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Let the Sun Shine In

By Dan Kahn
Date posted: 09-15-2005

The sun is beating down, wind is whipping over a raked-back windshield, and our slinky steed is swallowing asphalt at one-and-a-half miles per minute. We're driving a 2006 Pontiac Solstice from Northern Oregon to Los Angeles in a single day, and life is good.

After 1,000 miles, we can safely say that GM's sporty little roadster is a rolling grin machine. It's like one of those quarter-operated mechanical spaceships in front of the supermarket, only for grownups.

Read the Edmunds Full Test Review of the Solstice here

Short version: The editors at Edmunds love the car.
 

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my favorite quote:

Editor in Chief Karl Brauer says:
I wish the Solstice had a more powerful drivetrain, a top I could raise/lower without leaving the driver seat, and a radio display that didn't completely wash out in bright sunlight. I wish it had these things because then there'd be no concrete points for the Solstice nonbelievers to gripe about. But despite these failings, there are some undisputed facts to keep in mind when asking the inevitable "Solstice or Miata?" question. The Solstice costs less, has larger tires, a roomier interior, a superior sound system, better ride quality and essentially the same level of performance.

"Yes," the Miata crowd will reply, "but is it as fun to drive?"

Well, since I value interior space and comfort, pleasant ride quality, a high-quality sound system and increased cornering grip in my two-seat roadsters, my answer is an unequivocal "YES, IT IS!" I'll readily admit that the Mazda is easier to rotate, and it provides a bit more feedback through the chassis and steering wheel, but we're talking a matter of degrees, not vast, monumental distances. We've run both around a racetrack for lap times. The result? A dead heat. So all that "roadster passion" in the Miata doesn't actually translate to better performance. And to throw in a purely subjective point, the Solstice looks cooler, too.

They're both fine roadsters. But the Solstice is better at playing the role of real-world road car, too. While the Miata guys are touting "undiluted passion" and "true sports car character," I'll be busy cranking the tunes and relaxing in the comfortable cabin. Until we start doing hot laps at the local club event, that is — at which point I'll be shadowing them around the racetrack.
 

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Posting the text here as well. Thanks!

Let the Sun Shine In

By Dan Kahn
Date posted: 09-15-2005

The sun is beating down, wind is whipping over a raked-back windshield, and our slinky steed is swallowing asphalt at one-and-a-half miles per minute. We're driving a 2006 Pontiac Solstice from Northern Oregon to Los Angeles in a single day, and life is good.

After 1,000 miles, we can safely say that GM's sporty little roadster is a rolling grin machine. It's like one of those quarter-operated mechanical spaceships in front of the supermarket, only for grownups.

And the best part: The fun starts for only $19,420, and a fully loaded model like the one we're driving costs a tick under $25 grand. That's less than half the cost of a Corvette convertible, and the Solstice roadster is more than half the fun.

Concept to Reality
Shortly after GM product czar Bob Lutz signed on to help enhance the company's product line, he asked Pontiac designers to come up with a rear-wheel-drive roadster concept.

They called it the Solstice, and response was so positive at the 2002 North American International Auto Show that Lutz made it his mission to see the concept translated into a production vehicle. And 27 months later (a blink of an eye in automotive terms), Pontiac's first rear-wheel-drive, two-seat roadster is rolling into showrooms.

Downright Sexy
The first thing people notice about the Solstice is its curvaceous body. It's downright sexy. If you don't believe us, ask the half-dozen people who flagged us down just to look at the car.

Part of the car's appeal is that it doesn't have a single flat panel or hard corner. Compound curves and flowing lines give the Solstice a fluid, futuristic look. One-piece body panels like the tilt-up hood and rear deck are unbroken by parting lines or panel gaps. This effect is achieved by hydroforming the sheet metal panels, using water pressure and a single die to form the complex shapes.

Perhaps the most interesting of the car's cosmetic features are the dual cowl bumps on the back deck, a styling element borrowed from 1950s racers. The entire panel flips backward to expose the manual-folding soft top, which is an inconvenient but interesting victory of form over function.

