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Intrepidation

2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe Full Test

32 posts in this topic

What Works:

Looks like a $100,000 sports car.

What Needs Work:

Has the interior of a $5,000 sports car, and the powertrain refinement of a $12,000 sports car.

Bottom Line:

Not without enjoyment, but its crude drivetrain and interior keep it from being a favorite.

08.pontiac.solstice.coupe.prf.2.500.jpg

We could smell him long before he crept from the dark doorway. Part booze. Part full diaper. "What kind of car is that?" he asks during his stumble and sway across the road.

"It's the new Pontiac Solstice Coupe."

"Daaaaaaamn. That is beautiful, but I thought it was the new Volt," he says, circling the car. "Hey, Bobby," he yells back into the dark doorway. "Check this out. It's a Solstice. I thought it was that new Volt, but it's not. It's a Solstice."

Bobby appears. Part booze. Part full diaper. "What is it?"

"I thought it was that new Volt," repeats El Disgusto #1. "But it's not, it's the... it's the..." He turns back to us, opens his bloodshot eyes extra wide and asks, "What is it?"

"It's the new 2009 Pontiac Solstice Cou..."

"Yeah, it's the Pontiac Solstice Coupe, but I thought it was the Volt. Come on, Bobby. Let's get something to eat." More stumble. More sway.

True story. And proof positive that GM's marketing blitz for the Chevy Volt is reaching the homeless community of Venice, California.

It also proves that the bums of Dogtown have quite an eye for design.

Drop-Dead Gorgeous

The 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe is beautiful. Drop-dead so. The design stops joggers midstride and grabs stares from Beverly Hills lawyers in their high-end European machines. It's the kind of car you can't walk away from without looking back at least once.

And it's butch in a way the roadster can never be. Manly, but not to a flaw. Metros are welcome. Cruise around in a Solstice Roadster and as many women compliment the car's style as men, but in the Solstice Coupe only the male of the species responds. And always with a primordial thumbs-up.

Based on the design of the Solstice Coupe Concept, which wowed the world way, way, way back at the 2002 Detroit Auto Show, the new Solstice Coupe proves that what looked good when Bush was popular looks even better now. Well, with the exception of Bush himself, of course. (Hillary, too. The pantsuits have not aged well.)

Inside and Under the Hood

Still, it's not all guns and roses, despite what the press release says. "The Solstice has always represented some of the best traits of Pontiac: sporty styling, fun to drive and economical," said Susan Docherty, GM North America vice president of Buick-Pontiac-GMC. "The Solstice Coupe shares those same attributes and provides an all-season alternative for people who still enjoy open-air driving."

All of which is true, but Docherty fails to mention that the 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe is sabotaged by the same unrefined drivetrain and ergonomically challenged interior as the Solstice Roadster. From the seats that feel like they are filled with marshmallow pudding to the steering wheel that's just too low, to the complete lack of storage (just to name a few gripes), the Solstice interior has never been a benchmark of design or execution.

And neither has its drivetrain. Like the roadster, the Solstice Coupe comes in two flavors: base and GXP. We tested a GXP coupe recently and as with the roadster, its 290-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 made up for some of the car's shortcomings. This base car, however, doesn't get away with as much. Its 173-hp 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder is not exactly smooth or powerful.

Wring its neck and the Solstice Coupe, which is not exactly light at 2,942 pounds, is quick enough to get you into trouble, but the thrill is coupled with enough vibration to trigger panic at the UCLA seismology laboratory. The slow-revving Ecotec doesn't exactly like to find its 7,000-rpm redline and its five-speed transmission is geared very tall. Taching out just a few gears seems to take a month and the shifter will numb your right hand like the handlebar of a superbike.

Track Testing

We endured the torture, however, and headed for the test track. The 60-mph mark came up in 7.5 seconds from a standstill (7.3 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip). It did the quarter-mile in 15.6 seconds at 89 mph. Overall, a performance identical to the last Solstice Roadster we tested.

With a slalom speed of 64.2 mph and skid pad performance of 0.86g, the coupe and the roadster handle the same, too. Both Pontiacs are very stable and easy to drive quickly thanks to their wide stance and big 18-inch tires, but tossable they ain't. As we've said before, compared to any Mazda MX-5 Miata (including the one with the retractable hardtop) the Solstice — any Solstice, including the coupe — feels like a boulevard cruiser.

