Pontiac G6 Sedan – 2007 Review: For all of GM’s newfound focus on product, it seems the Pontiac division has been forgotten. Except for the Solstice, a pale imitation of a Corvette crossed with a Miata, in recent years Pontiac dealers have received nothing in terms of hot new cars. The G5? A better looking Cobalt. The Torrent? An appealing remake of the Equinox. Until the ultra-cool G8 comes for 2008, Pontiac leans on the G6 Sedan to drive the bulk of its sales. Going up against heavy hitters in the most populous segment of all, the Pontiac G6 Sedan proves itself a useful and sometimes entertaining tool but far from class-leading, which is probably why we found a wide selection of test samples at Boston Logan’s Alamo lot.
What we Drove
We rented a Liquid Silver Metallic G6 with a Sport Package including a 3.5-liter V6, handsome 17-inch alloy wheels, a lip spoiler, and fog lights. Our $20,920 car also had a roster of equipment including power windows, power door locks with remote keyless entry, power mirrors, and a power height adjuster for the driver’s seat. Air conditioning, cruise control, a CD player, and side curtain airbags rounded out the list of interior amenities, giving our G6 everything it needed and nothing it didn’t. Every G6 also comes with a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. We drove the car 600 miles in New England, round-trip from Boston to Cape Cod and the south-central coast of Maine.
Equipped with the mid-grade powertrain choice, a 3.5-liter V6 connected to a four-speed automatic transmission, the Pontiac G6 Sedan’s calling card is fuel efficiency. The engine, delivering 224 horsepower to the front wheels, is gutsy enough but not as strong or refined as the primary competitors’. The trade-off is good fuel economy: we averaged 25.7 mpg during our trip, smack in the middle of the EPA’s 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway rating. The four-speed automatic is down a cog or two on the competition, but we rarely found it detrimental to the G6’s drivability because it’s geared to deliver lively off-the-line acceleration.
Appropriately, since Pontiac is assigned the position of GM’s performance division, the G6 Sedan features a firm, controlled ride with little squat, dive, and roll when accelerating, braking, and turning. The brake pedal is responsive and easy to modulate, too, and our test sample’s Sport Package replaced the standard, lifeless electrically-assisted steering with a reasonably quick conventional hydraulic unit. Though not quite fun to drive, the G6 is well balanced, successfully masking its inherent forward weight bias but never quite feeling playful in the manner of, say, a Mazda 6. Big bumps can unsettle the G6, but smaller anomalies get soaked up by the suspension and relatively long wheelbase.
In a rear crash, passengers will appreciate the large head restraints perched atop the back seat, but when they’re not in use they block visibility. Since the G6 Sedan’s rear window is steeply raked and the deck is tall, this can make relying on the giant side mirrors almost a necessity when backing up. Forward visibility is excellent, and blind spots are almost non-existent thanks to the large, triangular side mirrors. The rear roof pillars are not wide enough to make reversing from slanted parking spaces difficult.
Fun to Drive
A firm suspension, wide 17-inch wheels, responsive four-wheel-disc brakes, and a punchy engine are important ingredients in a sport sedan, but do not a sport sedan make. The Pontiac G6 is a respectable and roomy four-door, and could even be called entertaining at times, but GM has a ways to go before people who love the journey as much as the destination clamber from behind the G6’s wheel and proclaim it to be a fun car to any and all who will listen.
The fundamentals for excellent front seat comfort are in place within the Pontiac G6. The seats are nicely shaped, with good bolstering for sides and thighs. The driver’s chair comes with power height adjustment and a manual lumbar support, the steering wheel is tilt and telescopic, the upper door panel sill is soft to touch and friendly to elbows, and the upholstery is a durable twill fabric. So what’s the problem? Thinly padded armrests that are placed too low for comfort, a urethane steering wheel with an oddly shaped rim, and a door sill that is too high for long-distance comfort compromise the experience.