Creative Engineering
In order to finish the car on time and attain a sub-$20K starting price, Solstice designers and engineers had to borrow a few things from the GM parts bins. Things like the rear independent suspension and large 11.7-inch front and 10.9-inch rear disc brakes were all borrowed from the Cadillac CTS.

Although its hydroformed steel chassis is very similar to the backbone of the Corvette, it's an all-new platform, called Kappa, and was designed specifically for the Solstice. The result is a very solid car that doesn't suffer from much cowl shake or flex despite the lack of a solid roof.

The front suspension, which consists of unique short/long control arms and Bilstein coil-over shocks, is also exclusive to the Solstice, as is the steering system. The bulk of GM's current crop of passenger cars uses electrically assisted steering, but engineers on the Solstice project decided to go with a Borg Warner hydraulic rack and pinion unit to maximize precision and road feel.

Also adding to the car's sporting feel are massive 245/45R18 Goodyear Eagle all-season tires mounted on 18-by-8-inch alloy wheels. That's a lot of tire for a 2,860-pound four-cylinder roadster, and they make the Solstice feel glued to the ground.

The Other Roadster
Unlike the Mazda MX-5 Miata we recently tested, the Solstice doesn't feel like a razor-sharp racer with some luxury thrown in for the street. It's a cruiser with sporting tendencies, but we took the car through a few aggressive Southern California canyons and walked away impressed by its grip and fun factor.

When thrown into a corner, the Solstice exhibits little body roll and moderate understeer until you hammer the throttle, then the car rotates slightly. It won't swing its tail out on command like the Mazda, but for most drivers the car's substantial lateral grip and quick steering make it a fun and engaging canyon companion.

That impression was backed up at the test track, where the Solstice ran the slalom at 64.3 mph, a fair bit faster than the last MX-5 we tested at 61.5 mph. The trend reversed itself during the brake test, however, when the Mazda stopped from 60 mph in just 115.9 feet, beating the Pontiac's 121.5 feet.

It should be noted that we tested the cars at different tracks under different conditions, and a more precise head-to-head comparison test is coming soon.

Under the Hood
Parts sharing didn't stop with the Solstice's chassis. Power comes from a normally aspirated 2.4-liter Ecotec inline four borrowed from the Chevy Cobalt, and it's partnered with a five-speed manual transmission borrowed from the Chevy Colorado pickup.

Although the engine features an aluminum-block, dual-overhead camshafts and variable valve timing, it doesn't feel much like a sports car engine. With 177 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 166 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm, it makes more power than the Miata's 2.0-liter, but the Ecotec revs slower than Mazda's four and crudely hangs on to revs when you back off the throttle.

Gear spacing in the transmission is also very wide, which exacerbates the engine's lazy acceleration. It seems to take forever to need the next gear, and on tight mountain roads you often find yourself at the bottom of one gear or the top of another when you should be in the middle of the engine's power band. For those who don't like to shift gears, an automatic will be available in April 2006.

While not exactly a rocket ship, the Solstice performs well. We clicked off zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds, and eclipsed the quarter-mile in 15.8 seconds at 87 mph. In contrast, the six-speed Miata, which is about 350 pounds lighter and geared shorter, is a bit faster, running zero to 60 in 7.5 seconds and sprinting the quarter in 15.3 seconds at 89 mph.

On the Road
With 42.7 inches of legroom and 38.5 inches of headroom, the Solstice feels roomy with the top up or down. Although the Miata offers 43.1 inches of legroom and 37.4 inches of headroom, it feels much more cramped than the Solstice, which is nearly 4 inches wider.

You sit relatively low in the cabin. The Solstice has a wraparound dash and high door sills that surround the driver like the cockpit of a fighter jet, and its bolstered seats are comfortable and supportive.

A thickly padded leather-wrapped steering wheel always feels sporty, so Pontiac includes one standard. A short-throw shifter, large speedometer and tachometer, and an optional driver information center add to the effect.

Overall interior fit and finish is very good, with tight gaps and smooth seams. The climate control system is effective and easy to use with three big knobs, and the optional seven-speaker Monsoon stereo is outstanding, even with the top down at highway speeds. See our stereo review for more on that.

Speaking of the retractable top, we found the Solstice's little bonnet looks a lot better hidden in the trunk. The top's "flying buttress" design looks similar to the one on the Ferrari 430 Spyder, but it doesn't seal very well along the back edge. This looks a little funny and creates wind noise on the highway.

Putting the top down requires the driver to turn a latch on the windshield, pop the rear deck lid with a button in the glovebox, then get out of the car and manually fold the top down into its well before slamming the rear deck closed. Putting the top back up requires a similar process, with the added chore of snapping the buttresses into place by hand. It's not difficult, but is a bit tedious compared to the MX-5's one-handed operation.

Conclusion
As we write this, GM has just revised its 2006 Pontiac Solstice total production run to 18,000 units. The company claims to have orders for over 15,000 cars, but if you really want one, there should be a few left at local dealers by the time 2006 rolls around.

The Solstice is going to be a very popular car, and we can understand why. It's a sexy, affordable and truly American sports car. In other words, it's just what most roadster buyers are looking for.

Stereo Evaluation

System Score: 9.0

Components: GM's new "Black Tie" AM/FM stereo with CD player and MP3 playback provides a clear signal, and our tester came equipped with the $495 premium in-dash six-disc CD changer and the $325 XM Satellite Radio option. The head unit is simple to operate, and new preset tab buttons allow users to save up to 30 AM, FM and XM stations at the same time. Our test car also had the $395 Premium Monsoon Speaker System, which includes four midrange drivers, two directional tweeters in the dash, and a powered subwoofer behind the passenger seat. It's also worth noting that all Solstice stereos come standard with an auxiliary plug in the dash for iPods and other portable music players.

Performance: The system sounds amazingly clear, even with the top down at freeway speed. We cranked up Guns N' Roses to 11 on our iPod — which usually distorts like crazy — and Axl sounded clear as a bell. The sub provides a nice touch of bass without going overboard and vibrating the windows, although it is capable of serious pounding if that's your thing.

The XM radio is a must-have feature. It provides CD quality sound and a great selection of tunes. We also love the preset buttons that allow you to sort through AM, FM and XM stations and save all three on the same preset row. Between the stereo's MP3 compatibility, the iPod port, XM radio and a six-disc CD changer, we were literally stunned by the vast array of entertainment options. Controls on the steering wheel for volume, source and track are also a nice touch. Overall performance is stellar, especially for a sub-$25K car.

Best Feature: Clear sound quality and an easy-to-use interface.

Worst Feature: The display washes out in direct sunlight.

Conclusion: The Solstice is out to change America's opinion of GM, and the little roadster's stereo will definitely help. The standard system sounds great, but if you can dig up the extra $800 for seven Monsoon speakers and a premium six-disc changer, it's money well spent. With crystal-clear sound, an easy-to-operate head unit and a standard iPod interface, this is one of the best sound system bargains currently available on the market today. — Dan Kahn

Second Opinion

Editor in Chief Karl Brauer says:
I wish the Solstice had a more powerful drivetrain, a top I could raise/lower without leaving the driver seat, and a radio display that didn't completely wash out in bright sunlight. I wish it had these things because then there'd be no concrete points for the Solstice nonbelievers to gripe about. But despite these failings, there are some undisputed facts to keep in mind when asking the inevitable "Solstice or Miata?" question. The Solstice costs less, has larger tires, a roomier interior, a superior sound system, better ride quality and essentially the same level of performance.

"Yes," the Miata crowd will reply, "but is it as fun to drive?"

