Although the Pontiac G6 sedan was an all-new model in 2005, there are several changes for 2006. The most important is the addition of two new body styles: there’s now a coupe and a convertible with a fully-retractable hardtop roof.

A 3.5-litre that was the only available engine in 2005 now becomes the middle of three engine choices. The sedan is available with a 2.4-litre four-cylinder, while all three models can be ordered in GTP trim, with a 3.9-litre V6.

Other changes include a new family of 18-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels for the convertible and GTP models; a four-way seat with power height adjuster, ratcheting lumbar and seatback pockets is standard on the two lower sedan models; a three-spoke steering wheel replaces the four-spoke; there are dual-stage frontal airbags with Passenger Sensing System; there’s a single combined antenna for OnStar and satellite radio; and there are two new exterior colours, Crimson Red and Emerald Green Metallic.

The sedan is available as a base model, GT or GTP; the coupe and convertible come in GT or GTP trim.

The base sedan is the only G6 to use the four-cylinder, although it can be optioned up to the 3.5-litre. All GT models use the 3.5-litre exclusively, while GTP models come only with the 3.9-litre. All models come standard with a four-speed automatic; the GTP sedan and coupe can be optioned up to a six-speed manual. Although you’d think the manual would be a natural fit, the convertible comes only with an autobox.

All models and trim lines include air conditioning, CD stereo, 16-inch wheels, power locks and windows, tilt/telescopic wheel, power mirrors, variable intermittent wipers and theft-deterrent system. Available features include power-adjustable pedals, six-way heated power seats, leather interior, six-CD changers and remote vehicle start. The sedan can also be ordered with a regular sunroof or with a panoramic four-panel roof. A dial slides the panels in sequence, depending on how much open sky you want. The design, which overlaps the panels outside the car, opens much further than a regular sunroof can. It’s a great show, but it’s a heart-stopping $2,275, its roll-up sunshade steals a fair bit of rear headroom, and when tested in cold weather, the closed roof creaked annoyingly.

The new coupe and convertible share only the sheet metal ahead of the A-pillars with the sedan models; the coupe and convertible themselves differ in the design of their rear deck lid and rear fascia. The convertible is a 2+2 design and boasts what GM calls the longest retractable top in the industry; it opens and closes with a single button, in less than thirty seconds. It stores under a double-hinged trunk lid and a hard tonneau cover automatically attaches over it, for a smooth body line. The roof also contains an insulated headliner to reduce noise and temperature extremes.

On the up side, the G6 is great fun to drive; the 3.5 has impressive acceleration and the GTP is even better.

But the G6’s roomy, sporty interior is spoiled by less-than-impressive radio and heater controls taken directly from the Chevrolet Malibu. There is a lot of black; the dash needs some brightwork to break up that wide monotone swath. A tilt steering wheel and power-adjustable pedals allow most drivers to find a comfortable seating position. The swept-back, pointed rear door design on the sedan opens wide and will leave a trail of parking-lot door dings if passengers aren’t careful. The high trunk lid creates some visibility problems when backing up.

The new coupe is a handsome model; as a 2+2 it’s strictly a driver’s car, with rear seating reserved for the very small or those very desperate for a ride. The hardtop should be an interesting vehicle when it finally hits the streets – production has been temporarily set back due to problems with the roof mechanisms – although it’s puzzling why the sedan and coupe versions of the GTP get a six-speed manual and performance tires that can’t be added to the convertible. Pontiac claims it’s “built for drivers”; it would be nice to see the company really take that seriously.

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