Exterior Design: ***
For some, the PT Cruiser is a pastiche that looks like something hot rod designer Chip Foose doodled on an off day. For others, the PT is only slightly less endearing than Elle Woods. Slicing off the PT s lid accentuates the polarization. To our eyes, the PT Cruiser Convertible is the only ragtop made that looks better with the top up. But hey, we re in touch with our feminine side; we understand the Cruiser Convertible s user-friendly appeal.
Whoa Nellie! What s a car with the word cruiser in its moniker doing with such ferocious poke above 4 grand? As Chrysler s German masters might say, the result is a bad case of torque steer uber alles. Sure, the extra oomph is welcome in third or fourth gear, but it s a wheel-spinning nightmare at lower velocities. Great landing, wrong airport.
The GT s four-wheel discs lack initial bite and require full commitment, but they re plenty powerful. It s a good thing too; considering how rapidly a wrung-out GT heads for the hills. [NB: Lower-spec models have, gulp, drum brakes in the rear.]
There s a lot of scuttle shake over anything other than a billiard table surface. Otherwise, you get a wonderfully cushy ride without a hint of the floaty drifties.
While the PT s twist-beam axle (guided by trailing arms and a Watt's linkage) does an admirable job curtailing wheel hop and keeping things level in the corners, there s so much body flex it doesn t really matter. Any pistonhead who thrashes this cruiser to the [inevitable] point of understeer oblivion gets the tow truck they deserve.
The GT s five-speed is a tactile delight. A perfectly positioned aluminum knob connects you to as smooth a cog swapper as you ll find in a mainstream motor. The clutch action is lighter than Nicole Richie, but it suits the nature of the beast.
As members of SOCC (Survivors of Crap Cars) will tell you, a great radio is the final determinant of a car s character. While the GT s Infinity sound system has enough juice to overcome the inevitable wind roar without putting your ears in triage, there s no excuse for putting a disco-era head unit into a lifestyle machine like this. Will somebody please tell the Big Three how to make a good-looking radio?
The whole thing is a toy. (See: below)
The Web photo illustrating the PT s storage capacity shows goods and chattel stashed on the rear seats. Nuff said?
Overall Rating: ****
[by Robert Farago]