2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser Turbo

2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser Turbo

More attitude, more power
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Only a handful of new vehicles truly capture the imaginations of auto buyers. Fewer yet cause an appreciable number of those shoppers to pay well over sticker price just to be among the first owners of the hot new item. Chrysler found itself in this enviable state when it introduced the retro-look PT Cruiser wagon as an early 2001 model. Like Volkswagen's New Beetle a few years before and the revived MINI in 2002, the PT's appearance also prompted enthusiastic folks to sign up for lengthy waiting lists to drive one home.

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Still, no matter how popular a new vehicle is at first, the bloom inevitably begins to fade after a time. As such, Chrysler continues to issue several appearance enhancements for the Cruiser. For 2002, a sharp-looking "Woody" edition features woodgrain trim gorgeously decorating its body sides and rear end. A Chrome edition for 2003 features chrome horizontal bars, which enhance the grille, and full-surround chrome molding around the entire vehicle. For 2004, Touring and Limited models get a light-turbo engine for 180-horsepower performance.

Still, none of these modifications, however, addresses the one thing that's drawn grumbles about the Cruiser-its perceived lack of useful power-real, useful power. Sure, acceleration is adequate with the 150-horsepower four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission. And the light-turbo is even better. Plenty of owners may be quite content with those Cruisers. Manual shift allows a little extra energy to be released, to satisfy those who savor more spirited reactions.

If this were an ordinary compact car, few would fault its go-power. When a vehicle looks as striking as the PT Cruiser does, it seems to cry out for performance that reaches beyond the ordinary and heads toward the more stimulating end of the spectrum. "Adequate" just won't suffice for some in an automobile that continues to attract attention wherever it goes.

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Chrysler marketers and engineers appear to have heard the "soup it up" command from consumer/enthusiasts, ergo the PT Cruiser Turbo. Now, the Cruiser Turbo is ready to roar with promising action that matches the car's charming mixture of traditional and modern lines. Chrysler vows that the Turbo delivers "performance backed with attitude," adding that it "capitalizes on the hot rod character" of the Cruiser.

Turbocharging boosts the four-cylinder's output to 220 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 245 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,600. Engineers didn't simply bolt a turbocharger onto the existing engine. It was created specifically for the PT Turbo, with a redesigned cylinder block and head assembly. Oil- and water-cooling is used for the turbocharger, and a performance-tuned exhaust system promises a "pronounced exhaust note." A five-speed Getrag manual gearbox is standard, but Chrysler's four-speed automatic transmission-with AutoStick manual gear selection provision-is available.

Cruiser Turbos have all-disc antilock brakes with traction control, plus painted aluminum 17-inch wheels with all-season performance tires. Chrysler claims the body-colored monotone front/rear fascias and body-side moldings give the Turbo a "dipped" appearance.

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Inside, Turbo occupants get inviting performance-type seats, and the driver faces silver cluster instruments and a satin silver shift knob. A fold-flat front passenger seat is standard, and both rear outboard seating positions have head restraints. Like other PT Cruisers, the Turbo can be fit with an optional in-dash six-CD changer.

Does the PT Turbo perform as promised? Judging by its response on Chrysler's own test track, the engineers have accomplished just what they sought. Acceleration from a standstill is decidedly more brisk than in a standard model, and passing/merging reactions are comparably swifter.

That doesn't mean the Turbo leaps ahead like a musclecar when the gas pedal goes down. It's eager and enthusiastic, yes, but more subtle in demeanor-with only a touch of turbo lag (momentary delay before the turbocharger gets into full swing). Nevertheless, the turbo four is just what the Cruiser needs to attract ardent drivers who might have shied away from the original version.

Like every PT Cruiser, the Turbo is geared toward an enjoyable driving experience, augmented by a spacious and versatile interior. Stability on the road is top-notch in regular form, and even more secure with the Turbo's specially tuned suspension. Better yet, only a modest penalty needs to be paid in terms of ride comfort. As in all PT Cruisers, few pavement bumps are likely to cause it to misbehave. Maneuverability is nothing short of terrific, and the Cruiser handles with precision-like a decidedly more expensive car. (www.chrysler.com)

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