Welcome to the forum.
Many people have used Solstices as their only car or daily driver for years. A small number of cars seem to have a cluster of issues while the vast majority just keep going and going and. ..
Even the problematic cars tend to be retained by their owners because they like driving them so much (or just being seen in the car)
GXPs need normal maintenance, premimum fuel, and have experienced their share of water pump failures and to a much lesser extent high pressure fuel pump failures.
Here is my standard reply.
The vast majority of the deployed fleet of Kappa’s have had little or no issues at all. The owners take them home, have the dealers do maintenance, put gas into them and drive them until they want something new or the car is damaged beyond economic repair.
A tiny minority of cars have issues. And a much smaller minority of that subset have serious problems. To my knowledge, there have been on the order of 12 owners with major issues, like engine failures or differential failures.
NA cars - that is the 2.4 L normally aspirated cars - are going for 100k, 200k and approaching 300kl miles with few problems. The problems are "normal" failures like water pumps, clogged catalytic converters etc. Some of the early cars had issues with the differential. Several were replaced under warranty. There was a recall for all 06 and 07 MY cars that addressed the rear end. Some cars have rear end wine and some have a "clunk" when making significant throttle changes. I have yet to see a failure resulting from these symptoms. The only failures I am aware of were loss of lubrication or just a mechanical failure . Again we are talking less than 10?
The GXP cars are also pretty much bullet proof. A small - very tiny minority have had significant electrical problems that have been traced back to manufacturing errors. One Sky - GS Stage1 on the Sky forum had major issues that resulted in over a year of problems. In the end he got taken care of by GM, new engine, partial remanufacturing of his car . ..
Should GM Buy Back My Car? - Saturn Sky Forums: Saturn Sky Forum
One GXP coupe had a series of undiagnosed electrical problems that GM chose to not address but they bought the car back from the Oregon owner and made him good.
GXPs have had some water pump failures, beginning as early as 25k miles with a cluster in the 50k region. All were repaired under warranty. There are several threads that cover this information,
Some automatic cars have had hard downshifting issues. It appears that these are related to cam position servo failures that cause the transmission control module to go into protection mode intermittently.
Auto transmission suckage
There have been issues with the tops early on due to improper adjustment of the top mechanism and / or the door windows. Some cars were built without the acoustic liner and are noisier. Some early cars were built with plastic ball end joints which failed in some cases are resulted in a redesign. Putting the top up without opening the doors or lowering the windows will cause issues over time. Failure to lubricate the side hinges over the windows can result in sticking.
top ripping/pinching fix
There are cables that actuate the trunk release and the buttress releases. The plastic retention balls on the ends can fail and make it impossible to open the trunk normally.
Trunk won't open
Get a GM record pulled to verify the in service date and warranty remaining. Any GM dealer can do this for you.
You want to start with the local car because the Sky and Sol are highly susceptible to damage when lifted improperly. The front fenders crack frequently due to road vibration and are easily crushed if lifted with a floor jack. If there is damage you want to identify it before sale and with a dealer you can push to get them to repair the damage as part of the sale. There are basically no available right side factory fenders anymore and few left side fenders. They are repairable and there are aftermarket replacements available from DDM but you need to know if the fenders are cracked as this can be up to a $1k swinger on the retail price.
You also want to take a good look at the bottom front. Because of the configuration of the car nearly every new owner rams them into curbs one to several times and they get damaged. At the very least there will be scrapes on the bottom of the bumper cover that you can use to get a lower price or commitment to repair from a dealer that you probably will not get from a private party seller.
You also want to take a hard look at the top. More than a few cars have had problems with the folding mechanism that has damaged the canvas where it folds over the windows and / or damage to the canvas when it rubs against an improperly adjusted side window. The top is also susceptible to damage from the hold down feet mounted on the trunk lid. The rubber feet come off, fail or even twist allowing direct contact between the mounting structure and the top canvas while the top is in the trunk. I have seen more than one car that has holes in the top due to this. The canvas is $1600 plus installation which at a dealer can run into several hundred dollars. And to the best of my knowledge while there are plenty of replacement canvas parts available, there are no more top assemblies in stock.
