2008 Solstice New Car Test Drive
The Pontiac Solstice is a good-looking, two-seat, drop-top sports car that starts under $23,000. Pontiac's little roadster is all about fun, sun and the joy of affordably motoring on the open road. The Solstice is fun and easy to drive and the cockpit is comfortable. Optional StabiliTrak adds safety by helping the driver maintain control.
The Solstice comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 173 horsepower. It's adequate, though lacking in smoothness at high revs. The base model's windows are hand cranked, and air conditioning costs extra.
The Solstice GXP features a turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 260 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The GXP comes with more performance and safety hardware along with more convenience features.
For 2008, Pontiac has added some equipment to the base model, including a nicer stereo with XM Satellite Radio and an iPod interface. OnStar is standard, ABS and StabiliTrak are optional. The lined and insulated convertible top that was optional for 2007 comes standard on 2008 models.
2008 Solstice models equipped with the five-speed manual transmission get a new torque beam to isolate noise associated with abrupt torque transfer away from the passenger compartment. The system was originally developed specifically for the added power and torque of the GXP model, but was then extended to all manual transmission models late in the 2007 model year.
We preferred the GXP. The GXP delivers slightly better mileage according to the EPA, and the $5,700 price premium includes features most buyers would want as options on the base model, such as power windows, cruise control, ABS and electronic stability control. The net cost of the high-output engine and other performance-enhancing equipment is about $3,700, and we think it's worth every dime. The GXP engine uses the latest materials and control technology, and it is GM's first in North America with fuel-saving gasoline direct injection.
The Solstice would make a fine daily driver in many locales, though it has no place to put things. The lack of storage space and idiosyncrasies with the convertible top could get old. The lack of luggage space makes the Solstice a poor choice for long trips or airport runs.
Yet cars like this aren't purely about transportation. In many ways, the Solstice is a match for the Mazda MX-5 Miata. The Solstice is a traditional sports car with rear-wheel drive. Measured by objective performance benchmarks, the Solstice GXP can be compared with much more expensive, long-time roadster class stalwarts such as the Porsche Boxster and Audi TT. In practice, the Solstice doesn't offer the handling precision of these other sports cars, nor does it match their refinement, interior quality and general tightness. But we love the styling.
The Pontiac Solstice ($22,455) is powered by a 173-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. It comes standard with five-speed manual transmission, an automatic is optional. Solstice comes standard with hand-cranked windows, manually adjusted outside mirrors and manual door locks; although the driver's seat features a power height adjustment. The glass rear window has a defogger, and the urethane-clad steering wheel has a tilt adjustment. The shift knob wears leather, but seats and door panels are covered in cloth. Tires are generously sized 245/45VR18 Goodyear Eagle RSA all-season radials on 18-inch painted aluminum wheels. The six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo includes XM Satellite Radio and an iPod interface. OnStar is standard, along with GM's Driver Information Center. And the acoustic lining for the convertible top is standard.
The Convenience Package ($395) adds cruise control, an enhanced Driver Information Center, and fog lamps. The Preferred Package ($625) includes power windows, door locks and body-colored power outside mirrors, along with remote keyless entry.
The Solstice GXP ($28,135) gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine generating 260 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque matched to a five-speed manual transmission. The GXP comes with more standard safety features, including ABS, GM's StabiliTrak skid-management system and a limited-slip differential. The GXP also gets power windows and mirrors, cruise control, audio controls on a leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote keyless entry, fog lamps and polished aluminum wheels. Tires are the same size as the base model's, but are Goodyear Eagle F1 high-performance units.
A five-speed automatic transmission ($925) and air conditioning ($960) are optional on both models. Leather upholstery is available for the Solstice base model ($690) and GXP ($525) and comes as part of the Premium Package, which upgrades the base model with a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. Audio upgrades include a high-watt Monsoon system with subwoofer ($395). There's also is an in-dash six-CD changer ($295), which retains MP3 capability and a separate input jack. Also available are metallic pedals ($115), a rear spoiler ($275), and carpeted floor mats ($80). The base model can be ordered with polished aluminum ($545) or chrome ($795) wheels.
The Solstice can be ordered with the limited-slip rear differential ($195) and a rock-hard Club Sport suspension ($1,095) for road racing. There's also an SCCA SSB Championship Edition package ($6,235) that combines nearly all available options except automatic transmission and the Club Sport suspension. Appropriately, Championship Edition models are available only in Victory Red.
The Solstice is equipped with the minimum passive safety features required by federal regulations, which means seat belts and dual front dual-stage airbags. Anti-lock brakes ($400) and StabiliTrak ($495) are optional on the base model. A tire pressure monitor has been added as standard equipment for 2008.
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