2006 Pontiac Torrent Review

Rob Schweitzer
by Rob Schweitzer

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.

The raise-the-roof reverie continues inside the Torrent's urban-but-not-intimidating interior. Yes, you've seen this GM dash frame before and turned away in not so mock horror. But the Torrent's two-toned color scheme, chrome accents, and cool orange glow lift the cabin beyond the cookie-cutter Sunfires of days gone by. Major controls (e.g. the round, user-friendly climate selection knobs) are well-spaced and Spock logical. The rectangular interior door handles nestle within black circles are rimmed with chrome, contrasting boldly with the tan leather lingering underneath. This is deft, Germanic-level pattern manipulation. Ich applaudiere.

Reach into the interior's underworld, however, and it's a different story. The driver's seat lives so close to the door I couldn't access the six-way power controls without painful exfoliation. The Torrent's cargo hold is eight lanes wide, but the two plastic tray-anchors jutting out from the frame seem specifically designed to eliminate the possibility of carrying anything larger than a college dorm fridge that isn't deformable. Tell your relocating buddy a new Barca will be good for the soul.

The all-wheel-drive Torrent comes equipped with a 3.4-liter V6 married to a five-speed automatic. The 185hp SUV bolts out of the gate like a cattle-prodded thoroughbred, then settles into a distinctly bovine pace. Given the Torrent's weight, the generously-torqued pushrod powerplant is adequate for the trudge at hand, nothing more. The smooth-shifting autobox and symphonic silence (provided by GM's expert noise suppression squad) keeps your mind from wondering if that's you getting in your own way (it is). As for the Torrent's fossil fuel factor, the EPA rates the mid-sized SUV at 18mpg in the city, 24 on the highway. The numbers are, of course, a stovepipe dream. I averaged 19-something during a seven-day mix of back roads and truckerbahns.

Pontiac's ads tout the Torrent's "car-like agility." Call me a gullible spin victim, but I expected the Torrent to negotiate corners like a car. Unless we're talking about a 3700-pound ten-year-old Honda Accord, it doesn't. Down twisting roads, the Torrent feels like a natural candidate for The Biggest Loser, or at least Sweatin' to the Oldies. Turn the wheel past nine o'clock and it's as if a nitrous-sucking dentist pumped the helm with Novocain. It's feel no evil, see no evil; the Torrent's C-pillars are to trucks what non-reflective coating is to stealth bombers. Push the Torrent through a turn and the apple cart you upset just might be your own. One hopes this isn't the kind of excitement Pontiac set-out to create.

Which reminds me: Pontiac bundles side impact and head curtain airbags with OnStar as part of a $1,090 option package. This shameless connection between consumer safety and corporate greed doesn't do the Pontiac brand any favors. Of course, if you're among the dwindling group known as Pontiac loyalists, you're not likely to complain about safety-related blackmail — or anything else for that matter. You'll take one look at the Torrent and say, yup, OK, fair enough. More discerning customers will see that GM is, once again, building an excellent vehicle that's a full model cycle behind the competition. Compared to more mechanically sophisticated mid-sized utes like the RAV4 (268hp) or Ford Escape (available hybrid), the Torrent's stylishness is only skin deep.

Despite its dynamic drawbacks, the Pontiac Torrent has just about enough vitality to make potential buyers forget about the brand's recent history as a washed-up producer of has-beens, also-rans and rental cars. But not quite. Given the quality of the alternatives, the Torrent needed to be faster, sharper and more fuel efficient. If Pontiac doesn't raise it's game soon, the brand will be back in jeopardy, heading for a $100 slot in the category 'DEAD CAR BRANDS.'

Rob Schweitzer
Rob Schweitzer

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  • Zenith Zenith on May 28, 2007

    As an Aztek owner, I can say that this is a huge step backward. The Torrent is much smaller on the inside because the floor is higher off the ground and the roof is lower in relation to the floor. I get 20-22 mpg city in my FWD Aztek and highway miles are an average right at the "old EPA" of 26 with an all-time high of 29.3, so the Torrent's mileage is much poorer. I hold the cruise at 65 but tend to get carried away passing and hold the vehicle at 85 for 5-10 minutes at a time, lest you think I plod along @55 all the time to get these figures. I know that FWD vehicles are supposed to have longer turning radii, but I can do a U-turn in much less space with this vehicle than with an RWD Ford Ranger with the same wheelbase. Yes, the Aztek and its Buick brother ,the Rendezvous, have controversial styling, but they're far more practical than this pathetic loser.

  • Phxmotor Phxmotor on Dec 11, 2012

    Well its now December of 2012 and Pontiac is a company "gone with the wind"... what a shame. I wonder about all the crazy things that added up to creating the demise of a once great company. It's all we drove as I was growing up. Such a shame. There were 350,000 blue collar workers at GM in the state of Michigan just a few years before this thing was being introduced. Now its down to a grand total of 35,000. Its so unbelievable what GM has done to itself. And this so-so AWD is just one more example of GM's hohum offerings... an OK car but so many better cars out there. I saw an ad for a Torrent on Craigslist and honestly didn't know what it was(is). And I like to think of myself as a fairly well informed person when it comes to cars. It's all such a shame.

  • FreedMike Well, here's my roster of car purchases since 1981: Three VWsTwo Mazdas (one being a Mercury Tracer, full disclosure)One AudiOne FordOne BuickOne HondaOne Volvo I think I hear Lee Greenwood in the background... In all seriousness, I'd have bought more American cars had they made more of the kinds of cars I like (smaller, performance-oriented).
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X I'll gladly support the least "woke" and the most Japanese auto company out there.
  • Jmo2 I just got an email from the dealership where I bought my car and it looks like everything has $5k on the hood.
  • Lou_BC I suspect that since the global pandemic, dealerships have preferred to stay with the "if you want it, we will order it" business model. They just need some demo models on hand and some shiny bits to catch the impulse buyer. Profits are higher and risks lower this way.
  • Probert When I hear the word "patriot", I think of entitled hateful whining ignorant traitors to democracy. But hey , meant to say "Pass the salt."