When the Solstice went on sale in the fall of 2005, it was the first production vehicle on GM's Kappa architecture. Equipped with a 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine featuring variable valve timing, the Solstice is manufactured in Wilmington, Del.
A high-output GXP version debuts for 2007. Powered by a 260-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder, the GXP features an electronic stability system, stainless steel exhaust outlets, special seats and exterior styling modifications.
A rear spoiler and sport pedals are now available for all Solstices, and power height adjustment for the driver's seat is standard. "Mean," which is Pontiac-speak for yellow, is a new body color, and the Solstice's cloth convertible top can be had in tan.
According to Pontiac, designers sought to preserve the "clean lines and taut proportions" of the concept when creating the production version. Among the most notable styling features is the reverse-hinged forward-opening "clamshell" hood, matched by a similar setup for the trunk lid at the rear. Sporting a hunkered-down look, the Solstice has Pontiac's characteristic dual-port grille. The rear clamshell hides the top when it's down, thereby preserving the car's clean appearance. Nacelles that sweep behind each seat are shaped to match the head restraints.
The four-wheel-independent suspension has forged-aluminum control arms and monotube shock absorbers. Base and GXP models have front and rear stabilizer bars, but the GXP's are larger. Five-spoke aluminum wheels hold 18-inch tires. Featuring a space frame structure and a 95.1-inch wheelbase, the Solstice is 157.2 inches long overall, 71.6 inches wide and 50.2 inches tall. Its track width is 60.5 inches in front and 61.2 inches at the rear.
Two passengers fit inside the Solstice's cockpit, which has a wraparound instrument panel. Deeply recessed round gauges have red numerals. The pedals are positioned to allow "heel-and-toe" footwork. GXP detailing includes either gray or red seat accenting, aluminum sill plates and embroidered floor mats.
Under the Hood
Base Solstices are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing that makes 177 hp and 166 pounds-feet of torque. The GXP's turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder produces 260 hp and 260 pounds-feet of torque. Both models come standard with a five-speed manual transmission, but a five-speed automatic is optional.
Four-wheel disc brakes are standard, and antilock brakes are optional.
The base model's performance falls short of the car's visual promise, due largely to the engine's lack of low-end torque. When pushed hard, engine noise is more annoying than alluring. On the other hand, the ride isn't bad at all.
Some drivers will like the short, notchy gearshift lever, which sits atop a large center tunnel. Others won't be as pleased. There's lots of clutch-pedal travel before engagement, which can make matching engine revs difficult. The clutch also is on the heavy side.
Snug inside, the Solstice has ample headroom when the top is up but very limited elbow space. Entry and exit aren't easy. Visibility with the top up is awful, and oddly positioned mirrors don't help all that much. The dashboard features thick chrome bezels, which can produce reflections. Trunk space is next to nonexistent.