We reviewed the changes to GM's truck line-up yesterday; today we hit the car side of things. First and foremost, the Pontiac Solstice will mark the only new platform introduction for '06 (the Sky won't be along until MY2007). There's also the expansion of the SS and V-series vehicles, with the Malibu SS and Malibu MAXX SS joining the V8-powered Monte Carlo SS and Impala SS. Now, pardon me if I'm still a bit grumpy about the lack of RWD V8 performance in GM's line-up, but I've got to register a bit of disappointment with both pairs of vehicles.

First, the Malibu twins. From all the information available, the new 3.9 L V6 is actually a neat ?little? motor. Think of it as the 60-degree V6 equivalent of GM?s GenIII/IV V8s, with a nice big bore (good for airflow from 2-valve heads) and variable valve timing. It should be enough to force people to think about it in terms other than ?pushrods are evil?. And yet I?m left thinking that 240 HP just isn?t all that spectacular, at least not in the way that merits the ?SS? badge. I mean, come on; the Accord V6 makes the same amount of power. I know others will feel differently, and that?s cool; it?s just one man?s opinion.
The Monte Carlo SS and Impala SS do little for me for one single reason - the location of the drive wheels. Come up with all the excuses for sticking with FWD that you wish, but the brutal truth remains that Cadillac switched to RWD for good reason, and it has a lot to do with routing that sort of power through the same wheels used for steering and braking. Besides, these vehicles retain the 4T65E transmission, which is the reason that the supercharged 3800 V6 never lived up to its full potential. What does that mean? Don?t expect those 303 HP V8s to produce their full rated power very often, since the traction control system and ?torque management? (AKA Close The Throttle To Save The Transmission) will likely keep the party from hitting full swing. As above, this is just my opinion. Those of you who love FWD are welcome to go buy one of these things.

The Pontiac G6 GTP avoids the sin of reusing a significant historical name, and adds a Getrag 6-speed to the mix. Additionally, the rest of the G6 line-up gets fleshed out, which probably would have helped this car build some sales momentum had it be done a year ago. Then there?s the Grand Prix GXP - see my comments about the Monte and Impy SS models.

The Buick Lucerne shows up with - arg - an optional V8 in a FWD package. The base engine is the old 3800 V6, which makes for a fair question as to why Buick?s top-end model doesn?t get GM?s DOHC 3.6 L or new 3.9 L V6.

The Chevy Corvette always cheers me up. Sure, there?s the superlative new Z06, but the base Vette gets some love as well in the form of a new 6-speed auto with steering-wheel mounted Paddle Shift buttons. For those that want or need a slushbox, this should provide a significant improvement in performance and comfort over the old 4-speed auto.

Finally, the aforementioned Cadillac V-series expands for 2006, with the XLR-V and STS-V arriving with a seriously powerful supercharged V8. Not to be left out of the fun is the CTS-V, which sees its 5.7 L LS6 replaced with the newer 6.0 L LS2. Peak power and torque remain unchanged, but expect a bit more ?area under the curve? and improved real-world performance as a result.

I think that covers the major changes, although I?m sure I missed something and can count on all of you to provide a polite reminder.



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