Pontiac's sporty Solstice is finally available how the car was originally imagined when it appeared as a concept back in
2002: as a coupe.
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Pontiac first teased the notion of a coupe version of its Solstice roadster concept at the Detroit Auto Show in 2002. It's finally here and naturally aspirated and turbocharged 260 horsepower GXP form.
That original 2002 design study was a fixed roof hatchback. But on its way to production, the Solstice Coupe grew a removable roof section in the place of the convertible top.
On the surface, it seems nice of the GM folks to add the option of open-air motoring. The removable panel is sturdy, uses the same front latching points as the soft top. It's framed in lightweight magnesium and weighs just 31 pounds. But when removed, it doesn't fit in the back of the car. So you can't take it with you to protect against the sudden rain squall or in case you wish to leave and secure the cabin.
Well, you can install the removable soft top. But in order to do so, you must first put the three pieces together. The process takes just a few minutes and might break a fingernail or two the first time.
This Erector Set light component is lightweight and has enough structure for high-speed running. But when you want to remove it and stow it, you have to take it apart.
But here is real kicker. All this convenience costs an additional 1100 bucks. Building the Solstice Coupe with a fixed roof in the spirit of the original would have been less expensive and avoided the conundrum. The new body style is exclusive to Solstice. There will be no Saturn Sky version.
Now that we're past all that, the coupification job is well done. The roof panel, rear deck section, glass hatch and taillights are new. All other body panels remain the same. There is so little impact on weight or balance that suspension calibrations are untouched and the roadster's 50-50 weight distribution is maintained.
In terms of storage capacity, the EPA rating isn't much larger, but it's a much more useable space. That is, until you have to store the folding top.
We drove the Solstice with each top in place and with none. Take it or leave it issues not withstanding. The hardtop fits and seals drum type, no wind noise, creaking or leaking.
There's a bit of fluttering and higher noise levels inside with the snap-together soft top in place, but it mounts solidly with no chance of lift-off, even at higher speeds. Because the Solstice has a separate chassis, there is no cowl shake or body wiggle over bumpy surfaces, as is most often the case with a unibody convertible.
The rest of the driving experience is nearly identical to that of the GXP roadster. Nobody will accuse the turbocharged Ecotec of being the smoothest or sweetest sounding power plant ever born, but it's lusty enough. I'm sure does crank out the power.
The steering is quick and direct; the ride well-split between performance and comfort and suspension handles mid-corner bumps with aplomb and plenty of grip.
Price for the GXP Coupe is $890 more than for the roadster. Even though it's technically an option, you must add in the additional 1100 bucks for the soft top to make it an all-season proposition.
Pontiac expects about half of Solstice buyers will opt for the new coupe. For that, they'll get an attractive ride that's fast and fun as long as they're willing to live with a few compromises that live right on top.