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2007 Pontiac Solstice

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San Francisco:  The Pontiac Solstice is a classic front engine, rear-wheel-drive roadster in the tradition of the MGB or, more appropriately, the leader of them all, the Mazda Miata, or as itís known today, the MX-5.

Itís surprising how close a competitor the Solstice is too, in standard mettle. With 177 horsepower from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, thereís enough to keep up with the Mazdaís 170-horsepower mill. The manual shifter gives short throws and an engaging feel, just like the Miata.

Of course, the Solstice goes its own way with its styling and packaging. The body contours look almost inflated, like its skin is pulled tight, especially up front, where the trademark grille sits flush with the bulging front panels with hidden bumpers. The headlamp covers pull way back into the front fenders. The sides show some of the famous ďcoke bottleĒ styling of 1960ís Pontiacs, while the tail is high and rounded, with tail lamps that sit almost on top of the fenders and pull back like the headlights do up front.

Inside, a bold, sweeping dash flows uninterrupted into the center console between the seats. The instruments are distributed across the dash like merit badges on a boy scoutís sash, leaving lots of textured plastic around them. The effect, while sporty, feels a little plain, and the plastics are so-so in quality. The chrome instrument binnacle is borrowed from the Vibe and looks appropriate, if perhaps a little heavy.

While the slim buckets do a fine job of holding driver and passenger during vigorous driving, the Solsticeís interior isnít up to the task of carrying much else. Kangaroo pockets in the front of the lower seat cushions hold small, flat items like maps, and slim slits along the door thresholds hold modest items (like maybe a pencil?). A small bin sits between the seats at shoulder level and holds a stack of CDs. And itís hard to open while youíre driving.

The trunk is no better. The top folds into it, and most of the trunk floor is taken up by a large bump that is probably the fuel tank. I found that I could arrange my laptop and briefcase around the sides of it, and you can stuff several plastic bags of groceries in there if youíre careful with the eggs and Hostess fruit pies. The problem is, where do you put that suitcase when youíre taking a weekend trip to Lake Tahoe ?

Complaints aside, drop the top on a nice day, climb in, and allís well with the world. To accomplish this, first sit in the car and unhook the two windshield header latches. Next, press on the key fob to open the trunk, and the top-extending flying buttresses flip suddenly forward. Then manually lift the rear-hinged trunk lid and manually fold the top into the trunk. Now slam the lid authoritatively, and the cloth top is completely hidden. Finally, climb into the Solstice and row through the gears contentedly.

My test car was the GXP model, which improves on the standard rideís 177 horsepower by throwing on a turbocharger. Suddenly, youíre looking at 260 horsepower from this little car, and that means it moves out smartly when you release the clutch.

If you drive aggressively, youíll still get decent mileage. I achieved 22.8 mpg in mixed, not terribly aggressive motoring. The EPA gives the Solstice GXP a 22 City, 31 Highway rating. Interestingly, the GXP does a little better than the standard, non-aspirated model. The EPAís 2007 Green Vehicle Guide awards the Solstice with either engine a 6 for the Air Pollution score and also a 6 on the Greenhouse Gas scale, a little above average.

To help you handle the GXPís increased muscle, Pontiac gives you a host of extras. Stabilitrak uses electronic sensors to keep you out of a jam. If it senses a difference between where youíve got the car pointed and where itís headed, it steps in and corrects it automatically by braking a particular wheel or modulating acceleration. A limited slip differential in the GXP aids traction as well. Bilstein shocks, 18-inch wheels wearing performance tires, and four-wheel disc brakes complete the picture.

My Aggressive Red tester started out at $25,395, but by the time you factor in the optional leather seats, boosted audio system (with subwoofer directly behind the passenger), air conditioning, rear spoiler, XM Radio, and premium acoustic headliner, the tab rose to $29,389. Base price Solstices start at just over $22,000.

I had a couple little gripes. Pontiac gives you an old-fashioned mast antenna, which sticks up in your right peripheral vision as you motor sans top. The window seals didnít always do their job, and the wind whistled on the highway. But like most convertibles, once that canvas is folded, all is forgiven. The Solstice is a nice change for Pontiac, something compact and exciting, and we should be happy to have it.  By Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco


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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name:
The Solstice is a nice change for Pontiac
The 2007 Pontiac Solstice
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The 2007 Pontiac Solstice
Photo Credits: 
Pontiac Solstice Internet Media
Series #:  2007 - 34

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