Pontiac's Bonneville sure is an eye-catcher: aggressive, distinctive, even slightly overstated. It backs up its looks with a responsive, sporting personality. The supercharged SSEi, particularly, can run with the best from overseas. Yet underneath those racy lines lives a practical sedan with real full-size room.
The Bonneville was redesigned for the 2000 model year, and has not changed substantially since then. For 2001, the OnStar navigation and security system became standard on all models, and heated front seats joined the option list. Revisions for 2002 are a little more substantial and include new front and rear fascias for the SE trim level, 17-inch wheels for SE and SLE, and more standard equipment all around.
The Bonneville lineup comprises the base-level SE ($25,530), the sportier SLE ($28,720), and the supercharged SSEi ($32,950). All come with air conditioning, four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS, and front and side airbags.
All are powered by a 3.8-liter V6 with overhead valves, developing 205 horsepower in the SE and SLE. The SSEi adds a positive-displacement supercharger that boosts output to 240 horsepower. Performance is good even with the un-boosted engine, although most driving enthusiasts will appreciate the extra oomph of the supercharger.
For features and appointments, even the SE should satisfy the majority of potential buyers. Standard equipment includes a four-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, power doors, power windows, power mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels and a reasonably good AM/FM stereo cassette system.
SLE adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel with redundant audio controls, dual-zone automatic climate control, six-way power driver's seat, remote keyless entry, an upgraded sound system, traction control, 17-inch alloy wheels and a performance suspension (specifically, a 30mm anti-roll bar up front, vs. the 29mm standard bar; and a 20mm bar added at the rear).
SSEi pushes the Bonneville's price into the near-luxury segment. But that price buys the supercharged engine, stability control, Magnasteer variable-assist power steering, leather upholstery, 12-way power seats, head-up instrument display, Monsoon eight-speaker audio, automatic mirrors and a universal garage door opener.
Many of the standard features on the higher level models can be ordered as options on the SE and SLE.