2007 Pontiac Solstice

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Review: 2007 Pontiac Solstice

By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Turbocharged Solstice maintains appeal of this reasonably priced sports car.
Pros:
  • New turbocharged engine
  • Sports car moves
  • Reasonably priced
Cons:
  • Scant cargo room
  • Abrupt clutch engagement
  • Stiffer ride for turbo version

The new turbocharged GXP version of Pontiac's Solstice gives this sports car considerably more appeal. The turbo engine finally provides the performance to match this two-seater's racy styling.

The GXP's excellent chassis easily handles the substantial horsepower increase from 177 to 260, besides the additional torque spread across a wide rev range. The GXP has General Motor's first gasoline direct-injection turbocharged engine, which is GM's highest-specific-output engine ever. It's a smooth, beefed-up, intercooled 2.0-liter 4 cylinder with no turbo lag issues.

The base Solstice continues with a harsher, noisier 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that revs in a lazy manner, but still provides lively acceleration, or 0-60 mph in 7.4 seconds.

Fast Turbo Version
The GXP isn't especially light at about 3,000 pounds, but does 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds and hits 100 mph in 14.3 seconds, while reaching 98 mph in the quarter-mile sprint. It's even faster than a standard-engine Porsche Boxster—at least below 100 mph.

Adding substantial appeal to even a popular year-old model keeps potential buyers interested. The Solstice already has the looks to cause casual observers to think it might be a costly foreign sports car, although it's reasonably priced.

In fact, the first Solstice had a low $19,420 list price when introduced as a 2006 model because it adroitly used parts from other General Motors vehicles. The non-turbocharged trim level still is pretty much a bargain at $21,515.

Better Equipped GXP
The new-for-2007 turbocharged GXP trim level costs $26,515, but the GXP has more equipment and is much faster. In fact, the GXP is arguably the best Solstice buy because of its superior engine and equipment that's optional, or unavailable, for the base trim level. As a bonus, the GXP even has slightly better fuel economy than the base Solstice.

The regular Solstice is virtually unchanged for 2007. Both trim levels have rear-wheel drive and look nearly the same, with Pontiac's twin honeycomb grille, sexy curves and retro-style head fairings on the trunk.

Special Features
However, the GXP has a special black grille, small "chin" spoiler, openings below the headlights to feed air to cool the front brakes and the ever-important—at least for the sake of cosmetics—polished dual exhaust outlets.

The GXP also has grippier—but not larger—tires and a sport suspension that sharpens handling but stiffens the ride a bit.

Steering of the GXP feels rather numb in the on-center wheel position, but is plenty quick for normal driving. The stiffer suspension is fairly supple, but you can feel more bumps through the seats, despite the Solstice's all-independent suspension.

Handling can't match the mid-engine Boxster's, and the Solstice isn't nearly as poised as that Porsche above 100 mph. But it's still in the sports car class, helped by wide tracks and big tires. However, the ride gets jerky on wrinkled pavement at normal freeway cruising speeds, partly because of a short 95.1-inch wheelbase.

The firm brake pedal feels reassuring, but stopping distances are average for a fast sports car—and more acceptable with the non-turbo Solstice.

Base Equipment Level
The base Solstice has power steering, all-disc brakes, tilt wheel, console, AM/FM/CD player, variable intermittent wipers, rear defogger and 45-series tires on 18-inch alloy wheels.

Standard for the GXP, but optional for the base trim level, are leather upholstery, cruise control, anti-lock brakes, limited-slip differential and power windows, mirrors and door locks with remote keyless entry. Also, the GXP has an anti-skid system that is unavailable for the base Solstice.

Other GXP equipment not on the standard Solstice includes a sport suspension, leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls and 18-inch polished alloy wheels.

But it's hard to imagine even a new sports car without air conditioning, and that will set a buyer of either Solstice trim level back $960. Other extras include upscale sound systems, XM satellite radio, rear spoiler, chrome alloy wheels, which do look sharp, and even a soft-top premium headliner.

Abrupt Clutch
A 5-speed manual transmission is standard, while a responsive 5-speed automatic is $850. The manual gearbox in a GXP I drove was a high-effort unit that nevertheless shifted crisply. It was hooked to a fairly heavy, long-throw clutch that engaged abruptly—making it easy to occasionally stall the car off the line.

Third gear is best in town for fast moves, while fourth gear is needed for quick 65-75 mph passing times on highways. The GXP provides an estimated 22 mpg in the city and 31 on highways with the manual and 21 and 29 with the automatic. Figures for the base trim level are 20 and 28 with the manual, 22 and 26 with the automatic. Premium grade fuel is recommended for both engines.

Inconveniences
The Solstice falls down when it comes to convenience. For example, there's scant luggage room with the top raised and almost none when it's lowered, and you must get out of the car to put the top down or up—not an easy operation. And there's hardly any cockpit storage.

Don't look for a spare tire—you only get a tire sealant and inflation kit because there's no room for a spare, either.

Long doors can make it tricky to park in tight spots. And occupants sit so low they almost feel as if they're on the floor, although the bucket seats are supportive.

Awkward Window Controls
Reading the deeply set gauges during the day is difficult, although the cockpit is reasonably roomy and quiet for a small sports car. But I kept accidentally activating the power window controls with my left elbow because of their inconvenient positioning on the driver's door.

Cupholders are awkward to reach, and inside door handles are tiny. However, climate controls are large and smaller audio system controls are fairly easy to use.

The Solstice isn't practical for anything but driving fun, but it's not supposed to be. And the GXP delivers big league sports car style and performance at a reasonable price. Moreover, either version can be serviced at any Pontiac dealership.

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BB02 - 9/14/2014 9:06:58 PM