2005 Pontiac G6 Expert Review:Autoblog
On a cold and windy winter day in Chicago the last feature you'd expect to be checking for is the sunroof. But here I am scoping out the new Sport Red Metallic Pontiac G6 GT that was recently dropped off and I'm a bit disappointed that it is sans the collapsible panoramic roof.
Don’t get me wrong there will be no day on this drive I open the regular sized sunroof the tester is equipped with, but I wanted to see the much talked about accordion style sucker in person. It’s never good to begin a test week disappointed but here I go.
Luckily the roof is pretty much the only thing I’m not impressed with during the first full day of driving. From the outside the G6 looks solid. I enjoy everything about the design from the macho stance, broad backside, narrowing side windows and even the chrome wheels are a good fit (I always prefer the brushed or dull look myself). The only feature I’m really not in love with are the headlights.
Is it just me or do they look way too big for the rest of the car? They seem to creep too far up on the hood and over the natural line created by the gap between the hood and front fender.
Inside the car is terrific looking. As always black plastic looks best in any car and in this model the two-tone with the tan fabrics and leather seats is a nice combination. Out of all the GM products I’ve tested the Pontiac division seems to be doing the best with whatever platform they’re given. The cockpit feels sporty and somewhat European. I can’t wait to find out if the car’s performance holds up to its looks.
The general, overall impression I'm getting from the G6 after extended driving is that this indeed is a car that can compete with the likes of the Mazda 6. The 6 was one of the first cars I "officially" tested and I was surprised at how fast the manual transmission "6 S" was and how well it handled for an import sedan. The Camry certainly isn't as fun and the Accord, while more powerful in V6 form, is just too ugly for me. But the 6, that was stylish and like the commercials say, fun to drive.
So here comes Pontiac to the game hoping to compete with all those same cars and for the most part it will top them in value with standard V6 for just over $20,000.
But my main complaint is the engine is nowhere near as well tuned, or powerful, as the Mazda 6 or Accord V6. While the manual mode is smooth shifting, especially for an American manufacturer, the standard automatic transmission has a hard time selecting gears when pushed.
On the way to work I was stuck behind a very old man behind the wheel of a very large Cadillac. In Chicago, most streets are two lane affairs with one lane each way with parking allowed on the curb. During rush hour people aren’t allowed to park in the higher traffic areas. That means there is room to pass someone, like my grey haired nemesis, but not by much. My opportunity to pass the guy arrives before parked cars start on the next block. I throw the G6 around to the right lane, punch the accelerator and…whiiiiir…the transmission can not find second gear or third as I floor it. The old guy is literally staring at me like “what is this whippersnapper doing?”
Due to this lackluster attempt I’m stuck at the next light on the stop bar next to this guy. So now I put it into the manual mode and easily fly away from the light and shift smoothly. What we’ve learned is Pontiac needs to work on their engine and transmission combination a bit for even the most average real world acceleration.
Otherwise the car rides great. The suspension is firm enough to feel sporty while absorbing bumpy roads. Turning could be a little tighter. The wheel requires about a half turn too far to get around parking spaces and the wheelbase is actually longer than the Buick LaCrosse I just got of. Go figure. I’m still digging the interior except for the faux wood (carmakers, stop doing this to $20,000 cars) and hard to grasp interior door handles.
Read about Day 1 in the Pontiac G6.
Usually the third day in a car is where I point out all the flaws it has. But yesterday I spent time talking about my one big hang-up with the acceleration and engine so I'm left with little to complain about.
Inside I just love the G6. It is very cool looking. The only plastic that fails to impress is on the door handle (both front and rear) and little things like the rear cup holders are very cheap (I’m talking Kia cheap). But those won’t get as much notice as the nice everyday stuff like the center stack, attractive gauge pod and surprisingly enough my favorite little cell phone cubby, pictured here, above the shifter. Positioned right next to the electric outlet it is the perfect size for cell phone, palm pilot, Sidekick etc. There’s another plug in the larger center storage compartment too if you have more than one electric gadget.
Parking is kind of a pain in the G6. The longer wheelbase than the Buick is annoying. I park in the same lot every day at work. It is a tight fit for any car. But the Buick definitely handled the sharp turns better even though it was a larger car. It’s not a make or break attribute but seems odd for the “sport sedan” in the family.
The trunk isn’t huge but for those shopping this segment it is acceptable. I like the deep storage wells on the sides with cargo netting. They could actually fit a few bags of groceries easily unlike many “cargo” areas which seem like you could slip a loaf of bread in them and that’s about it. You can see a bunch of dry cleaning, my messenger bag and assorted other shopping bags fit easily with much more room behind them to flip-down seats. Before I get the question after last week’s Old Navy comments, these pictures are not product placements. I just shop at Old Navy and DSW and am recycling the bags for dry cleaning. And pictures of a full trunk are better, in my opinion, then an empty one. Comments about my discount shopping habits and recycling bags can be posted below.
