New Car/Review

Pontiac

Pontiac Bonneville SSEi (2001)

SEE ALSO: Pontiac Buyer's Guide

by Brendan Hagin and Mikele Schappell-Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 32,415
     Price As Tested                                    $ 34,745
     Engine Type  OHV 12-valve 3.8 Liter supercharged V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 231 cid/3800 cc
     Horsepower                                   240 @ 5200 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               280 @ 3600 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  112.2"/74.2"/202.6"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3965 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.5 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                         P235/55R17 speed-rated
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            17/28/22
     0-60 MPH                                        7.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                                    16.0 @ 92 mph
     Top-speed                                (Governed) 128 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

BRENDAN - Way back in the mid-1960's, my father-in-law Mike Schappell owned a 1965 Pontiac GTO, one of the most popular muscle cars ever. It had a 389 cubic-inch V8 with three carburetors, ran a low 14-second quarter mile at the drag strip. Then he modified it to run even faster. This new Pontiac Bonneville SSEi harkens back to that bygone era when a family car could run like a hot-rod. The new Bonneville carries a supercharged V6 engine that puts out 240 horsepower and lots of torque. The test car we drove was a welcome break from some of the sluggish sedans we've been getting. Mikele and I really had a blast taking it on long jaunts, as well as short trips to the store. An econo-commuter it's not, but it still got a respectable 19 miles per gallon city and 27 highway. Its four-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission shifted as smooth as a whistle, but I'd rather have had a manual transmission to play with. It stuck to the road like glue, even when I over-drove it and the traction control system had to kick in. Fortunately, it has big, grippy high-performance tires.

MIKELE - Pontiac was always a part of my family, and my first car was a 1969 Grand Prix that my dad picked out. The new Bonneville is way more comfortable however, and the twelve-way driver and passenger Connolly leather seats are pure luxury. The radio controls on the steering wheel came in handy and while our old Pontiacs had tiltable steering columns too, this new model has that and much, much more. The dash area on the new Bonneville included a well thought out display, and a very nice Delco AM/FM stereo cassette and CD with a Bose-brand sound system. Cool tunes are essential, and so is the universal garage door opener. I hate having to get out of my car to open the garage. I guess I can afford to be lazy as well as cautious in this modern age.

BRENDAN - The interior was nice, but exterior is a little cluttered in its design. A less "plastic" look would be an improvement, and a rear spoiler is something I never liked on a sedan. It just seems out of place. But I do like the split front grille that Pontiac has retained. It's a throwback to the 60's and its 17-inch aluminum wheels are very sporty and hot-rod retro. Its heated power outside mirrors are a godsend on cold mornings. Power door locks and windows are standard, as well as remote keyless entry and a full-feature theft deterrent system, which offers Pass Lock, a feature that disables the vehicle's fuel system if the proper key isn't used.

MIKELE- On the safety front, I loved the Bonneville's outside rearview mirrors that dip down automatically for better visibility when backing up. I wish those old Pontiacs my family had when I was learning to drive had them. It would have made parking lots easier. Four-wheel power disc antilock brakes are standard on the SSEi, and frontal and especially the side-impact airbags give me a strong sense of security while I was driving in San Francisco rush hour traffic. Red Light Running is a contact sport there. Daytime running lights are a plus for safety reasons, and it now has a trunk release lockout feature in case someone gets locked in the trunk. One of the coolest safety features is the tire inflation monitor that warns the driver if one of the tires is incorrectly inflated. This information is compiled by data entered by the ABS system computer, giving the driver one less thing to worry about. I always forget to check the tire pressure. Onstar, General Motors' 24-hour communication and assistance service, is also available on the SSEi. It's activated with the push of a button or automatically in the event of an accident. It also pinpoints the location of the car and contacts help as well as providing directions. An OnStar advisor can be contacted for emergency help, aid with directions, recommend a hotel or locate the nearest airport. It sure beats having to stop at a gas station and asking for directions.

BRENDAN - A "dude" never asks for directions, Mikele.

MIKELE - I know that, and that something else I want to talk to you about, Mr. Smart-aleck.

 

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