Now there’s the 2006 Pontiac Torrent SUV, which conjures up thoughts of a common saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Those cars of the 70s, 80s, and 90s are gone now and their buyers have likely moved on. But thoughts of that Fiero, and, oh, good grief, that Aztek…they remain. It’s enough to permanently banish Pontiac from the buying equation. Yet, with time, people change, priorities change, companies change, and cars change. Buyers with an open mind may have scratched over the name Pontiac with a #2 pencil, but there’s room to bring the brand back into the fray. Forgive and forget, as they say.
That’s where the shame on you part comes in. Like various Pontiacs of old, the 2006 Torrent comes with a competent powertrain, arguably good looks, and a price that puts it in the competitive ballpark. However, remove the blinders and discover alternatives with engines designed in the new millennium, style that is more than a plastic nose and badge away from a Chevy Equinox, decent real-world fuel economy, a long list of standard features and a more expansive list of options, and superior materials assembled with more attention to detail.
On the whole, the 2006 Pontiac Torrent is a fine vehicle, one that would have been somewhat impressive in 1995. However, we’re into the 2006 model year, a time when Toyota is introducing an all-new RAV4 with 268 horsepower and three rows of seats, Ford offers an Escape with up to 200 horsepower or a hybrid powertrain, Jeep sells the Liberty with true four-wheel-drive capability and an optional diesel engine, Hyundai sells two SUVs with 100,000-mile powertrain warranties and a bevy of airbags, and even little Suzuki sells a rugged, redesigned Grand Vitara that’s downright attractive and provides superior build quality. They are all options that buyers should strongly consider, and vehicles the folks at Pontiac should study.
Shoppers considering the purchase of a 2006 Pontiac Torrent can choose from two versions: A front-wheel-drive model that sells for $22,990 or one with all-wheel drive that sells for $24,890. Prices include a $590 destination charge.
Aside from the drivetrain, everything about these trims are exactly the same. Under the hood is a 3.4-liter, 12-valve V6 engine with overhead valves that provides 185 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 210 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,800 rpm. A five-speed automatic transmission manages power, and the powertrain allows the Torrent to tow up to 3,500 pounds. With only the front wheels being powered, the EPA estimates fuel economy of 19 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway, whereas all-wheel-drive models are expected to return 18 mpg and 23 mpg, respectively. Our 2006 Pontiac Torrent AWD test vehicle averaged a disappointing 15.6 mpg.
Move into the cabin to discover standard features such as air conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, a split-folding rear seat, a single-disc CD player, and the usual assortment of power features. Outside (and in some cases behind the scenes) are 16-inch alloy wheels and 235/65 tires, antilock brakes with vented front discs and rear drums, traction control, front fog lights, roof rails, and a fully-independent suspension featuring MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup out back.
There’s more to be had with the 2006 Pontiac Torrent, but it requires checking off a few options on the order sheet. That’s where one can opt for the Preferred Package, which includes handy doo-dads like cruise control, upgraded cloth seats, a leather steering wheel, and a roof rack, among other items. There’s also a Premium Package with leather upholstery and heated front seats; a Sun and Sound Package with a power moonroof, an upgraded sound system, and a six-disc CD changer; and individual packages that offer a rear cargo cover, XM satellite radio, 17-inch alloy wheels, and an MP3 player. Rounding out the add-ons are the Towing Package and the Security Package, complete with side-curtain airbags and OnStar telematics. Popular items like a navigation system and rear disc brakes are not offered.
As mentioned above, our tester was a 2006 Pontiac Torrent AWD model that carried a sticker price of $30,235. Added options included the 17-inch alloy wheels, the Preferred Package, the Premium Package, the Sun and Sound Package, the Security Package, and XM satellite radio. With an as-tested price cresting 30 grand, the Torrent looks and feels overpriced. Going light on the packages might seem like the answer, until you realize that to get the $250 heated front seats or side-curtain airbags in the $1,090 Security Package, Pontiac requires that you purchase the $1,555 Preferred Package. Buyers looking for value would be best served avoiding the options list altogether.
