KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
When Pontiac first showed the Solstice concept, the public and the press had just two words for the people at GM: Build it. And build it they did. The 2008 Pontiac Solstice roadster is an unqualified success, combining exotic good looks with a sturdy chassis and world-class handling. Despite the obvious use of in-house parts (the ventilation controls are borrowed from the Hummer H3 and the reverse lights from the GMC Envoy), and the less-than-user-friendly convertible top mechanism, the Solstice comes off as fresh and original. Visually, the Solstice easily rivals such stylish competitors as the BMW Z4 and Audi TT, yet costs half as much.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you covet fine four-wheeled automotive art and your idea of driving is a small, responsive and affordable two-seat sports car on a challenging two-lane road, the 2008 Pontiac Solstice is your dream come true.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If you need ample interior storage and bring along more than a very, very small amount of luggage on the trip, you may be better off with a four-seat convertible like the BMW 3 Series or Audi A4. The Solstice provides precious little room for stuff in the cockpit and a mere 5.4 cubic feet of trunk space with the top upand almost none at all with the top down.
What's Significant About This Car?
New standard features include an acoustic headliner, MP3-compatible stereo with auxiliary input jack, XM Satellite Radio, Driver Information Center (DIC) and OnStar.
The 2008 Pontiac Solstice's 2.4-liter engine has excellent low-end torque for strong launch and passing performance, yet it happily revs to its 6,600-rpm redline when the driver's mood arises. The power rack-and-pinion steering is crisp and accurate, the large four-wheel power disc brakes are strong and linear and the short-throw shifter gives smooth, precise gear changes. Due to the combination of a stiff chassis, a wide track, near 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution, perfectly tuned four-wheel independent suspension and big, handling-biased tires, cornering balance and performance are simply outstanding, yet the ride doesn't beat you up on lumpy surfaces. We also enjoyed the seat support and comfort and the surprising lack of road noise with the top up.
Just about everyone loves the looks of this car, and so do we.
Despite its reasonable price, this is a truly outstanding sports car with an exceptional level of handling response and capabilities.
The interior has a cockpit-style layout that angles the controls toward the driver and features motorcycle-inspired gauges. Unlike some small roadsters, it has generous shoulder room and sufficient legroom for taller drivers. The "racing-inspired" bucket seats have small but useful storage pockets and ample bolsters for support during spirited cornering, and the thick, adjustable-rake steering wheel's diameter seems just right for serious driving. While some interior parts are borrowed from other GM products (Chevrolet Corvette, Opel Corsa, Hummer H3) to save time and investment cost, every component is carefully integrated to complement the whole.
Pontiac calls it "a modern American update of the classic roadster...inspired by the romantic era of sports cars." We call it near-perfect, with taut lines, seductive curves, long hood, short rear deck, clean body sides, high beltline, dual-port Pontiac grille and wide 18-inch wheels and tires pushed to the corners for a low, aggressive stance. The trunk lid is rear-hinged to accept the folding top, integrated fairings behind the headrests recall racing sports cars of the past and the prominent headlamps and wrap-around tail lamps have a premium, jewel-like appearance. Like most roadsters, it looks best with its manual top tucked away, but nearly as tasty with it up.
Notable Standard Equipment
The comprehensive standard equipment list includes four-wheel independent short/long-arm suspension, Bilstein coil-over monotube shocks, four-wheel disc brakes, fast-ratio rack-and-pinion steering, P245/45R18 all-season tires on alloy wheels, rake-adjustable steering wheel, leather-wrapped manual shift knob, OnStar, XM Satellite Radio, two-way power driver's seat adjuster, AM/FM/MP3-compatable CD six-speaker stereo, manual cloth convertible top with glass rear window defogger and dual-stage front airbags.
Notable Optional Equipment
There are three logically-grouped packages: The Preferred Package includes power windows, locks and mirrors and remote keyless entry; the Convenience Package adds fog lamps, cruise control and enhanced Driver Information Center controls; and the Premium Package includes leather seating and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls. Other available options include a limited-slip differential, anti-lock brakes (ABS), air conditioning, StabiliTrak stability control, carpeted floor mats, premium Monsoon seven-speaker audio, GM's latest OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation system and a five-speed automatic transmission.
Under the Hood
Given the modest price, we were pleasantly surprised to see the 173-horsepower 2.4-liter variable valve timing (VVT) version of GM's all-aluminum DOHC 16-valve ECOTEC four-cylinder engine as standard in the Solstice, instead of the 140-horsepower version from the compact Chevy Cobalt and other GM small cars. Acceleration is strong up to about 60 miles per hour, but then drops off. If you're looking for more than just a comfortable touring car, the turbocharged GXP is the model you want.
2.4-liter in-line 4
173 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
167 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/25(manual), 19/24 (automatic)
The 2008 Pontiac Solstice's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts just over $22,000 and, when fully equipped, tops out close to $28,000. Most people will opt for the Preferred Package's power windows and locks, as well as air conditioning, ABS and the Monsoon sound system, which will add a few thousand to the bottom line. The Solstice is a hot commodity and its limited production means demand will be high. To get your best deal, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the Solstice and competitors such as the Mazda Miata MX-5. Although it's only two years old, Kelley Blue Book expects the Solstice to retain a high resale value, on par with the BMW Z4 and Audi TT and better than the Mazda MX-5.