Versus the competiton:
General Motors has a certified hit on its hands in the all-new 2006 Pontiac G6 convertible. By the time the bright blue test vehicle left my driveway, news had broken that the entire stock of 2006s had sold out. So no matter what I say in this review, you’l have to wait until the 2007s reach dealerships before you can buy one.
That said, I can only imagine the G6’s popularity remains intact thanks to the same set that made the Chrysler Sebring convertible a strong seller years past its prime: drivers with a need for an affordable four-seat droptop who don’t care much about performance, but for whom looks and practicality remain pretty important.
The G6 convertible has a retractable hardtop that allows it to retain basically the same uneasy shape as the G6 coupe. But with the roof down, the bulbous rear is thankfully replaced by open air.
I wouldn’t call either’s look cutting edge — nor are proportions proper for aesthetics snobs — but at least with the top down you can better understand the G6’s mass appeal. The retractable hardtop simply allows the G6 to sell better in cold-weather climates where soft-tops offer less practicality.
How do you describe the ride and handling of such a heavy — 3,855 pounds — vehicle? Let’s say piloting the G6 around town was like trying to eat sushi with a couple of baseball bats. It was cumbersome and left me completely unsatisfied. The steering can only be called numb and disconnected, offering no passion or excitement in tight corners.
The same disconnection actually helps the ride. Rough roads are of little notice, and for the most part you’re able to pay more attention to the radio than which lane has the most potholes. It’s a ride for someone who wants to focus on the scenery more than the road — the exact person looking for a four-seat convertible.
My test vehicle was equipped with the base 201-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. An optional 240-hp 3.9-liter is available in the more expensive GTP model. Having driven a GTP coupe, I can tell you it’s only a marginal improvement on this GT, and most convertible owners probably wouldn’t be interested in the added performance even if it were more substantial.
The GT hustled from a stop just fine and didn’t lurch as much as you’d think a very basic four-speed automatic would. Everything was just “acceptable.” Shifting happened in a precise manner, but there wasn’t anything sporting or GT-like for the speed freak in the family. Braking was adequate, but the test vehicle experienced a bit of squeaking during casual stops. When stomped hard, the brakes didn’t make any noise.
While some reviews of the G6 slight its sparse interior, I didn’t have any problems with it. There are plenty of cupholders and spaces for miscellaneous cargo, and the optional leather package in the tester was quite nice. The seats are extremely comfortable and could accommodate much larger frames than mine.
Stereo controls and the stereo overall could stand improvement, but the recessed red gauges are contemporary and sporty.
My main beef with the interior came from the big selling point, the retractable hardtop. While Pontiac is promoting the fact that the G6 is the most affordable hardtop convertible on the market, it’s not telling people that the mechanics are visible when the top is up. That means the large metal hinges that allow the top to fold are just as visible as in any old soft-top. Anyone inside the vehicle will be disillusioned and won’t understand why the automaker didn’t just add some extra cloth to cover everything nicely. With the top up on the new Volvo C70, for example, it’s hard to distinguish that convertible from a regular coupe, inside or out. Believe it or not, that fact alone almost makes up for the nearly $10,000 price difference.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash tested the G6 convertible. The vehicle comes with standard antilock brakes and traction control, while stability control is standard on the GTP model. Side-impact airbags are a $295 option.
There’s not much to discuss besides the retractable roof. With the roof up, the trunk is spacious for a two-door vehicle. With the top down there isn’t room for more than a garment bag or two — meaning you need your cargo to be flat. It takes about 20 seconds to open and close the top, but you have to hold the button down the entire time and press it relatively hard for an electric switch.
Given its price, and the convenience the G6 convertible delivers, it will continue to sell. It may not be the best of all worlds, but it does bring the mainstream four-seat convertible up to date while the competition, mainly Chrysler, has not. It’s priced properly, is attractive enough to sway middle-aged and older buyers, and allows those in colder climates to seriously consider a convertible.