For the past few years, New England has been the team to beat, and with a playoff spot all but wrapped up, it’s easy to see why the second stringers were employed. This is when slacking off a bit is acceptable – 80 percent will get the job done. But when your team is Pontiac, and your players include the Torrent SUV and Montana SV6 minivan, even the young Solstice convertible ain’t gonna be enough to put numbers on the board. Unfortunately, the all-new G6 Coupe does little for the offensive line, and gets bowled over on defense.
At a time when Pontiac is in dire need of some muscle, the 2006 G6 Coupe shows up weak and out of shape. Under the hood is a maximum of 240 horsepower, available in the super duper special GTP version, though that figure is four ponies shy of the Honda Accord Coupe, and represents 60 fewer horses than what’s offered in the Ford Mustang GT, a screaming value with a base price of about $25,000. The Pontiac G6 tries to up the ante with a sport suspension, optional airbags, and, most recently, a plan to lower sticker prices while still offering rebates. However, none of these items push the G6, with its mediocre build quality, lackluster performance, and generic design, into touchdown territory.
In the world of the 2006 Pontiac G6 Coupe, there are two choices: GT and GTP. Access to the GT starts at $21,790 including a $625 destination charge, and affords drivers a 3.5-liter, 12-valve V6 with overhead valves. Horsepower rolls on at 5,600 rpm and torque peaks at 3,200 rpm, measuring 201 and 222 respectively. A four-speed automatic directs power to the front wheels, and the EPA suggests that this powertrain will return 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. Also included on the GT coupe are standard features like air conditioning, a power driver’s seat, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, fog lights, a single-disc CD player, and a split folding rear seat. Behind the scenes are four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction control, a drive-by-wire steering system, and a fully independent suspension system with MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the rear. For a little extra coin buyers can outfit the 2006 Pontiac G6 GT Coupe with optional front-side and side-curtain airbags, a power sunroof, OnStar telematics, adjustable foot pedals, and heated leather seats. G6 fans might also be interested in the available six-disc CD changer, remote start system, steering wheel audio controls, or alloy wheels finished in either bright chrome or black chrome.
Though the GT can be dressed up with accessories, getting more muscle requires a bump up to the 2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Coupe, which starts at $23,490 with destination. Under the hood there’s a 3.9-liter, 12-vavle V6 with overhead valves and 240 horsepower cranking out at 6,000 rpm, with 241 lb.-ft. of twist available at 2,800 rpm. Like the GT, the GTP comes with a standard four-speed automatic transmission, but fuel economy drops to 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway; a six-speed manual, returning 18 mpg and 29 mpg, is optional. The GTP’s standard features list mirrors that of the G6 GT Coupe, with the addition of 18-inch alloy wheels wearing 225/50 all-season tires, automatic climate control, a subwoofer, stability control, three months of complimentary XM satellite radio service, and dual chrome exhaust tips. A sport-tuned suspension is added for some extra verve, and a variable-assisted rack-and-pinion steering unit replaces the GT’s drive-by-wire system for more response. Unique options include 225/50 performance tires and bright 18-inch alloy wheels.
We spent a week in a 2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Coupe with a host of options, including front-side and side-curtain airbags, adjustable pedals, OnStar, heated leather seats, and the six-disc CD changer. All told, our test car’s sticker read $28,585, overpriced when compared to a 2006 Honda Accord EX Coupe with a 244-horsepower V6 and a full cache of options for $27,950. However, with GM’s lowered sticker prices, our G6 tester would now retail for about $27,000 including the current $500 rebate, so while the Pontiac may not be competitive in most areas, at least it offers a slight price advantage.
Try as you might, there’s no changing a zebra’s stripes. In relevant terms, the 2006 G6 GTP Coupe proves there’s no turning a midsize, front-drive Pontiac into an entertaining ride.
To be fair, that depends on one’s definition of entertaining. Drivers who enjoy an overly-sensitive throttle that will spin the front tires with the slightest provocation and a transmission that snaps to attention when accelerating from a slow speed, well, the G6 GTP coupe is patiently waiting to be rescued from your local Pontiac dealer. The 3.9-liter V6 offers adequate power for most occasions, including highway passes, but all 240 horses become winded and raucous when pushing the engine aggressively. Under normal driving conditions, the 2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Coupe emits a droning engine noise. As the most powerful offering in the lineup, the GTP’s bigger six-cylinder performs short of expectations, and our paltry 19.1-mpg average fuel economy number failed to offset the dearth of oomph. For its part, the four-speed automatic performs well, though shifts are abrupt during the “go” part of stop-and-go traffic, and the sloppy manual mode is as enticing as a keg of O’Douls at a frat party.