Well, since I value interior space and comfort, pleasant ride quality, a high-quality sound system and increased cornering grip in my two-seat roadsters, my answer is an unequivocal "YES, IT IS!" I'll readily admit that the Mazda is easier to rotate, and it provides a bit more feedback through the chassis and steering wheel, but we're talking a matter of degrees, not vast, monumental distances. We've run both around a racetrack for lap times. The result? A dead heat. So all that "roadster passion" in the Miata doesn't actually translate to better performance. And to throw in a purely subjective point, the Solstice looks cooler, too.

They're both fine roadsters. But the Solstice is better at playing the role of real-world road car, too. While the Miata guys are touting "undiluted passion" and "true sports car character," I'll be busy cranking the tunes and relaxing in the comfortable cabin. Until we start doing hot laps at the local club event, that is — at which point I'll be shadowing them around the racetrack.

Production Editor Caroline Pardilla says:
My pulse raced and I felt a little light-headed. No, I didn't just have a run-in with Brad Pitt. Rather, I went for a spin in the Pontiac Solstice. I had coveted this roadster ever since I first saw it on The Apprentice.

It's an attractive car and certainly gets a lot of double-takes. While driving along the beach on Pacific Coast Highway, I got tailed by a G-Wagen that tried to keep up just so the driver could take in its lines. When I parked in a lot next to a Z28, its owner rushed up to the Solstice with a big smile on his face saying, "I have to look at it. I have to!"

Yes, gawkers galore lusted after its exterior lines, and the Solstice is a blast to drive, but compared to the newly redesigned Miata I drove, its build and materials quality was rough. Sitting in the driver seat, I felt awash in a sea of cheap plastic. Hard plastics abound, pieces nearly coming off, a rickety shifter and a groaning clutch. Granted, this was a preproduction model, but it doesn't give me a good feeling about GM's commitment to quality.

Sure, it's a fun ride and it looks exotic for the $20K price tag, but for about the same money you could get a better-crafted, equally entertaining MX-5.

Consumer Commentary
Consumer Review

"This convertible has it all. To view this beauty from a distance with its flowing lines and growling grille tells you in your first glance that this car is destined to be a classic. Its interior is a beautifully trimmed cockpit with high-quality fit, finish, and materials. This is a car that is the fulfillment of my dream to own a true performance roadster that is most importantly American through and through. At just over $20K there is NOTHING that can come even close. I have driven the Solstice's competition from Honda, Mazda and BMW. They can't match this car's looks or performance at the price. Favorite features: The body, baby! Suggested improvements: Increase storage." — Billdaman, May 5, 2005

"I love this car. The ride is smooth, yet the car is powerful. The lines are sexy. Everywhere I drive, heads turn. The wind isn't bad at all with the top down. Favorite features: Body style, sound system. Suggested improvements: Get the car fully loaded! You can't beat the price. The power package, leather, and sound system with XM radio really made a difference." — Troy, June 1, 2005

What Works:
Gorgeous lines, lots of legroom, crankin' stereo, sharp handling.

What Needs Work:
Sluggish engine, complicated top, hard plastic interior, tiny trunk.

Bottom Line:
Half the price of a Corvette, more than half the fun.
 

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... and they liked the stereo too!
A balanced but positive review, i think.
Funny they didn't mention the lack of storage.

I agree about how the motor is slow to spin down when you let off the accelerator- Terpfan brought this up before and thought it might be a flywheel issue. I hope it's the drive by wire holding up the revs- that could be an item that would fix with a reprogrammed chip. it's a small thing overall, but still an awkward disconnect in a car that is otherwise so well focused on the 'driver experience'. my $.02
 

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Great review of the Monsoon audio, makes me feel much better. And gotta love "It's like one of those quarter-operated mechanical spaceships in front of the supermarket, only for grownups."
 

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I like this equation...

Bottom Line:
Half the price of a Corvette, more than half the fun.
 

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Great post. Great review. Thanks!
 

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Thanks for the post, really does look Pontiac hit a homerun.
 

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mceb said:
I like this equation...

Bottom Line:
Half the price of a Corvette, more than half the fun.

