First Drives

First Drive: 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible

Value-priced retro ragtop

Value-priced retro ragtop

Picnic-table level of conversation with the top down–one of Chrysler‘s claims about the social prowess of its new PT Cruiser Convertible. We’re able to confirm that passengers en route can quietly plot a defense against ants, choose sides for badminton, and snag one of Aunt Mabel’s famed deviled eggs–with nothing but sky overhead and a little wind in their hair. This new PT convertible is a pleasantly quiet (top up or down) and well-damped handler, with generous cargo room for Sunday afternoon gear, too.

Although it mirrors much of the original PT’s heritage styling, this variant is engineered from the ground up as a two-door convertible; more than half of its components are unique from the sedan. While the PT Convertible shares the wheelbase and overall length of the four-door, additional longitudinal and cross-structure reinforcements designed into the body not only sharpen its topless ride and cornering manners, but counter noise and shake as well. Surprisingly, this added stiffening raises curb weight by just 150 pounds over the sedan.

Body-color hydroformed-steel sport bar bolsters overall rigidity, combats wind buffeting, and houses two overhead dome lamps for interior lighting.

The power fabric top includes a heated glass rear window and operates easily: A D-ring handle at the center of the windshield header releases the front latches, and a pushbutton completes the topless transformation in about 10 seconds. Touring and GT-model buyers also get a flexible boot secured by two snap-on fasteners.

Aside from the design, what also makes this convertible unique is its cargo capacity. Top up or down, the 50/50-split rear seats fold to make a flat stowage area and tumble to reveal a wide trunk pass-through that creates room for two golf bags, skis, or garden tools.

The PT Cruiser Convertible will be the least-expensive four-passenger convertible sold in North America, with a base price just under $20 grand. Power and amenities range from the Standard model’s cloth seats and 150-horsepower inline-four to the GT’s leather interior and new High Output 220-horse turbo motor.

With interior volume and rear-seat legroom that bests the VW New Beetle and Ford Mustang convertibles, plus a base price that undercuts those competitors by thousands, Chrysler could draw in new drop-top buyers that had previously considered a ragtop too spendy or impractical. However, a larger question might be how traditional image-conscious convertible customers will embrace the PT’s signature nod to styling cues from the past.

Chrysler Group's new 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible brings the outside in and the inside out, with its color-coordinated styling. The car features two-tone interior packages to match the heritage design of the exterior.

Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible is the lowest price four-passenger convertible car available in the United States.

Delivering on the promise of the original styling study vehicle, the production version offers a new interpretation of cool, boasting styling cues that celebrate American custom car heritage.