Equally unimpressive are the G6’s brakes, which do a fine job in regular traffic, though the pedal requires more effort than other cars in this class. Hit the back roads, and the four-wheel disc setup loses potency quickly, leading to noticeable fade during spirited runs through the corners and downhill. It’s during those times when the steering wheel is being sawed back and forth that drivers will discover the G6 Coupe’s mediocre handling. The Goodyear Eagle LS tires quietly lose grip in tight turns as understeer and increasing body roll take their toll. Mind you, this is with the GTP’s “sport” suspension. In the twisties, our test car’s front suspension and speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering felt unrefined and rough, as though not every bolt had been tightened and it wasn’t quite ready for prime time. A constant whine from what we’re guessing was overworked power steering pump certainly didn’t add any level of confidence.
By now, it should be obvious that the sport-tuned 2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Coupe prefers to steer clear of anything but the well-beaten commuter and grocery-getter paths. In that environment, road irregularities are quelled nicely with little disruption felt through the steering wheel, though the system feels floaty and disconnected when traversing large bumps. The result is a vehicle that is a perfectly competent everyday driver, but if Pontiac’s marketing and all of the “sport” references have you thinking the G6 Coupe is an athletic performer, don’t believe the hype – this is not a fun car to drive, especially given the poor outward visibility.
Expecting maximum comfort from a two-door coupe is like looking to Paris Hilton for intellectual conversation – you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Be that as it may, the 2006 Pontiac G6 Coupe aims to offer four passengers a semblance of comfort, and, to some degree, succeeds.
Front seat passengers are treated to spacious buckets with lengthy bottom cushions and decent side bolsters. Padded armrests on the door panels and between the seats are well-placed, and soft upper door sills provide a soft spot for resting arms. A tilt and telescoping steering wheel allows the driver to configure a suitable position, a manual lumbar knob on the front of the seat adjusts the back cushion for proper support, and optional heat toasts the front passengers’ undersides quickly. On the flip side, the seatback feels straight and stiff, despite the lumbar feature, and the bolsters aren’t enough to keep knees from rubbing against door panels and the center console in hard corners. Getting in and out is a simple affair, though the large doors need a wide parking space to fully open.
Entry and exit to the rear seat, a two-passenger bucket setup with a permanent plastic center console, is aided by a front passenger seat that slides forward and grab handles integral to the B-pillars. The seatback is set at a comfortable recline angle, but it’s tight back there, with little headroom and legroom, though foot room is ample. The side panels are large expanses of shiny plastic with hard and miniscule armrests, and the rear passenger has to reach up to the release handle on the front passenger seat – no convenient foot release here.
Generous use of plastic and Pontiac badge notwithstanding, the 2006 G6 Coupe brings two words to mind: Toyota Solara. More than just being front-wheel-drive midsized coupes, both feature ascending beltlines and wrap-around tails, as well as large shiny headlights and similar overall dimensions. The upcoming Pontiac G6 Convertible promises to pay even more homage to the competing Solara.
Unfortunately, the like design is only skin deep. Our G6 Coupe’s massive headlights were misaligned, as were the hood and the trunk lid. Aside from the questionable build quality, the 2006 Pontiac G6 Coupe’s exterior is nicely executed with the integrated rear spoiler, sharply wedged taillights, and that rising beltline that makes for wider, powerful-looking rear haunches. The G6’s face is accented by a mesh grille with chrome trim, and five-spoke alloys fill the wheel wells. A thin bodyside molding is a tasteful touch, but the mirror housings, comprised of several pieces of cheap black plastic, are begging to be replaced by better, body-color parts.
Inside, the 2006 Pontiac G6 Coupe features finer materials than found in previous models like the Grand Am, such as a matte black, rubberized dash cap, soft leather on the steering wheel and door inserts, and a quality mesh headliner. While there is generous use of plastic in the cabin, most of it feels durable. However, points were deducted for loose pillar covers and irregular gaps around the dash and glovebox.
Visually, the G6’s interior is simple but attractive, with fewer pieces used to create the smooth dash and instrument panel; the hodgepodge of panels and bits and pieces in past Pontiacs are thankfully absent. Radio and climate controls are intuitive and within easy reach, though audio buttons on the steering wheel are a challenge for drivers with meaty fingers. Chrome shines on the shifter handle, gauge and vent rings, and door handles, whereas fake wood trim, looking out of place in a sports-oriented coupe, decorates the center console. Our tester wore two-tone tan/brown leather on the front seats, yet the rear buckets were solid tan.
That rear seat includes a split-folding backrest, granting access to the 11 cubic-foot trunk. Of course, that’s assuming the front seats have been moved forward to clear room for the rear headrests. Latches for the folding seat are deep in the trunk, requiring a long reach and leaning against a potentially dirty bumper. Add in the high liftover height, and the G6 Coupe’s cargo area design looks less than impressive. On the plus side, there are dual cargo nets for storing small provisions. The cabin features six cupholders, door storage pockets, and a few cubbies scattered about.
