Based upon a new General Motors global architecture that will spawn several fun-to-drive small cars around the world in coming years, the gorgeous 2006 Pontiac Solstice roadster is not only intended to become an icon for GM’s performance division but also is gunning for the best-selling roadster on the globe.
On paper, Pontiac Solstice has the goods to take on today’s Miata. An aluminum 2.4-liter DOHC Ecotec four-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower and 170 lb-ft. of torque sits under a reverse-hinged clamshell hood, powering the Pontiac Solstice’s rear wheels through a five-speed, close-ratio manual transmission. Given the engineers’ weight target of 2,860 pounds, this amount of power should result in acceleration that outpaces today’s 142-horse Miata.
But, that kind of muscle won’t make the Solstice a rocket. Sometime after launch, it seems likely that GM will install a supercharged 2.0-liter Ecotec under the Pontiac Solstice’s hood, a motor expected to generate more than 200 horsepower in the Saturn ION Red Line and new 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt SS Supercharged.
Underpinning the 2006 Pontiac Solstice is GM’s Kappa architecture, comprised of hydroformed full-length frame rails, a closed stamped steel center tunnel and a four-wheel-independent short- and long-arm suspension system. Large 18-inch wheels with 245/45 tires and four-wheel-disc brakes come standard on the Pontiac Solstice, with ABS an available option.
The Solstice’s convertible top folds flat behind a clamshell cover on the rear deck, completely hidden from view when the sun is shining into the driver-oriented cockpit. Designed to envelop the driver, the instrument panel features simplicity and quality - a departure for Pontiac. Engineers and designers reportedly spent plenty of time getting the placement and feel of the shifter just right, and the pedals have been placed to offer optimum heel-and-toe downshifting. When leather is ordered, the cabin is treated to an upscale two-tone treatment.
Styling is always a subjective matter, but the 2006 Pontiac Solstice is likely to land in the pantheon of the most beautiful American cars ever designed. From its honeycombed twin-port grillework to its thick exhaust outlet, the Pontiac Solstice offers a stunning blend of proportion and balance. If it doesn’t make you drool, check your pulse.
General Motors insists that the predicted entry price of about $20,000 will be met when this sexy roadster goes on sale in the fall of 2004. We cannot imagine that at that price, with these looks, and commendable performance to back the bodywork up, that the 2006 Pontiac Solstice won’t be a home run for General Motors.
PONTIAC SOLSTICE IS PURE ROADSTER
Inspired by the pure driving experience offered by classic roadsters, the 2006 Pontiac Solstice delivers invigorating driving thrills with balanced performance from a sophisticated, Ecotec-based powertrain and delivers them in a curvaceous form that can be best described as seductive. True sports car features include rear-wheel drive, four-wheel independent SLA suspension, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels and a powerful 2.4L Ecotec four-cylinder engine rated at 177 horsepower. A close-ratio Aisin five-speed close-ratio manual transmission is standard, while a five-speed automatic will become available later in the model year.
“The Solstice is pure roadster and the newest expression of performance at Pontiac ,” said John Larson, general manager for Buick-Pontiac-GMC. “In addition to invigorating performance and the exhilaration of top-down driving, the Solstice delivers a roomy, well-equipped package that puts fun back into everyday driving.”
Solstice was first shown as a concept at the 2002 North American International Auto Show in Detroit , where it had gone from idea to driveable concept vehicle in four months. A groundswell of support inside General Motors and legions of admiring enthusiasts helped give the project a green light for production in 2004. Less than two years later, the production model is hitting the street – a remarkable achievement given the fact that the vehicle’s architecture was created from scratch.
Customers were invited to submit orders for the first 1,000 production vehicles on April 15, 2005 , in an event tied to the Solstice’s appearance on an episode of NBC’s “The Apprentice.” It took only 41 minutes to pre-sell the exclusive “First 1,000” vehicles, which feature sequential VIN numbering, special badging and certificate of authenticity.