I'm not sure if I should just wrap up the G6 today or add more tomorrow. Basically the car has gone back to wherever test cars go when I'm done with them and I'm left with just my images and memories…awww. Seriously though the G6 does deliver that American sport sedan that Pontiac promised. Could it do a better job? Definitely. Is it worth the $21-$23,000 sticker price. Sure.
In the end I think Pontiac fans can now buy a new model without the guilt that they’re throwing their money away on an outdated looking vehicle. There’s no excess to the design and the interior is, again, very nice. Here are pics of the rear door handles that I thought felt so cheap. The door handles all around were really the only disappointment inside.
The stereo has a decent sound quality but I’m alarmed that so much travel information is stored in the stereo display. What if I want an aftermarket unit? Luckily the controls are handy once you learn what they all do, and there are a lot of them. Maybe just a round of new speakers and an amp would suffice the audiophiles out there. Steering wheel controls aren’t so easily laid out and I didn’t adjust the stereo volume much using them. And like all Chevy and Pontiac products of late the wheel itself is the dopey four-pronged affair. Check out the new Corvette and ask yourself what it’s doing there as well.
In the performance arena I would’ve liked a little tighter steering and a shorter wheelbase. I’m sure this is the length it needed to be to push the wheels to the edge of the bumpers as far as they can go to placate the design mavens. But should they if it effects the way the car performs? Add that to the transmission problems I’ve already mentioned and that could turn some people off.
When you put the G6 side by side with the Mazda 6 it’s a tough call. Depending on your taste in looks you could go either way. But because of the engine and other performance issues I would lean towards the 6 myself. Although I sure wouldn’t turn my nose down at a friend that bought the G6 either. Not in the same way I do whenever I see a new Grand Am on the street.
And to answer my own question I’ll probably do a gallery roundup tomorrow.
New Car Test Drive
All-new mid-size sedan is roomy and affordable.
With the new G6, Pontiac has put a stake in the ground, challenging the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Mazda 6 to beat it on sheer value. That was the central message at the recent introduction of the car that finally replaces, and becomes the sixth generation of, the Pontiac Grand Am, first introduced in 1974 as a much larger car, and evolving down to the all-new Generation 6, or G6.
Initially, the Pontiac G6 is being launched as a sporty four-door sedan, available in SE and GT trim levels. Initially, all will be equipped with a 3.5-liter V6. By spring 2005, the G6 line will include sporty two-door coupes and convertibles, each with unique styling. Three engines will be available: a four-cylinder, a 3.5-liter V6, and a high-performance 3.9-liter V6, the latter in a new GTP model. All come standard with four-speed automatic transmissions, though a high-performance six-speed manual gearbox will be available for the GTP.
We found the G6 has good road manners even when driven hard, benefits of its long wheelbase and European-designed architecture. The sedan is roomy and plush with excellent overall function and its price point will make it popular choice as a mid-size sedan. The G6 offers some interesting features. The car can be started remotely by pressing a button on the key fob from the comfort of your home, a real luxury on bitter cold winter mornings or sweltering summer afternoons. A Panoramic roof is available with panels that slide rearward, creating a sunroof large enough for the back-seat riders to enjoy an open-air experience.
The Pontiac G6 starts at $20,675 for an SE V6 (all prices are MSRP and do not include the $625 destination charge). A less-expensive version with a new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine will be launched in spring 2005.
The sportier GT model ($23,300) adds a rear spoiler, ABS, 17-inch wheels and tires, power pedals, power seat with more adjustments, and a 200-watt Monsoon premium sound system.
The high-performance GTP uses its own special 3.9-liter engine and higher-capacity 4T65-E four-speed automatic transaxle. An F40 6-speed wide-ratio transaxle will be optional. The GTP is being launched spring 2005.
Safety features: Side-impact air bags ($690) are optional. ABS is optional and is packaged with traction control. Traction assist is available on the SE, full-spectrum traction control on the GT, and traction control with the GM/Delphi Stabilitrak chassis control system will be available on the GTP. OnStar, an excellent safety feature for its ability to summon help, is optional.
Options include OnStar ($695), XM Satellite Radio ($325), a standard sunroof ($700), a Panoramic roof ($1500), Monsoon premium sound ($300), remote starting ($150), and chrome-finish 17-inch wheels ($650). Various options packages are available, including a Leather Package for the GT ($1365).
This car, according to Pontiac, is the living expression of what all future Pontiacs will look like and act like, a redefinition of Pontiac's longstanding 'Excitement' theme. All of the previous earmarks of a Grand Am are gone, along with the name.
Gone are the massive side cladding panels and standoff rear spoiler associated with the Pontiac Grand Am. Instead, there is a single spear running down the sides of the G6 with a delicate integrated spoiler lip on the trailing edge of the decklid. That's on the GT models. The stripper version, the SE, has almost no decoration at all. It's a bit soulless in style when compared to the previous high-energy, hot-looking Grand Am, even out-dulling the Honda Accord.
The Pontiac designers were handed a much longer wheelbase, at 112.3 inches some five inches longer than the old Grand Am's, and they have made the most of it in terms of interior roominess. A 6-foot, 4-inch passenger can sit behind a 6-foot, 4-inch driver with plenty of room in models with no sunroof or the conventional sunroof. Those with tall friends or family may want to consider the new Panoramic sunroof is powered by a motor that takes up a big chunk of headroom at the trailing edge of the headliner.