What kind of warranty coverage is offered with the 2006 Pontiac G6 Coupe? The 2006 Pontiac G6 Coupe comes with three years or 36,000 miles of basic and powertrain coverage and rust protection for six years or 100,000 miles. In comparison, Ford offers the same coverage for the 2006 Mustang, except rust protection spans five years and unlimited mileage. Honda and Toyota offer five years or 60,000 miles of powertrain coverage.
Is there a reason to buy the 2006 Pontiac G6 Coupe rather than a Honda Accord Coupe or Toyota Solara? There’s always the domestic approach, with the mentality being that buying a Pontiac is more American than, say, a Honda or Toyota. Of course, that only counts if you ignore the fact that the Accord Coupe and Solara are both built in the U.S. Then there’s the issue of styling, where some buyers may prefer the subtle differences offered on the G6. And last, but certainly not least, is the Pontiac’s newly lowered price. Are these reasons enough to justify buying the G6? Not if it’s our money being spent.
How does the 2006 Pontiac G6 Coupe perform in crash tests? In front crash impact tests performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 2006 Pontiac G6 Coupe received five out of five stars for the driver and four stars for the passenger. Five stars were also awarded for the vehicle’s rollover rating.
Test Vehicle: 2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Coupe
Price of Test Vehicle: $28,585* (includes a $625 destination charge)
Engine Size and Type: 3.9-liter V6
Engine Horsepower: 240 at 6,000 rpm
Engine Torque: 241 lb.-ft. at 2,800 rpm
Transmission: Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight, lbs.: 3,525
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 18/26 mpg
Observed Fuel Economy: 19.1 mpg
Length: 189.1 inches
Width: 70.4 inches
Wheelbase: 112.3 inches
Height: 56.4 inches
Legroom (front/rear): 42.2/37.6 inches
Headroom (front/rear): 38.9/36.3 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: 4
Max. Cargo Volume: 11 cu. ft.
Competitors: Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Ford Mustang, Honda Accord Coupe, Hyundai Tiburon, Toyota Camry Solara
* Prior to GM price changes. G6 Coupe prices have since been cut by about $1,100.
2nd Opinion - Wardlaw
Before driving our 2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Coupe test car, I overheard some editors discussing how cheap and unrefined it was inside. Perhaps for this reason, my expectations were low, but in my opinion there’s little to complain about. The Pontiac G6 Coupe is comfortable with a perfect driving position, and our well-equipped GTP model came swathed in soft perforated leather and tasteful two-tone décor accented by woodgrain, metallic, and chrome plastic trim. There’s nothing overtly cheap – or upscale, for that matter – about the plastics or the mesh cloth headliner, and to my eye the few textures and patterns that exist complement one another rather than battle for attention. And yes, I got in back, and the space is fine as long as your passengers are under six feet tall because the G6 Coupe’s rakish roofline seriously cuts headroom. In this respect, the G6 is much like the Infiniti G35 Coupe.
Driving character, however, is distinctly different from the pricier Infiniti. The Pontiac G6 is a front-driver, and in tight turns at speed its forward weight bias shows through understeer. Flatten the throttle from a standstill, and torque steer waggles the wheel under your fingertips, too. But the big tires do a terrific job of hiding the weight imbalance under most driving conditions, and while the 3.9-liter V6 isn’t as refined an engine as found in Japanese competitors such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry Solara, it’s a noticeably stronger motor than the 3.5-liter under the hood of the G6 GT. If I could change anything about the G6 GTP’s driving character, it would be brake pedal feel and modulation. While improved over those old GM dead pedals of yore, the G6 could use a softer pedal with more travel.
Styling is an improvement over the rather ungainly G6 sedan thanks to a better balanced rear end, and I like this car more than its primary competitors, the Accord Coupe and Camry Solara. The GTP’s simple but gorgeous wheels go a long way toward making the G6 a good looking ride.
Design and driving character shouldn’t keep customers out of Pontiac showrooms when it comes to the G6 GTP, but value is in scant supply. Resale worth is likely to pale in comparison to Honda and Toyota, refinement levels lag those two market leaders, and while GM has improved reliability over recent years, it would be nice if they’d provide people some peace-of-mind with a longer warranty. Blackett did the math and determined that with GM’s recent price cuts in January, our test car would now run about $27,000 after the $500 rebate. That’s better than the original sticker on our G6 GTP Coupe, but I need another two grand on the hood for this car to even think about keeping me away from a Ford showroom and out of a Mustang GT’s driver’s seat.
Photos courtesy of Ron Perry