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Thanks.

Va-va-voom style with a surprisingly low price tag

By James R. Healey

The Pontiac Solstice sports car is an amazing achievement and a pretty good car.

It shows that Pontiac's parent, General Motors, can hustle up credible models from scratch in quick time — a little more than two years.

Solstice is a type of car that Detroit automakers never have done well — a lightweight, two-seat, rear-drive, folding-top sports car. In modern times that market has been left to the likes of Mazda Miata, Honda S2000, Nissan 350Z.

Now, Pontiac wants to honestly claim that excitement it so promiscuously brags about. Hence, Solstice. There's plenty to like:

•Style. Just too cool, evoking mighty machines of then and now, including racing Jaguars of the 1950s and recent Lotuses.

•Price. $19,995 to start, but that's a little misleading. Two accessories most people want cost extra: air conditioning ($960) and anti-lock brakes ($400), making the practical starting price $21,355. And dealers are marking prices up. Curb your passion. Buy one a year from now after the gotta-have crowd is through paying too much.

•Power. The engine doesn't quite like to rev to the redline as you'd prefer in a sports car, but it compensates with extraordinary low-speed proficiency. It'll lug and chug just fine in rush-hour traffic. The engine's song is a refreshingly raw growl at higher speeds.

•Feel. Crisp, taut, firm, the defining road-going personality you expect in serious sports cars. Easy to get wrong; Pontiac didn't.

•Comfort. The seats fit well. There's enough room to slide them back to accommodate tall drivers without hitting the rear bulkhead of the passenger compartment and having to adjust the backs of the seats upright, as happens when tall folks drive Miatas.

•Amenities. Solstice benefits from its Yank bloodlines, offering the features Americans like that Miata lacks. Examples: Well-sited interior lights that help getting into or out of the car in the dark. (Miata's a tomb at night.) Optional XM satellite radio. (Miata doesn't offer it.) Optional information center with fuel-economy gauge. (Not available on Miata.)

•Integrity. Pontiac started with the concept car that won raves at the 2002 Detroit auto show and came up with road-going underpinnings that would work with that body design. GM calls the resulting chassis its kappa architecture and uses it for the similar Saturn Sky coming next year.

Hyrdroforming is used to shape some underneath structure and all body panels except the lower part of the front fenders. That technique uses high-pressure fluid to force steel into difficult shapes that conventional stamping presses can't accomplish. Hydroforming takes longer, though, so isn't useful for high-volume models.

But Pontiac could have done better. It has had the Miata to study for 15 years, yet failed to swipe some obvious features. After the new wears off, you'll find yourself annoyed with things than didn't need to be aggravating. Examples:

•Abominable folding top. Rather than Miata's delightful, simple top that you can lower impulsively at a stoplight from inside the car, Solstice's top requires multiple moves that include getting out of the car. The ritual:

Loosen a windshield latch. Pop the trunk latch. Exit the car and lift the trunk lid. Fold back the top. Slap down the trunk. Putting the top back up is the reverse, except it also requires you to yank down and snap into place latch pins on the two rear corners of the top.

Trade-off: The trunk lid hides the top and leaves the car's gorgeous, unbroken lines to ravish the eye.

•Lack of practical storage. Even if you use Solstice as a weekend toy, you'll grump over lack of places to put stuff. A bin on the rear bulkhead, between the driver's and passenger's seats, has room for CDs and some small miscellany, but it doesn't lock (Miata's does) and has pointed edges that'll surely snag some arm skin. Nets and pouches behind the seats hold a few things, but they have to be items that needn't be handy. Small cloth pouches on the front edges of the seats can hold phones and the like, but they seem like unhandy afterthoughts. There's no console bin, nor any scooped-out spots on the transmission tunnel.

And while there's a bit of space in the trunk when the top's down, it's under the folded top. You have to lift the top a bit to get to the space.

Pop-out cup holders will stow your latte, but the holders feel flimsy and are inconveniently located.

