2006 Pontiac Solstice Review
Byte Bite:The 2006 Pontiac Solstice really does deliver on its visual and emotional promise
By Bob Gordon
You know how young kids are always rushing their lives away...”I can't wait till I’m in double digits”, “I cant wait till I am old enough to drive”, “I can’t wait till I am out of high school”...well, now Pontiac has provided those of us past the age of “fast forwarding” with something to push time for ...an early (or late as the case might be) “Mid-life Crisis”.
I am sure you have heard the many stories, about the guy or gal who reached a place in life where they were financially secure, and decided to cash in their bonds, and trade in the old sedan or station wagon for a shiny new exotic sports car that would facilitate their ability to step out of their ordinary work day and family routines and to “smell the roses” and feel the warm sun on their face and the wind blowing through their thinning or graying hair...I’m sure you all know (or want to be) someone like that...hey guys and gals now you don’t have to wait to have that driving fun!
Pontiac (revised, reinvented, reinvigorated, remembering, and right-on) has produced a two seat convertible sports car that most new car buyers can afford and all owners will enjoy...the 2006 Solstice.
As many of my readers may remember I am the consummate snob when it comes to appreciating a sports car...it must meet stringent feel and driving criteria and must be affordable, practically-practical and offer immediate and uncompromised love and pure feelings of joy in return for the economic and physic investment ...and the Solstice does just that.
The 2006 Solstice from Pontiac is the sports car that has never been produced in the U.S. before...a car that is true to a lineage of the classic two-seater roadster standard bearers, like the MGA, Triumph TR3 and 4, Austin Healy 100 and 300, Mazda RX7, Austin Healy Sprite, Fiat Spyder124...all true roadsters that allowed their drivers to drive (not point) them with gusto and verve (when is the last time a new car review used those terms?).
These classics were automobiles that made the driver feel and look good (most of the time) and turned both heads and corners with ease. They allowed and encouraged the driver to choose to “push it to the red line” or just cruise along and feel the wind and smell the smells of the open road...and the 2006 Pontiac Solstice provided me with those same true sports car attributes.
The Pontiac Solstice prototype was first revealed to the world during a press event at the 2002 Detroit Auto Show. The original show car was a big hit with the press and public, especially when we were told that it WOULD be built and on the market in just a couple of years, priced at under $20,000.
Under $20K was the promise made by Bob Lutz, GM’s just (then) hired Moses, who was brought in from the Diaspora to lead the newly RenCen’d flock to the promised land of well designed and competitively priced vehicles that might help re-establish the world’s biggest car maker’s products as desirable, and turn the behemoth money loser into a once again profitable company.
In order to remain true to his promise (which is unusual to say the least in Detroit) the Solstice had to be designed and built within a radically quick design and build cycle and brought in at an unheard of low price for such a sexy car for the new millennium...
This daunting task was properly executed by a hearty band of enthusiastic experienced and grown-up car guys and gals, who translated their boss’s vision into a real production car that buyers aspire to, and offered it at an extremely competitive selling price so most new car buyers could afford the monthlies.
In order to meet a breakneck concept-to-showroom schedule and deliver on the unique and beautiful show car design presented to them, the Solstice engineering and purchasing team did what they had to in order to sucessfully execute their charge and to meet the myriad stringent and pointed criteria.
So instead of reinventing the wheels (pardon the pun) they sourced, borrowed and adapted the parts that were needed from other GM models and divergent OE parts sources from the U.S and around the world (Italy, Germany, Japan, Canada, China, and others).
The Soltstice team established a production line at an idled GM plant in Wilmington, Delaware and so were able to utilize the experienced professional UAW technicians and workers to design the production process’ to build this lovely well-balanced and head turning roadster that can today be bought at any Pontiac Dealership for the price Mr. Lutz promised...under $20,000 for the base model.
Ok I hear you thinking, $20K for the base model, here it comes and how much for a car that delivers on your classic roadster promise...how much for a car that will take corners and turn heads...that will give you the opportunity to power shift into and out of a turn and easily accelerate into a good state of mind, how much for a car that will let me smell the roses while I am still young enough to want to buy or receive a dozen roses from that someone special...huh, huh, how much?
A good question based on the car buying experiences that we have all had when buying a new option heavy domestic car...yes the Pontiac Solstice will also offer options but NONE OF THEM have anything to do with the performance or the drivability of the car.
The standard model is The model...
The Solstice is built on GM’s new global rear-wheel drive compact performance architecture, which uses a hydroformed steel chassis and independent short/long arm-type suspensions in the front and rear to provide a 50/50 weight distribution allowing for its strong, balanced and responsive feel up through its very comfortable three spoke steering wheel..
The Solstice comes equipped with a more than powerful enough 2.4 Liter Ecotec engine which has been mounted north to south (instead of east to west when used in the Chevy Cobalt, I told you the car parts were sourced) and delivers a peppy 177 horsepower, which is plenty and way outperforms the classic roadsters we have grown to love.
I was very pleased with its 5 speed transmission which I found smooth and comfortable both in gear throws and its ratios and in the comfortable shifter placement.
The Solstice carries itself like a true sports car, its classic rear wheel drive and four-wheel independent suspension layout allows for that correct old-timey roadster ride, but still delivers all the advantages of up to the minute 2006 Pontiac technology.
The suspension package includes four Bilstein coil-over monotube shocks, eighteen inch 245/45R18 rubber and fast-ratio rack and pinion steering, which allows Solstice to be driven like a sports car should, and really deliver that special “feel” of a sports car to the driver and passenger. The Solstice will let the driver feel the road, and can take corners like a true sports car, yet is still smooth and comfortable enough to enjoy even the longest road trip.
The interior design of the Solstice is equally purposeful and very intuitive, its surprisingly roomy and comfortable for even tall drivers; its racing inspired sports bucket seats are extremely comfortable, with details like pedal placement for easy heel and toe driving, and a right- there cockpit-style instrument panel that sweeps around the driver and is easy to see, use and understand.
All this performance and the Solstice looks good too. It has clean, fluid lines, taut proportions and creates an emotional impact. It has a good looking easy to operate cloth convertible top with a glass back window, which when closed folds flat into a rear clamshell opening providing a seamless smooth expensive appearance.
The Solstice not only goes well, but with its oversized disc brakes stops well as well, oh well.
My only problem with this great looking great driving new car is its lack of storage and trunk space, although the designers have included a trunk , it has been pre-filled with a 13.8 gallon fuel tank and shelf space for the retracted top...leaving just enough space in which to squeeze and cajole a soft duffel type bag, there is not enough room to store a “carry-on” sized piece of luggage, which makes the Solstice only practically practical in my opinion, but...
The 2006 Pontiac Solstice really does deliver on its visual and emotional promise, its true open-air roadster feel, and an opportunity to enjoy driving at a price that’s more than reasonable for a car that over-delivers...all at the suggestion (urging, ordering, you'd better or else!) of GM's design daddy Bob Lutz.
Thanks Bob, We Will Enjoy It!
P.S.: The Solstice ride and drive took place in beautiful Oregon,(where the sun was out and the weather BEAUTIFUL).
All the 2006 Pontiac Solstice Specs and Background: