We find the G6 GT models have good road manners even when driven hard, benefits of the long wheelbase and European-designed architecture. This is based on test drives of the G6 GT sedan, GT Convertible, and GXP coupe.
The price point makes the Pontiac G6 a popular choice as a mid-size sedan and we've found it roomy and plush with excellent overall function. The coupe is comfortable and sporty. And for a real open-top experience, the convertible features one of the longest retractable hardtop roofs in production.
The G6 offers some interesting features. It can be started remotely from the comfort of your home by pressing a button on the key fob, a luxury on bitter cold winter mornings or sweltering summer afternoons. A panoramic roof is available on sedans, with panels that slide rearward creating a sunroof large enough for the back seat riders to enjoy an open-air experience.
For 2008, the GTP sedan has been renamed the GXP. It features the same 252-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine with variable valve timing and six-speed automatic transmission. Additions for 2008 include a sport-tuned suspension, modified front and rear fascias, dual chrome exhaust tips and a leather interior.
For 2008, OnStar, side airbags and anti-lock brakes are standard equipment on all models. GT and GXP models come with XM Satellite Radio and an auxiliary input jack for iPod and other MP3 players. New 18-inch wheels are available for the GT convertible. A Street Edition is available, with hood scoops and spoiler.
The G6 was designed to offer a strong value among midsize cars, and we think it's an alternative worth considering.
Pontiac G6 sedan ($20,290); Special Value sedan ($18,765); GT sedan ($23,100); GT coupe ($23,100); GT convertible ($30,210); GXP sedan ($26,960); GXP coupe ($26,755)
A single spear runs down the sides of the G6 with an optional delicately integrated spoiler lip on the trailing edge of the decklid.
The GT and GXP sedans look similar, though the GXP features revised front and rear fascias. The base sedan has almost no decoration and looks relatively dull.
The coupe and convertible inject more excitement into the styling. The frameless windows are indexed, meaning that they automatically open 0.25 inch when the doors are opened, and close again when the door is closed for a tight seal. From the rear, the coupe and convertible feature narrow taillights and a sloping decklid.
The Pontiac G6 is built in Michigan, from parts and ideas used on the Saab 9-3, Opel Vectra, and Chevrolet Malibu.
The sporty front bucket seats are made for body comfort and support in handling maneuvers. We found them very comfortable thanks to thick padding and sufficient bolsters.. Power adjustable pedals help drivers of all statures get properly positioned.
Rear-seat space benefits from the relatively long wheelbase of 112.3 inches. In the sedan, a 6-foot, 4-inch passenger can sit behind a 6-foot, 4-inch driver with plenty of room. Those with tall friends may want to remember that the panoramic sunroof is powered by a motor that takes up a big chunk of headroom at the trailing edge of the sedan's headliner.
The coupe's rear seating is a little tighter, and the convertible's tighter still, especially in the shoulder and hip room categories. The available rear bucket seats in the G6 convertible are appropriate because three people don't fit well anyway.
The dash is done in four major sections including a stark, ungrained plastic center stack that holds two vents, the sound system, heater controls, and a 12-volt power outlet. Instruments and controls are presented in white on black (illuminated in red at night). Every single knob and escutcheon has a chrome ring around it; very tasteful, and nicely presented, with small, conservative graphics on the faces and labels.
The center stack has a red-LED readout and control panel that makes it easy to use the sound system's features, as well as to customize the locking, lighting, and other functions. The trip computer and driver information system are likewise intuitive and enjoyable to use.
The audio system works well and the knobs are sized well for operating while driving, a welcome relief from the tiny buttons and knobs on many systems. However, we miss the smart pre-set buttons used on previous GM vehicles that let the driver switch from favorite AM, FM, and XM stations simply by pressing the pre-set; the new setup works like most radios, requiring the driver first change the band before switching to the favored station.
The remote starting system allows the driver to start the car from the warmth of the house on cold winter mornings, a welcome feature when needed.
The panoramic roof for the four-door sedan comes open in four stacking segments, front to rear, and has about twice as much open area as the conventional sunroof that's also available. It's remarkable how easily the panoramic roof works. Easy conversation is possible with it open, even at high road speeds. It's an interesting feature, and we recommend it.
The convertible's top was engineered with Karmann and the big top opens and closes within 30 seconds, storing under the truck lid and a hard tonneau cover. We found it works exceptionally well, powering up or down quietly and quickly, with the press of a button. Hold the button down after it's done and the windows will power up or down appropriately.
The convertible's trunk is accessible when the top is down, but space is reduced from tiny (5.8 cubic feet) to grocery-bag sized (1.8 cubic feet). The coupe offers 11 cubic feet of trunk space, while the sedan offers 14 cubic feet. Obviously, that can limit your use of the convertible's top-down mode on long trips.
The trunklid on the convertible was heavy and relatively hard to lift open.
Handling is responsive and fun. The GT suspension strikes a good balance between handling and ride quality. The ride is comfortable and smooth and the car tracks well. The electric power steering is nicely weighted in terms effort at the steering wheel rim, but a little vague in fast transitions.
The EcoTec 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is from the same double overhead-cam engine family used in the Saab 9-3, Opel Vectra and Chevrolet Malibu. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is rated 169 horsepower, with 162 pound-feet of torque.
The popular 3.5-liter V6 is quiet and smooth, producing 224 horsepower and 220 lb.-ft. of torque. GM has refined this overhead-valve engine and it's relatively smooth and quiet withdecent fuel economy.
The more powerful 3.6-liter engine that comes in the GXP is an overhead-cam engine with variable-valve timing rated at 252 hp and251 lb.-ft. of torque.
The automatic transmission worked flawlessly. The four-speed automatic is matched well to the engine's power and torque bands. The six-speed works better. Most of the time, we simply put it in Drive and drove. However, the automatic features a simple manual-control mechanism that allows the driver to shift manually. When the manual mode is selected, it will not automatically upshift for you at redline but will go right up against the rev limiter, a strategy many enthusiasts prefer. An indicator light in the instrument panel helps remind you to shift.
We did a number of 90-0 mph ABS panic stops in a G6 GT on a deserted country road, and it stopped straight and true every time with no fade. The brakes have a nice, progressive power application through the pedal.
The Pontiac G6 is a roomy car that offers good road manners and excellent overall function, especially at initial prices. With sedans, coupes, convertibles, high-performance models, and a low-price leader all available, buyers should be able to find a G6 that suits their lifestyle.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw reported on the sedan from Detroit, with Mitch McCullough reporting on the coupe and convertible from Los Angeles.