Well-equipped sports car
Although Solstice conveys a minimalist image, it is nonetheless well-equipped with the type of comfort and convenience items appreciated by enthusiastic drivers. The interior is surprisingly roomy, allowing for a comfortable driving position for tall drivers – a trait that some competitors’ roadsters cannot boast. Standard equipment includes:
- Racing-inspired sport bucket seats with convenient seat cushion and seatback storage
- Leather-wrapped manual shift knob
- AM/FM and CD stereo with six speakers
- Rear window defogger
- Rake-adjustable steering wheel
- Three cupholders
- Easy-to-operate cloth convertible top with glass backlight
- Dual frontal air bags
Additionally, several option packages are available:
Power package – includes power locks, mirrors and windows, along with remote keyless entry
Convenience package – includes cruise control, driver information center and fog lamps
Premium package – includes leather seating surfaces (Ebony or Steel/Sand two-tone), leather-wrapped steering wheel and steering wheel radio controls
Other available equipment includes air conditioning, carpeted floor mats, MP3-capable CD player radio, MP3-capable radio with six-disc in-dash CD player, Monsoon Premium seven-speaker system, OnStar and XM Satellite Radio.
OnStar-equipped Solstice models feature OnStar dual-mode (analog-digital) equipment. OnStar’s digital equipment also includes enhanced hands-free voice recognition capabilities including more intuitive continuous digit dialing and improved voice recognition accuracy. OnStar is the leading provider of in-vehicle safety, security and information services in the United States and Canada . Using the GPS satellite network and wireless technology, OnStar features core safety services and OnStar Hands-Free Calling that allows drivers to make and receive voice-activated phone calls using an externally mounted antenna for greater reception.
The OnStar service standard on the 2006 Solstice includes the General Motors Advanced Automatic Crash Notification (AACN) system, making crash data available to the participating 911 centers to help them dispatch the appropriate live-saving personnel and equipment to crash scenes faster.
Standard excitement, solid performance
In keeping with the spirit of a pure sports car, Solstice is designed to feel like an extension of the driver’s body. It is built on GM’s new rear-wheel drive Kappa architecture, which uses independent short/long arm-type suspensions in the front and rear to give the Solstice a responsive, road-gripping driving feel. Other driver-focused features include:
- Bilstein coil-over monotube shocks at all corners
- Rack-and-pinion steering (power assisted)
- Eighteen-inch aluminum alloy wheels
- P245/45R18 all-season tires
- Large, four-wheel disc brakes, with 11.7-inch (297 mm) front rotors and 10.9-inch (277 mm) rear rotors
- Available limited-slip rear differential
- Cockpit-style instrument panel with motorcycle-inspired gauges
- Short-throw shifter
To provide a solid foundation for the Solstice’s responsive suspension, engineers developed a lower-dominant tube structure for the chassis. Hydroformed frame rails, which run the full length of the vehicle, are the basis of the chassis, while additional stampings form a rigid structure onto which the bodywork is attached. The hydroforming process uses pressurized fluid to form each frame rail from a single piece of steel, rather than several pieces of steel welded together. This creates a stronger frame rail and requires less time to form it. Additional components and stampings are added to the frame rail during vehicle assembly.
A tunnel at the center of the chassis, which houses the transmission and driveshaft, is internally reinforced and enclosed at the bottom to enhance stiffness. This built-in strength reduces chassis flex and cowl shake in a vehicle designed from the outset as a convertible. The Kappa architecture’s rigid structure also permits more precision when it comes to tuning the suspension. The short-long arm suspension design features forged aluminum upper and lower control arms that are strong and low in mass. The rear suspension also features a toe control link and the rear differential housing has an optimized three-point mounting design.
