We're not going to tell you that the 2009 Pontiac Vibe is a particularly lustworthy vehicle, 'cause it's not. What is is, though, is thoroughly competent, eminently practical, relatively inexpensive and, to some eyes at least, more attractive than its Toyota-branded sibling, the Matrix. As Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson puts it, "There's really nothing wrong with the Vibe. Its only problem right now is that it is a Pontiac."
Toyota has said time and again that it would like to continue working with GM on its joint venture and keep the lines running at the New United Motor Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) facility in California, which is where the Matrix and Pontiac Vibe twins are manufacturered. It's plausible (if unlikely), then, that General Motors may keep the Vibe platform around for a little while longer wearing the badge of one of its four favored nameplates. Click above to continue.
General Motors has two separate Epsilon-based midsize family sedans on the way out the door, and that's not really a bad thing. After all, there's no need for GM's internal brands to steal sales from one another, right? Between the Pontiac G6 and Saturn Aura, we'll give the nod to the interplanetary offering for its arguably more attractive looks and because it more closely matches its stated intent of offering a Euro-flavored driving experience in America.
In its base form, the Saturn Aura is powered by an Ecotec four-cylinder engine, which at various times has been mated up to either an archaic four-speed or more desirable six-speed automatic transmission. In its sportiest XR trim, GM's excellent 3.6-liter high-feature V6 engine is used along with another six-speed slushbox. In between, there's both a (mild) hybrid that returns decent fuel mileage and a mid-level 3.5-liter pushrod V6 with 211 horses. It's a good car, but it's overshadowed by the newer Chevrolet Malibu that shares some of its basic chassis bits and offers a more compelling alternative to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Click above to move along.
The Saturn Vue has long been the right-sized vehicle for many of today's buyers, but it's a vehicle that's never quite lived up to expectations. In 2008, things took a step in the right direction as The General saw fit to bring a new, much-improved Vue to market that featured undeniably attractive sheetmetal and an optional 3.6-liter VVT V6 with 257 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque mated to a six-speed automatic.
We sampled one new in '08 and found it to be "leaps and bounds better than the vehicle it replaces, with eye-catching styling that drew a number of complements, a great-looking, usable interior, a comfortable ride, and a competent powertrain." On the other hand, we also remarked that its 4,300 pounds of mass was way too much and that its as-tested price of $31,865 was a bit on the steep side.
The good news is that if you like the Saturn Vue, you're bound to have a similar fondness for the new 2010 Chevy Equinox. Click above to continue.
Hummer H3T Alpha
GM's controlling interest in the brand may have started all the way back in 1998, but it took Hummer a decade to produce the kind of vehicle we feel it should have been making all along. The Hummer H3T is a true multipurpose vehicle that's capable of hauling you, a few of your friends and all your associated gear all over creation, whether that's over city roads, rough roads or no roads at all.
If you're planning to acquire a H3T, we suggest opting for the Alpha model, which comes equipped with one of GM's capable 5.3L V8 engines. After all, few Hummers are likely to be purchased by the environmentally-concerned set, and the gas mileage penalty from the inline-five to the V8 is practically non-existent. Click on the image above to continue.
Saab has a long and illustrious history of producing fun-to-drive, turbocharged automobiles, and this reputation is upheld rather nicely by the latest 9-3, especially in its top-of-the-line Turbo X form. With 280 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque emanating from the 9-3's 2.8-liter turbocharged V6 engine, the Turbo X has plenty of cojones to keep the drive interesting. What's more, thanks to its Haldex-sourced all-wheel drive system, this latest rendition of Saab's sporty sedan doesn't threaten to rip off any appendages or send its driver into the nearest ditch at the slightest provocation of throttle.
Like sporty European cars but prefer top-down motoring? Saab's got that covered too, as the 9-3 is also offered as a convertible, and as a Sportcombi (wagon). Saab may hold down a spot as part of Bad GM, but it seems likely that the Swedish automaker has life left in it yet. As such, we wouldn't expect to see the 9-3 go the way of the dinosaurs anytime soon. Click above to continue.
Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky
We understand why the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky have to die. For an ailing automaker like General Motors, these roadsters aren't ever going to be capable of bringing in nearly enough revenue to earn their keep in the automaker's lineup. Fine, we get it... but that doesn't mean we have to like it.
While neither the Sky or the Solstice is particularly practical - especially when driven back-to-back with the Mazda MX5 Miata, the duo's most natural competitor and perhaps the quintessential modern-day sportscar - they are an undeniably attractive set of twins. We are especially mournful over the loss of the Solstice GXP and Sky Redline, which used their parent company's superlative 2.0-liter direct injected and turbocharged Ecotec powerplant, mated up with a fine six-speed manual transmission.
Precious few buyers will have the pleasure of living with that engine combination in the Solstice Coupe as The General only plans to build a few hundred examples, and three-quarters of those are likely to be GXPs. It seems unlikely, but there's actually a chance the two sportscars will be picked up by some other automaker, so there's still some fleeting hope that these twins will live on past the '09 model year. if they can manage to sort out the cramped, discount interior and the maddening top mechanism, they may just be on to something truly great. Click above to continue.
Pontiac G8 GT and GXP
Plenty has already been written about our affection for the Pontiac G8, which we find particularly appealing in either GT or GXP guise, but we'll say it again: This is truly a world-class automobile and it's a darn shame that it happens to be included in the dying Bad GM conglomeration. Either one will net you a smooth and powerful V8 engine - up to 415 hp and 415 lb-ft in the GXP - nestled up front with plenty of room inside and a ride comfortable enough to work just peachy as a daily driver.
With as much as weeping and gnashing of teeth that we're hearing regarding the death of the G8, we hold out hope that Good GM will see fit to slap a Bowtie to the grille of the ex-Poncho and keep it around for a few more years. The end.