Pontiac Solstice Review Charleston SC
West Union, SC
Pontiac Solstice Review
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Pontiac Solstice - Driving Impressions: Growing up, we all probably remember hearing the saying "sometimes things just aren't what they're cracked up to be,? usually spoken by a parent or teacher. That lament was a favorite of my father's and I found it appropriate that these childhood memories slammed to the forefront of my thoughts while sitting in heavy traffic on a drive home in the Solstice because it really sums up Pontiac's new roadster. From the outside, the Pontiac Solstice is a looker, turning heads everywhere it's driven and sporting a look of quality and refinement. The curvaceous bodylines are sensual, but the Solstice retains a serious sports car guise. In other words, it's not considered to be a chick car. The attention you get driving the Solstice makes you feel like a celebrity, and the only thing missing is the red carpet treatment upon arrival and build quality to rival its competitors. The Solstice handles as well as it looks, cutting corners tighter and tighter, staying flat and delivering excellent feedback while almost taunting you to push it past your own comfort zone. A 177-horsepower, four-cylinder engine propels the little two-seater with either a five-speed manual transmission aimed at the enthusiast crowd or a five-speed automatic for those that prefer a more relaxed driving experience. A turbocharged GXP version is also in the works, upping the horsepower and adding a sport suspension, four-wheel disc brakes and traction control. The sport suspension is also available on the standard Solstice as an option. From the start, the Pontiac Solstice (also sold as the Sky under the Saturn brand) was intended to be a comeback car for GM, an entry-level image car that would bring buyers back to the American market and boost GM's sales and image. Our test car, with less than 3,000 miles on the odometer, suffered from bad air leaks from the side windows with the top up, squeaky brakes, a moaning automatic transmission when decelerating from 30 mph, and a plethora of design problems from the convertible top and the lack of a power door lock button to a missing passenger visor mirror and a radio screen that becomes illegible in the sunlight. Plus, we averaged just 18.7 mpg with the Solstice's four-cylinder engine. This is disappointing from a car enjoying so much hype. In typical GM fashion, the company had a good thing going with the Solstice but substandard interior quality, frustrating design and build execution issues could ultimately slow sales of the Solstice faster than its own four-wheel-disc brakes.
The Pontiac Solstice's 2.4-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine produces 177 horsepower and 166 lb.-ft. of torque, giving the roadster a surprisingly spirited feel with either the five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Our test car came with the recently introduced automatic, and good torque and gearing keep this model lively although no paddle shifters are available and it doesn't measure up to the Miata's quick shifting six-speed sequential transmission. Even though the automatic transmission shifted smoothly, a whining noise when decelerating from 30 mph could be duplicated at will, which really throws doubt on the car's long-term reliability and the build quality. A few weeks ago we had a Solstice with a manual transmission and actually returned it a day after picking the car up because of the strange noises it was making. Later, we were reassured by GM's public relations department that the noises were normal and were being isolated from the cabin in the future.
The Pontiac Solstice's handling can best be described like a food processor: it chops, slices and dices. The Solstice corners flat, thanks to 27.2 mm front and 24.2 mm rear stabilizer bars that keep the 18-inch Goodyear tires glued to the asphalt, relaying at all times where you are relative to the car's limits. There is no feeling of uncertainty or surprise with this car. In fact, it seems the Solstice begs you to push it harder even if it might be against your better judgment. Pontiac has also kept the ride surprisingly supple for a car that can attack a corner like the Solstice can, keeping the daily commute comfortable. Brake and steering feel are also well balanced, communicating all needed information to the driver. Pontiac gets high accolades for its work in terms of the Solstice's handling.
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