Spring: the season of love, flowers and convertibles. As warmer weather approaches, car dealers put away the 4×4 SUV’s and pull the drop-tops from the back of the lots in the hopes of snagging passersby wanting a vehicle to celebrate the (global?) warming weather. Pontiac tempts buyers with the G6 GT Hardtop Convertible while Chrysler lures in the public with the newly-introduced Sebring Limited Hardtop Convertible. As the only American-branded hardtop convertibles, which one truly deserves your hard-earned income? Or should both be tossed into the bonfire of the vanities?
The Pontiac G5 Coupe reminds me of John Steinbeck’s classic novel “Of Mice and Men.” Best-laid schemes aside, no car deserves more to be taken out to a field and shot in the back of the head. This brand-engineered blight bleeds bureaucratic bumbling. No doubt someone at GM figured that Pontiac should share some of the Cobalt love with a derivative of their own (a la the Cavalier/Sunfire). Rather than taking a pass-worthy platform and making it into something worthwhile, they gave us the G5, “lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain.”
2008 Pontiac G5 Coupe Review Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 1/5 Stars
I sometimes get sentimental for the Good Old Days, a bygone era when gas was cheap (and the good stuff was called Ethyl), back seats were the ticket to romance, and tailfins were a mark of distinction, rather than bad taste. Back in the day, the coolest metal was Detroit born-and-bred, bearing real nameplates that paid homage to fast animals and faraway places and auto races, not to alphanumeric jumbles inspired by IRS tax forms. It was during one of these recent waves of nostalgia that I found myself looking forward to spending some quality time flogging one of America’s last remaining full-size touring sedans, the Grand Prix. That is, until I drove one.
Pontiac Grand Prix Review Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars
Late last century, GM decided to fight the rising tide of uninteresting front wheel-drive cars Japanese cars by building their own uninteresting front wheel-drive cars. Three decades of trying to out-Japan the Japanese yielded the pinnacle of American wrong-wheel technology: The Monte Carlo SS. Now that GM’s hulking trucks have had their day, the automaker is busy hawking its lackluster though miserly Cobavion. This despite the fact that one of the best small cars GM has ever produced sits unloved in Pontiac lots across America. Go figure.
Pontiac Vibe Review Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars
I once drove off the road, screaming, at 80mph. Why? I was in love. When love turns blind, men do irrational things. As far as healthy, loving relationships go, the one presaging my off-highway excursion was a malignant tumor wrapped in an iron lung. I imagine that owning a Pontiac Solstice GXP is a similar affair. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury; the prosecution calls her a “femme fatale on wheels.” I ask you: how could something this beautiful be so damn dangerous?
When you punch the Pontiac Solstice’s go pedal to the floor, you can almost hear that great Les McCann/Eddie Harris tune “Compared to what?” Normally, the Solstice is compared to the Mazda MX5 or its twin-under-the-skin, the Saturn Sky– which is a bit like comparing Heather Graham to Sarah Michelle Gellar and Salma Hayek. While it's clear that the GM cars have more visual appeal than the Japanese roadster, looks can be deceiving. Has GM “made it real,” or is the Solstice just playing a part?
On a recent episode of Jeopardy, none of the contestants could identify the company responsible for the motoring miscarriages known as the Aztek and Grand Prix. Seems GM's 'excitement' division has some heavy brush to clear. Despite the paddles-to-the-chest prospects of the new Solstice, the marque's main hopes for financial salvation lie with the Torrent. It's unfortunate that the name of the re-badged Chevy Equinox (or is it the other way around?) is commonly associated with the phrase "of abuse," because the little SUV doesn't deserve it. Well, maybe a trickle…
The Torrent excels in a sport in which most American cars don't even place– styling. Given the Torrent's only-a-cataract-eyed-mom-on-tranqs-could-love predecessor (What is an Aztek, Alex), Pontiac's gold medal in the sheet metal sculpting event is a Miracle on Ice-caliber result. Although the Torrent's sharp lines and tailored creases are standard-issue cute-ute, the SUV is one of the more cohesive-looking vehicles in GM's truck-heavy lineup. The Torrent's both perfectly proportioned and elegantly detailed. Even Pontiac's signature "butterfly" twin-port grille looks like it finally found a happy place.
Pontiac's ads proudly proclaim that their latest sports sedan is "the first ever G6"– as if the company somehow beat its competitors to build a G6. Which is what exactly? A car that gets 100 miles per gallon? Brings peace to the Middle East? Self-replicates? We all know the G6's REAL claim to fame: it's the first automobile personally bestowed upon every member of a studio audience by a chat show Queen, under false pretences. (Pontiac provided the vehicles, Oprah took the credit, recipients didn't like the taxes.) Otherwise, the G6 is a standard sort of car.
Come to think of it, that IS a major breakthrough. Pontiac has been making sub-standard cars for decades: front-wheel-drive machines with asthmatic engines, no handling and even less build quality. [NB: The new GTO is an Australian import.] The idea that GM's nominal performance division could create a machine that can hold its own in a class filled with talented, well-established Japanese contenders is about as credible as cold fusion. And yet, here it is.
Nostalgia ain't what it used to be. Once upon a time, brand heritage kept customers loyal. "I'm a Chevy man" actually meant something. These days, Chevrolet sells a Korean compact with about as much Chevy DNA as a Manchurian ring-necked pheasant. Ford's offers a retro-Thunderbird whose driving dynamics, ergonomics and style would have found few takers in 1955. And the new Pontiac GTO is a distant cousin of the old GTO, adopted and twice removed.
The original GTO started life in 1964 as option 382 on a Pontiac Tempest LeMans. Two-hundred and ninety-five dollars bought a bigger engine (389 cubic inches) and air scoops (non-functional). The new GTO is an Australian coupe, slightly modified for the US market, with a 5.7-liter V8. In other words, if you're a heritage freak looking for a connection between the old "goat" and the new, don't bother. Unlike its illustrious predecessor, the new GTO has no kinship with any other Pontiac automobile made, ever.
I'm convinced my local highway on-ramp was designed by the Pawtucket (Rhode Island) Fire Department. Drivers have just 100 yards of tarmac to join the outside lane of a three-lane road that immediately and violently kinks left. The ramp ends on a bridge, so there's no breakdown lane for failed mergers and there's an off-ramp 200 yards ahead. As you'd expect, cars line up like F14 pilots on a carrier deck. It's the perfect Death or Glory test track for the Pontiac Grand Prix GTP with Competition Group Package: the "Comp G".
Pontiac gave me a fighting chance by transversely mounting a supercharged V6 under the bonnet. The 3.8 litre unit may be older than Abba, but it stables 260 horses. Equally helpful, the super six cranks out 280 ft. lbs. of torque at 3200rpms. By all accounts, it should have been sufficient oomph to keep Pawtucket's paramedics in front of their soap operas.