SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $25,310 Price As Tested $29,650 Engine Type 3.8 Liter V6 w/SFI* Engine Size 231 cid/3791 cc Horsepower 200 @ 5200 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 225 @ 4000 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 101.1"/74.1"/193.2" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 3298 pounds Fuel Capacity 15.5 gallons Tires (F/R) P215/60R16 Brakes (F/R) Disc-ABS/disc-ABS Drive Train Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Four-passenger/Two-door Domestic Content 86 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 19/29/25 0-60 MPH 7.5 seconds 1/4 Mile (E.T.) 16.5 seconds @ 84 MPH Top Speed (Est.) 105 MPH * Sequential fuel injection
(The Pontiac Firebird is an anachronism, says Bob Hagin. It's a living dinosaur that may be reaching the end of it's evolutionary line. His son Matt agrees, but points out that it still turns heads when the convertible model is driven around town with the top down.)
BOB - The Pontiac Firebird is one of the original "pony" cars of the 1960s and the newest version of the Firebird convertible is still true to the original concept of an all-American sports car. That means room for a driver and a single passenger up front and room in the back seat for two more people to barely squeeze inside. It sounds just right for a Friday night double-date to the drive-in movies with the top down, then a milk shake at the drive-in restaurant with all the other kids gawking.
MATT - Dad, I think you're living in the past again. There's only a handful of drive-in movies left around the country, and drive-in restaurants are also in short supply. Those who "cruise" around the drive-in restaurants on Friday nights are usually couples your age showing off their retro-street rods and "custom cars" of the '60s. But the Pontiac Firebird is still a great "ride" and although the sport/ utility vehicle market is burgeoning and pushing the pony cars into the background, it's still great fun driving around in a Firebird rag-top.
BOB - From a practical standpoint, the standard Firebird Convertible that we're road testing this week makes a lot more sense than the on-steroids Trans Am version - except for bragging rights. Our standard version packs a 3.8-liter V6 that's been around for decades and all the bugs that it ever had have long-since been removed. And is isn't as though it's a 97-pound weakling either. It puts out 200 horsepower and an even more important 225 pound/feet of torque. It's driver won't be able to burn the rear tires at every stop light, but it still goes from 0 to 60 MPH in 16 seconds, which should satisfy everyone except the most erratic adolescent gearheads. And there's not too many places in the country where its top speed of 105 miles per hour is a drawback.
MATT - Maybe that's why more females than males buy the standard Firebird convertible with the V6 engine and the comfort and convenience options. They're more interested in looking sharp and getting a good, reliable car. The standard version can still be had with a five-speed manual transmission but the four-speed automatic is the unit of choice in this case. It can be had with a performance package that includes 16-inch tires and wheels, a grippy limited slip differential, dual exhausts and a 3.42 rear axle ratio, which delivers less fuel mileage but better acceleration. It has the same big disc brakes front and rear as the hot-rod Firebirds and with the performance package, the V6 model handles as well, if not better than its heavier siblings. I really think the Firebird V6 is a great bargain and a fun car.
BOB - The front end treatment of the standard version is another plus over the Trans Am and the Formula versions. Its hood treatment is more conservative and lacks those overpowering ram-snouts found on the other two models. One of the few grumbles I have about this Firebird is that the spare tire is still one of those puny little space-savers in the trunk. I guess it's a money-saver, but I'd still prefer one that could be used in a comprehensive tire rotation. I also think a full-sized spare tire is almost like insurance.
MATT - The Firebird Convertible isn't the best-selling drop-top on the American market, which is another plus for the car. There's something to be said for driving around in a flashy convertible and not run the risk of landing next to its clone whenever you're in the parking lot of the local mall. There's some pretty strong rumors around that General Motors is going to scrap both the Firebird and the clone Chevy Camaro in a year or two and not produce an updated model. I suppose there's no fighting the rules of economics.
BOB - It sounds to me like another excuse for G.M. to drop a great name, only to re-attach it to a "vanilla" front-drive sedan a few years later. So maybe it's a good time to get a Firebird now and own one of the Last of the Great Pony Cars.