Shortly into our test, we noticed the Cruiser was gulping quite a bit of oil: four quarts in the first four months. We thought this unusual for a mass-produced four-cylinder and scheduled a precautionary dealer visit. The dealer performed an oil consumption test and was unable to diagnose any problems. Soon after the visit, oil use slowed to about a quart every four months. Our hunch is that the piston rings were breaking in and eventually the abnormal consumption would slow or cease altogether with time. Moreover, adding oil to the Cruiser proved a difficult process, the result of poor oil-cap placement. The cap is flush with the hot valve cover and surrounded by hoses, which could cause unavoidable burns to unsuspecting hands.
Our tester's key fob seemed to have a mind of its own: Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. At first, we thought it was a low battery, but before we even had a chance to replace it, the fob started working again--strange. This scenario continued intermittently throughout our time with the car.
Senior Road-Test Editor Chris Walton noted that the front bottom of the PT's power-operated driver seat couldn't be adjusted low enough for his preferred driving position; a few other staffers agreed, feeling they were sitting too high in the car. Otherwise, gripes about the interior were few, but those that did arise were pointed out time and time again. Many complained about the hard-to-use stereo unit (small, illogically placed buttons make presets and tuning stations overly complicated), center dash-mounted power-window buttons (assuredly a cost-saving measure), and low-grade plastic on the shifter boot, driver's armrest, and parking-brake lever.
On the other hand, much praise was paid to Chrysler's design flair and attention to detail displayed by the interior's body-color dash inserts, suede seat inserts, substantial-feeling door handles, user-friendly Toyota-like cruise-control stalk, and the cue-ball shifter knob.
A few high-mileage trips, one to Las Vegas, another to the High Sierra, proved the Cruiser a suitable highway car capable of storing lots of luggage and gear, especially with 60 percent of the back seat removed. And though not a sports car per se, the PT's confident, communicative handling manner, and general fun-to-drive feel were universally praised.
Although the Cruiser's initial wow factor has faded, the PT remains an attractive, versatile family/cargo hauler with a value-packed price attainable by most new-car buyers. Consumers voted with their wallets and saw fit to drive about 145,000 PTs off of dealer lots in 2001 alone--that made it DaimlerChrysler's best-selling vehicle in 2001, and our year-long evaluation confirmed why.