Pontiac Solstice:

General Motors’ Failures – Kudos for Trying

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General Motors Company (formerly “Corporation”) today is a shadow of its former self.  It sells fewer models through fewer brands since its bankruptcy in 2009.  It is reconstructing itself and building itself into a competitive and profitable car company.  That transformation appears to be going very well.

Over the years, however, General Motors has often tried to be a trailblazer (no pun intended) in new vehicle design and development.  Many of these vehicles failed, but we believe GM deserves a tremendous amount of credit for trying where other companies did not have the creative thought or resources to make a “segment breaking” product.  Here are some examples…


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New York Auto Show 2008 – 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe

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It’s All About the Look
Pontiac introduced a hardtop version of the extroverted Solstice at this year’s New York auto show, along with the G8 GXP and G8 ST. As cool as it looks, don’t rush to the dealer. Your Solstice coupe won’t be there until early 2009.

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The Solstice coupe looks great. With the same engines and suspension setup as the roadster, you can bet it’ll be just as fun on the road. But Pontiac built in compromises with a lift-off roof panel, liftglass (versus tailgate), and useless but nicely styled rear quarter windows. Yes, small coupes always offer less interior and cargo space and poor visibility compared with sedans and SUVs. Small, sporty coupes (or convertibles) are always compromised. But the compromises don’t need to be this obvious.
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Saturn Sky Red Line – Corvette Light or Extra-Strength Miata?

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Having me review a 2 seat open top roadster is like having Ed Begley talk about the virtues of an electric vehicle. Objectivity may be a stretch. I’m already a choir member. I just have too many fond memories of riding with my big brother in his Datsun 1600. Cars were invented to have their roofs removed, and their gears selected by the driver. It’s no surprise that I like this vehicle. A lot.
The Look
Talk about a head turner. This vehicle got more attention than grenade in a wedding cake. I probably didn’t hurt that our vehicle was bright red, but I think this vehicle would draw a crowd in any color. I answered more questions from strangers than any other vehicle in recent memory. From geriatrics to kids on skateboards, I received nothing but rave reviews on its exterior styling. My favorite? “It’s a Saturn? But it’s so pretty?”
EDITOR’S NOTE
At first, several of us at AutoPacific were critical of the Saturn Sky. Without driving it, we could critique the substandard interior materials and the truly abysmal cupholder, the lack of storage and on-the-ground sitting position. Appreciating the Sky Red Line is to drive it… hard. Luckily, part ot my commute is through a canyon with dramatic climbs, dips, variously aggressive curves, little traffic even at rush hour. This is where the car really comes into its own. The 260-horsepower provides punch whenever you want it and the wide track shod with sticky tires kept the Sky where you planted it.
On the other hand, Sky’s styling goes into the toilet when the convertible top is up. Also, with the top up, the car is almost impossible to get into or out of. For those of us who are a bit width challenged, a couple of more inches of shoulder room would be nice. But even with these niggling complaints, why doesn’t Sky sell better. Is its success, or lack of success, proof that the market for small 2-seaters is really saturated when Miata, Solstice and Sky are all available at under $25,000.


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Will Pontiac Get Smart on the Solstice?

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Last month I almost screamed when I heard that Bob Lutz said that the potential demand for the Solstice could be as high as 35,000 per year. Lutz said that GM was considering boosting production to as high as 35,000 units. Recently Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson said that production would increase only if sales of the roadsters are sustained. Let’s hope GM defines “sustained” carefully.
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Pontiac Solstice: Its Style Gets in the Way

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Driven at Home and On the Road
At AutoPacific‘s Detroit office, we recently had the opportunity to drive the Pontiac Solstice, though the rainy Michigan weather precluded any top-down stick time. This Michigan experience supplemented an opportunity to drive the Solstice in Oregon last August, in ideal conditions far from the daily grind. The 300 miles or so spent driving in Oregon (on roads chosen in part for their ability to help the car shine) included wonderful, sweeping roads and perfect top-down weather. Sunny skies and warm temperatures meant the top only came up for about 50 of the Oregon miles, and then only out of obligation to test it that way.
You can also check out a VehicleVoice video podcast of initial reaction to the Solstice by VehicleVoice contributor George Peterson at the LA Auto Show. Jim Hopson, Pontiac-GMC Communications Manager gives us a walkaround introduction of the upcoming Solstice GXP.

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My Disappointment
As the co-owner of a 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata and a 2002 Audi TT coupe, my automotive purchases seem to always prioritize fun and styling over practicality and interior space. Our household tends to choose style and fun over practicality and function. With no kids, two-seaters are just the right size for my husband and myself. Two-seat convertibles prioritize fun and style over function and space, and we fully embrace the idea. On paper, I’m the type of buyer who should have already put down a deposit for either Pontiac Solstice or Saturn Sky. And I wanted to like the Solstice and Sky enough to recommend them over the Mazda, to be genuinely excited about a homegrown product. But I find myself disappointed instead.
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Let's Talk Cars: Auto Show Special Report – Part III

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Let’s Talk Cars: Auto Show Special Report – Part III

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Our third and final video-cast from the Los Angeles Auto Show uncovers some of BMW’s future strategies for diesels and other alternative fuels. Volkswagen’s EOS convertible has a groundbreaking hardtop that retracts with the touch of a button. Pontiac’s Solstice might be worth all the hype, but there are some things you should be aware of before you fall in love with this beautiful American Roadster and we’ll give you a first look at the Solistice’s “pumped up” twin, the GXP.
Show Rundown
00:42 BMW’s Alternative Fuel Future: Jack Pitney, Vice President of Marketing, BMW of North America
07:45 Volkswagen EOS Retractable Hardtop Convertible: Curt Fishbach, Car Top Systems, Inc.’s Consultant for Special Programs and Advanced Research
11:57 Pontiac Solstice: George Peterson, VehicleVoice
15:17 Pontiac Solstice GXP: Jim Hopson, Pontiac Communications Manager


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Saturn Sky Quietly Introduced in Los Angeles

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Spring 2006 Sales for Saturn’s First Convertible
The wait is nearly over. After the 2002 Saturn Sky concept sparked speculation about when and if Saturn would add a convertible and was followed by a concept version only twelve months ago, the production vehicle arrives at showrooms in spring 2006. The concept introduced at the Detroit auto show and the production car on display at the 2006 Los Angeles auto show are nearly identical, though the two-seat, rear-wheel-drive roadster is basically the opposite of the front-wheel-drive 2002 concept.


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Pontiac Solstice GXP – Hot Rod Roadster

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What makes a hot convertible hotter? More power, of course
Pontiac follows up the launch of the 177HP Solstice roadster with the introduction of the 2007 Solstice GXP at January’s 2006 Los Angeles auto show. Not content with the 177HP in the standard car, but also looking to keep the balance in the overall package that the four-cylinder engine contributes to, Pontiac decided to turbocharge a four-cylinder engine to create the go-fast version rather than shoehorning a larger (and much heavier) engine into the bay. The Solstice and Solstice GXP will be featured in an upcoming VehicleVoice videocast.
The turbocharged GXP engine delivers 260HP from only 2.0 liters, and Pontiac promises a 0-to-60mph time of 5.5 seconds, slightly faster than the Honda S2000. Pontiac’s Ecotec 2.0L DOHC 16v I4 looks to several tricks to get the power up that high. Among them, this engine is fed with direct injection (fuel is injected directly into the combustion chamber), a first for General Motors in North America. A dual-scroll turbocharger is used, with a lightweight turbine and air-to-air intercooling. As is true of the base car, standard transmission will be a five-speed manual with an optional five-speed automatic available.


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