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Autoweek: So-so G6 convertible review...

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Well, can't say I didn't expect this exact review and to the T, but here's one of the first professional reviews of a real G6 convertible:


It would be easy to second-guess General Motors’ decision to invest precious resources into developing a hard-top convertible version of its G6 coupe.

After all, the sharply styled Grand Am replacement is doing well in the marketplace—46,000 coupes and sedans sold in the first four months of 2006, up 42 percent over the same period last year.

So why bother with a convertible—especially one as tough to engineer as a folding hardtop? Gary Steilen, Pontiac G6 marketing manager, says the best reason is this: Luxury brands feature folding hardtops, so Pontiac’s volume-selling midsizer gains cachet by offering a folding metal roof in a car starting under $29,000.

We initially scoffed at a G6 priced anywhere near $30,000, when G6 coupes and sedans start at about $23,500, and the cheapest can be had for $17,000. But compared to $44,000 for the 2006 Volvo C70 hard-top convertible we recently tested, 30 grand looks better. The market heats up this summer when Volkswagen’s Eos hard-top convertible arrives, priced at less than $30,000.

The base G6 GT starts at $28,490 (prices include $625 destination charges), and is equipped with a 3.5-liter, 201-hp, 221-lb-ft V6. The uplevel GTP, starting at $29,990, gets a 3.9-liter V6 with variable valve timing producing 227 hp and 235 lb-ft. The only transmission is a four-speed automatic, and Pontiac has no plans to add a manual. Our GTP test car topped out at $31,740, with a full leather package (with front-seat heaters), optional front-side airbags and remote starter.

The folding top, developed and supplied by Karmann, takes about 30 seconds to retract. To lower the roof, the car must be in park and the cargo net in place. The trunk space is a reasonable 12.6 cubic feet when the roof is up, but shrinks to just 2.2 cubic feet when the roof is lowered (4.5 cubic feet with spare tire removed). One area in which the Pontiac shines is in overall interior room. GM says the G6 convertible rides on the longest wheelbase in its class, which converts to real, usable rear-seat legroom—34 inches of it.

Aside from the roof mechanism, most of the convertible’s added weight is extra bracing to stiffen the chassis. Other chassis changes include using monotube rear shocks for improved handling, and mounting the engine more directly to the unibody.

We noted considerable wiggle and jiggle in our testing, and Pontiac’s own figures support our findings. Pontiac’s testing shows the G6 with the top down is only marginally better in torsional rigidity, and is worse in bending stiffness, compared to a similarly priced ragtop competitor with the top down. Once the solid roof clicks into place, wind and road noise are more isolated than in a comparable soft-top convertible, but rigidity improves only slightly.

That translates into noticeable squeaks from the hardtop—the kind that would drive us crazy over time, even in a convertible. But to be fair, we tend to notice those little noises more than most; owners of traditional cloth-top convertibles will likely find the silence beneath the closed roof satisfying.

Yes, it all comes back to that folding hardtop—and whether consumers buy into its added safety and security over a standard ragtop. The G6 convertible on its own is merely an adequate driver’s car, lacking a manual trans, grippy sport tires and sportier handling, so we can’t help but wonder if it is poised to become the perfect secretary—er, administrative assistant’s—car. G6 chief engineer Gregory Bellopatrick says he will take that secretary splinter of the convertible market, and rely on the G6 convertible’s sportier side to appeal to drop-top drivers looking for a more spirited driving machine.

If nothing else, as we discovered, there’s always that fancy folding-roof trick.

GM has never done a trully strong FWD convertible, and this one is no different--still has shimmy-shake and squeak issues. The C6/XLR and the Kappa's are completely spectactular though...

Oh well, at least it does start under $30k and the hard top does have a "wow" factor...just try not to drive on uneven pavement and crank up the radio to drown out the rattles and squeaks.

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So does the GTP exist or not?

According to KBB, yes, it's still a separate trim level on the 'vert, on top of the GT...at least for '06s.

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Unfortunately, their point about the tranny is true and puzzling. I really hope Pontiac will reverse the idea and release a manual. It's needed, after all it's supposed to be a sports car.

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I believe the convertible could have been a huge success had it launched with the G6 sedan two years ago, when it would have had no competitors and could have helped the rest of the G6 lineup make a splash. As it is now, and with the Eos coming, and two years down the line the new Camry coupe/vert, and of course the Sebring hardtop likely coming soon, this car has become a very tough sell. Buyers in the 20k market are expecting a car with high quality trimmings and a solid/sophisticated feel/sound/ride--the G6 excels at none of these, and the G6 is priced at about 30k. Its lack of refinement, weight-gaining/space-stealing hardtop, and outdated engines continue to make this car a has been.

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Guest Josh

Lutz needs to have his way with the G6 interior in a big, big way like, yesterday.

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