•Noises. The four-cylinder engine sounds a little coarse at idle. The preproduction test car's front end emitted groans and creaks when turning tight into a parking spot or, sometimes, just starting off from rest.

•Dynamics. The engine's design makes it reluctant to rev, vs. the Miata's rev-happy personality. The car's front end bobs a little in corners that include bumps. The brakes feel just OK.

That's a lot of crepe-hanging, but the gorgeous appearance probably is enough reason to buy a Solstice, especially considering the reasonable starting price. The difference between it and Miata isn't the difference between good and bad, but rather the gap between individual preferences.

Next week we'll look at the 2006 Miata, a redesign of the car that re-invented the small, affordable, rear-drive sports car when the 1990 model went on sale.
 

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Thanks :thumbs:

I am sure he ruffled a few Sol feathers, but I think everyone has heard the same "pros and cons" by now. Nevertheless, he seemed to be pretty fair ... I look forward to next week. ;)
 

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Great article except for:

Solstice is a type of car that Detroit automakers never have done well — a lightweight, two-seat, rear-drive, folding-top sports car. In modern times that market has been left to the likes of Mazda Miata, Honda S2000, Nissan 350Z.
If the 350z is considered light weight, why isn't the 'vette on this list? I would have to say Detroit did a very well job on 'vette.
 

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On the inset box, it states "How soon-On sale since August. The first 1,000 went to buyers who signed up during a special promotion. Pontiac says it has just finished those and begun shipping cars for other buyers"

Oh yea? Hey Pontiac, please inform those 1K that can't see their Solstice in the driveway or garage that there blind!

On Healy's review, one thing he didn't mention or notice is that a car that handles as well as the solstice doesn't have the harsh suspension traits that normally accompany. As far as the braking feeling "just OK", I haven't gotten on mine that much, but they feel great>
 

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Drex said:
why isn't the 'vette on this list?
Because while a 350Z Roadster tops out at under $40K a Corvette roadster starts at $52K. Over $50 is a different class of car.

Optional XM satellite radio. (Miata doesn't offer it.)
Of course not. :rolleyes:
XM is partnered with GM. Sirius is partnered with Ford. Sirius is available on the MX-5.

Sometimes I have to wonder about these reviewers.
 

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LBJay said:
Because while a 350Z Roadster tops out at under $40K a Corvette roadster starts at $52K. Over $50 is a different class of car.
Definitely agree with that, but the article didn't put a price cap on the cars. Including the 350z convertible would also bring in the TT, Z4, and Crossfire. Personnally don't put them in the same class as the Miata or Solstice, but that's just my opinion. Though I believe lightweight != 3445lbs (350z).
 

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Drex said:
Including the 350z convertible would also bring in the TT, Z4, and Crossfire.

Looks like they made a $40K cut off.
 

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My assessement: the article is relatively balanced, and identifies almost all of the areas that will differentiate the MX-5 and the Solstice.

Engine stuff/performance stuff - we all knew this before. No surprise. The big surprise is how close the performance is between the two cars, even though the Solstice weighs 400 lbs more (there, LBJ. Said it so you don't have to ;) ). Seems to be able to shoulder it well enough...

The top operation, love it or hate it, it is what it is. Look in the forum history for interesting "form vs. function" arguments - MX-5=function where form not as nice, Solstice=form IN SPITE OF function. Which one wins? Why is water wet? We can discuss either question... :lol: (I bet Chemist has an answer for the latter question, though). Some members were on the side of the AFBTS's being so sexy that it didn't matter how difficult they were to operate. I and a few others thought it could have been done better at minimal sacrifice for style, and the requirement that the system work from the driver's seat. Which leads me to segue to...

...storage space. Inextricably tied into the AFBTS argument. A rethinking of the top and gas tank placement would have led to better storage and minimal sacrifice... then others believe that you should expect NO storage in a roadster. Which portion is more important?

Why can't I catch a fart and paint it purple? We can discuss either question to the same end :lol:. Though, again, I suspect Chemist has a very good answer for the latter question, too...

