Sunday, February 26, 2006

Pontiac's Summer




Even the lackluster Pontiac (you remember, the "performance division" of General Motors) is getting better and better with each passing year. Last summer when the Solstice came to production it was too little too late, The Ford Mustang had all ready taken the spot light and the Mazda MX-5 was doing bigger and better things in the small sport scar segment. Still the Solstice was selling like hotcakes, which was just what Pontiac needed in the middle of winter. So far, all of the current Pontiac vehicles and either bagged engineered (i.e. the G5, Torrent Montana SV6), stodgy "me-too" cars, (the G6) or left over from the line up of old that Lutz doesn’t know what to do with yet (the Grand Prix, Vibe).

The Solstice gets a little boost to add to what little hype it saw last winter with a firt in a long time supper charger that give this little car what it should have had before... POWER! The new trim line "GXP" gets unofficial estimates of about 260 hp and lb-ft of torque, wonderful when you are reminded that a standard Solstice gets 177 hp and 166 lb-ft of torque. the basic package is not messed with either, with only duel chrome pipes sticking out of the back, a small lip read spoiler, and black trim around the fog lights are added. This solstice is said to run 0-60 in about 5.5 seconds, which would put this small roadster back in competition with the benchmark of this segment, the MX-5. The only down side, is the 5,000 boost in price that also cuts any "for the price" statements you may hear from Pontiac dealers when comparing it to the MX-5.

If you want to sport around with more then just your girl in the passenger seat (think of it as a double date) then you may want to opt for the new G-6 coupe. Based on the G-6 sedan (which is it self a Malibu) this is the first Pontiac (after the firebird) to get a 6 speed manual. This car is also fun to drive, if you don’t mind the use of hard plastic (there are acres of it around and in the back), then you will not mind paying close to $30,000 for the top of the line GTP which gives you leather, the 6-seed, and the "big V6" as my sales rep told me. (In case you’re wondering, no, I did not buy it). The coupe is only for looks, as the GTP sedan and convertible all have the same drive train. The G-6/Malibu is a strong platform indeed, and General Motors did a good job designing all of the cars on this platform. The best part, is the boxy, refrigerator design was dropped for the G-6 and the G6 coupe is even sleeker. the wrap around tail lights and the fast back rear window and deck lid give this Pontiac the "fast even when parked" look Pontiac has been missing since the late 1960's (sorry Firebird, Grand AM, Grand Prix guys, those cars didn’t make the grade even when they where new).

If you want to go camping, and racing, then buy a Chevy pick up and a new GTO before they sell out. Or you can pick up a Vibe, or Torrent. I looked at the Vibe as an everyday car to replace my Mazda Protege5 (I know, but it's built by Ford, so it's ok). When the Vibe debuted with the Toyoda Matrix in 2003, it was a nice contender. Three years later, and an update is long over due, and not even it's Matrix twin is doing well. The last of modern equipment, like the new radio/CD player with 2.5mm aux jack (standard in the Cobalt) are causing buyers to look closer to the other not so nice features. The VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing with intelligence) is an awesome engine, but that kind of technology is not so exotic anymore and the poor performance numbers may cause Bob Lutz to cancel this car in favor of the badge engineered Torrent. The only problem I see with the Torrent is that it is the same as the Chevy Equinox in every way only the cross bar with bowtie is replaced by the duel kidney with arrow head.

So what’s New for Pontiac? a new G8 based on the New Zeta platform that was supposed to be dead but is alive and underdevelopment as the new Camaro and maybe a second try (or third if you include the original) at the GTO and possibly rear drive full sized Chevy Impala and/or Monte Carlo. The Grand Prix will either die or be rebuilt on the new Zeta platform, which will mean the new(er) Lacrosse by Buick will too. And the Vibe may be killed or at the least given the ecotech engine in light of the competition. If Zeta is indeed dead, and General Motors just fluked us with the Camaro, then a G8 may be produced on the Caddy DTS/Buick Lucerne platform.

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