The Name Tells You Nothing
Steve Schaefer, Fri, 29 Jun 2007 08:00:00 PDT
The brand that brought you the Firebird, Bonneville, and Trans Am now offers a brand new sedan with a European sounding two-digit name that tells you nothing. The G6 replaces the venerable Pontiac Grand Am, which has been Pontiac's bread and butter four-door sedan and coupe for decades. If Pontiac wasn't trying to remake their image, this new vehicle would likely be the new Grand Am, for that matter.
This compact/midsize vehicle uses General Motors' rugged, modern Epsilon platform, with a long 112.3-inch wheelbase and reasonable length to offer more comfort and space than much of its competition. It is certainly roomier than the Grand Am.
The G6 manages to look both familiar and fresh. The nose is unmistakably Pontiac, with its twin nostrils and arrowhead logo. The car's belt line drops from the front pillars and then dramatically rises as it heads back to a set of undistinguished taillamps. Unlike Pontiacs of recent vintage, there is no chunky cladding to be seen, so the overall effect is clean and smooth. The optional Chrometech alloy wheels on my tester spoke this fresh new Pontiac design language, too.
Inside the G6, a transformation has truly occurred from the Grand Am. The shapes and proportions on the new dash are just right, and the textures and panel fit are some of the best I have ever seen in a General Motors product. The soft, matte surfaces on the center console resemble those of a Volkswagen or Audi, and are especially fine and attractive. The boy-racer cartooniness of some previous sporty Pontiacs is gone. The four chrome ringed gauges on the instrument panel evoke upscale luxury, while the "true-red" LED lighting of those gauges conveys sport, and their aggressively italic typeface gives the impression of urgency.
If anything could be considered a flourish inside, it's the wave in the top of the dash panel. It looks as if the rising up of the hood over the instruments made a ripple, which fades out gently as it heads toward the passenger side.
If the G in G6 is possibly a nod to the Grand Am forbear, the 6 in the name points to the new 3.5-liter V6 engine that comes in both G6 models for 2005. Generating 200 horsepower and 220 lb.-ft. of torque, it offers plenty of grunt for a 3,400 pound car. The 2006 models will also provide a tamer 170-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder base model and a GTP mighty version with a 240-horsepower 3.9-liter V6.
My Sport Red Metallic tester was the upper level GT version. However, every G6 gets four-wheel disc brakes and a four-speed automatic transmission, as well as power windows and locks, cruise control, remote keyless entry, and variable effort electric power steering. For a $2,600 premium, the GT brings in 17-inch alloy wheels, antilock brakes, power adjustable pedals, a sport tuned suspension, a rear spoiler, a manual shift mode with the automatic transmission, and more.
My test car carried a significant $5,355 worth of options, including the Premium Value package (3,145), Leather package ($1,365), additional airbags for side and head protection, and the remote vehicle starter system. This last item was fascinating. I simply pushed the circular-arrow-marked button on the remote and the car started up without a key or even a driver. This would be great for getting the defroster and heat going before jumping in on a cold day. I did notice, though, that the radio didn't turn on too, so if you wanted to hear music you would have to turn the car off and back on manually to bring the audio system to life.
As part of the Premium Value Package, my car featured the Panoramic Roof. This enormous four-panel glass sunroof allows front and rear passengers to enjoy sun and air on pleasant days. The front slice of glass pops up while the other three gather together at the rear when you push the button. Also included in the package is the Monsoon 200-watt sound system, which delivers crystalline, full-bodied music.
The OnStar emergency communication system came with the package too. As seen in the TV ads, this electronic marvel lets you communicate with people who can help with travel information, unlocking, or other services. In case of a crash, OnStar automatically notifies emergency personnel, using Advanced Automatic Crash Notification to convey airbag conditions to them, so they will already have an idea of what they will find when they arrive on the scene.
The base G6 starts at $21,925. At $28,280, my test car competes against entry-level luxury cars from Audi, Lexus, and others, which is a lot of pressure for a new Pontiac. The fact that the G6 felt surprisingly tight, well made, and comfortable during its test week made it easier to live with that number, however.