First Drive: 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser Turbo
When Motor Trend named Chrysler's PT Cruiser its 2001 Car of the Year, we noted a few updates we'd like to see in its next iteration: more power, more aggressive wheels and tires, additional seat bolstering, and body-color bumpers. Chrysler's handily answered all these requests with the PT Cruiser Turbo. Boosting power output by 55 ponies over the normally aspirated PT, a 2.4L/205-hp I-4--replete with a Mitsubishi turbo set to deliver up to 14 psi of pressure through an air-to-air intercooler--motivates the Turbo version.
It's available with either a Getrag five-speed manual or four-speed AutoStick automatic. New 17-in. alloy wheels are shod with Goodyear RSA rubber, 240 lb-ft of torque deftly places you back in the seat, whichever trans you choose, and equal-length driveshafts quell torque steer. The Turbo accelerates with minimal turbo lag, pulling hard from 2500 rpm to redline. Switch off the optional traction control, and it has no problem laying down neat ribbons of black rubber through the 1-2 gear change.
Underpinnings benefit from upgrades in keeping with the new-from-the-ground-up powerplant and +1 rolling stock, including stiffer springs and slightly softer shocks; anti-roll bars remain the same. Overall handling has been effectively improved, with no penalty of a bone-jarring ride over uneven terrain. ABS-assisted vented disc brakes remain the same diameter, but increase in thickness to aid in cooling.
Inside, the PT Cruiser Turbo receives new sport seats with aggressive lateral and thigh bolsters that hold you firmly in place during hard cornering. Body-color accents still trim the interior, but a carbon fiber-esque overlay is added for visual punch. Final production or pricing numbers aren't yet set, but D-C execs say the initial plan is to sell 80 percent automatic to 20 percent manual-equipped Turbos.