Coupe versus convertible. In the history of debates this one ranks up there with blonde versus brunette and boxers versus briefs. There are myriad arguments for and against each side, but in the end it comes down to taste.

When fashioning the new Solstice Coupe from the existing Solstice Convertible, Pontiac could have aimed for the purists and gone with a strict fixed roof setup. Instead, they opted to retain some of the open-air fun provided by the Convertible -- and stay true to the Solstice name -- by including a removable roof panel.

The 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe is sure to appeal to those who love the shape of a proper sports coupe. The Solstice Coupe has a visual character distinct from its Convertible counterpart, belying the fact that beyond slightly restyled tail lights and the roof itself, the hardtop and the droptop are essentially identical. The added appeal provided by the Coupe's roof is substantial, accentuating the Solstice's shapely rear fenders and terminating in a tasteful ducktail spoiler.

The roof panel covering the passenger area is easily removed by unlatching a trio of releases. What you do with the panel after removal is somewhat trickier since it can't be stored inside the vehicle. Your options are to leave it at home -- thus subjecting the Solstice's interior to the whims of nature -- or to pay about $1,000 for an accessory soft top that can be stored in the Coupe's "cargo area." The soft top takes a sizeable portion of that already tight storage area and strikes us as a bit pricey, but we suspect plenty of buyers will spring for it just the same.

The Coupe drives very much like the Convertible, with GM claiming virtually identical performance figures for the two. The sprint from zero to 60 mph takes 5.3 seconds and the car tops out at 143 mph. Subpar outward visibility carries over as well, with mail slot-like windows limiting the view forward and a high percentage of non-glass material hindering the view rearward. Safely backing out of a parking space requires slow going and more faith than usual in your fellow drivers. Despite the chop-top appearance, though, headroom is actually quite good.

Pontiac claims enhanced cargo space in the Coupe versus the Convertible, but the improvement is slight. Like in the Solstice Convertible, drivers planning a weekend getaway to include al fresco motoring will have to first make a choice between luggage and a passenger. One might also expect a dramatically quieter interior in the Solstice Coupe, but interior noise is similar to the Convertible with plenty of wind noise at freeway speeds.

The 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe will arrive with a starting sticker price of $26,845. That's about $2,000 more than the base MSRP of its soft-top counterpart, but GM says the spread includes about $1,000 worth of added equipment.

If you're a fan of the removable roof genre and were hoping the Solstice Coupe would also address some of the Convertible's storage shortcomings, be prepared for a letdown. That's the angle from which we approached the Solstice spinoff, and most of us decided we'd stick with the "convenience" of the original.

However, if your tastes or local climate render Convertibles a no-no but you're a fan of two-seat fun, Pontiac has built a Solstice just for you. And if you want to mix it up once in awhile and leave the top at home, go nuts.

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