The Pontiac Solstice, the sibling to Saturn's sleek Sky roadster, is available in two main versions for 2009: base and GXP. Both trims are also now available in a stylish new coupe body style.
The Solstice comes standard with a 2.4-liter, 177-horsepower inline four-cylinder. The high-performance GXP model features a 260-horsepower turbocharged direct-injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, but a firmer suspension setting, GXP-specific 18-inch wheels with high-performance tires, and GM's StabiliTrak stability control system give it well-rounded performance credentials. On both models, a five-speed manual transmission is standard, a five-speed automatic optional. Both Solstice models have rear-wheel drive.
With the base engine and manual gearbox, the 2,860-pound Solstice can get to 60 mph in just 7.2 seconds; it's a significantly quicker 5.5 seconds with the GXP's turbocharged engine. Even with the base engine, the Solstice feels very peppy (thanks in part to low gearing), with more than enough power to dart through gaps in traffic. The base engine lacks refinement and can be quite coarse in sound and feel, but the 2009 Pontiac Solstice GXP's turbocharged engine and different gear ratios feel more sophisticated and responsive; the turbo doesn't bring much lag (hesitation) either, and it brings improved highway fuel economy.
The 2009 Pontiac Solstice doesn't ride very comfortably in either form, but the firm suspension and precise, quick-ratio steering bring a good feel of the asphalt, and the 2009 Pontiac Solstice is in its element on tight, curvy roads. Even approaching the limits of adhesion, the Solstice handles predictably.
After spending some time inside the tight cabin, you probably won't find the 2009 Pontiac Solstice quite as alluring. The narrow seats lack good cushioning or support for longer drives, and the driving position is difficult for taller or shorter drivers, as the steering wheel doesn't telescope. What's more, some of the controls are located in odd places, and the cabin lacks modern must-haves such as abundant storage cubbies and sturdy cup holders.
The soft-top arrangement in the 2009 Pontiac Solstice requires getting out of the car to secure two anchor points for raising the top, while the top lowers below the rear-hinged trunklid and occupies much of the already small cargo space. Visibility is more impaired than typical with the top up. Wind noise with the top in place--and wind buffeting with the top down--could use some improvement.
Though more basic in standard form compared to the Saturn Sky, the 2009 Pontiac Solstice does come with a CD stereo, a rear defroster, an adjustable steering column, and a considerably lower base price.
A wide range of options are available, including power locks, mirrors, and windows; keyless entry; cruise control; leather seats; and a Monsoon audio system. Among the changes for 2009 are standard OnStar and XM Satellite Radio; a new MP3-compatible AM/FM/CD radio with an auxiliary jack; and standard tire pressure monitors. The GXP also comes with polished stainless steel dual exhaust tips, revised front and rear fascias, and GXP-specific interior trim, including "GXP"-embroidered sport buckets.
The Pontiac Solstice increases standard safety equipment for 2009, but it's still an area of concern. For 2009, anti-lock brakes and stability control--must-have sportscar features that GM previously had omitted--are now on the standard-features list, but side airbags remain unavailable. The Solstice has been crash-tested by the federal government and got four-star results in frontal and side impact.
The Bottom Line:
Practicality and comfort take second billing to sportscar performance and flashy looks in the 2009 Pontiac Solstice.