In an ideal world, SUVs would comfortably carry an abundance of passengers and gear, doing so with plenty of power, car-like handling and miserly fuel consumption. Unfortunately, there’s quite a void between what’s ideal and what’s real, and compromises like the 2006 Pontiac Torrent are the result.
With only 185 horsepower, one might assume that the Torrent’s biggest offense is a lack of giddyup. Not so. Surprisingly, the 3.4-liter V6 belies its meager output, allowing for easy city driving and comfortable highway passing, though it does run out of steam when pushed hard. The automatic transmission provides crisp shifts, and collectively powertrain noise is mostly subdued, even at high revs. Unfortunately, the relatively low power rating requires dipping deep into the throttle for the best response, a fact reflected in our disappointing result of 15.6 mpg.
Clearly, the 2006 Pontiac Torrent’s real-world fuel economy…well, think of what a vacuum cleaner does and you get the idea. On a more positive note, Pontiac’s SUV is a decent handler, exhibiting a well controlled amount of body roll and a speed-sensitive steering system that adds heft when necessary, making the Torrent somewhat enjoyable during spirited driving. However, this is an SUV, and a tall one at that, so fun can only be had at slower speeds and on wide corners – anything else can get scary. Push the Torrent in the turns and the optional 17-inch tires squeal, but hold on well and contribute to a comfortable ride in routine driving. Our tester’s AWD platform added a bit of stiffness, but it was far from harsh. Braking was easily modulated and effective, with no noticeable fade after several aggressive stops, and besides the muted engine, road and wind noise levels are pronounced. Visibility is helped by large mirrors and small rear headrests, but wide A-, C-, and D-pillars eat up valuable real estate.
It’s called incredulous. You know – the look on your face when sitting in a 2006 Pontiac Torrent, thinking it’s nice enough, and then learning that it comes with a sticker price north of thirty grand.
That’s the asking price for a fully-loaded, all-wheel-drive model with leather upholstery that feels substandard, an overabundance of hard plastic, a flimsy dash cap, and evident seams and rough edges at nearly every turn. However, it’s not all so bleak, for there’s a slightly rubberized panel that covers the center instruments and passenger-side airbag, and a nice mesh material is used on the visors and headliner. Make sure to focus on those things and tune out the creaking seats and interior panels, and keep your eyes on the road instead of nitpicking about large gaps around the dash and those oversized carpet cutouts around the seat frames showing the brightly painted body underneath. If you start to question your new ride’s build quality, just remember the big rebate that was part of the deal.
Dripping sarcasm aside, the 2006 Pontiac Torrent does offer a few pluses on the inside. Radio and climate control buttons are legible and easy to use; however, finding the power window switches and fog lights buttons on the center stack takes some getting used to. The front seats are comfortable, there’s a manual height adjustment for the driver, and our optional power seat included a manual lumbar feature, though that was largely ineffective. Padded armrests are on the doors and between the buckets, the latter offering a small storage space. A standard tilt steering wheel allows for easy entry and exit and the optional leather-wrapping is nice to the touch. Drivers in cooler climates will appreciate the quick action of the heated seats, and those seeking ultimate utility should enjoy the fold-flat front passenger seat. Rear passengers are subjected to a flat, stiff split bench seat that slides for maximum leg and foot room; headroom for all passengers is plentiful. Absent is a fold-down center armrests, but there’s one on each door panel.
Is the 2006 Pontiac Torrent safe? In tests performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the 2006 Pontiac Torrent received the top rating, five stars, for front and side impacts, with four out of five stars awarded for rollover protection.
Why does the 2006 Pontiac Torrent look so familiar? The 2006 Pontiac Torrent is a rebadged Chevrolet Equinox, an SUV that made its debut for the 2005 model year.
