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Thursday, May 31, 2012

2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe

I'm willing to bet no Pontiac since the iconic 1959 Bonneville, the first of the wide-track, split-grill cars, has garnered so much attention and curiosity based on its appearance. People were literally circling the coupe in the supermarket lot trying to take it all in, and our parking attending was full of questions about what it was. "It's a, uh, Pontiac," I said.

He stared back at me glassy-eyed.
Clearly, this thing has the exterior part down, although yellow would be my last choice for a color. Unfortunately, the hard top has done little to fix the Solstice's many flaws. There's a slightly bigger space for cargo behind the seats, but it's still too vestigial to even call a trunk. And the outward view is so hindered that there are more blind spots than there is glass.

The Solstice coupe is thus a toy. That would be OK if it were a thoroughly entertaining one, but dynamically, it's a mixed bag. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four is an absolute monster, unfettered by the hardtop's extra 22 pounds compared to the convertible. Whatever happens to Saab, we can at least thank its engineers for teaching GM how to build world-class small engines. But the subtler elements of a great driving car seem beyond the Solstice's comprehension. Steering is slow and rather numb, and its 3018 lbs of girth prevent it from ever feeling light on its feet as a two-seat sports car should. Oh it'll go like hell, and hangs tough in most corners, but it doesn't achieve the cohesion that makes cars like the BMW 1-series so endlessly rewarding.
Despite my litany of complaints, I can't say I dislike the Solstice. Anything this beautiful and capable deserves some consideration. My hope is that if GM indeed pares down Pontiac's lineup as it states it will in its restructuring plan, the Solstice will be one of the vehicles that survives. A little more development could turn it from merely a pretty face into a great sports car.

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