Sweet is an understatement
Published on October 19, 2005 By Daiwa In Car Reviews
First saw a TV ad for the Solstice back in March during the NCAA basketball tournament and immediately decided I had to have one - it was just too good. Unusual for me, since I buy a car every 8-10 years whether I need it or not.

Went to Pontiac's website & there it was, at a price I thought was a typo - less than $20k base. So I called my local dealer: only one problem - no such car existed outside the web page at the time and wouldn't until a limited edition run of 1000 vehicles was produced in early summer. The lottery for the limiteds was closed. Curses... foiled.

Called the local Pontiac dealer again in June & was told they were going to have 2 on the lot briefly the following weekend - just call back that day to make sure. Called that weekend and was told whoever I had spoken to was clueless - they probably wouldn't have any in stock until August at the earliest. Actually went to the dealer in early July to just go ahead and place an order for one but they wouldn't take my money - by this time they didn't know when they might be able to get any. Customer orders for 2 vehicles had been placed by the dealer but delivery was not expected until September at best, GM was supposedly having problems with the supply chain for optional equipment like upgraded sound systems & cruise control, and they didn't want to tie up any more customers' money when availability was so uncertain. So I left with my money in my pocket. Curses... foiled again.

Returned to the dealer in late August to try ordering one again - again they refused to take my money since they didn't think they'd have any to sell until January at the earliest and delivery dates of the two on order were still unknown. Curses... foiled again. Asked them to let me know if one showed up on the lot, even briefly, just so I could get a look at it in the flesh.

Got a phone call from one of the sales guys last Saturday: "You were in previously and said you were interested in the Solstice. We have one on the showroom floor if you'd like to take a look at it." So I called the car loan outfit, got prequalified just in case, grabbed my checkbook just in case & off my wife & I went to take a look. Turns out the buyer of one of the two pre-ordered vehicles could not get financed. Curse lifted.

It was sweeter in the flesh than in the pictures and I bought it on the spot, $2500 over MSRP & worth it. Now, finally, for the review part.

You can check out the exterior & interior options here Link, so I won't repeat all that. Mine is black, with the 18" chrome wheels, just like the one featured on the webpage. It has all available optional equipment except for XM radio & On-Star.

The interior accent grey (door side panels, center console back, interior windshield trim) is a much lighter shade than shown and much lighter than the grey leather of the seats and the grey of the dash & steering wheel. It still looks good, but would look better if the grey matched the seat color more closely. The dash instruments are limited to analog speedometer, tachometer & fuel guage. Icon-notification lights for everything else. The odometer, trip odometers (3), mileage estimates, etc., are dash LCD readouts selectable from a menu scrollbutton in the steering wheel. Cruise control buttons are integrated into the steering wheel, as are duplicate radio controls, including a handy mute button. The A/C vents are fully closable. The combo radio/6-CD player is compact & well-designed with LCD menu based controls & display, with mixed-band presets for the radio, up to 24 in groups of 6. The subwoofer lives behind the passenger seat and the sound quality is excellent.

The short-throw 5-speed manual transmission is very smooth. The clutch is softer and the pedal travel a little further than I'm used to, but I got the hang of it quickly. The 4-cylinder engine seems to have plenty of power for the vehicle, but 1st gear is almost superfluous. The 4-wheel independent suspension is very tight but not harsh - you feel like you're hugging the road but you don't feel every pebble (I've driven a 2005 350Z & it's ride seemed much rougher as I remember it). Coupled with the wide track, cornering is very flat with virtually no body roll. Steering is very comfortable and resposive. The emergency brake handle sits above the centerline console and is a little awkward because it rides a bit high for me, but it's functional. The centerline console has no compartments, presumably because the space is taken up by the transmission, but there is a secondary "glove box" between the seats at about shoulder level - it's not accessible while driving since you have to reach around with the opposite hand to get to it. There is also a popout 2-cup cup holder just below the secondary glove box, also accessible only by reaching around with the opposite hand. Fortunately, there is a single popout cup holder on the passenger side of the centerline console that is easily accessible. The main glove box is needlessly small, just a bit too narrow for 8.5" paper folded - it looks like they could have increased its size easily.

