Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fun car comparison - Round 1 - Solstice GXP

It's fun to watch the bemused reaction on a salseperson's face when you ask to drive a rear-drive convertible in a Colorado winter.

Great Looks - Poor Execution
But drive I did. Today's entry in the fun-car comparison experiment is an example of the orphaned Pontiac Solstice, only available for one generation/three full model years before GM's bankruptcy killed the car and it's brand.

Rear-drive, direct-injected and turbocharged, two seats and a 5-speed manual, and this example came in at $17k - much below our $30k comparison ceiling. What's not to love?

As it turns out, a few things.

Other than any of the obvious things to love, like its sexy roadster curves and the abiility to let the sun shine in and its strong power from its 2.0 Ecotec 4-cylinder even with our tester's 60k miles.  Ride was firm but not overly so, meaning daily driver duty is certainly justifiable.

Down-sides are plentiful, unfortunately. While the ride was acceptable, the wide 18" tires easily showed themselves as needing swapped for snow tires to improve traction in the white stuff. This weakness is exasperated by wide tread width that should shine in the warmer months.  But, that's something that a purchase of new shoes would correct.

That's not the only issue the Solstice had.  Some are well known, such as the trunk only being accessible by releasing the flying buttress portions of the soft-top and lifting the lid toward the rear. This also means closing and securing the lid requires a trip to both sides to push those spring-loaded portions of the top down to latch place (all after a hard slam of the lid which must be executed from the side of the car. The opening and closing the lid would be an acceptable eccentricity if the cargo space wasn't so meager as to only hold a couple plastic shopping bags. Instead, a large lump rises up and serves to support the top when lowered (at which point the trunk is largely useless).

Up front, the hood also lifts away from the passenger compartment and comprises most of the front clip. If the trunk suggests a lack of proper development, the hood behaves and feels worse. Hinged at the front, you see the panel twisting about its pivot making you doubt the longevity of the hardware.

Inside, you will either like the style of the medium grey, driver-focused cabin or not. What isn't up to interpretation is how the materials have worn with age. Parts do not meet correctly in some areas, with edges of the mismatched panels suggesting that thin parts are partly to blame. Some trim such as the brushed sill plate was peeling and the driver seat was starting to show undue signs of surface wear. Additionally, short glass all around would take adjustment to compensate for what you can't easily see with the top up.

So, as much as the Solstice looks great and checks many of the proper boxes for a sports car...it is saddled with execution and materials issues that drop it from contention.

A shame that we didn't get to see what generation 2 of this car would have been.

From the CaddyEdge.com - Cadillac ELR Coupes are on Their Way

the CaddyEdge.com is our sister-site dedicated to goings-on in the world of Cadillac. Here is their latest post:

GM announced today that production examples of the ELR coupe are on their way to the dealers. Built at GM’s Hamtramck factory that also assembles the Chevrolet Volt that shares a similar chassis and power train, these initial shipments will be the first examples of the Cadillac ELR intended for customers (all the ones we’ve […]

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