The Detroit Newspapers's view

Two-thirds of the 2009 Pontiac G6 is beautiful.

The G6 growls with its big grille and front end with giant intakes below the body-color bumper. The pointed headlights sweep inward, bucking the trend of head lamps pushing out. The steep windshield adds a crisp detail: driving straight at you, the G6 looks clean and fast.

But then there’s that profile. Chop off the last third of the G6 and you’ve got a stunner, a sharp looking machine — everything up to where the sedan’s second row ends is topnotch. Butt — pun totally intended — following up close behind the gorgeous front two-thirds is a backside only Jennifer Lopez’s mother could love.

It juts out and looks stretched to imperfect proportions. It’s grotesquely fascinating. An automotive wreck of sorts that draws your eye away from the car’s finer details. The coupe looks unrealistic, as if someone went wild with Photoshop’s cloning tool and decided to make a 14-foot long car just over 15 feet. (The G6 sedan measures 189 inches, or 15-feet-9.)

Fortunately, my test vehicle was the sedan, which looks closer to normal but its backside is still a little out of whack. Really, my test vehicle offered a lot to like. This model year is the first time Pontiac has mated its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine to a six-speed automatic transmission. The test drive

During my 100-mile test drive, the G6 sedan barely used three gallons of gas. It can hit 33 miles per gallon on the highway and 22 mpg in the city, according to the EPA. In my 50/50 mix of city and highway driving, I managed to get 29 mpg. (The EPA, after all, only offers realistic averages, not carved-in-stone “will reach” numbers; sometimes, you do better.)

The G6 is the most versatile vehicle in Pontiac’s lineup, coming in a variety of body shapes and trims. (There are six versions of the G6, including the hardtop convertible. There are also four engine choices ranging from the 2.4-liter I-4 to a 3.9-liter V-6 (only available in the drop-top).

But the four-banger sedan model I tested has the potential to be the best selling in the bunch, especially with a 10 percent increase in highway fuel economy over the previous model year.

Nicely loaded with a sunroof, leather seats, remote start, Bluetooth connectivity for my phone and a host of other features, my G6 wasn’t a bad ride at all and had a sticker price of $26,600 (it starts at $22,890, including $670 shipping). There’s even a special value-priced model that starts at $19,945. Clean and comfy

Inside the G6 may not be inspiring, but it’s comfortable and clean. The plastic dash is a little impersonal and the simple three vent layout at the top of the center stack is mildly distracting, but the interior feels complete and left me wanting for nothing.

I had XM Satellite Radio, heated seats, an auxiliary jack for my iPod and a car that was fun to drive. You can also load up to five adults without much problem. There’s plenty of room in the front or back — a larger cabin is one of the byproducts of a longer wheelbase, which the stretched G6 provides. And that big backside actually is not a complete waste; the trunk offers 14 cubic feet of space.

Too often, four-cylinder engines are discounted as the commuter’s bread and butter. This G6 may only produce 164 horsepower and 156-pound-feet of torque, but it gave the car a very quick feel. Instead of a four-speed automatic clunking through the gears, the six-speed glided through them. The revs never got unbearably high before ch-chunking into the next gear — the biggest flaw with the soon-to-be-extinct four-speed.

Now, this G6 wasn’t going to win any straight-line racing, as the pickup wasn’t overly impressive, but its handling was excellent.

The independent suspension limited body roll around corners and the steering feels well weighted. It’s fun and spirited on the road and can handle as much abuse as you can dish out. It may not have the power of the V-6 GXP, but I never expected a front-wheel burnout. Fortunately, there was no heavy torque steer on the front-wheel drive G6.

Really, there was more to like than dislike with the G6. True, it’s not a ringing endorsement, but it’s not a dismissal. By the time I got out of the G6, I was much more impressed with it than when I hopped into it.

While it may only be two-thirds beautiful on the outside, the performance was 100 percent satisfying. And beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder. (313) 223-3217

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