2008 Pontiac Solstice GXP Review


By Brendan Moore

08.15.2008

The first day of the week-long time I had the Pontiac Solstice GXP, one of the residents of my neighborhood told me he really liked the way the Solstice looked and asked me what kind of car it was. I told him it was a Pontiac and he expressed surprise at that, saying he couldn’t believe the little convertible was a Pontiac. “It looks Italian to me”, he said, somewhat shocked.

“But is it a real sports car”, he asked, “Or is it a sheep in wolf’s clothing?”

You know, it is a real sports car. That means it brings with it all the good and bad points of a real sports car.

It’s small and cramped for a guy that is my slightly above average size (6 ft, 210 lbs., or, 95.25 kg, 1.83 meters), it has virtually no storage in the cabin, and very little in the trunk when the top is down, and it’s not a great car for commuting because it’s a pain to drive it in slow heavy traffic.

But, it’s fast, courtesy of its 260 hp. It’s nimble because it has a great suspension setup on its rear-wheel-drive platform. It talks to you as you drive it. It gives you tactile pleasure as you steer and use the manual gearbox. It provides extra aural and visual stimuli with the convertible top down. It’s exciting to drive. It’s great to look at from any angle. I’ve owned real sports cars; British and Italian cars from the Fifties and Sixties, American pony cars from the Sixties and early Seventies and German cars from the Seventies until now. This is one of those cars, a real sports car, a modern sports car like a Mazda Miata or a Honda S2000. Yeah, I know – a Pontiac. Who would have thought even five years ago that Pontiac would make an actual sports car?

However, they did and here we are.

The suspense is over as you have probably inferred that I like the car, but that’s not all of it. I like the way it looks and the way it drives and I like the value it represents in terms of bang for the buck.

How many bucks for this kind of bang? The car I tested was $30,320 on the MSRP, and for that price, you get everything you would reasonably expect in a new little sports car (four-wheel disc brakes, four-wheel independent suspension, etc.), plus:

260 hp 2.0 liter turbocharged DI VVT DOHC four-cylinder Ecotec engine
Power windows/locks/mirrors, remote keyless entry
Premium package that includes leather seat surfaces
AC
18” chrome wheels
High performance audio with seven speakers and XM Satellite radio
Cruise control and driver info center console with steering wheel controls
Projector beam-type fog lamps
Four-wheel ABS with electronic stability system and limited slip differential
Performance-tuned suspension bits

The Solstice GXP is rated at 22 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway by the EPA, and Pontiac says you need to put premium gasoline in the tank. The Solstice is produced in Wilmington, Delaware.

I didn’t spend a lot of time on the highway while I had the Solstice; I went out of my way to push the car through corners possessed of a decreasing radius, wide, sweeping flat curves, and various switchbacks. The 260 hp engine is more than willing to answer the bell in every situation, and the suspension is sure-footed and inspires confidence.

I didn’t get the EPA suggested fuel economy, but I was on the car all the time, booting it along pretty good. The Solstice GXP will do 0-60 times all day long in under six seconds, even for a driver of average skill, and it is difficult to keep your foot out of it as you’re wringing it out on the secondary roads. The power is addictive.

Did I mention it’s lovely to look at? It is, without being cutesy so you don’t run the risk of driving around a car that people refer to as a “chick car” (see VW Beetle Cabriolet). I prefer the look of the Solstice to its corporate cousin, the Saturn Sky, but I am definitely in the minority on that – most people consider the Sky a more successful design in terms of aesthetic appeal.

Would I buy one?

Nope. I had a blast driving it, but I just can’t see myself driving it every day. First off, I need less personal avoirdupois in order to be comfortable in the car. Second, I want a little more steel around me. Three, I need to carry things once in awhile in the trunk and with the top down, all you have to work with is 2.1 cubic feet of storage back there. Lastly, although I like convertibles, the reality is that I actually put the top down very little while I own one. It’s too cold or it’s too hot or it’s raining or my wife doesn’t want to get her hair messed up because we’re going out to dinner, or whatever.

All of these drawbacks together mean that I’m probably driving the thing 2-3 times a month, max. And I don’t have extra 30k to spend on that sort of infrequent pleasure. For my personal situation, I’d be better off spending a little more and getting a sports car large enough (which is only a little bit larger than the Solstice) for me to drive comfortably on a daily basis, and frankly, there is no way I would buy any convertible with a soft top as a daily driver.

All this personal preference aside, it’s a great, rorty little beast, and if this sort of car suits your particular physical dimensions and your way of life, it’s a good choice. Lots of performance at a reasonable price, great looks, and unlike my past Italian and British convertible sports cars, the roof doesn’t leak and the electrics won’t fail after, say, 4000 miles.

It’s definitely worth mentioning that, for those of you that may want a small powerful sports car like the Pontiac Solstice GXP that is not a convertible, Pontiac is launching a coupe version of the Solstice in 2009. I’ve seen it in the metal; it is stunningly attractive, and also features a targa-panel roof. I personally am very interested in the car because it has a bit more headroom, and that little bit may be just enough to make me a buyer. If you’re not a convertible type of person, you might be in the same camp.


COPYRIGHT Autosavant.net – All Rights Reserved

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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4 Comments

  1. Instead of using the Camaro’s Zeta platform, which is clearly too big and heavy for the likes of 35-mpg CAFE, GM should build a new Firebird off the Kappa platform. Four inches more wheelbase to pretend the rear seat is usable and retro styling –as Jeremy Clarkson might say, how hard can it be?

    For the next Trans Am a modified ECU and/or a bigger turbo ought to be enough to boost output to 300 bhp. Such a car ought to be easily 500 pounds lighter than the portly Camaro.

    I also think Chevy should have built the Kappa-based Nomad concept they showed. Done right it would have been as cool as the Mini Cooper. It’s not too late (or is it?).

  2. Not just head room, you’ll get all the storage area of the hatch in the forthcoming Coupe. I’m interested in that car, too.

    I like driving a convertible, but not enough to pick it over a hardtop.

  3. anonymous got a point there with the Kappa platform. Althought there is a rumor then GM work on a “Kappa II” platform also known as “Alpha platform” for small RWD cars who’s planned also for small RWD sedans and wagons.

    Also Anonymous is right on the target about the Nomad concept-car. If Chevy don’t want to built it (maybe because it might interfere with the HHR), let’s make it as a Pontiac, Pontiac had its own counterpart of the 1955-57 Nomad known as Safari (that reminds me of a sketch then I did about what if Pontiac did a “Safari Kappa”)

    Then, for this Nomad how about making it as a Buick or Saturn or even a Cadillac? (Long before the CTS Sport-wagon or the European BLS, some aftermarket specialists done some Caddy wagons)

  4. I forgot to add, there some other Cadillac who was customized into wagons and other bodies styles. After some reflexion, perhaps it’s a bit too far-fetched to imagine a “Kappa Caddy” but I think it could fit Buick a bit more as the new “Special” or “Skylark” (as a nod to the 1953-54 Skylark convertibles or “Wildcat” or even a new name like“Raven” (that’s a fanart from someone who imagined a “what if” about what if Buick got its own version of the 1st-gen F-body and you can view some of his other works at http://www.whatifcars.com, come to think of it, I begin to imagine a Buick version of the Kappa Platform)

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