With the release of the 2007 Solstice GXP, Pontiac has effectively stapled shut the flapping mouths of incessant naysayers. Between the staples, we're still able to get out muffled complaints about the cheap materials and questionable fit and finish, though our babble is basically drowned out by the GXP's sweet exhaust note. Under the hood resides a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine good for 260 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, which Pontiac claims pushes the GXP to 60 mph in only 5.5 seconds, tapping out at a drag-limited 142 mph. Plus, it's all wrapped in the same sexy package that attacks curves and autocross tracks with tenacity. If you, like us, have been waiting for Pontiac performance to mean more than an Aussie-bred GTO, it's time to check out the Solstice GXP.
With its base price of $26,995 (including a $600 destination charge), the 2007 Pontiac Solstice GXP carries a $5,000 premium over the entry-level model. Most of that covers the upgraded powertrain and hardware, though there are also quite a few features found on the GXP that are either unavailable or optional on the base Solstice. Those items include cruise control; carpeted floor mats; power door locks, power windows, and power mirrors; keyless entry; and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. Buyers of the GXP also benefit from 18-inch polished alloy wheels rolling on 245/45 Goodyear Eagle F1 performance rubber, front fog lights, a special indicator for engine oil quality, and less obvious items like four-wheel antilock disc brakes, a rear limited-slip differential, and GM's Stabilitrak stability control system.
Besides these unique features, the GXP shares with its less-expensive sibling a tilt steering column, a single-disc CD player, a glass rear window sewn into the soft convertible top, and automatic headlights. Options consist of upgraded sound systems with an MP3 player, XM satellite radio, a six-disc CD changer, or Monsoon premium audio; OnStar; a Premium Package with leather seats and interior trim; a rear spoiler; and alloy wheels finished in either silver or chrome. Surprisingly, air conditioning, standard on all but the cheapest of today's models, is optional on the GXP.
Nuts and Bolts
When the Pontiac Solstice was first launched, company officials were adamant about the base price – it must be below $20,000. That allowed the Solstice's style to make it to market, though quality was questionable and performance from its 177-horsepower four-banger was less than exhilarating.
Prices have inched up since that initial launch, and with an extra $5,000 padded onto the sticker, GM gave itself some breathing room on the GXP version. Consider it an example of You Get What You Pay For. Instead of the base's overwhelmed 2.4-liter powerplant, the Solstice GXP gets a turbocharged, 16-valve, aluminum four-cylinder with dual overhead cams. Horsepower reaches 260 at 5,300 rpm with an equal amount of torque unleashed on the rear wheels at only 2,500 rpm. Plus, petrol hoarders should be content, as the increased output only knocks EPA-rated highway fuel economy down to 27 mpg, or one mpg less than the base Solstice's 28 mpg. Of course, that requires driving with a light foot, a habit the GXP does not foster.
Behind the 2007 Pontiac Solstice GXP's unique 18-inch alloy wheels is the same four-wheel disc brake setup, though this application the system is supported by standard ABS. Rack-and-pinion steering is carried over from the existing Solstice, but the suspension system has been retuned and the stabilizer bars increased in diameter.
From a visual perspective, very little separates the turbocharged GXP from the normally-aspirated 2007 Pontiac Solstice, so if you love the styling, as many do, and don't mind the awkward top that swallows every bit of storage capacity when stowed, as many do, the Solstice GXP might be your perfect ride.
Though the finishes are different, all Solstice models roll on 18-inch alloy wheels and the exterior styling is almost identical. However, the keen observer will notice the GXP's revised front fascia, accented by an additional lower grille and enlarged turn signal cutouts, which like the main grille, feature a black egg crate finish. The rear fascia is standard issue across the Solstice line, though it is decorated with a chrome GXP badge below the right taillight and dual exhaust pipes that serve as bookends to the lower black egg crate insert. It's an especially attractive ride from a distance, but get up close and you'll notice wide and irregular gaps, suggesting that Pontiac still needs some practice with fit and finish.
