© Colin Hefferon
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The Solstice is a solid contender for most beautiful new car of the year, if not the decade. Women especially seem to love its looks. And what’s not to like? Its proportions are nigh on perfect. It’s one of those exceptionally rare automobiles that look simply terrific from every angle. Performance? Well, let’s just say this is not what the Solstice is about. Functionality? No, again. But, hey, everybody (especially women) looks marvellous behind the wheel. Price: $20,490; Warranty: 3/36,000.
The Solstice is a total chick magnet! Women of all ages just seem to love it. I haven’t experienced anything like it, not even in a bright red Porsche Carrera 911.
The Solstice is a knockout even with the top up. With the top up, I think it looks a bit like the ’50s era Porsche 356. The ribbed cover drops from the vertical glass rear window towards the sharply sloped windshield giving the side windows a slightly chopped-and-channelled look. But top-down action is what these cars are all about, and with the top down the Solstice is absolutely stunning.
Lowering the manual top can be a bit of a chore. Several steps are involved, including getting out of the car to lift the clamshell trunk lid and then folding the top into the restricted space on top of the fuel tank, which occupies much of what you’d think would be cargo space – about which more later.
Yet lowering the top is relatively painless compared with raising it. I haven’t got space here to go into details. But let me put it this way: I know the Miata’s convertible top well and this is no Miata.
In the Driver’s Seat
2006 Pontiac Solstice: Plenty of room for people, but not for their stuff
© Colin Hefferon
The interior of the Solstice is remarkably spacious. Even with a high center drive shaft tunnel (which could have been lifted out of a Marcos GT) there’s lots of elbow room. And with top up, there’s lots of headroom. Yet – and here’s the important part – you don’t feel like you’re sitting on the floor…except when another car is in the vicinity. A Toyota Matrix looks like a Peterbilt when it’s sitting alongside you.
The Solstice’s entry and egress are among the best in an admittedly poor class. Most sports cars require you to ease in and crawl out. While it’s no Chevy Impala, you’ll be surprised at how easy entry and egress are in the Solstice. The big, wide opening doors help a lot.
I felt comfortable in the Solstice the instant I was settled into my seat. Although there’s a high cowl, visibility is quite good all around even with the top up.
The base Solstice is surprisingly complete – 4 wheel disc brakes and 18” alloy wheels are standard. However, goodies like auto headlights, power locks, Monsoon Sound, even antilock brakes are only available as part of optional packages.
Oh, and pack light ‘cause there’s zero storage space in the cabin and precious little in the vestigial trunk either.
On the Road
The mechanical noises coming out of the 2.4L Ecotec 4-cylinder engine transported me back to my pal Ron’s Triumph TR3, which never failed to make me smile.
The Ecotec has to be one of the best, most versatile low-displacement gas engines available in any American automobile today. You’ll find it everything from the Chevy Malibu and Pontiac G6 to the new Chevy HHR, all with front wheel drive. And now, adding a slightly raunchy exhaust note, they’ve made it into a sporty engine that nicely complements the rear wheel drive Solstice.
Even though the Ecotec puts out 177hp and166 lb-ft of torque in this installation, you’re not going to win many drag races because the Solstice is carrying 2860 lbs before the driver even sits down. Yet there’s still sufficient muscle to spin the massive 245/45R18 tires, which is not really all that difficult since there’s no traction control holding things together. Who knows? Maybe that’s part of the retro thing.
While fishtailing is kinda fun and relatively easy to control with rear wheel drive, you’re nevertheless constantly reminded that contemporary cars – especially those with fat tires and power-to-weight ratios over 125hp per ton – need traction control and probably even stability control.