$20,000 to $26,000 Front-wheel Drive Mid-Size Sedan
Who should buy this car:
A person who is looking for a good looking, American nameplate family sedan that is comfortable and efficient.
Comparable cars in this class:
Buick Century, Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler Sebring, Daewoo Leganza, Dodge Stratus, Ford Taurus, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Mercury Sable, Mitsubishi Galant, Nissan Altima, Saturn L, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Passat
Pontiac replaced the Grand Am this year with "the first ever G6." For those of you who watch afternoon TV, this is the car Oprah gave away on her season opener to more than 200 people in her audience. This is a car that has generated a lot of buzz, and rightfully so.
The G6 is powered by a 3.5-literV6 that generates a comparatively low 200 horsepower. Other manufacturers with 3.5-liter V6 engines extract in the neighborhood of 250 horses from their engines. Two hundred is a number I'd expect from a 3.0-liter V6. Still, every time we accelerated away from lights, even on dry roads, we ended up spinning the front tires, so there's enough power to get the job done. Actually, I was surprised to read that there were only 200 horses under the hood because of the rapidity with which the G6 moves.
The engine is hooked to a 4-speed automatic gearbox. Again, this is surprisingly low, as other manufacturers have five, six and even seven-speed automatics in them. But there was no lack of range in the gearbox, even with "only" four gears.
This gearbox has a manual mode as well. It is different. You shift from "D" to "M" and then move the lever to the right to get it in manual mode. Push the lever forward to upshift; rearward to downshift. I had fun playing with the gears through my favorite twisting mountain road and the G6 did a great job. These clutchless manual gearboxes are made for people like me who always seem to mess up the footwork on a real manual box.
One of the G6's unique features is the "panoramic roof" that consists of three panels plus a tilt-up front section. There are four possible settings from just tilting up the front section to a fully open roof that uncovers most of the passenger compartment. With the roof fully open and a front window open as well, there's an enormous amount of air rushing through the passenger compartment. You can open the roof and keep the windows closed for less air (a better solution) or open just one or two panels. Opening the roof is easy, too. Just turn a rotary dial to the number you want and it's done.
The instrument panel is clean with the four standard gauges. I especially liked it because the lighting wasn't orange, which Pontiac has used in recent years. It was clear in daylight as well as at night. There was a small compartment on the lower left of the dash, by the driver's left knee, for change or a cell phone.
Audio and cruise switches were located on the steering wheel. The audio system was very good, with XM/AM/FM/CD stereo capabilities. The audio was somewhat confusing at the start because of Pontiac's tendency to use lots of buttons. On our tester, there were 52 buttons or switches in the car. This is a lot, but it's not as bad as some previous Pontiacs I have driven where the number was in the 80s.
We also had remote start, a feature that's not necessary in mild weather but can be useful in cold and hot climates. In April, we used it mostly to shake up people who might be standing next to the car. To engage remote start, you first push the door lock button, then the remote start switch for two seconds or longer.
Inside the G6 there was black upper trim and a light taupe lower trim that matched the perforated leather seats. There was tasteful wood trim on the console and doors.
The front seats were comfortable and had a lot of adjustment. There is very good rear legroom, with deep insets into the backs of the front seats for rear passenger knee room. The rear seat backs don't fold to increase trunk space.
Speaking of the trunk, it's listed at 14.0 cubic feet. This is a decent size for a mid-sized sedan. However, it was difficult to load even one golf bag, so for my uses it was verging on the unacceptable. Of course, I could get a shorter driver.
Under the hood was clean. There were no struts supporting the hood and you had to pull out a prop rod. The dipsticks and fillers were all easy to find.
The First Ever G6 is built on the European-designed Epsilon platform. It has a lot of interesting features, including that neat roof, to make it attractive. The roof is part of a premium value package ($3,145) that also includes chrome wheels and the AM/FM stereo 6 disc CD player. The leather package ($1,365) includes the seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and steering wheel controls. The front side impact air bags and head curtain side air bags add another $690 to the price, while the remote starter is $150.