Interior enhancements are similarly minimal, largely confined to GXP lettering on the integrated headrests, floor mats, and speedometer. Our particular test car, dunked in Aggressive (a.k.a. red) paint, also featured an optional black leather interior with red stitching on the seats and shift knob. Hard plastics, used liberally throughout the cabin, offer a less than perfect fit, though our particular GXP's interior build quality was markedly improved versus previous Solstices we've driven.
Ah, what a difference a turbo makes. This is what the Solstice should have been from day one. Finally, the powertrain fits the car. I said as much while discussing the GXP with a representative from Pontiac, who countered with the notion that, unlike himself and the slew of automotive journalists on hand, not everyone has the need for speed – for some folks, it's all about style. Blasphemy. Sure he's right, and for such people the GXP provides a smooth powertrain that's well suited to the daily commute, though the stiff suspension can be best described as a chiropractor's dream. However, if you've found yourself caught up in an article about a boosted roadster, chances are you and your downright reckless right foot are looking for more than a daily slogger.
A hard jump on the alloy gas pedal elicits lag in the lower rpms, making for a slow start in first gear as the dual-scroll turbocharger spools. After that, there's a quick but moderated release of power all the way up to about red line, which pegs at about 6,600 rpm. Boost peaks at 20 psi for short bursts, and can be sustained at 18 psi. The engine pulls very well through the rev range, and the 260 lb.-ft. of torque is usually enough to nullify the need to downshift, though a click to fourth starts to look good when things bog down at 50 mph in fifth gear. It seems the GXP is better suited to well-timed shifts rather than just leaving the tranny in second or third gear and wringing ‘er out. Thankfully, the five-cog box features short throws that make for quick gear changes and solid chirps of rear rubber, especially fun when dumping the easy-effort clutch for a click into second. The engagement is a bit notchy compared to class leaders like the Honda S2000; a sixth gear, standard on even the mainstream Nissan Versa, is absent; and the clunkiness we experienced in previous Solstice test cars is still evident.
If you can't feel that clunkiness, chances are you won't hear it either – you'll be too involved in listening to the tuned dual exhaust. It's sweet music, and is leagues ahead of the base Solstice in terms of refinement. Even the grainy, rough feel behind the pedal is gone. All told, the upgraded powertrain pushes the GXP to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds; top speed is estimated at 142 mph (drag limited). Braking remained fade-free after a morning of autocross abuse. Equally impressive are the 0.9 g's the Solstice GXP pulls on the slalom, according to Pontiac. That's due in large part to the stiff sport-tuned suspension and the car's wide, almost square foot print that keeps it firmly planted in the twisties, much like the well-bolstered sport buckets do for the driver and passenger. Add in responsive steering with plenty of road feel, and you've got the makings for a bundle of good times, whether on windy back roads or the local autocross track.
When can I buy a 2007 Pontiac Solstice GXP? The GXP is currently on sale, though chances are they'll go quickly and dealer markups are likely.
Isn't the Saturn Sky Red Line essentially the same car as the Pontiac Solstice GXP? According to GM, the two vehicles differ on several levels. The Sky has been tuned for a slightly softer ride and offers its own crisper styling. There's also a price difference – the Sky Red Line's base price is about $2,000 higher. And don't forget about the buying experience – both are marketed to different shoppers, some of whom may prefer Saturn's no-haggle approach to sales. However, in terms of powertrain and specifications, the Solstice GXP and Sky Red Line are nearly identical.
Does GM's new warranty program apply to the 2007 Pontiac Solstice GXP? Yes. In addition to a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and corrosion protection that spans six years or 100,000 miles, the GXP is backed by a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Test Vehicle: 2007 Pontiac Solstice GXP
Base Price: $26,995 (includes a $600 destination charge)
Engine Size and Type: Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder
Engine Horsepower: 260 at 5,300 rpm
Engine Torque: 260 lb.-ft. at 2,500 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Curb Weight, lbs.: 2,976
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 20/27 mpg
Length: 157.2 inches
Width: 71.3 inches
Wheelbase: 95.1 inches
Height: 50.1 inches
Legroom: 42.7 inches
Headroom: 38.5 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: Two
Max. Cargo Volume: 5.4 cubic feet
Nissan 350Z Convertible
Saturn Sky Red Line
Photos courtesy of General Motors