Pontiac faithful have been getting short shrift in recent years. The General Motors division assigned the task of building and selling excitement hasn't been doing well in either regard. The Firebird is history. An Australian import wears the emperor's clothes but hasn't earned the crown. A four-door sedan carries the badge once proudly worn by a NASCAR winner. Cheer up, people, your wait is over.
The long-awaited, 2006 Pontiac Solstice is here at last. It's a great-looking, two-door, two-seater, drop-top sports car for less than 20 big ones. Okay, that's the base price, and there will be few if any base models at a dealer anytime soon, but even adding all the available options boosts the price only to about $25,000.
Initially, the Solstice sticks to the basics of a two-seat roadster. It comes with a five-speed manual and a 177-horsepower four-cylinder engine. There's no electronic stability program, antilock brakes cost extra, and occupant safety features are the bare minimum.
But for many drivers, basic delivers. We found the Solstice fun, easy to drive, and a hands-down head-turner. And it's built right here in the U.S.A.
Initially, just one model is available. The Pontiac Solstice ($19,420) is powered by a 2.4-liter, 177-horsepower four-cylinder engine. For now, the only transmission available is a five-speed manual; buyers willing to wait until early 2006 will have the option of a five-speed automatic.
The base Solstice is just that, with hand-cranked windows, manually adjusted outside mirrors and finger-powered door locks. The urethane-clad steering wheel has a tilt adjustment. The six-speaker stereo receives AM and FM and plays a single CD. The shift knob wears leather, but seats and door panels are covered in cloth. The back window is defogger-fitted glass.
Instead of a multitude of models, Pontiac offers a plethora of individual options and option packages, inviting buyers to outfit a Solstice to their individual whims.
The Convenience Package comprises cruise control, an information center, fog lamps and steering wheel-mounted controls for the cruise and information center functions ($465). Next up is a Power Package for windows, door locks and outside mirrors that also has a keyless remote fob and body-color paint for the mirrors ($625). Last, in the form of groupings, is the Premium Package, which covers the steering wheel, seats and door panels in one of two shades of leather ($590); this package, however, is conditioned on also buying the Convenience Package.
Options include air conditioning ($960); a string of stereo upgrades adding, first, an MP3 capability ($195), then an MP3 capability plus six-disc, in-dash CD changer ($495), then a seven-speaker-with-subwoofer Monsoon system ($395) that's not available with the base stereo, and finally an XM Satellite Radio system with a three-month trial subscription ($325), which requires the Monsoon system; polished aluminum 18-inch wheels ($495); chrome 18-inch wheels ($695); limited-slip rear differential ($195); floor mats ($60); and a smoker package with lighter and ash tray ($40). OnStar is slated to make the option list before the close of 2005, a five-speed automatic transmission in the spring of 2006.
Dual-stage front airbags are standard. Optional antilock brakes (ABS) come with dynamic rear proportioning, which electronically balances force front and rear to maximize braking while avoiding rear wheel lockup ($400), similar to electronic brake-force distribution or EBD.