We weren't surprised. To build a Solstice Coupe, Pontiac starts out with a Solstice Roadster and basically bolts on the fixed roof complete with the opening glass hatch and removable targa-style roof panel. (There will be no Saturn Sky coupe.) Gone are the roadster's ill-fitting soft top and its heavy and complex folding mechanism. But the car's weight and weight distribution didn't even change enough for Pontiac to bother retuning the suspension.

Therefore the ride is about the same, too; comfortable, if a bit choppy on some concrete surfaces. Same brakes, too. And they work just fine; best stop from 60 mph was 120 feet. And fade is not a problem off the racetrack.

Two Tops

Despite the new fastback roof line and glass hatch, cargo volume remains at a premium. Pontiac says there's 5.6 cubic feet of space, including a very small bit of storage beneath the floor.

It's not enough. Carry along the optional fabric roof panel, which rolls up for transport much like the top of a Lotus Elise (only less elegantly), and the entire cargo area is essentially full. Worse than that, when installed on our silver coupe it looked like a toupee.

We say leave the magnesium-framed, body-colored panel in place at all times. Sure it weighs just 31 pounds and is removed quite easily, but it doesn't fit in the car. That's right; it must be left behind, so top-down road trips need to be either short or without more luggage than a toothbrush and a spare pair of Underoos, depending on your roof choice.

Visibility is also at a premium. If maneuvering through a tight parking lot gives you the chills, this is not the car for you.

Cool Coupe

So it has its problems. But this little car can make you smile. Climb in, crank up the Hair Nation and the drive to work feels special.

You sit low and look through a gunsight-style greenhouse. The view out is all long hood and creased fenders. Somehow it takes you back in time to the days of Porsche Speedsters and Bugeye Sprites.

Don't ask too much of it and the 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe is very likable. It doesn't push all the right buttons but it tickles most of them. Plus, there's nothing else out there like it for the price.

For less than 30,000 bucks, the Pontiac Solstice Coupe oozes cool. And for many buyers, that just might be enough.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

InsideLine

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What a well thought out, fact based article :rolleyes:

If you can't get the engine specs correct on the car you're reviewing, maybe you're in the wrong line of work. The GXP has 260 hp. And, coming from an Ecotec owner, their assessment of the Ecotec's NVH issues are unnecessarily harsh. Listen to a Corolla at idle or an Accent under hard acceleration, then get back to me.

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I still like the Sky better...but this has the advantage of a top that's not retarded.

Although if the soft top takes up as much of the trunk as they say, well that just sucks.

I new the interior was going to be an issue...It's a Pontiac after all. Lousy interior means EXCITEMENT!!! Except for the G8...it has a nice interior...so it's not a real Pontiac. :P

I kid I kid...sort of.

I wouldn't mind the cheapy interior quality and lack of storage so much as the driving position. I would have to actually sit in one and take it for a ride to see how it is...but if it's not comfy that's a deal breaker. That's why I'd never want to be in a PT Cruiser...it's is so uncomfortable.

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Either there was something wrong with the Ecotec they were driving or they are yet another moron that expects electric car smoothness out of everything they drive.

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Same complaints we've been hearing since the Solstice launched. Crummy interior with no storage space, unrefined driving characteristics. But they did sort of fix the awful trunk space. Shame too, since it's such a pretty car.

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Yes, they sure do build 'em pretty.

Saw one rendered in orange being subjected to critical review at the morning meeting when I went to sign my retirement papers.

No way that I could fold my gangly limbs to fit within her sleekly stunning confines.

But I damned sure wanted to.

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What a well thought out, fact based article :rolleyes:

If you can't get the engine specs correct on the car you're reviewing, maybe you're in the wrong line of work. The GXP has 260 hp. And, coming from an Ecotec owner, their assessment of the Ecotec's NVH issues are unnecessarily harsh. Listen to a Corolla at idle or an Accent under hard acceleration, then get back to me.

260/290..... very, very small chance it had some stage 1/2 equipment on it?

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What a well thought out, fact based article :rolleyes:

If you can't get the engine specs correct on the car you're reviewing, maybe you're in the wrong line of work. The GXP has 260 hp. And, coming from an Ecotec owner, their assessment of the Ecotec's NVH issues are unnecessarily harsh. Listen to a Corolla at idle or an Accent under hard acceleration, then get back to me.

I think they're assuming the turbo ECU upgrade is standard. There IS an option to make the engine develop 290, but it will then require premium.

http://wot.motortrend.com/6399498/auto-new...-hhr/index.html

I wonder how much effect on handling would the addition of the top would have compared to the vert.

