2007 Solstice New Car Test Drive
One look at the Pontiac Solstice will tell most potential buyers what they really need to know. The Solstice is a good-looking, two-seat, drop-top sports car that starts around $21,000. Pontiac's little roadster is all about fun, sun and the joy of affordably motoring down the road. We're happy to report that the fun part of the formula has been cranked up several notches in the 2007 Solstice models.
For 2007, Pontiac introduces the Solstice GXP, an answer to a previous gripe: not enough power. Engine output increases substantially to a class-competitive 260 horsepower, thanks to a high-tech turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The GXP package lifts Solstice out of the good-clean-fun category, launching it toward genuinely thrilling.
While the base price looks attractive, the base model is basic. The windows are hand cranked, there's no air conditioning, no ABS and the bare minimum of occupant safety features. Add the options most buyers want and the price will get closer to $25,000, and that's what you'll likely find at the Pontiac dealership. It comes with a five-speed manual transmission and a 177-hp four-cylinder engine.
The GXP is notably better than the base model, even for drivers inclined to think that they don't need the extra power. This model actually delivers slightly better mileage according to the EPA, and the $5,000 price premium includes features most buyers want anyway, like power windows, cruise control, ABS and electronic stability control. The net cost of the high-output engine and other performance-enhancing equipment is about $2,500, 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.
Even in base trim, we found the Solstice fun, easy to drive, and an absolute head-turner, particularly in the new screaming yellow paint Pontiac calls Mean. The cockpit is comfortable, and the optional Stabilitrak traction electronics will make even sports-car novices feel comfortable behind the wheel. In addition, GM's new 100,000-mile powertrain warranty should add an element of owner security.
We'd say the Solstice could make a fine daily driver in many locales, except that is has no place to put things (except a passenger). The lack of storage space and idiosyncrasies with the convertible top could get old quickly as a sole source of transportation. 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 and Honda S2000, at a competitive price. Like these pure sports cars, the Solstice uses rear-wheel drive. Measured by key objective performance benchmarks, the GXP can be compared with much more expensive, long-time roadster class stalwarts such as the Porsche Boxster and Audi TT. In practice, however, the Solstice doesn't offer the handling precision of these other sports cars nor does it match their refinement, interior quality and general tightness.
What's New for 2007: The higher-powered Solstice GXP expands the lineup to two models, introducing a high-tech turbocharged engine that increases power nearly 50 percent over the base engine. The GXP also sports more features and additional performance and safety hardware. Both models now include power height adjustment for the driver's seat.
The Solstice ($21,515) is powered by a 177-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a standard five-speed manual transmission. It comes standard with hand-cranked windows, manually adjusted outside mirrors and manual door locks. Its AM/FM stereo has six speakers, a CD and an auxiliary jack for MP3 players and other audio devices. 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. The Convenience Package ($465) adds cruise control, an information center, and fog lamps. The Preferred Package ($625) includes power windows, door locks and body-colored outside mirrors. Together, these two packages bring the base Solstice up to snuff with the GXP, minus the cool engine.
The Solstice GXP ($26,515) 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, remote keyless entry, fog lamps and polished aluminum wheels.
A five-speed automatic transmission ($875) and air conditioning ($969) are optional on both models.
Leather upholstery is available for both the base model ($690) and GXP ($525) as part of the Premium Package.
Audio upgrades include a CD that can play MP3 coded discs ($195), as opposed to a plug-in MP3 player (that capability is standard). Next up is a high-watt Monsoon system with subwoofer ($395), which requires the MP3 upgrade. There also is an in-dash six-CD changer ($495), which includes the MP3 capability. Both Solstice models also offer XM Satellite Radio ($199) with a three-month trial subscription. Other options include OnStar Safe & Sound ($695) with a one-year subscription, polished wheels for the base model ($545), chrome wheels, sport metallic pedals ($150), floor mats ($60) and a smoker package with lighter and ash tray ($40).
The base Solstice can be ordered with the limited-slip rear differential ($195) and a rock-hard suspension ($1,095) for club racing.
The Solstice is equipped with the minimum passive safety features required by federal regulation, which means seat belts and dual front airbags. Anti-lock brakes ($400) and Stabilitrak ($485) are optional on the base model.