2008 Pontiac G6

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2006 Pontiac G6

This 2006 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2009.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Pontiac cracks the under-$30,000 retractable hardtop market.
Pros:
  • Affordable
  • Sleek
  • Roomy
Cons:
  • Long doors
  • Virtually no trunk room with top down
  • Some shakes and rattles

The 1957-59 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner was the last domestic car with a retractable metal hardtop, but the top was troublesome because technology didn't exist to make it reliable. There's no such problem with Pontiac's new G6 retractable hardtop.

The romantic-sounding Skyliner 4-seater drew small crowds when its top was lowered or raised, and the G6 retractable 4-seat hardtop draws stares when its top is being operated. It's the first modern American car with such a top, which was developed with Europe's convertible engineering specialist, Karmann Technical Development.

The new G6 "retractable" is the last trim level—at least for now—for the popular front-wheel-drive G6, which arrived about a year ago as a sedan. Since then, a coupe and high-performance GTP version have been added, with prices ranging from $16,365 to $23,065.

The G6 retractable is significantly more costly: There's a $27,865 GT base version and higher-performance $29,365 GTP trim level.

Lowest Cost Retractable
But the G6 retractable still is the lowest-cost such model from any automaker—at least until Volkswagen's new Eos hardtop convertible arrives this fall with a price that's said to cost about the same as the G6 retractable.

Modern retractable hardtops have been found only on luxury cars, such as the Cadillac XLR, Lexus SC 430, Mercedes-Benz SLK and Volvo C70. Such a top makes more sense now than in the 1950s because there is a greater emphasis on security, all-weather comfort and rollover protection.

The GT retractable has a 3.5-liter 201-horsepower V6, while the GTP retractable gets a 3.9-liter V6 with 227 horsepower and more torque.

At the push of a button, the retractable version of Pontiac's hardtop is transformed from a slick-looking coupe into an inviting convertible with a concealed hardtop in approximately 30 seconds—and changed back to a coupe in the same amount of time.

How It Works
A double-hinged trunk lid facilitates stowing the top. Opening like a conventional trunk to store cargo, the lid is reverse-hinged to accept the folding hardtop.

A hard tonneau cover automatically appears as part of the hardtop retraction process, so there is no visible top portion when the top is lowered—it just disappears in the storage compartment.

Predicted Reliability
Ford Skyliner owners sometimes found themselves with a half-open top that refused to automatically go completely down or up. So how reliable will the G6 retractable top be? Only time will tell, but Pontiac says the hardtop system was tested for 12,000 cycles without failure, about twice the average lifetime cycles of a typical convertible.

The G6 retractable must be in its automatic transmission's Park mode with a cargo net in place before the top can be lowered. Pontiac says trunk space is a reasonable (for this type of car) 12.6 cubic feet with the top up but only 2.2 cubic feet with it lowered. In other words, the trunk nearly disappears with the top lowered.

Roomy Back Seat
But then, a twosome can always toss cargo in the two rear bucket seats, which are roomy enough for two 6-footers—unusual for a 4-seat convertible. Most such convertibles—with hard or soft-tops—have little rear seat space for adults.

The Lexus SC 430 retractable hardtop looks awkward because of its long rear end, which is needed to house its lowered top. But the G6 retractable could pass for a conventional sleek coupe.

Pontiac says no interior or exterior styling sacrifices were made to use the hydraulically driven retractable hardtop system, which incorporates a clamshell design that works harmoniously with the styling. For one thing, the back window was designed to "flow" into the rear deck.

The G6 retractable is well-equipped. One enticing option is the Premium package, which contains items such as leather seats. Front-seat side airbags and a remote engine starter are separate options.

The best G6 retractable performance is with the 3.9 V6 because the GT weighs a hefty 438 pounds more than a regular G6 coupe and the GTP is nearly 500 pounds heavier. The added weight is from the roof mechanism and extra bracing to stiffen the chassis.

Despite its weight, my test G6 GT retractable provided swift merges into fast freeway traffic and quick 65-75 mph passing maneuvers.

Both V6 engines work with a responsive 4-speed automatic transmission (no manual gearbox is offered) and use regular grade fuel.

The GT delivers an estimated 19 mpg in the city and 27 on highways, while the 3.9 isn't far behind at 18 and 26.

Steering should be smoother, but is quick. The rather firm suspension with rear monotube shock absorbers provides good handling with the large 18-inch wheels. But the G6 retractable is more of a relaxed cruiser than a car for tackling winding roads. A traction control system is standard for the GT, while the GTP has a stability control system.

Large, heavy duty all-disc brakes provide strong stopping power and have a linear pedal action for smooth stops.

Few Shakes or Rattles
The G6 retractable feels heavy, but drives smoothly. It's pretty rigid with a quiet interior with the top up, partly because of a special acoustic insulation package. But there are some minor shakes and squeaks with the top down on moderately rough streets.

It's an open question as to if major shakes or rattles eventually develop. For now, though, most drivers should be impressed with the car's solidity. There is little wind buffeting in the front seats at 65 mph, when the engine loafs at 1900 rpm.

Long Doors
Large outside door handles are easily grasped, but long, heavy doors can be a hassle in tight parking spots. However, they help allow easier entry to the rear-seat area if there is enough room to open them widely.

The stylish, arrow-shaped rearview mirrors provide decent side vision, although thick windshield posts can partly obstruct visibility. Gauges can be read quickly, and major controls are large and easy to use.

The ignition switch is thoughtfully put on the dashboard so a driver need not grope for it on the steering column. Dual front console cupholders are positioned to avoid spills, but the fold-down one-piece plastic cupholder for rear occupants looks cheap.

The long-term success of the G6 retractable hardtop depends on acceptance of its versatility, security and safety. But, just as it took courage for Ford to offer a retractable hardtop in the 1950s, Pontiac should be applauded for offering an affordable retractable in the new century.

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BB05 - 4/23/2014 9:18:18 AM