2006 Pontiac G6 GTP coupe
Test vehicle not exactly as shown. Click image to enlarge

By Laurance Yap

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To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to be excited by this GTP coupe version of Pontiac’s G6. While I’d enjoyed the sedan version enough, a glance at the GTP’s spec sheet didn’t suggest it would be much better to drive (though it was certainly better to look at). Yes, its engine produces 240 horsepower, I told myself, but it takes 3.9 litres to do it, when Honda can pull the same amount of power out of a 3.0. Sure, it had bigger wheels and tires, but that’d just ruin the ride of a car that was already on the stiff side of comfortable. And previous experience with GM manual transmissions had left me a bit cold.

I discovered just how wrong I was within, oh, the first fifty metres’ worth of driving. Whatever the Pontiac people had done between the introduction of the G6 sedan and this coupe, it was a car transformed. Pulling out of GM’s roughly-paved parking lot, I was expecting the sports suspension to clomp and creak, but it glided out onto the road with barely a twitch. While the GTP’s ride is taut, as you would expect of a Pontiac, it has a superbly-damped feel that’s new to the brand.

2006 Pontiac G6 GTP coupe

2006 Pontiac G6 GTP coupe
Click image to enlarge

Really, it should always have been that way: the G6 shares componentry and its basic platform with the Saab 9-3, which has always juggled ride and handling pretty well; perhaps it just took some time for the Swedes’ chassis tuning to filter down to Lake Orion, Michigan where the G6 is built.

Indeed, out on the highway, the GTP behaves like a much more expensive car than it is. Not only is the ride decidedly European-feeling in the way it smothers bumps in one suspension motion (and without any excess float); its steering is also nicely-weighted, and offers enough road texture to feel connected without being distracting. Most impressive, though, is the refinement of the engine. While the big V6’s specific power output might be unimpressive, it is barely audible at cruising speeds, and only emits a gentle burble even at full throttle. It’s flexible, too, with most of its substantial torque available right from idle, which means you seldom need to downshift the six-speed manual to execute a passing manoeuvre. (Not that you’d mind doing so: unlike the clunky manual boxes I’d experienced in a number of GM products, this six-speed is slick, with well-defined gates and a nicely-shaped shift knob.)

2006 Pontiac G6 GTP coupe
Click image to enlarge

The GTP moniker attached to the back of the coupe’s clean-cut body, then, might be a bit of a red herring. Previous GTPs were notable for their lack of subtlety – outrageous styling addenda like side strakes and roof rails abetted by raucous engine noises, stiff rides, and huge tires. The G6 version is a more refined, well-rounded, car than that, but it may be lacking the expressiveness that Pontiac buyers are looking for.

2006 Pontiac G6 GTP coupe
Click image to enlarge

It’s also less exciting in the corners than its badge – and those huge 18-inch tires – might suggest. While the grip is there to achieve high cornering speeds, the steering feels kind of numb when you’ve cranked it all the way over in a hairpin, and it’s easily upset by bumps. The brakes, which work just fine in normal driving conditions, feel wooden when you’re pushing a bit harder, and the GTP exhibits a fair amount of body lean. Still, stability is never an issue: the car’s stiff structure and independent suspension mean it always keeps all four tires firmly in contact with the road, and will tolerate pretty much everything you throw at it. A standard stability-control system is there to save your bacon, should it need saving, too.

2006 Pontiac G6 GTP coupe
Click image to enlarge

A glance at the GTP’s interior is enough to remind you that it exists as much to cruise as it does to carve corners. Sure, the seats (leather in my tester, with GTP logos embossed on the seatbacks) may have big side bolsters, but they only go three-quarters up the side of the seat, meaning they’re also comfortable over the long haul. Standard equipment includes a fine-sounding 200-watt Monsoon audio system (whose display doubles as a trip computer), automatic climate control, and a tilt/telescope three-spoke steering wheel with remote audio controls. Thanks to the aggressively-raked side windows, the front cabin feels airy in addition to being quite spacious; the rear seats are quite commodious for a two-door coupe, but feel claustrophobic thanks to tiny side windows and rear glass; sitting up front, it always looks cars behind are about to rear-end you.

2006 Pontiac G6 GTP coupe
Click image to enlarge

Though it’s roomy and fully-equipped, the GTP’s cabin still has a bit of a ways to go before it matches its rivals. While my tester’s interior was as solidly-constructed as any I’ve driven this year, with no squeaks or rattles, the graining of the various surfaces didn’t match that well, and there were some pieces – like the entire centre console, for instance – that looked like they were designed as an afterthought. Contrast the G6’s flat console with two holes punched into it for cupholders with the Honda Accord’s flowing console with its damped storage compartment lid, two-level storage box and extendable, leather-covered armrest. There’s a perceptible gap between the G6’s console and its (differently-grained) dashboard; the one in the Solara flows right up into the dash, and incorporates more storage, to boot.

If the G6’s interior doesn’t quite live up to its price, though, it’s more than made up for by the way the car drives more ‘expensively’ than it is. Add to that the car’s eye-catching good looks, its impressive highway fuel economy, and a price that’s more than competitive with its rivals, and you end up with a surprisingly well-rounded and accomplished coupe.

Technical Data:

Base price $29,885
Options $4,665 (leather seating, side airbags, OnStar, power sunroof; 6-speed manual transmission, -$330)
Freight $1,200
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $35,850 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 2-door, 4-passenger midsize coupe
Layout Transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.9-litre V6
Horsepower 240 @ 6000 rpm
Torque 241 @ 2800 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual (4-speed auto standard)
Tires P225/50R18 touring
Curb weight 1575 kg (3472 lbs)
Wheelbase 2852 mm (112.3 in.)
Length 4802 mm (189.0 in.)
Width 1749 mm (70.6 in.)
Height 1450 mm (57.0 in.)
Cargo capacity 396 litres (14.0 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 13.0 L/100 km (22 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 9.8 L/100 km (29 mpg Imperial)
Fuel type regular
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km

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