Pontiac’s New Look
By Fleetwood Brougham
What image comes to mind when you hear the word Pontiac? Do you envision a giant screaming bird decal plastered on the hood of a black Trans Am (hint: if you took driver’s ed in 1979, the answer is “yes”)? Or do see the interior of your last rental car? A Grand Am perhaps, complete with marshmallow-filled seating and a dashboard inspired by Fisher-Price play toys? Both images are fair game, but so are images of great cars such as the GTO, Le Mans, Grand Prix and Firebird. Believe it or not, there was a time when the Pontiac name stood for power, styling and awe. And hallelujah, GM’s excitement division is on track to regain its past glory. In the next few months a host of new cars will appear that will change the way you think of Pontiac, and the first to arrive is the new G6 sedan.
The G6’s split front grille, cat-eye lenses and smartly-styled 17-inch aluminum wheels are instant give aways of Pontiac styling. What’s missing is the tacked on body cladding, the long front and rear overhang and the bizarrely woven tapestry of curved, angular and round body parts. This Pontiac is a class act, even in its most basic trim.
Our GT came standard with four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, traction control, air conditioning, AM/FM stereo w/CD and cloth bucket seats. Side-curtain airbags, remote starter, power-adjustable pedals and a panoramic multi-pane sunroof are among the more notable options.
Settling in the G6, we see this is no warmed over Grand Am. The bucket seats feel firm around the legs and back, with lots of support for the thighs. The generous rear seat makes legroom for even the tallest drag queen, though her wig may be crushed by limited headroom. The dash design is clean and logical. Chrome trim rings surround large gauges constantly backlit in a reddish-orange glow. Climate and audio controls are easy to see and operate and the standard Monsoon audio system sounds pretty darn nice. Unfortunately, the plastics used to assemble the dash and door panels are devoid of anything resembling color and contrast. It seems fashion dictates gray, black and tan as the interior color palate for all cars. We say “blah” to that; take a peek at the vivid red leather seats in the GTO and then ask yourself, “what’s wrong with a little color?”
Though the G6 has definite sport sedan potential, it still falls short of the mark set by the Mazda 6 and Nissan Altima. Although Pontiac is the supposed to be the driving enthusiast division, GM didn’t get the memo that a slow-shifting four-speed automatic just doesn’t cut it with performance fans, even with the tap up/down manual shifter. Nor does the aging push-rod engine that lacks any sense of authority during aggressive driving. In fairness, we should point out that in everyday driving, the kind 99.9% of us do, the G6’s V6 runs smoothly, has enough guts to allow for quick leaps across crowded intersections and returns an impressive fuel rating of 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway. We should also point out that the GTP trim offers a more impressive 240-horsepower 3.9-liter V6 and an optional six-speed manual transmission.
The suspension delivers a stable and smooth ride over both gentle and choppy road surfaces. Steering response is quick, but there is a definite lack of feedback telegraphed via the steering wheel. The disconnect results from GM’s new electrically-assisted power steering that replaces the old-fashioned (but more accurate) hydraulic system.
Prices for the G6 range between $19,490 for the base four-cylinder model to $28,075 for a fully-loaded GTP. With a base price of $23,180, our GT costs about the same as a comparably equipped Mazda 6 and Nissan Altima SE, two vehicles that offer considerably more in the way of handling and horsepower. Still, the G6 merits a test drive, and GM’s continuing round of discounts and rebates could save you thousands off the sticker price.
Pontiac is a gay-friendly company.
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