:agree:

One reason I'm buying mine. Also, less than half to insure it.
 

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Edmunds.com said:
Creative Engineering
In order to finish the car on time and attain a sub-$20K starting price, Solstice designers and engineers had to borrow a few things from the GM parts bins. Things like the rear independent suspension and large 11.7-inch front and 10.9-inch rear disc brakes were all borrowed from the Cadillac CTS.
Just wanted to make a couple of corrections.
  • rear independent suspension - yes the rear diff is from the CTS but the actual suspension itself is unique to the Kappa more than likely. The two platforms are vastly different from each other. I don't think the CTS uses coil-over Bilsteins either.
  • disc brakes - we know they come from a mix of the Cobalt SS/ION RL and one of the Epsilon cars, the Malibu MAXX I think not the CTS.
 

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Why the complaint about the manual roof? My husband's 1999 Corvette is manual. So he has to also get out of the car unhook the rook and fold it down into the trunk. No big deal unless it starts to rain ,then you just have to a little faster and the rain goes right over the top. ;)
 

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I have driven the Solstice's competition from Honda, Mazda and BMW. They can't match this car's looks or performance at the price.

This was a silly comment from an ill informed consumer, in my opinion. Honda wasn't trying to compete in the 20K roadster market. They built a track car out of the box that wasn't designed for the "tooling around" crowd, it was designed for all around impressive performance.

To suggest that the S2000 can not compete on performance given its price deserves a :rolleyes: smiley...of course it can't compete, it's a higher segment car that will spank the Solstice, Miata (MSM and NC), BMW, and a few other high priced sports cars that will remain nameless.
 

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and there's this one with a direct comparison to the MX-5

By editors at Edmunds.com
Date posted: 09-22-2005

According to Pontiac, its 2006 Solstice roadster is already a huge success. After it appeared on NBC's The Apprentice, the carmaker says 1,000 examples of the two-seater were sold in only 41 minutes and more than 7,000 found owners in the following 10 days.

Great, it's about time GM's Screaming Chicken division had something to crow about. But before Pontiac's new poster child can become the darling of America's sun worshippers, it has to get past the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata first.

Mazda's Miata has been the small, affordable rear-wheel-drive roadster of choice since it first landed on American soil in 1990, and it isn't going to hand over its crown without a fight. For 2006, Mazda has redesigned its ragtop, perhaps in anticipation of this very shoot-out. It's now more powerful, a little larger and much better appointed. It's also, for the first time, macho on the outside.

But the Solstice, too, comes loaded for bear. The startup from Detroit also packs rear-wheel drive, along with more sex appeal than a Jessica Simpson video, huge wheels and tires, and a larger engine than the import.

As Michael Buffer likes to say, "Llllllet's get ready to rumbllllllllllllllllllllllle!"

The Cars
Since we had just tested a very gray top-of-the-line Miata Grand Touring, this time Mazda sent over a bright red Miata Sport, which has a base price of $23,495 and is one notch under the Grand Touring model on the Miata food chain. Options were limited to a $500 suspension package that adds a sport-tuned suspension, Bilstein shocks and a limited-slip differential.

We never missed the Grand Touring's leather seats, slightly fancier interior trim or its standard seven-speaker Bose sound system, which we gave a lackluster review. The Sport model comes with all the good stuff you get with the Touring package, things like keyless entry, foglamps and the upscale-looking silver on the roll bars, and then adds a six-speed manual transmission (lesser models have a five-speed), a strut tower bar for increased chassis stiffness and 17-inch wheels and tires. Every Miata gets ABS, a CD player and a tilt three-spoke steering wheel.

Power comes from a normally aspirated 2.0-liter, double-overhead-cam four-cylinder that makes 170 horsepower at 6,700 rpm and 140 pound-feet of torque at 5,000. That's only 8 horses less than the 2005 turbocharged Mazdaspeed Miata offered.

