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Interesting Solstice Reviews

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Four years ago, Simon Cox, a British designer at General Motors, created the fabulously sexy Lightning concept car, which was unveiled at the 2002 Detroit motor show to rapturous applause.

At the time, GM announced the slinky two-seater roadster would be made in both left and right-hand drive: in Europe it would become the Opel GT, replacing the Speedster; in the UK it would succeed the Vauxhall VX220; and across the Atlantic it would become the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky, two crucial niche products for a beleaguered GM.

Three years later, the reality has proven to be somewhat different.

First, the accountants started looking at the costs involved. To set up a new left and right-hand drive platform would take time and money - more than GM wanted to spend, especially if the Solstice/VX220 were to meet upcoming pedestrian impact regulations.

However, if GM used its existing Kappa platform architecture, it could get around this problem by significantly shortening the car's development process. The only snag was that Kappa was left-hand-drive only - fine for the US and Europe, but bad news for the UK.

So in 2007 we should get a left-hand drive Vauxhall VX220 replacement. Then again, there's a question mark hanging over the future of the VX220 and Vauxhall may well bin the whole programme rather than take on a left-hooker that no one will buy (anyone remember the Fiat Barchetta?).

There's also the small matter of it not being the Solstice that will be rebadged and sold over here, but rather the rakish and more European Saturn Sky, which bears a closer similarity to Cox's original Lightning concept, powered by a supercharged 220bhp 2.0-litre engine with a six-speed close ratio box and a wishbone set-up courtesy of Lotus.

All of which means the Solstice I drove will bear little relation to left-hand-drive model that may or may not come to the UK. Which, to be blunt, is not a bad thing, because the Solstice is a thoroughly underwhelming bit of kit.

Things start well enough. The Solstice is a cracking-looking car: it looks taut and muscular and, gauche Pontiac grille aside, has an appealingly clean and tidy design. The twin cowls behind driver and passenger are a great touch, and the roof is a simple affair to unclip from the header rail and stow behind the large but light rear tonneau.

However, slot into the driver seat and it all starts to unravel. There's nothing wrong with the driving position, but the dash design is a dog's breakfast and the plastics are hard and shiny - a lesson in how cutting the car's costs has also slashed its appeal. It's a relief, then, that the Sky will be getting a much more sophisticated and better-quality interior.

Despite possessing all the ingredients for a tasty roadster - front engine, rear drive, even weight distribution and wishbone suspension - the Solstice feels baggy, inert and squidgy.

The engine shoulders most of the blame. You'd think with a 2.4-litre engine that develops 175bhp at 6300rpm, the Solstice would be bit of a tarmac rippler. Unfortunately, it's not. It feels utterly gutless at low revs - hardly a surprise given the paltry 166lb ft of torque the all-alloy unit develops at a too-high 4800rpm. So even Korean hatchbacks will kick sand in your face if you don't use the revs.

The problem is, the engine hates revving and winding it up to its 6300rpm power peak takes an age, resulting in nothing more than what's-the-rush acceleration. Pontiac claims a 0-60mph time of 7.4 seconds and a top speed of 120mph: both figures seem hugely optimistic from the driver's seat.

The 16-valve unit also sounds coarse and loud, like a large industrial drier trying to digest a handful of ball bearings. Roof-up refinement is good, but drop the roof and that harsh engine note pervades the whole cabin. The driver touch points also transmit every engine vibration to your feet and hands.

Ride and handling are equally lacklustre. Throw the Pontiac into a corner and the nose gets all nervous; the back end gets squidgy and squirms; and, instead of weighting up progressively, the steering goes all light and lifeless. At least the gearlever has a decently short and precise throw, and over Detroit's shockingly surfaced roads, the Solstice felt robust. If you want driver engagement and entertainment, though, try the new Mazda MX-5 instead.

So the question you're probably asking is this: if the Solstice is so unappealing why is it being built? Well, context is everything. In America, a fully loaded Solstice will sell for $20,000, or around £11,500. And at that bargain price most, if not all, of its faults can be readily forgiven.

GM's engineers promise the Sky that morphs into the next generation VX220 will be a significantly better car than the Solstice. It will have to be, because as it is, the Pontiac Solstice is a huge disappointment.

http://www.channel4.com/4car/road-tests/dr...olstice05-.html

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Good looks can never beat a good drive
(Filed: 08/10/2005)


GM's Solstice disappoints Andrew English

This car is Bob Lutz's baby. He told me so. General Motors's "car guy" sees this little two-seater sportster as the halo-effect car for his company's recovery plan. GM tells us its "Total Value Proposition" means better cars, better brands, better quality and lower structural costs. Will that all fit in the boot?

No. In fact, very little will fit into the Solstice's rear-hinged boot if you've got the roof down. That's because the cumbersome hood, the sticks and those superfluous fabric flying buttresses will already have filled it. You can just about fit a couple of small bags around the side and something flat underneath.

Even with accessories worth £2,742 (including leather seats, air-con and anti-lock brakes), the Solstice's cabin feels bare, with large, abrasive plastic dashboard mouldings and door liners. The instrument binnacle is quite classy, though. The legroom is mean for six-footers, although the leather seats are wide and comfy. You sit low in a Solstice, which takes some getting used to, but you are at least out of the wind.

Start the engine and so many vibrations sizzle through the major controls that you wonder whether the exhaust has been fitted correctly. In Europe, GM's engines can be rorty, but this 2.4-litre, 177bhp four-pot is plain noisy and harsh, especially when the hood is up. The engine is faster than it feels, with performance to match the Mazda MX-5's, but revving it hard is unpleasant, so you tend to stick it in top gear and cruise. The gearbox shifts easily but lacks the snick-snack feel of an MX-5's.

