In 2001, just as a retro trend gathered steam in American culture, Chrysler introduced its nostalgic PT Cruiser. Inspired by the panel vans of the 1930s, the Chrysler PT Cruiser sells as either a four-door wagon or a two-door convertible. The 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser wagon comes in base, Touring, and Limited trim levels, while the convertible comes in a single base trim. The limited Sunset Boulevard Edition comes with specialized exterior paint and interior trim.
Body Styles: four-door wagon, two-door convertible
Engines: 2.4-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder
Transmissions: five-speed manual, four-speed automatic
Models: Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chrysler PT Cruiser Touring, Chrysler PT Cruiser Limited, Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible, Chrysler PT Cruiser Sunset Boulevard Edition
Chrysler drops the sporty GT for the 2008 PT Cruiser. Chrysler also narrows the range of convertible to the single base trim and makes a few adjustments to the standard and optional feature lists. The Sunset Boulevard Edition starts new for 2008 and remains limited to 500 vehicles.
The 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser’s whimsical styling blends the look of a 1930s American sedan with modern styling cues, including dual-beam, flush headlights and teardrop taillight lenses. The horizontal grille stops at the bumper and is topped by Chrysler’s eagle badge. Round foglights frame a slot in the bumper, and in the rear, a body-colored spoiler on the liftgate improves aerodynamics. The PT Cruiser is shorter than most compact sedans, but relatively tall at 63 inches. The convertible stands almost three inches lower to the ground than the wagon. The windshield is also more steeply raked and uses a different A-pillar design.
Base wagons come with 15-inch steel wheels, while the PT Cruiser Touring wagon upgrades to 16-inch alloys. The Limited features 17-inch alloy wheels, a touring suspension, and a sunroof. Convertibles come in one trim level, similarly equipped to the Touring wagon with a power-operated top. Available in very limited quantities, the Street Cruiser Sunset Boulevard Edition is basically a base model with special exterior and interior trim, 16-inch chrome-clad wheels, window tint, and a sunroof.
Inside the 2008 PT Cruiser occupants find a spacious, versatile cabin with a retro-themed dash. The tall stance of the Cruiser allows plenty of headroom even for taller drivers. The rear seats in both the wagon and convertible are slightly elevated so passengers have a nice view as well as generous head and legroom for such a compact car. In the wagon, an adjustable shelf makes it easy to secure small items behind the back seat. The wagon’s rear seats can be removed, allowing for an impressive 64.2 cubic feet of cargo room. Convertibles have a small trunk opening leading to a deep cargo hold with 7.4 cubic feet of space. This expands to 13 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
Base wagons come standard with keyless entry, power windows, and a CD player with an auxiliary audio jack. The 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser Touring wagon adds air-conditioning, a fold-down front-passenger seat, a power driver’s seat, satellite radio, cruise control, and upgraded seat fabric. The Limited includes those features plus heated front seats and leather upholstery. Convertibles come with a power-operated top. The main standalone options for the PT Cruiser include an upgraded Boston Acoustics audio system and, for the Limited, Bluetooth cell-phone connectivity.
Performance & Handling
The 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser’s base engine, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, generates 150 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque. This engine comes standard on the base and Touring wagon, and it pairs with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. Optional for the convertible and Touring, and standard for the Limited, Chrysler offers a turbocharged version of that engine that adds an extra 30 hp and 45 lb-ft of torque. When equipped with the turbo, 2.4-liter engine, the PT Cruiser accelerates much faster than the somewhat lethargic base engine. The PT Cruiser proves easy to steer, except for a somewhat wide turning radius, and the suspension yields a smooth, comfortable ride.
Front disc and rear drum brakes come standard on the base and Touring wagon and convertible versions of the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser. The Limited comes standard with four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, which remain optional on all other models. Dual front side-mounted airbags with head protection chambers and passenger airbag occupant-sensing deactivation come standard on all models. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s most recent data rate the 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser wagon at four out of five stars for all front- and side-impact categories except for rear side-impact protection. The PT Cruiser earns a perfect five stars for rear-passenger protection in side impacts.
EPA Fuel Economy
Chrysler PT Cruiser wagon, manual, base engine: 21/26 mpg city/highway
Chrysler PT Cruiser wagon, automatic, base engine: 19/24 mpg city/highway
Chrysler PT Cruiser wagon, manual, turbo engine: 20/25 mpg city/highway
Chrysler PT Cruiser wagon, automatic, turbo engine: 18/24 mpg city/highway
Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible, manual: 21/26 mpg city/highway
Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible, automatic, base engine: 19/24 mpg city/highway
Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible, automatic, turbo engine: 18/24 mpg city/highway
- Roomy, versatile interior
- Affordable price
- Smooth ride
You Won't Like
- Lackluster acceleration with base engine
- Average or below-average fuel economy
- Awkward seating for shorter drivers
As a small convertible or inexpensive wagon, it offers a great choice for drivers looking for a little nostalgia.
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