Metro Weekly

Surface Attractions

2006 Pontiac Solstice

As I would have predicted, the moment our unseasonably warm January temperatures gave way to a bitter chill, the new Pontiac Solstice convertible roadster showed up in my driveway for testing. Just two more days, I asked the heavens. I just need two days to get the top down.

The heavens relented. Although, perhaps tired of all the begging and lamentation about tops during my younger years, they granted me just one day of sun and faux-spring atmosphere. Luckily, it was enough.

New for 2006, the Pontiac Solstice is a two-seat roadster with rear-wheel drive, a cloth convertible top and the ability to stop pedestrians in their tracks. Really. I had a group of K Street types stop in the crosswalk to stare at the Solstice’s dual-grilled and aggressive front end. I haven’t had so many people stop and stare and pepper me with questions about a car since I tooled around town in Chevy’s over-the-top retro SSR convertible truck.

But unlike the SSR, which made little-to-no economic sense when you looked at the Corvette-level price tag, the Solstice packs in an astonishing level of style into a package with a base price of just over $20,000. It’s hands-down the best looking car Pontiac’s put out in years, if not decades.

While you may recognize some design cues here and there on the Solstice’s curvy body, overall it’s a nicely original piece of work. It’s easy to look at it and wonder, “How did they make a car that looks this good for just $20,000?”

Well, once you get into the Solstice, you’ll understand. While the Solstice’s interior isn’t atrocious — and GM’s put together some atrocious interiors in the not-distant-enough past — it is rather boring compared to the outside. There are some valiant efforts with swoops and swooshes, but it’s nowhere near the stunner you might expect when looking at the exterior. Of course, you can spruce up the interior with leather and other premium options, but be prepared to watch the price quickly hit the mid-$20s.

Is it a worthy trade-off? On the whole, yes. Once you put the top down — push button, flip a lever, fold into the trunk and go — the whole package really comes together. With its light weight, decent horsepower and rear-wheel drive configuration, the Solstice is a fun little road runner. Those who crave extra power and speed might want to wait for the turbo-charged model debuting later this year, but for most of us the current model is just fine for some highway cruising.

2006 Pontiac Solstice
MSRP: $20,490 base
MPG: 20 city/28 highway
Highlights: With a gorgeous exterior that looks like it would cost two to three times as much, this top-down cruiser packs in the fun.
Lowlights: Interior doesn’t live up to the exterior; small storage space limits practicality.

Cruising and, possibly, commuting are the primary modes for the Solstice, which while enormously entertaining to drive comes with a bare minimum of trunk space. Even with the top up you’d be challenged to squeeze in a weekend’s worth of luggage for two. Until GM’s engineers figure out a way to add a bit of practicality in the rear, the Solstice will likely be a perfect second car for singles and couples who already own one practical vehicle.

And when the heavens comply by providing some sun and sky, that’s not a bad thing at all.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.