How does the 2006 Pontiac Torrent stack up against the competition? Not well. Most of the non-General Motors competitors offer more power with better fuel economy from advanced engines, some feature additional standard and optional features, a few include third-row seats, many are covered by better warranties, and vehicles like the Jeep Liberty and Suzuki Grand Vitara include true off-road capability. All of that, and comparable prices, too.
Test Vehicle: 2006 Pontiac Torrent AWD
Price of Test Vehicle: $30,235 (includes a $590 destination charge)
Engine Size and Type: 3.4-liter V6
Engine Horsepower: 185 at 5,200 rpm
Engine Torque: 210 lb.-ft. at 3,800 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Curb Weight, lbs.: 3,776
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 18/23 mpg
Observed Fuel Economy: 15.6 mpg
Length: 188.8 inches
Width: 71.4 inches
Wheelbase: 112.5 inches
Height: 69.3 inches
Legroom (front/rear): 41.2/40.2 inches
Headroom (front/rear): 40.9/40.1 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: 5
Max. Cargo Volume: 68.6 cu. ft.
Competitors: Buick Rendezvous, Chevrolet Equinox, Chrysler Pacifica, Ford Escape, Honda Element, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Liberty, Kia Sorento, Kia Sportage, Mazda Tribute, Mercury Mariner, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Murano, Saturn Vue, Subaru Forester, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Suzuki XL-7, Toyota RAV4, Toyota Highlander
2nd Opinion - Wardlaw
When I stepped into the silver metallic 2006 Pontiac Torrent and twisted the ignition key, I was pleasantly surprised by this new suv. My test vehicle was decked out in black leather, gray metallic trim, and chrome accents. On the XM satellite radio, “Watercolors” emitted mood music through the impressive speakers. Then, after adjusting the driver’s seat and mirrors, I selected ‘drive’ and headed out on a 30-mile journey. It didn’t take long for the Torrent’s Chevrolet Equinox genes to make themselves evident.
Fundamentally, the Equinox and its new Pontiac brother, the Torrent, are fine crossover suvs that blend the utility of a truck with the ride and handling of a car. The problem is with the execution, not the design.
For example, a 3.4-liter, 185-horsepower engine is under the hood. Why GM’s corporate 3.5-liter or 3.9-liter V6 motors are missing from the Torrent is a mystery to me. The Saturn Vue, which shares the Equinox/Torrent platform, gets a powerful Honda V6 good for almost 60 more horsepower. Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I thought Pontiac was the performance division at GM, not Saturn. Anyway, the Torrent’s engine works hard, and it’s loud, though wind and road noise battle for supremacy in the aural-annoyance championship. At least the Torrent’s numb electric steering features more heft off center than the Equinox, and the suspension is tighter. But because of the weak all-season rubber on the Poncho, the Torrent’s stiffer underpinnings serve mainly to create a tauter ride and reduce body roll.
Inside, the Torrent’s front seats are quite comfortable, making it a great place to sit while commuting and grocery getting, but the upper door panels are covered in elbow-unfriendly hard plastic. In fact, there’s lots of hard, deeply-grained plastic inside the Torrent, and the leather is rather dry and somewhat shiny in direct sunlight. The back seat is equally comfortable, with tons of leg and foot space, and like the Equinox, the rear bench can slide fore-and-aft to create more passenger or cargo room. Adding to comfort levels, getting into and out of this SUV is extremely easy. In back, a six-footer clears the tailgate for loading, and the back seats will fold down for maximum cargo capacity. But don’t try to slide anything too wide into this rig, because invasive shock tower covers limit the width of the floor.
Indeed, the Pontiac Torrent makes a handsome, comfortable, and useful family hauler. Just don’t expect much in the way of refinement from the driving experience or interior materials in exchange for what seems to be a rather steep price premium. – Christian J. Wardlaw
Photos courtesy of General Motors