Please note. This article is copyrighted © 2000 Curtis Redgap, and is the exclusive property of the author, Curtis Redgap. No part may be used or reproduced in any manner, including electronic means without express permission of the author. Certain rights have been ceded to the Webmaster at ALLPAR.COM to reprint and/or reproduce for his column, web site, or other manner as deemed appropriate by Dr. David Zatz, for whom this article was produced. COPYRIGHT 2000 CURTIS REDGAP @ ORLANDO FLORIDA-CURTIS REDGAP, ORLANDO, FLORIDA, 2000.
I first saw one on the road over two weeks ago. Today is the 11th day of March. They are not scheduled to be available for dealer sale until April 1 (April Fool?). So how come there is one running around loose? Remembering something from when the LH Chrysler sedans were introduced, I called a friend at the local Dollar Rent-a-Car.
Sure enough, my friend confirmed it. DCX had shipped over 250 new PT Cruisers to Dollar in Orlando and Kissimmee (pronounced Kis-SIM-me). My curiosity overcame me, and I made an appointment with my friend at Dollar. Within 30 minutes, I was looking at the newest transportation system in America.
Why do I say transportation system? Well, if the Chrysler inspired mini-van changed the transportation landscape, forever, and the 1964 Mustang was a wild card sales phenomena, then the PT Cruiser is a combination of both!
I am a product of the 1960s. Hot rod factory muscle cars, the Rolling Stones, "No Satisfaction," rock n roll, MacDonald's, drag races, duck tail hair cuts, Chino pants, penny loafers, Bobby socks, pony tails, Elvis, the draft, and Vietnam. That is what has inspired me about the PT. It has a sort of cross styling between a funky 1950s station wagon and a hot rod.
It is about to turn the automotive world upside down, as I said like a cross between the mini-van and the Mustang. My friend at Dollar steered me towards a bright Red PT. He opened the driver's door, and I was greeted by a sort of retro-finish with a modern twist.
The steering wheel, adjustable, by the way, is a two tone light and dark gray color. The dashboard has a full compliment of gauges in a fake wood facade. The interior was done in a light gray leather. Snuggled in between the front bucket seats was a low console that housed the automatic transmission shifter, parking brake, and the combination arm rest and storage bin. I noted that the window sticker, taking away the price adjustments for being a rental, would set you and I back about $19,995, fully equipped.
The following are standard items on the Limited Edition: air conditioning, power windows, AM/FM cassette radio with six speakers, bucket seats, rack and pinion power assisted steering, automatic 4 speed transmission, ABS power brakes that are front disc, rear drums. According to the DCX representative that suddenly imposed herself on me, options include a power sunroof, a roof rack (á la jeep?) the DCX Infinity sound system, fog assistance driving lamps, a touring suspension that includes 16 inch wheels. The Cruiser that I was looking at had the touring suspension.
At first, it had only been my intention to look at the car. However, this DCX representative kept expounding so much about the Cruiser, that I finally asked my friend about the cost of admission to drive one for a day. He was totally taken aback, and made arrangements for me to have this little red beauty for a week at $23.95 a day, including insurance, and a 10% overall discount for returning it on time! Could I refuse? Do bears not live in the woods? In 20 minutes, along with the practiced "click" of plastic money, and I eased the Cruiser onto the access road, and left the Orlando Airport location.
The engine is a 150 horsepower dual overhead cam that encompasses 4 valves per cylinder, electronic MPI fuel injection, and a good seat of the pants feeling for torque. I must warn you, however, that when you open the hood, all you will see are the engine check points, and a huge air plenum that feeds the eager four cylinders. There is an engine in there somewhere, but you probably won't ever really see it, nor should you have too with 100,000 mile service advisories.
The manual says that it has 162 foot pounds of the stuff at 4,000 rpm. Enough to tow 1,000 pounds. My little flatbed fishing boat and trailer only weigh 350! Hehehehe! It easily moved out, zipping up to the posted limit of 50 mph. The transmission does its job in the usual Chrysler manner, nearly seamlessly, with the only real noticeable change under normal conditions being the visible drop at the dashboard encompassed rev counter. The engine at normal speeds is very quiet. Traffic was very light, so I momentarily tried the speed control device. It engaged immediately, without any surge whatsoever. It just sort of took over where I had been. It disengaged instantly at the touch of the button.
