Pontiac drops the top on its hot new ride
IntroductionBring on the redesigned 2006 Mazda Miata – show us what ya got!
With the exception of the Chevy Corvette, it’s been quite awhile since General Motors has been able to cop an attitude like that. There’s the thoroughly capable Pontiac GTO, but its lackluster styling has left the buying public polarized. From that GTO to the Chevrolet HHR, GM has been criticized for either missing the mark or bringing a product to the market unfashionably late.
That all may change with the 2006 Pontiac Solstice. We’ll reserve our final opinions until after a test drive, but from what we’ve seen thus far, this first-ever Pontiac roadster ain’t screwing around. It wouldn’t have been a stretch to expect a new GM model like the Solstice to show up unprepared for battle with the outgoing 2005 Miata, let alone the thoroughly updated 2006 model. But the Solstice stands ready to compete with today’s Mazda Miata, and it’s ready for the redesigned 2006 MX-5.
Will the 2006 Pontiac Solstice beat down its competitors? It’s too early to tell. But whichever company rolls away the victor, at least it will have been a fair fight.
Pontiac’s 2006 Solstice roadster rides on GM’s so-called Kappa platform. Running along the center of the Solstice is a tunnel, inside which reside the transmission and driveshaft. GM engineers claim that this design makes for a stiff structure that limits body flex.
Under the 2006 Pontiac Solstice’s skin is a rack-and-pinion steering system and a fully independent suspension setup. Bolted on both front and rear are short/long-arm suspensions, featuring Bilstein shocks and stabilizer bars.
Standard on the 2006 Pontiac Solstice is a manual soft top that folds neatly under the rear clamshell lid. Incorporated into the cloth top is a glass rear window with defroster.
Powering the 2006 Pontiac Solstice is a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that rides on hydraulic mounts and features variable valve timing. This all-aluminum, dual overhead cam powerplant cranks out 177 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 166 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm.
Power for the 2006 Pontiac Solstice is delivered to the rear wheels by a standard five-speed manual transmission. For drivers with an aversion to clutches, the Solstice can be outfitted with a five-speed automatic transmission.
Running on premium fuel (recommended), the 2006 Pontiac Solstice is expected to return 20 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 23 mpg in mixed driving. Of course, keep the hammer down to extract all 177 horses and those figures will surely drop fast.
At 2,860 pounds, the 2006 Pontiac Solstice is about 300-400 pounds heavier than the redesigned Mazda MX-5. However, with a near-50/50 distribution, the Solstice carries that weight well.
Among the list of standard features on the 2006 Pontiac Solstice are sport seats, three cupholders, a leather-wrapped shifter, tilt steering wheel, and a six-speaker sound system with a single-disc CD player.
When it comes to roadsters, it’s all about the driving experience. However, for buyers interested in upping the amenity ante, Pontiac has you covered. The 2006 Solstice can be equipped with air conditioning; an MP3 player; an in-dash, six-disc CD player; a seven-speaker Monsoon sound system; XM satellite radio; and OnStar telematics.
In addition to the stand-alone options on the 2006 Pontiac Solstice, there are three package groups. The Power Package includes keyless entry and power locks, power mirrors, and power windows. Included in the Convenience Package are fog lights, cruise control, and a driver information display. The Premium Package offers leather seats and steering wheel-mounted radio controls.
Want space to carry more than a few grocery bags or a small duffle bag? Better consider almost any car other than the 2006 Pontiac Solstice – cargo volume is a miniscule 3.8 cubic feet.
Stuffed into the wheel wells of the 2006 Pontiac Solstice are five-spoke, 18-inch aluminum wheels shod in P245/45R18 Goodyear Eagle RSA tires. Polished alloy wheels, also measuring 18 inches, are optional.
Behind those 18-inch alloy wheels are disc brakes measuring 11.7 inches in the front and 10.9 inches in the rear. Antilock brakes are optional on the 2006 Pontiac Solstice.
In an effort to cut costs, GM pulled some items from the family parts bin when building the 2006 Pontiac Solstice. The red and white reverse lights, for example, were originally designed for the GMC Envoy SUV. Other parts, including the door handles, seats, and engine are also shared with other vehicles sold under the GM umbrella.
With the soft cloth top fastened overhead, passengers riding inside the 2006 Pontiac Solstice are granted 38.5 inches of headroom, 42.7 inches of legroom, 52.4 inches of shoulder room, and 50.6 cubic inches of hip room. Total passenger room measures 54 cubic feet. In comparison, the 2006 Mazda MX-5 offers almost an extra inch of shoulder room, yet cuts headroom by more than an inch.
The 2006 Pontiac Solstice is available in seven different exterior colors, each named for the attitude they portray rather than their specific hue. Pictured here is Sly, known as gray to most of us. As a service to you, we’re listing English translations of Solstice color names: Aggressive means red; Cool refers to silver; Deep will get you blue; Envious makes your Solstice green; on dark and spooky nights, Mysterious is black; and Snow White ordered her Solstice in Pure.
Sporty gauges, finished with silver accent rings, rest directly behind the 2006 Pontiac Solstice’s three-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel. On the left is a speedo that runs up to 140 mph, and on the right is a tachometer that illustrates the Solstice’s 7,000-rpm redline.
Similar to competitors like the Mazda MX-5 and Honda S2000, the 2006 Pontiac Solstice roadster features a front-mounted engine that drives the rear wheels. A limited-slip rear differential is optional.
The Pontiac Solstice made its official debut in concept form at the 2002 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. By 2004, GM had received enough positive support for the Solstice to warrant moving the concept to production. Introduced as a 2006 production model, the Pontiac Solstice is built in GM’s Wilmington, Delaware assembly plant.
If this is the new face of Pontiac, we’re impressed. Gone is the body cladding on the outside and the overwhelming number of buttons on the dash, replaced by smooth body lines and a simple interior design.
Pricing for the 2006 Pontiac Solstice starts at $19,995, which includes a $575 destination charge. Pontiac started taking orders in April 2005, but the vehicles won’t start arriving on dealers’ lots until late summer/early fall 2005.
Photos courtesy of General Motors