It's also 7 ponies shy of the Pontiac's output. The larger 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder, which also sports two double-overhead camshafts, is rated at 177 hp at 6,600 rpm. The additional displacement also gives the Solstice quite a torque advantage over the Mazda. Pontiac says the Ecotec cranks out 166 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm.

But that additional power is there to compensate for the larger Pontiac's 350-pound weight disadvantage and GM's decision to fit the Solstice with a five-speed manual instead of a six.

This Cool Silver Solstice, which we recently road tested on its own, arrived on our doorstep loaded with options, hiking its sticker price well above its $19,950 base price. It had everything, and it all costs extra, including air conditioning, ABS and leather seats. All tallied up, the Pontiac cost about a grand more than the Mazda, while they were more or less comparably equipped.

The Test
We had fun.

First we spent most of the week banging around L.A. in both. Top down, of course. Joy rides were plenty, but we also used these little roadsters as our daily drivers to see which makes the drive to work more palatable. This was also when we evaluated their fuel mileage, their cargo-carrying abilities and their cupholders.

Then we headed north to our double secret test facility where we ran them through our grueling battery of instrumented testing. You know, 0-60-mph acceleration, slalom, that kind of stuff.

From there it was off to some of central California's best driving roads, including Routes 33 and 166, which snake through 100 miles of lush canyons before ending up in the desolate flatlands to the east. There, surrounded by nothing, is the Buttonwillow road course, where we set up a tight 11-turn configuration to further evaluate the athleticism and smile factor of the two two-seaters.

When we felt their eight tires and 16 brake pads were sufficiently cooked, we hammered each down the dead-straight Interstate 5 for a 150-mile return trip to L.A.

After that, it was one last romp of a weekend in each.

The End
Check the stats and the similar performance numbers of these two cars, and you'd expect this test to be a dead lock, maybe even a squeak-out win for the Pontiac.

Didn't happen, the Miata walked away with this one.

Don't get us wrong, we like the Solstice. In fact, if the Pontiac was competing with a 2005 Miata we're pretty sure it would have come out on top.

But this new Miata, or MX-5, or whatever Mazda is calling it, is really something. Its interior is better finished than the Pontiac's, its performance is a bit better and it's the better convertible, with superior wind protection for its passengers and a far superior top design.

But the biggest reason the Miata took this one is the simple fact that it's 10 billion times more fun to drive. It's more responsive. Its engine is livelier and its gearbox feels like it was plucked from a shifter kart. It also has more steering feel, and it stops better.

The Pontiac, although fast, just doesn't offer the same connection to the machine. It feels distant, more like a boulevard star than a true two-seat sports car.

Well, in our world, these roadsters are supposed to be true sports cars. And sports cars are supposed to be fun. The more fun the better. And cars just don't get any more fun than the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata. :agree:
 

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Nemesis3 said:
By editors at Edmunds.com
Date posted: 09-22-2005

According to Pontiac, its 2006 Solstice roadster is already a huge success. After it appeared on NBC's The Apprentice, the carmaker says 1,000 examples of the two-seater were sold in only 41 minutes and more than 7,000 found owners in the following 10 days.

Great, it's about time GM's Screaming Chicken division had something to crow about. But before Pontiac's new poster child can become the darling of America's sun worshippers, it has to get past the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata first.

Mazda's Miata has been the small, affordable rear-wheel-drive roadster of choice since it first landed on American soil in 1990, and it isn't going to hand over its crown without a fight. For 2006, Mazda has redesigned its ragtop, perhaps in anticipation of this very shoot-out. It's now more powerful, a little larger and much better appointed. It's also, for the first time, macho on the outside.

But the Solstice, too, comes loaded for bear. The startup from Detroit also packs rear-wheel drive, along with more sex appeal than a Jessica Simpson video, huge wheels and tires, and a larger engine than the import.

As Michael Buffer likes to say, "Llllllet's get ready to rumbllllllllllllllllllllllle!"