Now, I sort of began to get the feel of the car, and was able to pay a bit more attention to my surroundings. The first traffic light that I stopped at was a revelation! A taxi operator three cars in front, got out and ran back to ask me if this was the new Chrysler Cruiser. I could only smile. A chorus of horns cut short our conversation, however, the lady next to me gave me a big grin and a thumbs up.
Then I thought, hey, what the heck, I might as well run it by my wife's office and scare her into thinking I had traded her LHS for this buggy. Was I surprised. In the week that I had the PT Cruiser, I could NOT take it anywhere without creating a diversion and gathering an audience. I should bill DCX for the experience!
Arriving at my wife's business, her entire staff came out to see the PT! She was as excited as they were! And for a fact, after a few minutes, I think she was disappointed that I had not traded her LHS for the PT!
First there is Madeline. Madeline likes big cars, is about 40, married, no kids at home. She wants to trade her Cadillac in! Then there was Tony. He is 30, divorced, has a girlfriend who does not live in by the way and he is going to trade his pick up truck. Silvia is the young, good looking temptress type. She is 24, blonde, blue eyed, heart breaker supreme, single, and would give up her Pontiac Sunbird in a heart beat. Even is a sweet lady from St. Croix who is mid 50s, and can no longer see any use for her Isuzu Trooper SUV. Tom is in his mid 30s with a young family. His concern had been the size, however, once he saw it up close and personal, he is already sold.
The seats and the interior are totally unique. Whatever you can do with a van, you can do better with the Cruiser. The seats allow about any combination of carrying mode, except for tractor trailer sized cargo. Then there was my petite little wife, who, as I said seemed almost disappointed. She did brighten some though when she asked if she could use it to take a trip to Jacksonville, the day after. What could I do? Sure.
I no sooner pulled into my driveway, seeking refuge, when three of the neighbors swooped down on me. Dick, who is a retired Security Company Owner, asked the most questions. He drives a Ford F-150 pickup. His wife has a new Lincoln Navigator. He wouldn't trade the truck, but he would gladly give up the Navigator. Cruiser is the right size. And look at the EPA mileage figures! (Subject to change due to certification tests still in progress). EPA has tentatively rated the PT with a 22 city and 31 highway rating. My experience was just about that. Given the lack of break in mileage, this PT only had a little over 400 miles on it when I picked it up, the mileage may be even better.
Stan and Marilyn are retired from the Air Force where he spent 20 + years as a cargo plane pilot. He just got a new Voyager mini-van, but now wishes he had waited. Eric and Shirley are newly weds next door. He is a telephone engineer that at age 27 makes obscene amounts of money. She drives a new Pontiac Gran Am, and he has a new F-150 Ford pickup. They want to trade in both of their cars and get two PTs. A red one and a green one. For a fact, today Eric called to me and said they had made a deposit at my favorite dealer!
No matter where I went or where I parked, the PT just drew attention like a magnet draws metals. I had an errand to do, so I went to the large mall on the South end of town. Big mistake! No exaggeration, by the time I had cycled once to get a decent parking spot, I had a parade following me. I no sooner put the gear selector in park, and I had a maddening crowd around the car! I couldn't even get out! Some of the people thought that it was a publicity stunt, but believe me, I only wanted to pick up a few items at the mall! Finally after 20 minutes of show and tell, I got enough room to get out. I stayed inside the mall for over an hour. Guess what? When I came back out, there were still 20 to 25 people around that car!
A lot of the comments were about the price. At twenty thousand, it is widely affordable to a whole range of incomes. It has looks, quality construction, sex appeal, and that sort of magic that draws all people from all ages. Mostly, though, it was the looks of the machine that seemed to just stop people in their tracks. They would literally stop and come almost running to see the car.
My wife took the car to Jacksonville where she maintains a second office. She said she spent more time telling about the PT than she did office business. Knowing her that was a bit over said, however, for her to even mention the PT is a sure fire hit. Cars to her are like an appliance. You put the key in, it makes noises, you place it in gear and you go. Even our new LHS, which took her a while to realize how admired that car is, didn't draw her out like the PT has done. She configured the seats so that 3 of them went in comfort with two computer desks, that were still unassembled, riding along with them by 1/2 the seat being folded down. I didn't diligently check gas mileage, but an in the park guess put the Cruiser at 30 miles per gallon.
