Reasonably priced 'retractable' with some sensible changes for '07 could help the automaker regain its past prestige in today's more competitive market. Pontiac
loyalists applauded when the automaker introduced the first affordable modern under-$30,000 retractable four-seat metal hardtop convertible for 2006 -- the $27,865 G6
Other "retractables" were way north of $30,000. Pontiac
was General Motors' top high-performance division in the 1960s and very early 1970s, with the iconic GTO muscle car and big, gorgeous Bonneville and Grand Prix. It kept its stirring performance reputation in the dreary later 1970s domestic auto scene with its Firebird and Grand Am. Pontiac
also was innovative, with autos such as its 1980s Fiero -- Detroit's first mid-engine production car and the first U.S. two-seater since the 1950s Ford Thunderbird.
So it was no surprise when Pontiac
introduced the G6
convertible, which looks racy -- top up or down. It has a nicely engineered, quick-acting folding metal top, which operates at the push of a button. It was developed with the U.S. arm of Karmann, a veteran European-based convertible specialist best known for the Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia convertible.
The $28,680 2007 G6
retractable has a more powerful base V-6 and now only comes in GT form because the costlier $29,3655 GTP version has been dropped.
retractable remains a bargain, although it's been joined by other affordable four-seat retractables from Chrysler and Volkswagen. (Mazda's affordable MX-5 Miata retractable has two seats.) Pontiac
's Solstice two-seater with a conventional convertible top has been a hit since being introduced for 2006 and is a good companion to the more practical G6
convertible was the first affordable U.S. car with a retractable top since the 1957-59 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner, which would cost about $20,000 in current dollars but lacked the technology to be reliable.
Until the G6
convertible arrived, retractable hardtops were found only on the costly Cadillac XLR and a few upscale foreign autos.
's performance reputation, it's no surprise that the 2007 G6
coupe, sedan and convertible have more powerful engines.
One such engine is the 3.6-liter, 252-horsepower, four-camshaft V-6 from Cadillac's CTS, which can be hooked to a new six-speed automatic transmission in the GTP coupe and sedan. In the best old Pontiac
muscle car tradition, you can get a 240-horsepower version of the 3.9-liter V-6 with a six-speed manual gearbox.
hardtop convertible has a standard 217-horsepower version of the 224-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 (up from 201 horsepower last year) that provides decent performance. It has a lower rating because of such things as exhaust system design differences caused by the retractable top.
My test G6
convertible had an optional 3.9-liter V-6 with 227 horsepower (240 in the coupe and sedan) that provides more punch for merging and passing. With the 3.9, the G6
retractable does 0-60 mph in 7.4 seconds.
The 3.9 is the ideal engine for the G6
retractable because this convertible is several hundred pounds heavier than the G6
coupe. Weight is added by such things as compensatory unibody stiffening to prevent typical convertible faults such as cowl shake over bumps.
retractable feels tight and is very quiet with the top up. Top-down driving at expressway speeds results in little wind noise in the front seats.
The front-wheel-drive G6
has quick -- but rather numb -- steering. This car is primarily a comfortable cruiser -- not a high-performance convertible. But it handles well, displaying good grip in curves with little body lean, thanks partly to its large 18-inch wheels. The ride is comfortable, and stopping power is strong, with standard anti-lock disc brakes and linear brake pedal action.
The smooth 3.9 V-6 comes in a $1,490 Sport Package that costs $1,290 if ordered with the $1,450 Premium option, which contains a 6-way power driver's seat, remote engine start and leather seats. The Sport option also provides automatic air conditioning, anti-skid system, five-spoke 18-inch ultra-bright alloy wheels and -- of course -- dual chromed exhaust outlets.
Both V-6s work with a responsive four-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift feature. The 3.5 delivers an estimated 20 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway, while the 3.9's figures are 17 and 24. Only 87-octane gasoline is required.
Manual shifts are controlled by the shift lever, as there are no paddle shifters near the steering wheel. But the automatic holds a chosen gear up to the engine rev limiter instead of prematurely upshifting to an unwanted higher gear.
Long, heavy doors have large handles, inside and out, but are a problem in tight parking spots.
The front passenger seat slides forward to allow easier entry to the rear, but front seat belts get in the way when entering or leaving the rear, which has two separate seats. However, the G6
provides decent room for four 6-footers. Pontiac
says the trunk volume is 12.6 cubic feet with the top up, which is respectable for a retractable hardtop, but it drops to 2.2 cubic feet with the top lowered.
Gauges can be read quickly, and audio and climate controls are conveniently placed and easy to use. The nicely shaped front bucket seats provide good lateral support during emergency maneuvers or when zipping around curves. However, the slightly raised rear end of the retractable makes it rather difficult to see when backing up if the top is in the raised position.
retractable is fairly well equipped. It has a standard tilt/telescopic steering wheel and $125 power adjustable pedals to accommodate shorter drivers. Front side airbags cost $295. Pontiac
is trying hard to bring back its old glory in a much more challenging market, and models such as the G6
retractable hardtop are helping it accomplish that objective.
2007 PONTIAC G6
LIKES: More power. Affordable "retractable." Zoomy styling. Room for four. Smooth ride.
DISLIKES: Long, heavy doors. Marginal trunk room with top down.