The Cars
Since we had just tested a very gray top-of-the-line Miata Grand Touring, this time Mazda sent over a bright red Miata Sport, which has a base price of $23,495 and is one notch under the Grand Touring model on the Miata food chain. Options were limited to a $500 suspension package that adds a sport-tuned suspension, Bilstein shocks and a limited-slip differential.

We never missed the Grand Touring's leather seats, slightly fancier interior trim or its standard seven-speaker Bose sound system, which we gave a lackluster review. The Sport model comes with all the good stuff you get with the Touring package, things like keyless entry, foglamps and the upscale-looking silver on the roll bars, and then adds a six-speed manual transmission (lesser models have a five-speed), a strut tower bar for increased chassis stiffness and 17-inch wheels and tires. Every Miata gets ABS, a CD player and a tilt three-spoke steering wheel.

Power comes from a normally aspirated 2.0-liter, double-overhead-cam four-cylinder that makes 170 horsepower at 6,700 rpm and 140 pound-feet of torque at 5,000. That's only 8 horses less than the 2005 turbocharged Mazdaspeed Miata offered.

It's also 7 ponies shy of the Pontiac's output. The larger 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder, which also sports two double-overhead camshafts, is rated at 177 hp at 6,600 rpm. The additional displacement also gives the Solstice quite a torque advantage over the Mazda. Pontiac says the Ecotec cranks out 166 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm.

But that additional power is there to compensate for the larger Pontiac's 350-pound weight disadvantage and GM's decision to fit the Solstice with a five-speed manual instead of a six.

This Cool Silver Solstice, which we recently road tested on its own, arrived on our doorstep loaded with options, hiking its sticker price well above its $19,950 base price. It had everything, and it all costs extra, including air conditioning, ABS and leather seats. All tallied up, the Pontiac cost about a grand more than the Mazda, while they were more or less comparably equipped.

The Test
We had fun.

First we spent most of the week banging around L.A. in both. Top down, of course. Joy rides were plenty, but we also used these little roadsters as our daily drivers to see which makes the drive to work more palatable. This was also when we evaluated their fuel mileage, their cargo-carrying abilities and their cupholders.

Then we headed north to our double secret test facility where we ran them through our grueling battery of instrumented testing. You know, 0-60-mph acceleration, slalom, that kind of stuff.

From there it was off to some of central California's best driving roads, including Routes 33 and 166, which snake through 100 miles of lush canyons before ending up in the desolate flatlands to the east. There, surrounded by nothing, is the Buttonwillow road course, where we set up a tight 11-turn configuration to further evaluate the athleticism and smile factor of the two two-seaters.

When we felt their eight tires and 16 brake pads were sufficiently cooked, we hammered each down the dead-straight Interstate 5 for a 150-mile return trip to L.A.

After that, it was one last romp of a weekend in each.

The End
Check the stats and the similar performance numbers of these two cars, and you'd expect this test to be a dead lock, maybe even a squeak-out win for the Pontiac.

Didn't happen, the Miata walked away with this one.

Don't get us wrong, we like the Solstice. In fact, if the Pontiac was competing with a 2005 Miata we're pretty sure it would have come out on top.

But this new Miata, or MX-5, or whatever Mazda is calling it, is really something. Its interior is better finished than the Pontiac's, its performance is a bit better and it's the better convertible, with superior wind protection for its passengers and a far superior top design.

But the biggest reason the Miata took this one is the simple fact that it's 10 billion times more fun to drive. It's more responsive. Its engine is livelier and its gearbox feels like it was plucked from a shifter kart. It also has more steering feel, and it stops better.

The Pontiac, although fast, just doesn't offer the same connection to the machine. It feels distant, more like a boulevard star than a true two-seat sports car.

Well, in our world, these roadsters are supposed to be true sports cars. And sports cars are supposed to be fun. The more fun the better. And cars just don't get any more fun than the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata. :agree:
Yeah, and the Sol has already sold over 13k, how many has the Mazda sold?
Doesn't matter what reviewers say, it's where the consumers spend their $$$
 
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