The all-new 2005 Pontiac G6 is built in Michigan on GM's international Epsilon platform, from parts and ideas that used on the Saab 9-3, Opel Vectra, Chevrolet Malibu sedan and Malibu Maxx wagonette, all introduced over the past two years.
GM's Epsilon architecture is behind the long-wheelbase G6's ride and handling finesse, with a structural stiffness that helps the G6 achieve a 27.3 Hz bending frequency, a big number that ranks with most luxury cars. Pontiac says the car is designed with three major 'torque rings' that add stiffness and strength without taking up too much space or adding weight. In addition to the torque rings, the G6 structure also uses high-strength steel for about 60 percent of underbody components and central tunnel. Rather than just a single layer of sheet steel, the tunnel has an extra piece of steel welded between it and the floor pan. The stiff body uses fully isolated front and rear subframes to carry the heavy stuff, and the front one is hydroformed for strength and light weight.
The G6 interior is altogether new and different from the somewhat excitable, frenetic soft-plastic, fat-knob theme of past Grand Ams. It is much darker, more modern, more European, done in four major sections including a stark, ungrained plastic center stack that holds two vents, the sound system, heater controls, and a 12-volt power outlet. Instruments and controls are presented in white on black (red at night). Every single knob and escutcheon has a chrome ring around it. Very tasty, and nicely presented, with small, conservative graphics on the faces and labels.
The center stack has a red-LED readout and control panel that allows every owner to use the sound system's features, and to customize the locking, lighting, and other functions, with a trip computer and driver information system that's easy, intuitive, and fun to use. The new sporty front bucket seats are made for body comfort and body retention in high-speed maneuvers, and they are very comfortable and thickly padded.
This G6 is a now a grown-up. New optional features available on the G6 that were never available on the Grand Am include a neat remote starting system for those cold winter mornings, power adjustable pedals, OnStar, XM Satellite Radio, and the newest item on the shelf, a Panoramic roof.
Developed by GM and Webasto, this top comes open in four stacking segments, front to rear, and has about twice as much open area as the conventional sunroof, which is still offered. It's remarkable how easily it works, and keeps conversation possible even at very high road speeds.
We found the G6 reasonably quiet. A few powertrain and road noises slipped in here and there, and there was some wind noise from the sharp-cornered mirror bodies. The ride is comfortable and smooth and the car tracks well. The electric power steering is nicely weighted in terms effort at the steering wheel rim, but a little vague in fast transitions.
The engine in our test car was the standard 3.5-liter V6. It's quiet and smooth, with a 0-60 mph time that's just enough to keep you out of trouble, but not enough to make your heart beat faster. The transmission worked flawlessly. It features a neat, simple manual-control mechanism built into the shifter and a gear indicator LED straight ahead in the instrument panel so you don't forget, important because this manual mode will not automatically upshift for you at redline. It goes right up against the rev limiter. Ratios were well matched to the engine's power and torque bands. Some torque steer was evident on full-throttle starts and low-speed kickdowns, which shouldn't be there on a modern platform like Epsilon.
The 3.5-liter V6 produces 200 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque. The 3.9-liter HO engine that comes in the GTP is rated at 240 horsepower, 245 pound-feet of torque. The new and improved 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is rated 175 horsepower, 170 pound-feet of torque. The GM EcoTec 2.4-liter is a double overhead-cam engine used in the Saab 9-3, Opel Vectra, and Chevrolet Malibu. The four-cylinder engine will be restricted to the base SE, and the big HO V6 will only come on the GTP.
The G6 has been updated with improved engines, the 3.5 and 3.9-liter, respectively, but they are still old engines. They are larger, updated versions of the 60-degree 2.8-liter V6 engine that was optional on the X-cars in 1980, 25 years ago. They are overhead-valve engines, low-tech to be sure, but they're relatively smooth and quiet and they get decent fuel economy, with an EPA City/Highway rating of 21/29 miles per gallon.
We did a number of 90-0 mph ABS panic stops with the car on a deserted country road, and it stopped straight and true every time with no fade. The brakes have a nice, progressive power application through the pedal.
The all-new Pontiac G6 is much roomier than the previous Grand Am. It offers good road manners and excellent overall function, especially at these initial prices. It does its job well and should be a big seller for Pontiac in the years to come, especially when the line expands to coupes, convertibles and high-performance versions.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Jim McCraw reports from Norvell, Michigan.
Pontiac G6 sedan SE V6 ($20,675); GT V6 ($23,300).
Orion Township, Michigan.
Options As Tested
front side-impact and head curtain airbags ($690); sunroof ($700); OnStar ($695); Monsoon AM/FM/CD player ($300); XM Satellite Radio ($325); Convenience Package ($375) includes 4-way power driver side seat adjuster, adjustable power pedals, seatback pockets, carpeted floor mats.
Pontiac G6 sedan GT V6 ($23,300).
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