2006 PT Cruiser Convertible
Trim Level: 2.4L Turbo
EPA Vehicle Class: Specialty-Purpose Vehicle / SUV-2WD (FWD)
Engine: DOHC 2.4L, Turbocharged Inline-4 Cylinder rated at 230 Horsepower / 245 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 4-Speed Automatic with torque converter
EPA Mileage Estimates (City/Highway/Combined Cycle): 19/26/23
Test Loop: 95% City, 05% Highway
Max Cruise Speed = 75 mph
Weather Conditions over 3-days: Tornadic turning to Windy and Mild. Temp range 55-80F
Driving Style: Average
Location Test: Kansas City to Tulsa to Kansas City
MPG = 20.3 (pre-ScanGauge)
Conclusion: WAY off the mark -- what car was the EPA testing?
Editor's Notes: At the last minute, I needed to rent from a different agency, so I reserved a base-level, "Economy" car to see what was out there in the world of inexpensive, fuel efficient vehicles. Meanwhile, all day long, severe storms ripped through the area with tornadoes, microbursts/straight-line winds, up to baseball-sized hail and heavy rain. Each wave of storms brought destruction to somewhere in the Metro-area. At the counter, "You're in luck! We're out of econo-cars, so we upgraded you!". I ran outside in the pouring rain past a sea of PT Cruiser convertibles to see what my vehicle would be, and there it was: my purple PT. "Oh Crap" basically summed it up. Let's do some analogy exercises: Dodge Ram 3500 with the Cummins Diesel is to "Manly Vehicle" as Volkswagen New Beetle is to "Chick Car" (I don't mean to gender-biased the car-world, but statistics and demographics back me up on this one). I think we know where this vehicle falls. Speaking of falling, another line of storms was about to hit, so I took off quickly -- all I needed was to get pummled with baseball-sized hail, have it tear through the soft top, knock me out, and I end up in the Missouri River. From the PT's that I've rented before, I noticed a little more power, but nothing earth shattering -- I just figured that it had a larger engine this year. When I get to my destination, I can see in the light "2.4L Turbo" on the liftgate (by the way, I've seen bigger cargo capacities in Porsches than this thing). Turbo? The turbo I'm used to is the kind that kicks in, and you have to hang on. Clearly, the boost was low and could be detected in the mid-to-high rev bands after I took it out again. But, let's consider the average buyer and how often that tach needle goes past "3".
So, it was time to fill up already. Geez louise, what crappy mileage! I got better mileage from my old Mitsu Lancer Evo that made nearly 300 horsepower and had at least 17-pounds of stock boost on tap (from a 2.0L!)... and AWD! What is wrong with this picture? Is Chrysler getting ready to dump the venerable Sebring Convertible and the PT is the unfortunate replacement? Honestly, I hope not! Turns out they haven't been selling, so that's why gobs ended up on the rental lot in bulk. The regular PT is versatile and stylish in 4-door form, and even has a decent capacity to haul schtuff. But this is a different animal.
If you've ever driven any PT, the experience is unlike any other vehicle (and I don't mean that in the friendliest of ways). The seating position is minivan-like, where the front passengers sit way too high, without a lowering adjustment. Then there's the oversized steering wheel, A/C vents that you blow right on you (unless you disable all but the far passenger side), an impossibly comfortable seating position, power window controls on the front of the dash, and that really annoying gear shift lever that goes from D to 3 to "L", shaped like a cue ball. What happened to second gear, one of the most important gears? Well, in L, just redline it in first and you're in 2nd without your permission -- but for how long? Back it down to around 3K RPMs and the tranny downshifts in a whiplash of deceleration, again unexpected and without the driver's permission. Honestly, how useful is this? It should just have 3 positions: "Stopped", "Backwards" and "Go". Or "S, B, G".
Well, what can I say that I liked about this car? It had 4-wheels and a seat. Honestly, though, it has a roll-bar that somewhat stiffens the ride, but rough roads just have the whole thing going willy-nilly. Auntie Em, it's a Twister! Otherwise, I guess it handled OK, and featured Daimler's newly implemented cruise control: if you start to gain speed beyond your speed setting while decending a hill, it automatically downshifts for you to get back to the intended speed. It had a decent stock stereo, with an input for an I-Pod, or in my case, the laptop hooked to an inverter in the cigarette lighter, and a cord running from the earphone jack "The Lap-Pod". It works well though and holds up to 50,000 songs, so that's a plus. Anyways, the car did have a Temp, Direction, and Stereo Selection indicator in the tach cluster. Power points were abundant, and if you plug something into the console outlet, a notch lets you close the console without crimping the cord (an overall Daimler intention on many models). Also, the turbo was better than nothing, but killed economy, as usual. Why not use a smaller displacement with a higher-boost turbo? I guess America is addicted to torque and wakes up in the middle of the night in a sweat from a turbo lag nightmare. "Honey, What is it?" (gasping for breath) "Oh, I just had a terrible nightmare -- I stepped on the gas pretty hard and the car went, but -- but after a second or 2, then it was like something kicked in and it went normally" The spouse replies "Oh hun, not the Turbo Lag dream again...it'll be okay, we have a HEMI". Sigh.
Anyways, all of the female co-workers I encountered commented about how cute the car was. I just sighed. At least it said "Turbo" on the back, or I'd have to hide my identity. Bottom line: if you want an efficient 4-seater convertible, look somewhere else.