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2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser Turbo GT

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Nov 17, 2002

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

CHRYSLER PT CRUISER: Cool, Versatile, Fast

By HARVEY SCHWARTZ All Photos & © by Harvey Schwartz

Just two years ago Chrysler introduced the PT Cruiser to rave reviews and created a new category of transportation.  The hot rod character of the PT Cruiser redefined small domestic vehicles with its bold retro-modern styling, unique interior with up to 64.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the ability to configure the seats into more than 30 different positions.

Coming standard with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine making only 150 hp, acceleration and passing power was embarrassing slow for this 3,300-pound vehicle.  Chrysler engineers were listening, and this year they have added the missing part of the package by making a turbocharged and intercooled GT model available for those who want faster acceleration, more passing power along with refined handling.  The new PT Cruiser GT Turbo generates 215 hp at 5000 rpm and 245 lb.ft. of torque at 3600 rpm (with more than 90% of peak torque from 2300-5000rpm).  Now PT Cruiser GT customers not only will have more than enough room for all the 2x4s and tools they'll buy at the local hardware store, they will also be the fastest getting there and back.

The engineers and designers at Chrysler added more power but didn't stop there. They tweaked the exterior styling, added a 4-speed AutoStick automatic transmission to go along with the standard 5-speed manual, tuned the suspension for a more sporty ride, added a better sounding, less a restrictive, performance-tuned exhaust system, strengthened the brakes, shod the GT with bigger tires/wheels and put in more sporty interior touches.  The new PT Cruiser GT is now complete with too-cool-to-categorize styling, serious power and performance with day-to-day utility.  

On the outside, the looks are new with available monochromic paint schemes.  The GT that I tested was painted Electric Blue Pearl The front fascia of the GT features a larger lower intake to bring air directly into the intercooler, while the rear fascia now sports a wider, 2in. round, chrome-tipped exhaust pipe under the bumper.  To handle the increased horsepower and sport tuned suspension, Chrysler engineer's added 17X7in. Blade Silver painted 5-spoke cast aluminum wheels wrapped by Goodyear P205/50HR17in. RS-A Eagle steel-belted radial tires to increase grip and give a more compliant ride.  The combination of a bolder front end, chrome wheels and door handles and a larger rear exhaust really gives the impression that this PT Cruiser is ready to rumble.  Everywhere I drove I was greeted with positive comments about the new PT Turbo.

The 2.4 liter 4-cylinder engine was redesigned to be able to more efficiently and reliably handle the increase in horsepower from the turbo.  Chrysler engineers didn't just bolt on a turbo off the shelf and close the hood.  This engine was created as a 200+hp motor for the PT Turbo from the beginning.  This fact allowed engineers to make significant reliability improvements over turbo engines of the past.  The turbo is manufactured by Mitsubishi and has a maximum boost of 9 psi.  This powerful turbo is a perfect mate to the 2.4liter Mitsubishi engine.  A redesigned engine cylinder block assembly, cylinder head assembly and crankshaft add to the PT Turbo edgine's reliability.   Racing-style oil squirting mechanisms also cool the pistons, which allows for higher output.  Oil and water-cooling for the turbocharger was optimized from the start of development, further adding to the edgine's reliability and durability.  Proper calibration of the turbo's waste gate and integrated turbo/exhaust manifold resulted in quicker boost, while providing better control of the turbo for reduced emissions and improved drivability.   Additionally, special acoustic dampeners on the turbo's intake system all but eliminate the whine historically associated with some turbocharged engines.  The turbo's added power comes on almost instantly just after pushing 2,300rpm.  The Chrysler PT Turbo's standard heavy-duty 5-speed manual Getrag FWD transaxle provides the same quality, reliability and precision that customers in Europe have enjoyed for years.  Quick, easy shifting up and down is now more fun than ever in the Turbo GT.  This year Chrysler offers a 4-speed automatic with AutoStick.  Just drop the stick shifter into the last notch and tap to the right to up shift and to the left to downshift.  You can hold the rpm's up to the redline.  AutoStick has the feel of a manual transaxle with the convenience of an automatic.  Equipped with the 5-speed, the PT Turbo GT hits 60 mph from a standstill in just 7.4 seconds - that's down from 8.6 seconds in the standard PT Cruiser's figures.

In addition to the powertrain enhancements, a specially tuned sport suspension enhances both straight-line and curving-road handling.  Up front are MacPherson struts, stiffer ( coil springs, larger, gas charged shocks and a link-type stabilizer bar.  In the rear is a unique trailing arm/twist beam/Watts linkage setup with stiffer (140lb./in.) coil springs, larger gas charged shocks and a solid stabilizer bar.  This unique rear setup helps reduce lateral suspension movement to help keep the tires in contact with the road surface.  The all-speed traction control system helps keep wheel-spin to a minimum no matter the road or weather conditions.  You can always shut it off to use added wheelspin when you want to burn some rubber, etc.  The standard power-assisted rack & pinion steering is good but I'd like to see quicker responses to my inputs.  While feel for the road was good and on-center feel OK, it seemed a little heavy and slow to react to the faster speeds.  Also, the turning circle has to be closed-up.  With a 42.ft.-turning circle I thought that I was at the wheel of a full-size pickup or sport utility.

More quickly and safely slowing the new PT Turbo down are larger, more powerful, power-assisted 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS.  Up front are 11.5in. rotors, and in the rear they measure 10.5in.  A single caliper with high-performance brake pads clamps each rotor.  The new PT Turbo stops in just 116ft. from 60mph.

Chrysler stylists gave the interior a sportier look and feel.  Inside are perforated leather high-back bucket seats with more lateral support, an aluminum-ball topped stick shifter, thicker, perforated leather/tilting, 4-spoke steering wheel, carbon-fiber dash/instrument panel trim plus a new gauge cluster featuring a 140mph speedo/2.4L Turbo graphic on the tachometer and new floor mats up front with GT embossed.  Just add machined pedals and your ready to hit the track and do some serious racing.

The new PT Cruiser GT Turbo opens a new chapter for this very unique automobile allowing Chrysler to expand the customer base to performance-minded consumers looking to share in the optimism and spirit that the PT Cruiser evokes.  While not perfect, the new GT Turbo takes the Chrysler PT Cruiser nameplate to another level of performance.  Price as tested is $23,250.00.


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