I feel the brakes are better than "just OK", but JMHO. Maybe I drove a different car. Maybe the car they drove was ragged out. <shrug>

They left out what I believe is one of the COOLEST features for the Solstice - the AUX plug integrated into the radio. According to the two local Mazda dealers, the MX_5 is supposed to offer this sometime in the 2007 model year, but it is was not considered "important" by Mazda to incorporate it into the '06 MX-5.... that is, until it showed up on the latest GM radios. This is not a "so what" option - the ability to plug in ANY auxiliary device with a rca mini is VERY convenient. My buddy's MP3 player, my iPOD, another's COMPUTER... I wouldn't underrate this option, and the even cooler thing is you can get it on the HHR AND the Cobalt now, too.
 

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Why can't I catch a fart and paint it purple? :lol:.

I have never even thought to ask this question!!! Not sure if I would ever want to try that one, but leaves you with something to think about! :lol: :lol:
 

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On the review: Pretty good. I thought the brakes were better than ok, but that is just my opinion. He did say it was a pre-production car, so maybe the brakes were a little off, or had already been well abused by other journalists.

He is spot on about waiting for the gotta have it now for over sticker crowd to be satisfied if there are markups in your area.

Overall I think it was a fair review. He critiqued the more obvious negatives about the car and highlighted the positives without sounding overly biased one way or the other. We'll see what he has to say in next weeks MX-5 review. I am sure he will make some more comparisons.

LBJay said:
Of course not. :rolleyes:
XM is partnered with GM. Sirius is partnered with Ford. Sirius is available on the MX-5.

Sometimes I have to wonder about these reviewers.
I caught that too. Maybe he will criticize the Sol for not offering Sirius next week.

With both companies, the real negative shows up if you want the other satelite radio provider than the factory offers. If your a baseball fan or Nascar fan, getting Sirius doesn't do you any good. XM is not helping the football fans or Howard Stern fans any.

I did read recently that XM has 5 million subscriptions to Sirius's 2 million, but a lot of that must come from XM's inclusion in so many GM vehicles these days.
 

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Fformula88 said:
...With both companies, the real negative shows up if you want the other satelite radio provider than the factory offers. If your a baseball fan or Nascar fan, getting Sirius doesn't do you any good. XM is not helping the football fans or Howard Stern fans any.

I did read recently that XM has 5 million subscriptions to Sirius's 2 million, but a lot of that must come from XM's inclusion in so many GM vehicles these days.
Ah, but consider this...

...The AUX plug works great for my XM Roady. Sirius also has an analog to the XM Roady (can't recall what it is, but it is the portable unit for Sirius satellite radio).

You can plug the output of either unit into the AUX plug in the Solstice. In the MX-5, good luck finding a channel to use the built-in radio modulator. ;)

On the flip side, there really isn't a good place to put the unit in the Solstice, but if you subscribe to the thinking that the pass-side cupholder is to inconvenient to use for cups, it actually works well for an iPOD or an XM Roady. I've also tucked my iPOD in the front of seat pocket - which is only good if you don't want to see the display. Most iPODs also will fit next to the radio in the Solstice.

I did have a bit of issue finding a good place to put an iPOD in the MX-5, aside from the cupholder.
 

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solsticeman said:
Ah, but consider this...

...The AUX plug works great for my XM Roady. Sirius also has an analog to the XM Roady (can't recall what it is, but it is the portable unit for Sirius satellite radio).

You can plug the output of either unit into the AUX plug in the Solstice. In the MX-5, good luck finding a channel to use the built-in radio modulator. ;)

On the flip side, there really isn't a good place to put the unit in the Solstice, but if you subscribe to the thinking that the pass-side cupholder is to inconvenient to use for cups, it actually works well for an iPOD or an XM Roady. I've also tucked my iPOD in the front of seat pocket - which is only good if you don't want to see the display. Most iPODs also will fit next to the radio in the Solstice.