You want to visually inspect the cup holders. The front one is notorious for failing and they cost upwards of $100 for replacement parts plus installation labor. The rear one between the seats is much more robust however they can and do get so full of dust and dirt that they will no longer deploy. If treated well they are fine but you do not know till you try to pull the things out.
Another area that I recommend you inspect is the center console. If the previous drivers did like me and leaned on them hard while driving and used them as a support while getting in and out of the car, they all will crack right down the center. I have had mine replaced under the warranty but you are probably out of warranty. The cover is easy to replace but again is in the range of $100 for a replacement part from GM. There are several threads that cover reinforcing below the cover so it will not crack again and DDM has a replacement that is much stonger and includes two cup holders but again that is in the same cost plus shipping and you get to install it.
If you are by chance looking at a 2008 RL, one factor is the production run for the first 6 or 8 months deleted the electronic vacuum pump that provided motive force for the brakes immediately after start up. The issue presents itself on some cars as high brake pedal force required and / or pulsing of the brake pedal for the first few seconds to the first couple of minutes upon cold start after sitting for an extended period or at high altitude. The issue is that the turbo car does not generate much vacuum (its boosted) and as a result once the vacume accumulator leaks down, there is no vacuum for the power brakes when you start. And when you start the factory tune, it is set to heat up the catalytic converter and not optimized for creating vacuum. There was a big safety investigation made and a lot of people had problems with this about mid-way through 2008 calendar year. My wife's car falls in this group and about once or twice a year we get the symptoms but it works fine through it and within about 30 seconds there is normal brake feel. The factory has a software update that if asked they will install on cars with this complaint and in extreme cases there is a retro fit kit that adds back on the electronic vacuum pump. But again, you cannot tell if the car you are looking at falls into this group or not unless you physically check for the pumps presence on the left side of the engine block, and unless you drive the car from a cold start. If you are buying from a dealer you could make the software update part of the deal and get a promise to do the pump retro fit under warranty because GM normally pays for it.
You want to cycle the driver’s seat up and down because a lot of cars have never had their electric adjusters cycled and they need to be freed up and lubricated before they work correctly. In fact, I did a test last year and out of 40 cars and 80 drivers only 5 knew that the driver’s seat went up and down with the switch! Servicing the seat is no big deal but it will be half an hour of labor and some parts allowance so its in the $100 range. If you buy from a dealer you are much more likely to have this addressed as part of the deal than if you buy from a private party. And if you do not have access to the car its difficult to verify operation.
Many, maybe most of the key fobs for 2006 through 2008 at least have a known manufacturing problem. The metal tab / connector that holds the battery in place has a cold solder joint. The fob starts to work intermittently and eventually stops working. If you are good with a solder iron you can easily fix it as many of us have done, but if not, then the dealer will charge you around $100 for a replacement fob and programming it with the car. Potentially times two. If you have access to the fobs, you can pop them open and inspect the condition of the at risk part and know if you are good to go or not. If not, again you are much more likely to get the fob replaced as part of the deal by a dealer.
The door sills have an aluminum insert that is glued to the plastic part. Unfortunately as a result of the attachment method and the difference in coefficient of thermal expansion between the aluminum trim insert and the plastic door sills, the aluminum part will almost always bow up around .25 inches in the middle during cold weather. In some instances drivers will drag their heels across the door sills and can catch the trim plate and bend the crap out of it. They are relatively cheap - around $25 plus labor to install, but if you find it after the fact then it’s your $25 and not the sellers.
If you are getting a GXP, put an OBD2 reader on it and pull any codes. There can be codes that are not displayed but that can indicate incipient problems.
Have the selling dealer pull the outlet air tube from the turbo at the turbo and check for oil. A little oil is normal. If there is a lot of oil there then have the breather valve checked. When they fail, and if the car is driven moderately hard they pump oil out of the valve cover into the intake at the turbo. If there is a LOT of oil there, have them check the drain on the intercooler to verify that it is not holding pooled oil there.
Check the intake clamps for condition. The factory clamps are basically radiator screw clamps and have been known to fail and allow leakage which can cause tuning issues under boost