four cylinder which felt like a revolutionary kick in the pants so long ago feels merely adequate now, getting maximum grunt from the mill requires pushing it into a place where it's overly buzzy and the peaky power delivery isn't helped by a transmission made of soggy zweiback crackers. It's a comfortable and friendly highway cruiser but not particularly frugal. A basic brand new Civic seems sporty and refined in comparison. The only part of the car we were really interested in was that massive billet grille up front.
Unique to the Dream Cruiser Edition 5, the billet grille is positively ridiculous with a high polish luster and it's thick like a 1st year engineering student designed it with only the crudest of CAD skills. Bentleys don't wear grilles this well-made. You could obliterate a whole patch of watermelons with it. Naturally, we had to know how much it weighs.
It's surprisingly easy to remove the all-aluminum grille. Pop the hood and employ your deft skills with a set of needle nose pliers and the whole thing comes out with the removal of six retaining clips. Total elapsed time, about two minutes. What you're left with is a surprisingly light but very rigid slab of metal. On our totally unscientific and unreliable test scale, the piece weighed in at an impressive four pounds. Thus, the magic of aluminum.
So there you have it, the most pressing answer to the question you never knew you needed to know. That four lb. grille is probably the best example of why Chrysler is in it's current straights; It's a high-quality, high-cost, over-engineered Hail Mary of design with no performance significance, sitting in front a car of humble but honest means, with a loyal fan base, no real development money, and until today, a powerfully short life expectancy. As we said before, there's probably a cogent metaphor in there, but it's hard to weed out.