Since it's unveiling in production form at the 2004 Detroit auto show, we have been excited to see how Pontiac's finest sedan form looked on and handled the road. The G6 brings the sexiest looks to Pontiac (except the Solstice, but that's in a league of its own) that we've seen in some good time - maybe ever. The taughtness, the muscular curves, the visually compact proportions make this car optically embody the "driving excitement" that was for so long Pontiac's mantra.
Inside, the G6 offers surprising room in every direction. This is a roomy midsize with pleasant appointments to suit a young and gainfully employed individual. Well-fitting plastics are poured over the instrument panel, waterfall, doors and side panels. Large knobs and buttons translate human mechanical inputs into electronic actions for HVAC and stereo. Cloth fits supportive seats for all 4 occupants. A large diameter steering wheel beckons the driver, and bright red lights burn a deep hue to illuminate the gauges.
Under the hood a good variety of engine options may be found, from a 4 cylinder to a wedged-in V6 up to 3900 cc in displacement and fed by an intake tube that snakes accross the front of the engine bay like a mountain road switchback. The big V6s (we drove the 3.5L) have plenty of torque down low to offer up quick getwaways despite a tall final drive gear. GM powertrains do tend to be quite torque-full and this G6 is equipped appropriately.
Lots of body roll and not a lot of feedback in the steering wheel add up to a less than optimal driving experience. It is an appropriately more nimble vehicle than the Pontiac Grand Prix GXP, but as unengaging a chassis nonetheless. When you push the G6, it pushes just as hard through the corner, grabbing after a helping of bodyroll with non-aggressive yet decent turn-in. The car looks nimble by its lines, but feels big inside and it drives as such.
The softness of the suspension leads to a smooth, comfortable ride under all conditions, which joins up with good road NVH characteristics to make the G6 a nice ride. The engine sounds that come through are less than inspired but are certainly non-intrusive.
There is one major item with our test ride which just about negligifies (yes I made that word up but it sounds nifty so it will be left in) most other characteristics of the car. The test ride we got had a great big hard top that folded back at the push of a button and about completely fills that enormous trunk. And this car only costs $28,680 base. That's quite amazing. A hard top 4-seat convertible for that little money. And one so spacious and comfortable, and with lots of power and good enough handling to be able to have some fun with. Sure, you can get a Miata with a retractable hardtop, but gosh this is just about as dirt cheap a car you can get with such a great feature - and you can seat four.
The only complaints with the top are that when retracted you have no trunk space, and that it rattles a good bit while driving...you might expect such drawbacks from getting this feature on such an inexpensive package, but we can hope and ask for a better design.
There are other 4-seater hard tops out there - the G6 is just the first to market and more luxurious chassis are either on there way or already here. But they will cost more. The Pontiac G6 convertible is a lot of car for the money. GM has offered a vehicle that the masses can aspire to - it is sexy, roomy, seats 4 comfortably, goes topless at the push of a button but with the top up it is as quiet and warm (or cool) and isolated as a full-time hardtop coupe. It is a beautiful car to drive along the coast or through the mountains at any time of year. It is not the most exciting car to drive but it can be driven quickly and there is no shortage of power. It's a good American automobile.
Click here to enjoy the G6's 3.5L V6 wound up.
Click here to experience a quick drive on a twisty road behind the wheel of the G6.