I did have a bit of issue finding a good place to put an iPOD in the MX-5, aside from the cupholder.
Good point. I did not know a Sirius or XM portable receiver would work with the Aux jack. :thumbs:
 

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Fformula88 said:
On the review: Pretty good. I thought the brakes were better than ok, but that is just my opinion. He did say it was a pre-production car, so maybe the brakes were a little off, or had already been well abused by other journalists.

He is spot on about waiting for the gotta have it now for over sticker crowd to be satisfied if there are markups in your area.

Overall I think it was a fair review. He critiqued the more obvious negatives about the car and highlighted the positives without sounding overly biased one way or the other. We'll see what he has to say in next weeks MX-5 review. I am sure he will make some more comparisons.



I caught that too. Maybe he will criticize the Sol for not offering Sirius next week.

With both companies, the real negative shows up if you want the other satelite radio provider than the factory offers. If your a baseball fan or Nascar fan, getting Sirius doesn't do you any good. XM is not helping the football fans or Howard Stern fans any.

I did read recently that XM has 5 million subscriptions to Sirius's 2 million, but a lot of that must come from XM's inclusion in so many GM vehicles these days.

XM has more subscriptions simply because it was launched much earlier than Sirius. Basically they have kept pace with each other. But you're right the redundancy is unfortunate and the fact that they both have sat systems in place although somewhat different probably flies in the face of merger considerations although who knows to what degree. :)
 

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birdliver said:
XM has more subscriptions simply because it was launched much earlier than Sirius. Basically they have kept pace with each other. But you're right the redundancy is unfortunate and the fact that they both have sat systems in place although somewhat different probably flies in the face of merger considerations although who knows to what degree. :)
I'd just be happy if you could get factory receivers in cars and such that would be compatable with either service.

XM got a big boost from baseball too. A lot of baseball fans signed up to get their teams games. It may not be the best TV sport, but it makes for one of the better radio sports. It's also far easier to follow a lot of games on radio, since you can do other things with it on. Watching 162 games on TV sure is time consuming! :eek:
 

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solsticeman said:
On the flip side, there really isn't a good place to put the unit in the Solstice, but if you subscribe to the thinking that the pass-side cupholder is to inconvenient to use for cups, it actually works well for an iPOD or an XM Roady. I've also tucked my iPOD in the front of seat pocket - which is only good if you don't want to see the display. Most iPODs also will fit next to the radio in the Solstice.
Since I won that Roady2 from the billboard sign competition I have one too. Been trying to figure out lately how to mount it.
 

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The only thing better about XM than Sirius is the name.
XM just matches AM, FM, XM.

I honestly don't think the AUX is a "Solstice-feature". It's the radio they chose to use, that's all... I mean, ANY car has the potential to have the AUX. I don't know why it has taken so freaking long to become standard.

The MOMENT tape-decks became un-standard, the AUX should have.
 

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Fformula88 said:
I'd just be happy if you could get factory receivers in cars and such that would be compatable with either service.

XM got a big boost from baseball too. A lot of baseball fans signed up to get their teams games. It may not be the best TV sport, but it makes for one of the better radio sports. It's also far easier to follow a lot of games on radio, since you can do other things with it on. Watching 162 games on TV sure is time consuming! :eek:
Love to see units compatible with both. I'd get a lot more baseball and would love to listen in the car and my son is a big Howard fan so it would even be interesting if you could have both active and available but that's probably really stretching it. Like to have the choice at least though.
 

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brentil said:
Since I won that Roady2 from the billboard sign competition I have one too. Been trying to figure out lately how to mount it.
Two words:

Vel Cro. :lol:
 

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solsticeman said:
...The AUX plug works great for my XM Roady. Sirius also has an analog to the XM Roady (can't recall what it is, but it is the portable unit for Sirius satellite radio).
That's all well and good until someone knives your top to steal the Ipod, or portable XM player you forgot to take with you just that one time. One thing about soft tops, loose electronics become a real hassle. I once had a MD player swiped out of my car while I was in 7-Eleven buying a Big Gulp. Yes, I had the top down, and yes I left the MD player on the console, but jeeze, I was 20 feet away in clear view of the car.
 
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