2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2006 Pintiac G6 Convertible

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible

General Motors has been criticized for many things in recent years, but its Pontiac division has scored big with the G6 Convertible, released just in time for summer. Not only is it a four-seat convertible, a rarity in this day, it's a reasonably-priced four-seat convertible, with a base MSRP under $30,000. Even more unusually, and unlike any of the convertibles available at a similar price, it's not your basic ragtop. Like most of the much more expensive luxury convertibles on the market today, the 2006 Pontiac G6 Convertible has a folding metal top - and it requires merely the touch of a button to operate, with no manual unlatching or latching necessary.

Based on the coupe version of Pontiac's well-received G6 that debuted earlier in the 2006 model year, the Convertible is offered in two trim levels. The GT has a 3.5-liter, 210-horsepower V6, while the GTP gets a 240-horse 3.9-liter V6 under its hood. Both have four-speed automatics, with manual-shift mode standard. Seating is for four, in 2+2 configuration, and, unlike many a ``2+2'' coupe, the rear bucket seats will actually hold two people in comfort, although tall adults may not be too happy.

The G6 Convertible's top was developed with the help of engineering specialist company Karmann Technical Development, LLC. It's built as a separate module by Karmann and then delivered to the G6 assembly line at Lake Orion, MI where it's installed into the car. At the touch of a button, all four windows go down, the two-piece top pulls away from the windshield header and folds, the double-jointed trunk lid opens from the back, and the top folds and disappears as the trunk lid closes. Putting the top up is the reverse, and is just as quick. Either way, the process takes about 30 seconds, and requires the engine to be running, which saves the battery. Standard operating procedure - for $40,000 and up.

The major advantage of the G6 Convertible's hard top is insulation. No matter how thick and well-constructed a soft convertible top is, it still does not offer the insulation from temperature and noise that a hard top does. And the hard top also provides much greater security - a knife doesn't go through steel nearly as easily as it will go through cloth or vinyl.

My week with a G6 GTP Convertible saw a couple days of 106-degree afternoon heat. The top, and a great air conditioning system, kept that at bay. When it cooled off, down went the top, for just the right amount of breeze, even without the wind deflector. The car itself was, in the manner of four-seat convertibles, more ``sporty'' than ``sports'', but still fun to drive and possessed of good comfort and a fine, torquey engine. With the optional leather interior, it was a luxury experience at a non-luxury price. There's nothing else like it at the moment, and Pontiac has a winner.

APPEARANCE: The overstyled lines and heavy body cladding that characterized Pontiacs of recent memory have gone the way of polyester leisure suits and other fashion disasters of the past, much to Pontiac's benefit. However, another venerable Pontiac styling institution - the ``Wide Track'' look - works to its favor. Like the G6 Coupe, the Convertible is relatively short, low, and wide, for a sporty stance. All G6 models share front sheetmetal, with clean styling that accentuates the width highlighted by large, bright headlights and the twin-port Pontiac grille. Top-up, the Convertible's roofline is slightly more formal than the coupe's, but still very handsome and sleek. Top-down, it has the look of a more expensive luxury convertible. The wheels fill the slightly-flared wheel arches and a subtle character line three-quarters of the way up adds broad shoulders. Triangular taillights distinguish the convertible and coupe from the sedan at the rear.

COMFORT: The G6's exterior width translates to interior space, at least for passengers. Especially with the ``Leather Package'' option group with which my test car was equipped, which adds perforated leather seating surfaces and leather covering the steering wheel rim, shift lever, and handbrake and heated front seats, style and comfort are first-rate. The instrument panel is tastefully designed, and controls are well-placed. To Pontiac's credit, no attempt was made to cram a third person in the rear, so accommodations are twin bucket seats nearly identical to those in front with the exception of adjustment. The fronts get power adjust for the cushions, both horizontally and vertically and fore-and-aft, while the rears are fixed. Access requires a limbo under the front shoulder strap, but once in there is a surprising amount of leg room. Head room, with the top up, is the limiting factor. Luggage space is limited. With the top up, there is a reasonable amount of trunk capacity, but in order for the top to be lowered, a shade must be drawn across the spare tire compartment, with nothing protruding above it. Capacity there is minimal, especially with the wind blocker stowed. And note that anything in that compartment will not be accessible with the top down - great for security but potentially inconvenient. Still, this is probably not as major a drawback as it may seem, as most owners will not use the car for four-seat, long-distance, top-down driving. Two-up, luggage can be stored in the rear seat area and placed in the trunk after the top is put up at stops.

SAFETY: The Pontiac G6 utilizes safety cage construction with front and rear crumple zones. All seating positions have three-point safety belts. Dual-stage front airbags, with the Passenger Sensing System that detects front passenger weight and deploys the front airbag appropriately, are standard, as are four-wheel antilock disc brakes.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Reinforcement of the G6's lower unibody structure gives the convertible commendable stiffness, benefitting both handling and comfort. There is no noticeable flex with the top up, and the noise level is comparable to a hardtop coupe. Only a very minimal amount of cowl shake is felt with the top down. Compared to the coupe and sedan, the convertible's fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension is tuned a little more firmly, but it's still in the comfort zone more than the sport arena. The G6 Convertible is meant more for a quick but comfortable touring pace than sports driving, and works very well for that purpose. Don't forget the sunscreen.

PERFORMANCE: Reinforcement, and the top mechanism, add weight, to the tune of a near-3900 pound curb weight. But the GTP model's 3.9-liter V6 is up to the task. Uniquely for a pushrod overhead valve engine, it has variable cam phasing, and that and a variable-length intake manifold mean a wide, flat torque curve. Horsepower, 227 peaking at 6000 rpm, just below the 6400-rpm redline, is good, but torque defines the GTP's character. Maximum is 235 lb-ft at 3000 rpm, for a solid mid-range punch, but 90 percent of that - 212 lb-ft - is available from 1800 through 5800 rpm. This makes the four-speed automatic transmission's manual-shift mode optional for all but the most spirited driving, and even then one gear will suffice in most situations. The transmission shifts with commendable smoothness and speed automatically, and does a good job in manual mode as well.

CONCLUSIONS: Pontiac has a winner in its new G6 Convertible, which combines the best features of a hardtop coupe and a convertible.

SPECIFICATIONS
2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible

Base Price	$ 29,365
Price As Tested	$ 31,740
Engine Type	12-valve pushrod overhead valve V6 with
		   	  variable cam phasing
Engine Size	3.9 liters / 237 cu. in.
Horsepower	227 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)	235 @ 3000 rpm
Transmission	4-speed automatic with manual
			 shift mode
Wheelbase / Length 112.3 in. / 189.0 in.
Curb Weight	  3877 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 17.1
Fuel Capacity	     16.4 gal.
Fuel Requirement  87 octane regular unleaded gasoline
Tires		    225/50 TR18 Goodyear Eagle LS2
Brakes, front/rear   vented disc / solid disc,
			    antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut /
			      independent multilink
Drivetrain		      transverse front engine,
				front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18 / 26 / 21
0 to 60 mph				est. 8  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Leather Package  - includes:
  GTP leather-appointed seating, heated front seats,
  leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob, and
  parking brake handle, steering wheel radio
  controls						$ 1,265
Front seat-mounted side-impact air bags			$   295
Remote start system					$   190
Destination charge					$   625

Complete specifications on the 2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible and other vehicles are available at the New Car Buyers Guide!

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