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Edmunds Reviews Torrent


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Send in the Clones
By John DiPietro
Date posted: 08-18-2005

Badge engineering. No, it's not the art and science of manufacturing emblems shaped like bow ties or blue ovals. It's when a carmaker introduces a vehicle that's essentially a clone of an existing corporate model with minor styling changes, such as a different grille, taillights and, of course, badges. Nowadays there are even Saabs based on Subarus and Chevrolets.

As long as it's not done to excess, badge engineering makes sense. Having a couple of slightly different looks for the same basic vehicle can work. It allows manufacturers to offer more models in a cost-effective way and gives the consumer a little more choice.

For 2006, Pontiac births a twin to compete in the crossover SUV market. Called the Torrent, its very close sibling is the Chevrolet Equinox. Is it just a badge job, or does the 2006 Pontiac Torrent have something in its genes from the GM division that used to claim to "build excitement"?

The Better-Looking Twin?
As with the Equinox, the 2006 Pontiac Torrent is an attractive 'ute with clean lines, ideal proportions and beefy styling cues such as pronounced wheel arches and optional 17-inch five-spokers. Giving the Torrent a Pontiac signature is the twin-port grille and faux skid plates on the front and rear fascias. But don't get the wrong idea from the tuff look; this crossover 'ute is geared more toward surefooted handling in foul-weather conditions than trail bashing off-road. All-season tires and so-so ground clearance confirm this vehicle's status as a soft-roader.

Considering that pricing starts in the mid-$20Ks, you might assume the Torrent competes against compact SUVs, such as the Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute twins and Jeep Liberty. But it's actually sized more like a midsize 'ute. With a generous 112.5-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 188.8 inches, it's virtually the same size as a Toyota 4Runner.

Spacious Utility Vehicle
The cockpit, although essentially the same as the Equinox's, trumps the Chevy by virtue of chrome-ringed gauges and a steering wheel that looks like it came out of a sports car. The Equinox's gauges are trimmed in gray paint and its tiller looks like it was lifted from a pickup truck.

For the most part, the Torrent's cabin is attractive and solidly constructed. There's not a squeak or rattle to be heard. Yes, most of the dash is comprised of hard plastic, but the tasteful metallic accents, rubber-ringed climate knobs and padded door panel armrests help atone for that sin. Up front, storage cubbies abound, with one on the left side of the dash, another two within the fold-down center armrest. There are also pockets in every door.

Firm but somewhat lacking in lateral support, the front buckets still proved comfortable on long commutes and during a few day trips. Two-stage seat heaters bumped up the luxury level considerably. A low step-in makes getting in and out fairly easy, but the shorties on staff still would've liked to see some grab handles.

The backseat drew favorable comments, not only for its solid support, but also for its three-position recline function and ability to slide 8 inches fore and aft. Called Multi-Flex, the slide feature allows tall passengers to ride with limousinelike legroom, but at the temporary expense of some cargo space behind them.

In the cargo hold, a movable shelf can be configured to hide items or stow into the floor to optimize available space. The Torrent's maximum cargo capacity with the second seats folded stands at 68.6 cubic feet. The max with all the seats up is 35.2 cubes.

Providing a lot of peace of mind is another Torrent talent, its performance in crash tests. In both frontal- and side-impact tests, this Pontiac garnered the top rating (five stars).

Acceptable If Not Exciting
GM's familiar 3.4-liter V6 furnishes such spunky response that it makes a mockery of its modest output ratings, 185 hp at 5,200 rpm and 210 lb-ft of torque at 3,800 rpm. Keep your foot in it and it gets a little buzzy at high rpm, but with its healthy punch at low- and midrange speeds, revving the bejeezus out of it isn't necessary anyway.

At the track, we recorded a pretty slow 0-60 time of 10 seconds flat, which made this Torrent 1.3 seconds slower than the last AWD Equinox we tested. We attribute the difference in performance to the fact that this flame red Torrent only had around 800 miles on it so it was barely broken in. In contrast, the Equinox had a couple of thousand miles on it. The quarter-mile times, however, were just 0.3 second apart.

In the real world, the Torrent feels eager in most situations, it was only while tackling some steep mountain upgrades that it lacked some steam.

The dance partner that makes the 3400 look good is the slick five-speed automatic transmission that makes the most of the available thrust. Although the smooth and quick gearbox can hardly be faulted, we were perplexed by the gear selector. It's pretty much standard fare if you just plunk it into drive, but look at the selector and you'll discover that it doesn't allow you to hold certain gears, such as first and third. Fortunately, that was a nonissue as the smart gearbox was never found out of step.

With a soft pedal feel, the ABS brakes hauled the Torrent down from 60 mph in 131 feet. A good, but not great, performance. On the street the binders' front disc-rear drum combination felt strong enough, though we would've preferred a little more meat in the pedal.

