2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible
2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

As Canadians start to hunker down for winter, very few of us are probably thinking about drop-tops. But while dashing through the snow sans roof may still not hold any great appeal, retractable hardtops – once only found in the very highest-priced models – are making their way into more affordable cars. That lets those of us in more northern climes buy one vehicle for both summer and winter, since a one-button metal roof handles nasty weather much better than a canvas top.

At Pontiac, that model is the G6, which I drove in 2006 GTP configuration. (For model-year 2006, the convertible is available as the GT, with 3.5-litre V6, or the GTP, with 3.9-litre V6; in model-year 2007, all convertibles are GT models, with the 3.9-litre available as an option.) The convertible rounds out the G6’s range, which also includes a four-door sedan and two-door coupe.

2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible
2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible
2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible
2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible
2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible. Click image to enlarge

In GTP configuration, the G6 comes with a four-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode and 18-inch painted aluminum wheels; other features include four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, stability control, fog lamps, cruise control, cloth seats with six-way power driver’s adjustment, keyless entry and automatic climate control. My tester’s price was further bumped with an optional leather interior (including heated seats and leather-wrapped wheel), seat side airbags and XM satellite radio.

As with most retractable hardtops, the G6’s lid is an engineering marvel. Touch the button, and in a total of 34 seconds (I counted), the trunk lid swings up, the roof lifts off, it folds in half and settles into the trunk, and then the lid comes down to cover it, without the need for a separate tonneau cover. The trunk has a two-way hinge, so that it can also be opened conventionally from the rear when you want to access its storage space. Touch the button again, and it does it all in reverse, to button the G6 back up into a coupe. It’s quite a show, especially on a vehicle that starts under $37,000. (Just be sure to watch your fingers, though: because of the roof button’s placement, the most comfortable way to hold it down during the operation is with your fingers wrapped around the header – right where the roof comes down to attach itself. Trust me, you only make that mistake once.)

The roof impressed me quite a bit, the car somewhat less. Perhaps it’s partially because I stepped straight into it out of the Saturn Sky, a vehicle I think is often under-appreciated for the tightness of its chassis and its fine handling, but I found the G6 really needs its roof up for rigidity: there’s a tremendous amount of cowl shake and body vibration, as well as a lot of body roll. It feels less like an engineered convertible, and more like a coupe that’s simply had its top lopped off.

2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible
2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible. Click image to enlarge

The wheel is also way too big, and it feels like you’re piloting a bus. I found the steering to be somewhat vague, although I’m also willing to concede that it probably would have felt sharper had I not just finished with the Sky. The wheel has to be brought back to centre after a turn, though, which got tiresome after a while.

I have no complaints about the 3.9-litre V6 however, which makes 227 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque in the convertible, and does it on 87-octane fuel to boot. It’s a good fit to the G6, and it’s a sharp performer when you step on the gas, returning a throaty rumble as it sends power to the front wheels. This would be a good candidate for a stick shift, which is always fun when you’re travelling the back roads with your hair blowing in the wind, but I can also understand GM’s reasoning: this is a cruiser, not a sports car, and most buyers will probably prefer to put it in Drive and just enjoy the trip. The suspension is also softly sprung, for the smooth ride aimed at the car’s target audience.

2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible
2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible. Click image to enlarge

GM’s on a roll with its interiors, and the G6 shows it: fit and finish is good, with an attractive two-tone scheme and just enough fake wood to look classy, without being overkill. The plastic is soft-touch or textured, controls are fully backlit, and the heater and stereo controls are simple and fall easily to hand. You’ll need to be careful getting in, since the windshield is sloped back so far that you’re likely to knock your head on the corner if you’re inattentive. Once you’re in, the seats are very comfortable; the bolsters help keep you centered, but since they’re not overstuffed, they’ll accommodate a wider range of driver and passenger sizes. That’s a plus for larger folks, who don’t always fit too well in some sportier-style seats. Don’t expect anyone to fit into the back, though: the G6 is more 2+2 than four-seater, and the rear chairs are there mostly for show.

Because the roof folds and stores in the trunk, there’s a limit to what you can stow back there, but compared to the Pontiac Solstice or Saturn Sky, it’s all but cavernous. Cargo goes on top of the covered spare tire, in an area that’s 78 cm long and 100 cm wide, and which slopes from a depth of 12 cm to 17 cm. Once your items are in place, you pull out a cargo cover: if the cover closes smoothly, you know the roof has room to fit. Of course, if you’re not planning on dropping the top, you can fill the trunk to the top. The dual hinge that lets the trunk open both ways is stiff, though, and the trunk lid takes some grunt work to open and close.

2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible
2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Convertible. Click image to enlarge

While other manufacturers like Volkswagen and Mazda offer retractable hardtops, Pontiac is currently the sole choice in this price range among domestic models; while the all-new Chrysler Sebring will undoubtedly come to market with one, it isn’t here yet. Despite its faults, the G6 should still work well for Big Three fans who are less interested in a sporty experience than in a bigger drop-top that will cruise in comfort, with the added bonus of a steel roof to better handle the weather. If I could pick up the designer’s pen, I’d love to see a Pontiac with the Sky’s chassis and suspension, mated with the G6’s far more convenient roof and storage. Now that would be perfect drop-top stylin’.

Crash test results
www.safercar.gov, www.hwysafety.org

Manufacturer’s web site
www.gmcanada.com


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  • First Drive: 2007 VW Eos


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