The Solstice’s four-wheel disc brakes consist of 11.7-inch (297 mm) ventilated front rotors and 10.9-inch (277 mm) rear rotors, which combine to provide assured braking capability. ABS (with dynamic rear proportioning) is available. Engineers also executed on the following dynamic details to produce a world-class platform:
- A near 50/50 weight distribution provides a balanced handling feel
- Hydraulic engine mounts are used to provide a smoother engine feel
- An optimized acoustic barrier and sound absorption package to provide world-class levels of interior quietness
- Exterior components, such as mirrors, were wind-tunnel tested to minimize wind noise
- The tires were selected for handling performance and low noise
Solstice is powered by a 2.4L Ecotec four-cylinder engine that produces 177 horsepower at 6600 rpm and 166 lb.-ft. of torque at 4800 rpm. With a curb weight of just 2,860 pounds (1,297 kg), the 2.4L Ecotec engine helps give the Solstice an enviable horsepower-to-weight ratio of nearly 16.2 to 1.
The 2.4L Ecotec is a sophisticated, dual-overhead cam engine with an aluminum block and cylinder head, which contributes to the Solstice’s lightweight character and enhances front-to-rear weight balance. As with other engines in the Ecotec family, the 2.4L version in the Solstice features:
- Dual overhead camshafts (DOHC) and four valves per cylinder
- Twin counter-rotating balance shafts
- Low-friction, roller-finger follower valvetrain with hydraulic lash adjusters
- Zero-maintenance chain-drive for the camshafts
- Extremely compact dimensions and low mass
- Direct mounting of all accessories to the engine structure to eliminate common sources of noise, vibration and harshness
- Full circle transmission attachment is more rigid than most 4-cylinder powertrains for reduced noise and vibration
- GM Oil Life System for optimum oil change frequency (included with optional driver information system)
- No routine maintenance apart from oil/oil filter changes
- Catalyst located close to the exhaust manifold to speed catalyst “light-off” and reduce hydrocarbon emissions
- Innovative cast-in oil filter housing eliminates crawling under the car to perform oil changes. The design also eliminates throwaway oil-filter “cans” that retain used oil that typically end up in landfills
Matching the 2.4L Ecotec’s power is a standard close-ratio Aisin five-speed manual transmission. Later in the ’06 model year, the advanced Hydra-Matic 5L40-E five-speed automatic transmission will be offered as an option.
A 3.91:1 axle ratio is standard with the five-speed manual powertrain. The gears are housed in a rear axle derived from the Cadillac CTS, which was chosen for its excellent performance characteristics and high torque capability. A limited-slip rear differential is available.
Fluid lines, clever details
Designers worked carefully to transfer the clean lines, taut proportions and interesting details of the concept vehicle to the production model, including the forward-opening clamshell hood. The Solstice’s tightly wrapped proportions are accented with five-spoke aluminum wheels and a low, wide stance. A dual-port grille and expressive lighting at all corners instantly identify the car as a Pontiac . A body-color extension into the passenger compartment gives Solstice an integrated appearance when the top is down. In fact, the top folds flat into the rear clamshell opening, providing a smooth, seamless appearance.
Creative leveraging of GM resources, as well as clever solutions to other needs, helped complete the Solstice’s design efficiently and economically. For example, the back-up lamps are from the GMC Envoy, while door handles, fog lamps, seats, engine and transmission are shared with other GM vehicles.
However, some parts are pure Solstice. The taillamps, for instance, were designed with special reflectors to eliminate the need for a separate side marker light. This not only contributes to the car’s sleek, progressive design, but also eliminates the cost of a separate marker lens and bulb.
Solstice is available in seven bold exterior colors, each inspired by a personality trait: Aggressive (red), Cool (silver), Deep (blue), Envious (green), Mysterious (black), Pure (white) and Sly (gray).
The interior design is equally purposeful and intuitive, with details like pedals placed for easy heel-and-toe driving and a cockpit-style instrument panel that sweeps around the driver. Designers also worked with chassis engineers to optimize the placement of the shifter. Manual shifter throws between gear changes were studied and revised until the “just right” length was determined.
Interior colors include standard Ebony cloth, as well as with available all-Ebony or Steel/Sand (two-tone) leather seating surfaces.