Ride and handling are heavily influenced by the car's weight (1.28 tons). The body feels stiff and well made and it rides tolerably, though the hard rear suspension skitters over poor surfaces. It is very stable at speed, but the soft front end understeers nastily when you corner hard.

The steering, too, lacks the precision and feedback of the Mazda's. Well weighted in a straight line, it goes light and weaselly in mid-corner, which doesn't inspire confidence. Ease the throttle and the Solstice will tuck its nose in obediently, but it isn't much fun to drive hard and lacks sparkle for anyone raised on European sports cars.

To look at this car is to want one, though. It is gorgeous and immaculately detailed, from the honeycomb grilles to the high-back head restraints. To drive, it's a different story. Yes, it's cheap - but so was the original Mazda MX-5, which sounded, handled and drove a country mile better than the Solstice. GM simply hasn't paid the same sort of obsessive attention to driving detail as it has to appearance.

But then the Pontiac Solstice is a car to get people talking. The American press is raving about it at the moment, uncritically for the most part. It's not such bad news for us, however, because the Solstice won't come to Britain.

Its importance lies in the fact that it is based on GM's Kappa platform for small, rear-driven sports cars - a breed that is under threat from forthcoming EU pedestrian-safety legislation. Victims' heads tend to bend bonnets and hit engine blocks unless there is lots of clearance between the two, or else an expensive pyrotechnic bonnet to create some.

There is a window of opportunity to homologate cars this year, before those safety requirements come into force. GM has taken that opportunity with another sports car on the Kappa platform, the Saturn Sky, but the rush to secure type approval means there is no time to make right-hand-drive versions.

While the Solstice and the Saturn Sky are reskinned versions of the same thing, the latter's coachwork is essentially that of the Vauxhall Lightning concept, designed by Briton Simon Cox in GM's Coventry studio. GM lifted the design to join the revamped, heavily European-influenced Saturn model range.

Reworked with a turbocharged 240bhp engine, different suspension and interior, and a hard-top coupé option, the Sky will come back to Europe next year, probably badged as an Opel GT. Vauxhall might market this car, but left-hand drive is a small, specialist market in Britain.

This will be a blow to Vauxhall, which in the next couple of years will lose influential models such as the two-door Holden Monaro and the Lotus-built VX220 sports car. It will be left with no suitable replacements.

It also makes you wonder about GM's new Total Value Proposition strategy. For years we have been hearing how GM wants to leverage its brands across the world, yet it can't even engineer a right-hand-drive version of the Sky for a sports car-mad market like Britain.

GM Solstice

Price/availability: about $20,000 (£11,800). On sale in America now.

Engine/transmission: 2,384cc petrol, in-line four-cylinder, with DOHC and four valves per cylinder, 177bhp at 6,600rpm and 166lb ft of torque at 4,800rpm. Five-speed manual transmission with optional five-speed auto. Rear-wheel drive.

Performance (estimated): top speed 124mph, 0-60mph 7.3sec, US EPA fuel consumption, city 24mpg, highway 33.6mpg.

We like: Wonderful looks, strong bodyframe, comfortable seats, smooth ride and a low price tag.

We don't like: Terrible hood design, noisy and harsh engine, iffy steering and huge amount of optional extras to get the car up to a spec you could tolerate.

Alternatives: In America, Mazda MX-5 at $25,000 (£14,650)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/main.j...0/08/ixmot.html
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You sit low in a Solstice, which takes some getting used to, but you are at least out of the wind.


And in what roadster/sports car do you not sit low? He loses some credibility here.

MT said the Ecotec was harsher and noiser than the Miata's, but they didn't seem to think it was unbearable like he does.

MT also thought it handled very well, if not quite as good as the Miata. They certainly didn't think the Miata was a mile ahead. The Miata only barely beat the Solstice in performance (although it did beat it in every category, by a small margin in each) and most of that could be credited to the Solstice's worse power to weight ratio.
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:blink:

existing Kappa platform architecture

:blink: x2 ...GM created Kappa for the Solstice.

The 16-valve unit also sounds coarse and loud, like a large industrial drier trying to digest a handful of ball bearings. Roof-up refinement is good, but drop the roof and that harsh engine note pervades the whole cabin. The driver touch points also transmit every engine vibration to your feet and hands.

Start the engine and so many vibrations sizzle through the major controls that you wonder whether the exhaust has been fitted correctly. In Europe, GM's engines can be rorty, but this 2.4-litre, 177bhp four-pot is plain noisy and harsh, especially when the hood is up.

:blink: x3 ...I'd hate to see these guys review my Grand Am. Edited by blackviper8891
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Typical british journalism. If it's American, it's total junk. Can somebody say inferiority complex?
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Yup, that's what I was going to say. I haven't read any Japanese car magazines, but I can't imagine them being any more blindly "patriotic" then the British rags. I love to skim the pictures and read the specs in Car and Top Gear, but the reviews are pathetic.
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Yup, that's what I was going to say.  I haven't read any Japanese car magazines, but I can't imagine them being any more blindly "patriotic" then the British rags.  I love to skim the pictures and read the specs in Car and Top Gear, but the reviews are pathetic.

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Yes, one gets tired of the constant dribble Top Gear puts out, but once in a while it is great fun chaps.
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Translation: The Solstice sucks, why? Because its a Pontiac. If it was one of our American owned British companies like Jaguar, we would love it, but it's a Pontiac, so it sucks. Thats what I got out of the articles. Useless reviews.
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