What it Is
2009 Pontiac Vibe Preview – 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show: General Motors – it’s the automotive equivalent to the large American family. There are several kids (brands) who, thanks to a variety of strengths and weaknesses, fill a specific role. With large and powerful covered on multiple fronts, it has largely become the responsibility of small wagons like the Pontiac Vibe to address efficient yet entertaining utility. Sharing its platform with the 2009 Toyota Matrix, the updated Vibe tackles its responsibilities with more powerful engines, optional all-wheel drive, a more sporting demeanor, and a promise of higher quality. Sounds like a package designed to make its family proud.
By Thom Blackett
Photo Credit: Pontiac and Thom Blackett
Why it Matters
General Motors is seeing some success with products such as the Cadillac CTS and the Buick Enclave, and the upcoming launch of the G8 sedan suggests better times might also lie ahead for Pontiac. The Solstice has the convertible segment covered, and the G6, Torrent, and G5 address other buyers with a variety of needs. But it’s the Vibe that serves as the desirable product for younger buyers, and best serves the so-called active lifestylers with its affordability and style. Getting you while you’re young is imperative for car companies, and that’s just what Pontiac hopes to do with the more aggressive and powerful 2009 Vibe.
What’s Under the Hood
Buyers can choose from two four-cylinder engines – a 132-horsepower 1.8-liter available on the Base and a 158-horsepower 2.4-liter available on the Base and standard on the AWD and GT. The smaller engine is tied to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission; the 2.4-liter works with a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic, except in the case of the AWD (four-speed automatic). If that wasn’t confusing enough, rear suspension setups differ depending on the Vibe in question, though all get MacPherson struts up front. Go with the Base and you’ll enjoy a torsion beam out back, whereas the AWD and GT feature an independent double wishbone assembly.
What it Looks Like
If you’re familiar with the current Vibe, you’ll have no problem spotting the ’09 Vibe when it hits streets in the first half of 2008. That’s an interesting point, especially when you consider that all the sheet metal has been massaged, and the there’s a “faster windshield” – a ridiculous marketing term that means this puppy’s more aerodynamic. Buyers of the Base and AWD versions get standard 16-inch wheels with 17s available as an option; the GT comes standard with 18-inch alloys rolling on 215/45 performance rubber.
Like the exterior, the 2009 Pontiac Vibe’s cabin has been thoroughly redesigned, with what GM claims to be higher-quality materials. Controls are laid out with the driver in mind and include three simple climate control dials, the usual array of power functions on the door panels, and a central head unit with standard XM satellite radio. GT models have the added benefit of leather trim on the seats, steering wheel, and shift knob. In terms of cargo, the updated Vibe adds an extra cubic foot of room behind the second row seats, but loses about five cubic feet when the rear seats are folded for maximum volume.
What Pontiac Says
Pontiac’s marketing director, Craig Bierley, says, “With the 2009 Vibe, we knew we wanted to take everything we liked about the original and push it to the next level – more power, more style, more versatility. It has the interior room and cargo capability expected of a larger SUV, but with the precise handling characteristics you would expect from any Pontiac.” Vibe’s chief designer, Ron Aselton, adds, “The new Vibe’s sporty yet completely functional. Clean lines, minimal overhangs and wheels pushed to the corners give the vehicle a muscular stance.”
What We Think
As excited as we and countless other enthusiasts may be about the new G8 powerhouse sedan, Pontiac would be downright silly to put all its eggs in the fuel inefficient V-8 basket. There are an increasing number of buyers who seek the utility of small wagons, especially those like the Vibe that offer all-wheel drive, and ensure a savings at the pump by reaching an EPA-estimated 29 mpg on the highway. Consider us among the many who see the logic in such vehicles, and expect the ’09 Vibe’s changes will only strengthen its position in the marketplace.