2007 Saturn Sky/Pontiac Solstice Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2007 Pontiac Solstice GXP Shown

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2007 Saturn Sky Redline Shown

THE AUTO PAGE
By JOHN HEILIG

CLICK2COMPARE 2007 Pontiac Solstice Vs. 2007 Pontiac Solstice GXP Vs. 2007 Saturn Sky Vs. 2007Saturn Sky Redline

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: 2007 Saturn Sky/Pontiac Solstice
Engine: 2.4-liter 4
Horsepower/Torque: 177 hp @ 6600 rpm/166 lb.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual Wheelbase: 95.1 in.
Length x Width x Height: 161.1 x 71.4 x 50.2 in.
Tires:SBR P245/45R18(Solstice) SBR P245/45 VR18(sky) Cargo volume: 3.8 cu. ft.
Economy: 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway
Price: $25,500

Constant readers know that I cut my eye teeth on sports cars, specifically an MGA 1500 roadster. Like most sports cars of the era, it was relatively low on power, had a manual transmission and a manual top. It also had great handling. I won’t mention the side curtains, because they are what forced me to buy an MGA 1600 Mark II coupe, but that’s another story.

With that background, you can imagine my excitement when the schedule showed two straight sports cars, the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice. These cars are essentially identical, with the same 2.4-liter inline four cylinder engine, manual top and great handling. The Sky had a 5-speed manual, the Solstice a 5-speed automatic transmission. Other than that, the two cars are identical, except for styling differences.

Personally, I preferred the Sky’s styling. To me, the Solstice’s huge grilles detracted from its sleek lines, while the Sky’s smaller grille gave it more of a Viper look. The Viper resemblance is also evident from the driver’s seat, as the crease lines over the fenders resemble Dodge’s hotrod. They’re also in the new C6 Corvette, which is probably where Sky/Saturn’s lines derived from.

I had a chance to drive the Sky around town and on some of my favorite testing roads. In particular, we drove it for a long stretch on Route 100, which has great scenery, wonderful curves and is well maintained. The fact that I’ve never seen a police car on that road helps, even though we rarely pushed the car over 60 mph. We had fun tossing the Sky through the turns and shifting whenever the rpms were too low to get enough power. In my mind, it was almost exactly like driving the old MG. Naturally, we had the top down all the time, which made for several “bad hair days.”

I had the Solstice when the schedule called for a 400-mile round trip to photograph a classic car. When I left the house early in the morning it was cool, so I had the heater on full blast (with the top down, of course). By time I reached the halfway point, I could crank the heater back a bit.

The Solstice was ideal for a long Interstate cruise (except when I was near trucks) because the disadvantages of the automatic weren’t evident. However, when I left the Interstate and had to drive over winding roads, the transmission delay in downshifting became annoying. I had become accustomed to the quick shifting of the Sky’s manual, and missed it in the Solstice. A great addition would me an automatic/stick shift, which would allow manual-type shifting, even with the automatic.

The other disadvantage of the long trip was that my left arm became tired. There’s a great built-in armrest in the door, but its location and shape became uncomfortable after 150 miles. Normally this isn’t a problem, but it is on long rides.

Like my old MG, there is precious little carrying capacity in either the Sky or Solstice. The trunk is listed at 3.8 cubic feet, but that’s generous. With the top down, it’s far less, or so it seems. When I went golfing, I had to carry the clubs in the passenger seat.

There is a small “glove box/cubby” between the seats and to the rear that was good for a couple of CDs, but not much more. There were two cupholders that popped out from under the glove box, but they were hard to reach and sometimes hit our elbows.

I think what I most enjoyed about both cars was the handling. Here were two cars that claimed to be sports cars that actually were. You have to understand that I’m not a super-powerful sports car fan. I prefer smaller cars that trade power for handling. These cars did exactly that. They had excellent handling (sure, it probably could have been better), incredible looks and everything one wants in a sports car.

No, they weren’t practical, and the fuel economy numbers could have been better. We averaged about 25 mpg on the highway, and with a small engine I would have expected more. But hey, this was a sports car, I had the top down, and I was having a blast and I could beat almost anyone else through the corners. It brought me back to the 1960s. It didn't hurt that every time I stopped there was someone who complimented me on how great "my" car looked. If only it were true.

2006 The Auto Page Syndicate

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