Now for the fun side. I took the PT to one of my favorite Florida highways. This particular area is a beautiful four lane road, with practically no traffic on it. The poor Florida Highway Patrol is spread so thin, that in 10 years, I have never seen a Trooper on this stretch.
I took my old stop watch along. Zero to sixty went by in about 10 seconds. I reeled off 3/10s of a mile (which is 260 feet longer than the 1,320 foot quarter) in 17 seconds at about 85 miles an hour. Not bad. Certainly will not embarrass you at the local stop light gran prix. I also got an observed top speed of about 110 miles an hour. Now that is faster than common sense, but, I have had much experience with high speeds and the PT was absolutely rock solid. No quirks in its handling, showing absolute competence and inspiring confidence throughout it's entire range. The touring suspension may be nosier than the regular. I did tend to notice a tire thump on highway section dividers at speed. On "whoopsedos" and upheavals, the PT kept its feet on the ground, and in so doing did not send its elegant body into meaningful relationships with the suspension bits nor the ground.
There is a lovely winding section that has a curve marked for 50. I took it easily at 80, and I am sure I could have wound it through there at 100. I dare say that this little rocket would give a Florida Highway Patrol Crown Vic a decent run for the money on a twisty section of road. By using the transmission, I kept the engine in the peak of its rev range where torque was the best. Not once was I disappointed in the PT for its handling or acceleration.
The power brakes are a good match. I made four stops right in a row from 80 miles an hour. The brakes felt as solid as the first stop with no sponginess or fade detectable. Under ordinary circumstances they are as outstanding as the styling of the PT.
Ergonomically, everything is within easy reach. The controls for the a/c, radio, and lights were logical and well placed. They have a quality feeling to their operation as well. I heard no rattles, squeaks or bangs for the entire week. The interior volume is as large as a mini-van, and the seats can be configured anywhere from single operator to opera house review. The interior materials show luster, solid workmanship, and a touch of class. The faux wood in the dash I could do without, but it does tend to grow on you after a few days.
Finally, the fun filled week had to come to an end. On Saturday morning, half a day early to insure that I got my 10%, I turned the car back to its location at Orlando International Airport. I got pounced by two representatives from DCX. One was the same lady as before, and a young man, who I got the impression was trying to earn either college credits, or the attention of the lady. Probably the latter rather than the former. I had put over 800 miles on the PT. Average overall amounted to about 25 miles per gallon. With the gasoline prices now soaring to ridiculous gouging amounts like a $1.50 a gallon, a few more cruisers on the road may help bring down the oil robbers. I was asked about my impressions, if I would buy one, and yada-yada-yada. They have a job to do, so I dutifully answered their 20 or so questions.
After I got home, then I spoke with Dr. Zatz over at "allpar.com", and we elected to put this report together.
I can honestly say that if I had not just purchased my Jeep Cherokee, after 5 years of wanting one, I would be at my local Chrysler store with my check book in hand to get one of those first PTs. It just has universal appeal, cutting across all age groups, incomes, status, and family size!
Sneakily, I called another friend, who happens to be one of the best automobile sales persons I have ever met along with being a true gentlemen, at my local friendly Chrysler store. For a fact, I have bought more cars from him, than anyone else, over the past 20 years. I got right into the PT bit. You know what? He wouldn't give me a deal. No discounts, no breaks, no specials whatsoever. In fact, he said he may have to charge a premium. Imagine that.... ! He explained that they had taken over 200 orders for the cars already, with CASH! Nothing like a shortage to create a windfall for someone. He said they wouldn't overcharge anyone, but to get in line for the next cars after the orders were filled, would cost a premium. Might as well make hay while the sun shines. Yes, and I believe that the sun is going to shine a long while at the Chrysler stores that have the PT, for they are the new Transportation system for the new millennium.
For a review of the 2002 PT Cruiser Woodie, click here.
For a longer review, with many original photographs, click here.
For the ultimate PT Cruiser web site, click here.
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