All that’s missing to optimize rear seat comfort in the Pontiac G6 is a center fold-down armrest. This sedan features plenty of leg room, decent foot and toe room, adequate thigh support, and a supportive seat cushion. Kids won’t like the views of the door panels, and they’ll have a tough time reaching the cupholders when wearing seatbelts, but the twin storage nets on the backs of the front seats can hold all manner of coloring books, Game Boys and portable DVD players.
Wind noise isn’t as much an issue with the Pontiac G6 Sedan as is road roar. There’s little isolation from the suspension and tires, though our test sample was squeak and rattle free with 21,000 rental miles on the odometer.
Pontiac has given the G6 Sedan an accommodating 14 cu.-ft. trunk, but the opening is small and the liftover height to clear the bulging rear bumper is substantial. Plus, the lid is supported by gas-filled struts, and closing it is difficult because Pontiac forgot to include any sort of assist handle or grip on the inside of the unfinished, bare-metal lid.
Considering how tight the Pontiac G6’s body panel gaps are and the fact that the test sample was from a rental rather than media fleet, we’d say the build quality was quite good. The most egregious exterior problems included warped plastic for the driver’s side mirror base and misaligned beltline trim on the driver’s side. Inside, the headliner fit above the driver’s door was rumpled, the upper right corner of the glove box didn’t fit flush with the dashboard, and the chintzy plastic trim on the front passenger door grip was sloppily installed. Otherwise, the G6’s assembly quality was easily on par with Honda, Nissan, and Toyota.
Generally, the materials inside the Pontiac G6 Sedan are good if not class leading. Where many competitors use hard plastic dashboards with airbag seams, the G6 has a soft-touch dash with a seamless airbag cover. The plastic center control panel surround is painted for a matte finish and a pleasing tactile quality, the headliner is a woven mesh fabric, and the twill upholstery looks good and proves durable. The chrome plastic accents and silver plastic décor could be improved and leather wrap for the steering wheel and shift knob would help tremendously, but otherwise we have no complaints.
With its long wheelbase, sleek roofline, bulbous rear end, protruding snout, and oversize headlights, the Pontiac G6 looks out of balance from several angles and rakishly handsome from others. Striking 17-inch, five-spoke wheels definitely help matters. Inside, the ambiance is dour when the car is equipped with a black interior. The chrome and silver trim helps break the monotony, but what our G6 really needed was a black-over-gray two-tone treatment to lighten up the cabin.
Pontiac needs to put more storage spots into the genuinely functional G6 Sedan. It lacks rear door panel bins, card clips, visor straps, and seat cushion pockets. It has a coin box, a good-size center console bin, large rubber-lined front cupholders, a rubber-lined tray in the dash, an average glove box, and medium-size bins in the front doors. Rear passengers get dual storage nets on the front seatbacks, and two shallow cupholders that deploy from the back of the center console.
Simple and straightforward, the stereo controls in our Pontiac G6 Sedan managed radio and CD functions. The display also showed trip computer data like average fuel economy and distance to empty along with the clock and the outside temperature. The G6 Sedan’s programmable features, such as whether the horn chirps when remote locking is used, can also be selected and set using the stereo display and function keys.
Our relatively basic Pontiac G6 Sedan came equipped with simple manual controls for the climate system with three easy knobs controlling temperature, fan speed, and air flow. Surrounding buttons managed defogging and defrosting features as well as air circulation and the air conditioning.
Power window, door lock, and mirror controls are housed right where the driver expects to find them on the left door panel. The power trunk release is also placed here, down low to avoid accidental activation. Cruise controls are on the steering wheel with buttons a little too small for larger fingers. The left stalk controls lights and signals, while the right stalk handles wiper functions. The hazard button is placed prominently on the upper dash near the air vents, and there are dual power ports located next to the lower storage tray. The G6 Sedan is well laid out and exceptionally easy to use.
Pontiac aims the G6 at a wide variety of competing midsize sedans, from the Dodge Avenger, Ford Fusion, and Saturn AURA to the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry. Even the Passat 2.0T is on the G6’s list of competitors, and Hyundai’s Sonata is the obvious alternative from Korea. Against such formidable foes, we’d rate the Pontiac preferable to the all-new Dodge but down a grade or two from the others on this list.