Here's a new review from a CA newspaper...
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/columnists/13079208.htmSan Jose Mercury News said:A Sunday morning romp through the ribbon of a road that bisects Corral Hollow Canyon between Livermore and Tracy convinced me that the new Pontiac Solstice is OK.
OK, maybe more than OK.
In fact, it reminded me a lot of the first time I drove a Dodge Viper in 1992.
Don't laugh. Yes, I know the original Viper had a 400-horsepower V-10 engine and a $55,600 sticker. (Not that you could get it for that.)
And this Solstice, in comparison, has only a 177-horsepower four-cylinder motor and a $20,000 starting price. (And buyers are paying more, according to Edmunds.com.)
But I see parallels, and felt them when I was driving.
First, there's the Bob Lutz connection. Lutz was Chrysler's president when the Viper arrived, and his wish to create something akin to his AC Cobra with a Ford engine was the inspiration for that machine.
Lutz joined General Motors in 2001 and insisted that his design staff create an affordable two-seat roadster, in concept form, in time for the 2002 Detroit auto show in January. It happened, in four months, and a star was born.
It's now on sale, and the Solstice's simple, driver-oriented cabin and its low seating position reminded me of that original Viper. Even their tops -- ridiculous and poorly fitted in the original Viper, needlessly complex in the new Solstice -- had similarities.
I'll stop there as the new Solstice, with a base price under $20,000 -- and fully equipped, as was our test model, priced at $23,805 -- must stand on its own. (And that under-$20,000 base model doesn't include items such as air conditioning, leather seats and a nice stereo that most Solstice buyers will want.)
And it must stand against a car like the just-revised Mazda MX-5 Miata. Other roadsters, such as the Honda S2000 and BMW's Z4, are much more expensive.
I've driven the new Miata, and it's a bit more refined than the Solstice. It's lighter and has a tighter turn radius.
But the Miata's new design doesn't thrill me. It looks too similar to the old model from a distance, and too artificially muscular up close.
The Solstice isn't perfect, either. Its bulbous front end, decorated with Pontiac's signature twin-port grille, looks like somebody just punched it in the nose.
But, overall, I love its newness. I appreciate its aggressive stance. It's not cute, like a Mini Cooper, and it's not dangerous-looking, like a Lamborghini. Instead, it looks fast and fun and inviting.
Power, coming from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, isn't breathtaking. But at 177 horses, it's enough to move from 0 to 60 mph in 8.0 seconds, vs. 7.7 seconds for the new Miata, according to autos.com. The Solstice's five-speed manual transmission was impressive, and there was enough oomph for climbing hills and needed bursts of speed. An automatic transmission won't arrive until spring.
Most think GM will quickly introduce a more powerful Solstice. At the big auto after-market show in Las Vegas this week, the company showed off the Solstice Weekend Club Racer complete with a turbo-charged 325-horsepower engine, a racing suspension, a removable hard top, a tall rear wing and a mango paint job.
With the top down (and the windows down), a back-roads morning drive in the Solstice was an invigorating experience. You could turn the radio up loud to hear some tunes, but the rush of wind and the roar of an engine is enough for me.
This car is a bit wider than the Miata, and for that I'm thankful. I've always enjoyed driving a Miata, but I'm just too tall and too big to fit in it very well. I did fine in the Solstice. The optional leather bucket seats provided plenty of support, even after several hours of non-stop driving.
Not that this is a perfect car. My nits include:
• Deep, recessed white-faced gauges that were hard to see in the sunlight. They were easier to read at night, but generally were blocked by the steering wheel whether it was a.m. or p.m.
• The cup holders just don't cut it. There are two in the middle of the back of the cabin, an awkward placement. They did securely hold a cup of coffee, but I had to turn my entire body to reach it. There's a third one aside the center console in the passenger foot-well, but it's out of the way, too.
• The top is a bit of a Rube Goldberg experience. We had an early Solstice in the Bay Area press fleet and someone did something wrong with the top, a part got broken and the car is still out of service.
It's a one-person (good), but a four-step job (bad). You hit the trunk release button on the key fob and two roof clasps release and the trunk lid opens. Then, still standing outside the car, you lift up the trunk lid backward (both hood and trunk have clamshell designs).
Then, sitting inside, you pull the roof-release lever. Now, standing again, you lift the top and fold it into the trunk. Once it's secure, you close the trunk (now completely useless for carrying anything) and you're ready to go.
On the Miata, you can release the roof while sitting in the driver's seat and just push it up and over your head and be on your way.
• Pontiac says the Solstice's trunk measures 3.8 cubic feet. That's tiny. (A Camry sedan gives its owners 16.7 cubic feet.) But I'm guessing that's with the top up. Put the top down and there's barely room for anything.
• Gas mileage is OK. The Solstice gets 20 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway, while the new Miata gets 25/30.
The government has just added the fuel-mileage numbers for all the 2006 models to its www.fueleconomy.gov Web site. Based on its mpg figures and its 13.8 gallon fuel tank, and figuring 15,000 miles a year driving and $2.60-a-gallon gas, the Solstice owner will pay $1,697 for a year of gas, the EPA says. (And $32.29 a tankful.)
Next up on GM's new rear-drive Kappa platform will be the 2007 Saturn Sky, another two-seat roadster. Seen earlier this year at the Detroit auto show, the Sky has a more elegant interior than the Solstice.
To me, the bottom line with the Solstice is that it joins a growing list of unexpectedly good, affordable new cars from GM, including the Chevy HHR and the Hummer H3.
A solstice is a ``turning point,'' according to one Webster's definition. The 2006 Pontiac Solstice might be that for GM.