Edited by ToniCipriani
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I still like the Sky better...but this has the advantage of a top that's not retarded.

Although if the soft top takes up as much of the trunk as they say, well that just sucks.

I new the interior was going to be an issue...It's a Pontiac after all. Lousy interior means EXCITEMENT!!! Except for the G8...it has a nice interior...so it's not a real Pontiac. :P

I kid I kid...sort of.

I wouldn't mind the cheapy interior quality and lack of storage so much as the driving position. I would have to actually sit in one and take it for a ride to see how it is...but if it's not comfy that's a deal breaker. That's why I'd never want to be in a PT Cruiser...it's is so uncomfortable.

I like the Sky better too, but no Targa for it. I really like the Solstice Targa, might have to buy one with my Stimulus money ... :P

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What Works:

Looks like a $100,000 sports car.

Lol.

It looks like what it is. Much sexier than the Miata, but not 100k sexy. That's like an R8 or S5; not even close. Not now not ever! :neenerneener:

With a different front and some other tweaks it could definitely look like more than it is. To me it still looks like a bug-eyed Pontiac.

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Looks like the Targa will be one very rare vehicle.

Yeah, it would be interesting to know how many got made. These are gonna hold high $, I'm thinkin'.

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>>"...not 100k sexy. That's like an... S5"<<

S5 in no way whatsoever looks like it's anywhere close to 100K, either. It's nice like the Solstice (tho much more conventional), but nothing special. I can see both in the $30-40K range, but no higher.

R8 is a much shorter reach.

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>>"...not 100k sexy. That's like an... S5"<<

S5 in no way whatsoever looks like it's anywhere close to 100K, either. It's nice like the Solstice (tho much more conventional), but nothing special. I can see both in the $30-40K range, but no higher.

S5 is more like $60k, IIRC. Much nicer inside than the Solstice. Beautiful car also. Different market than the Solstice, though. I suppose the TT is the closest model Audi has to the Solstice.

Edited by Cubical
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I'd Much rather have a Solstice Targa than a TT, can't stand the look of that car.

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>>"...not 100k sexy. That's like an... S5"<<

S5 in no way whatsoever looks like it's anywhere close to 100K, either. It's nice like the Solstice (tho much more conventional), but nothing special. I can see both in the $30-40K range, but no higher.

R8 is a much shorter reach.

I was just pulling cars off the top of my head. That aside, go look over an S5 (or an A5) and a Solstice in person. The exterior styling is nowhere in the same league. The S5 may not look quite $100k, but it does look $50-60k. The Solstice looks like what it is, as I said: $20-30k. It looks cheap, and the "look at me" design language doesn't do much for me.

The car that the Solstice resembles the most, in my opinion, is the Lotus Elise. It even has a similar looking roofline. I'm not a big fan of the Lotus styling, although I respect its performance.

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And no I haven't seen a Solstice hardtop in person, but I highly doubt my opinion will change... Although it might.... But it probably won't.

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Either there was something wrong with the Ecotec they were driving or they are yet another moron that expects electric car smoothness out of everything they drive.

They should come to an SCCA event. The can enjoy the Honda S2000 smoothness...while enjoying the Pontiacs pretty tail lights.

I've seen the ecotech in when it's angry, and it's quick.

Chris :convertible:

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They should come to an SCCA event. The can enjoy the Honda S2000 smoothness...while enjoying the Pontiacs pretty tail lights.

I've seen the ecotech in when it's angry, and it's quick.

Chris :convertible:

Yes. Very quick and it can dance.

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They should come to an SCCA event. The can enjoy the Honda S2000 smoothness...while enjoying the Pontiacs pretty tail lights.

I've seen the ecotech in when it's angry, and it's quick.

Chris :convertible:

I assume you're referring to a GXP. The S2000 and GXP are pretty close in performance, I think it would come down to the driver. The GXP would probably be more forgiving to an inexperienced driver, since a poorly calculated shift wouldn't cost them so much. The S2000 weighs about 100 lbs less than the GXP roadster, while the hardtop S2000 CR weighs about 160 lbs less than the GXP Coupe (205 lbs less if you get a no-audio/ac model; and 250 lbs less if you remove the hard top from the CR).

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Anyone know if it's actually still possible to even order one right now?

It was two months ago. I actually test drove one. I do not know about one now.

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As I understand it, they are building the Targa now but almost all of the cars are sold orders.

That may be all she wrote for Solstice.

Damn shame.

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