The "trunk" space is minimal, even with the convertible top up, as most of it is taken up by a housing for the rear suspension & differential. Fortunately, it is wide enough at the rear that, if you use the right kind of carry bag, a full set of golf clubs can be squeezed in. The top can even be stowed after the clubs are in (with the right bag). There is a "fix-a-flat" unit stowed in the trunk that will get a tire back up for a nominal 50 miles, as there is no spare. About the only thing else you could get in is a box of Kleenex.

The convertible top is manual, but stowing it is easy & quick, with a single-handle release in the center of the windshield bar. When in the up position the electronic trunk release automatically releases the two rear corners of the convertible top which are spring-loaded & pop up out of the way in order to let the rear-hinged trunk lid open. The corners are manually pushed down & locked into poppets in the trunk lid after the top is put up & the trunk lid closed. The top has a surprisingly large vertical rear glass so having the top up limits visibility hardly at all.

Overall, I'm delighted with the car. It has a very "grab the road" look with styling reminiscent of a 60's era Corvette or Shelby roadster and drives like a dream. It seems a remarkable bargain and, to me at least, has more handsome styling than the 350Z or Z3, with handling and comfort the equal of much more expensive sports cars.

I'll post again from time to time as I get more experience with the vehicle.

Cheers,
Daiwa

Comments
on Oct 23, 2005
$2500 over????
Ouch. I think patience would have saved you quite a few dollars Daiwa. Although from everything I've seen, the car looks pretty darn sweet!
Hope it is fun.
on Oct 25, 2005
SSG -

Actually, the base MSRP was so low that the $2500 didn't hurt much. Demand is so high and supply so limited that dealers can almost name their price (in my case, they wanted an extra $3500 initially). I know of only two that have been delivered in metro Phoenix and I'm guessing there are no more than 6 in the valley at the moment. My alternative was to place an order for one and wait until January or February, maybe even March, for delivery and take the gamble that interest rates wouldn't go up much, but the trend there isn't favorable now - the rate I got was 2 points higher than the institution was offering as recently as April.

By way of update: The driver side window failed to power up once I had to button the thing up for some foul (relatively speaking) weather. The dealer popped the door panel off & found a connector that had come apart - reconnected & reinstalled the door panel & all was well except that the door panel doesn't seem fully seated to me & I'm having a go with them about whether it is indeed properly reinstalled. My theory is that some flanges at the top of the panel have been placed against some door frame brackets rather than lapped over them, but time will tell.

I've got a little over 200 miles on it now and it is a kick to drive. It looks as good as some of the twice-the-price competition if you ask me. It is a Pontiac, so we'll see how it holds up, but right now it is sweet indeed.

Cheers,
Daiwa
on Nov 05, 2005
Now that my son's wedding was history & it appeared I might get to play golf again for the first time since mid-September, I needed to get a new "streamlined" bag & see if the dealer's claim of being able to get two sets of clubs in the trunk with the top down held any water.

Well, the claim leaks like a sieve. The only way to get 2 sets of clubs in & still get the top stowed & the deck closed would be to have 2 starter sets (odd numbered irons only) in bags made of nothing but soft canvas. However, I picked up an oblong cross-section lightweight carry bag and was able to shoehorn my full set into the very back of the trunk & get the top stowed successfully. So all is right with the world and I'm still in love with the car.

Cheers,
Daiwa
on Dec 16, 2008

Three years now, still running the stock configuration and still loving it.  Have yet to reach 10,000 miles on the odometer (I have an absurdly short commute).  The ride feels a bit stiffer to me now than it did when it was new, but that's the only criticism I can level at it.  Still glad I bought it.

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