For those active sorts with trailers, snowmobiles and jet skis, the Torrent is rated to tow 3,500 pounds.

More Utility Than Sport
We have to say, we're puzzled by Pontiac's ad campaign for the Torrent. Guys, if you're going to market the Torrent as a sporty SUV, you've gotta upgrade the steering and suspension. Honestly, we found no difference between this Torrent and the Equinox in terms of driving dynamics.

Independent all around, the suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front with a four-link, coil-spring setup out back. For most consumers, the handling and ride balance is pretty well dialed in for this class of vehicle. There's some body roll when cornering at a brisk tempo but it's well controlled. Ride comfort is commendable and evidently takes priority over sharp handling.

In the slalom, the Torrent posted a 57.1-mph effort through the cones, which is on par with a Toyota Highlander and Kia Sorento but slower than the Mazda Tribute. The Torrent's electric power-assisted steering drew barbs for its lack of feel and slow action. GM still needs to work on the calibration of this system, as there's so much boost at low speeds it feels like you're driving with a remote control. At higher speeds it does stiffen up a bit, but it's still too numb which makes it hard to place the truck in high-speed turns. Those who prefer the feel of a 1960s American land yacht will probably love it the way it is.

That said, the Torrent makes a fine daily driver as long as you're not the type who enjoys clipping apexes. But we are that type, and Pontiac claims that the Torrent provides "agility with utility." We're going to hold 'em to it.

We Build…Clones?
OK, so it's not much different than a Chevy Equinox, but it is a likable package with zippy response in most situations, a quiet and comfortable ride and a roomy cabin. And for most folks that will be enough.

But if Pontiac wants to back up its claim as General Motors' sporty division, the 2006 Pontiac Torrent needs some tweaking. We suggest the carmaker offer a sport upgrade with tighter steering, a firmer suspension and four-wheel disc brakes for us enthusiasts. Pontiac could even call it the WS-6 package if it wants.


While the Torrent is merely a badge engineered Equinox, it fixes many of the complaints I had with the Chevy. I think it's the First-Ever GM product where the interior looks "correct." All the shapes, proportions, and colors are harmonious, except for maybe the pathetic rear headrests. Actually, the HHR's ain't bad, either.
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You know....this vehicle is a BIG example of what PISSES me off about GM...! It's bad enough that they had to badge-engineer an SUV for Pontiac, but at LEAST they could have done more to differentiate it...... Try bigger wheels and tires (18's....19's....bring on some bling) and a TRUE sport suspension option. Also, what about different seats inside with more bolstering, etc...? Also.....if Ford and Mazda can offer the same small SUV (Escape and Tribute) that look similar but actually offers different sheetmetal and different dashboards, why can't GM...? Also, if you drive a Tribute, it has a firmer suspension than an Escape...
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I didn't think the review was terrible. I mean, what can you expect from badge engineering? It's not ground-breaking. It's not new and exciting. It's not powerful. It's barely sporty. It's just there. The interior I feel is so beautiful--especially the beige color. I like this interior much more than the Equinox... and I feel this will be a steady seller for Pontiac. Again, nothing ground-breaking. He was fair with the review--he did say "they fixed most of the probs I had with the interior".
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The thing that gets me is I just don't see how hard it would have been to at least OFFER an uplevel engine in the Torrent over the Equinox. However difficult (or easy) it would have been to do that...I thin it would have been worth it. It would make the Torrent more than just an Equinox that people can buy at a Pontiac dealership (which it is now).
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I think the reason for no engine difference was because the optional engine would prob be the "Honda Vue" engine and GM didnt think Honda could handle 2 SUV's to make engines for but i also think when the new Opel SUV comes (which is another rebadged Nox) it will have a different eingine and i heard a rumor of putting this engine, which also a rumor into the Nox Trent
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Badge engineering aside, I would buy a Torrent over an Equinox anyday. The best part about the Torrent for me is a front end that doesnt look like its smiling back at you (Equinox front :P ). I also really like what they did with the interior. They made the already good looking Equinox interior even better looking in the Torrent with new controls and great instrumentation. Edited by CadillacCTS
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First of all, Paolino, I've missed you! Good to see you again! The Pontiac Torrent is a dream to drive. Our first one arrived two days ago, black on black. My take, easy to handle, smooth ride, just enough acceleration, decent interior space, good cornering. Not going to revolutionize the SUV market by any means or set the world on fire, but NOT an embarassing entry on Pontiac's part. Definitely a nicer engine for gas mileage purposes. All in all, I would absolutely like to scoop one for my next demo. Receives :) :) :) :) :) :) :) / 10 :) on the stace'o'meter Edited by staceface
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