$28,000 to $35,000 Front-wheel drive mid-size retractable hardtop convertible
Who should buy this car:
A person who wants a 4 passenger convertible in the summer, but the snug comfort of a coupe at other times
Comparable models in this class:
Retractable hardtops: Volkswagen Eos Other Convertibles: Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible, Chrysler Sebring, Ford Mustang, Toyota Solara
2007 Pontiac G6 Convertible Road Test
A retractable hardtop is pretty much the ideal setup for anyone who loves wind-in-the-hair motoring, but lives in a region of ever-changing weather conditions.
Unfortunately, the engineering complications involved in strengthening the undercarriage, sectioning a metal roof and employing a series of electric motors to raise and lower it have consigned the technology to expensive automobiles such as Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Volvo.
That is, until now.
Pontiac descended through the $30,000 price barrier in April with the introduction of its new front-wheel-drive G6 convertible and will be followed by other relatively inexpensive models from Volkswagen, Mazda, Chrysler and perhaps even others. For now, however, Pontiac stands alone as the least expensive retractable hardtop on the market.
The car I drove, the 2006 G6 GT convertible, started at $27,865. Well equipped, it could be driven away for $29,300. For 2007, the base price has been raised to $29,215 so it appears the car may have re-crossed the $30,000 line.
My turn to try out the Pontiac occurred right before Labor Day, and the timing seemed perfect. I had planned a few days relaxation along the south Jersey coastline and the Pontiac would fill the bill nicely. And, then, along came Ernesto.
I didnt get a whole lot of sun-splashed, wind-in-the hair motoring Instead, I got lots of slashing rain and wind gusts up to 70 mph. Through it all, the car remained not only bone dry; its tight construction insulated me from the ravages of the storm. No rattles. No squeaks. No leaks. No signs of body flex.
On the few occasions when the weather let up, I lowered the top and went for a short spin. Wind turbulence was well controlled and allowed normal conversation among driver and front seat passenger up to legal highway speeds. And that was without the optional wind blocker.
However, despite structural reinforcements to what is essentially a G6 coupe, the car would get a mild case of the shakes over railroad tracks and rough roads.
Of course, the weather never stayed dry for long, so the top went down and then up more than a few times. The mechanism worked flawlessly, accomplishing either operation in about 30 seconds.
According to Pontiac, there are about 12 cubic feet of trunk space available with the top up, but a mere 2 feet with it down. There is also plenty of room in the back seat for cargo. In other words, two people can pack enough gear for long-distance travel if they are willing to keep the roof in place until they arrive at their destination.
Pontiac advertises the G6 as a comfortable, four-seat convertible. It may be for short trips. But with the cars high belt line, a rear seat passenger can feel claustrophobic. My 5-foot, 3-inch daughter-in-law was not happy staring at the front seatback and head restraint and had trouble peeking out the side. And, if the front passenger happens to be tall, rear leg room can become pinched when the front bucket is extended backwards.
The convertibles base engine is a 3.5-liter V-6, which produces 201 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. The optional engine, a 3.9-liter V-6 with variable valve timing, produces 227 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. Both are mated to a four-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift feature.
For 2006, the convertible with the bigger powerplant was known as the G6 GTP. For 2007, the GTP designation is dropped and the engine is part of an optional sports package.
Built on the same architecture as the Chevrolet Malibu and Saab 9-3, the G-6 features four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes and hydraulic rack-and-pinion power steering.
Despite those seemingly sporty credentials, the G6 GT convertible is a comfortable cruiser, not a back-road bruiser. Acceleration is adequate but certainly not exhilarating. The ride is comfortable on smooth roads, a bit jiggly on the bumpy ones. Steering is numb.
There should be no complaints about fuel mileage. I averaged 18 miles per gallon of regular fuel around town and 28 on the highway. Those figures nearly match the EPAs estimates of 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway.
Along with its reasonable price tag, the GT convertible comes standard with more comfort and luxury features than one might expect. They include air conditioning, eight-speaker sound system, driver information center with trip computer, cruise control, power windows, remote keyless entry and automatic on/off headlights.
Options on the test car included XM satellite radio and a remote vehicle starter system. Thats what drove the price up to $29,300, including destination charge.
The interior in the car I drove had sturdy and comfortable cloth seats. I would recommend them over the optional leather upholstery because the cloth seats dont get hot when the sun beats on them.
Safety features include airbags for the driver and front passenger, stability control, daytime running lights and, of course, that steel roof. Side-impact bags for front-seat passengers are a $295 option.
While the GT convertible does not offer the driving dynamics an enthusiast might want, it provides a comfortable ride and a lot of comfort and convenience features, most notably that fancy top.
The car already is selling very well and my guess is that Pontiac has hit on a formula that will continue to resonate with a lot of buyers.