By Richard Russell
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As a result of extensive engineering work at GM of Canada’s new engineering centre in Oshawa, Ontario, Pontiac dealers are getting their first Sport Utility Vehicle, the 2006 Torrent. Based on the Chevrolet Equinox (and Saturn Vue) and built alongside the Equinox in the same GM-Suzuki joint venture plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, the compact Torrent arrives in Pontiac stores this month.
The Canadian team was responsible for about 60% of this new Pontiac -which makes sense since the Equinox was the first GM vehicle engineered and built in Canada. Much of the development work done for the Torrent will find its way into the 2006 Equinox and Vue, including a new HVAC (Heat, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) system offering improved side window defrosting and better performance while requiring less coolant. The Torrent siblings will also get laminated side glass, liquid sound deadeners and new sound absorbent materials in the doors and wheelhouses. The overall effect is greatly reduced wind and road noise.
The Torrent has a style and attitude of its own. The design is distinctly Pontiac from the twin-port grill, aggressive lower intake and projector beam fog lamps, to a prominent satin-finished skid plate beneath the rear bumper. Large flared fenders wrap around five-spoke, 16-inch wheels (17-inch optional) and a standard and functional tubular roof rack tops the visual package. Inside, the story is one of more refinement and self-control than we’ve come to expect from Pontiac designers. Plenty of pseudo metal and chrome, a signature three-spoke Pontiac steering wheel and good fit and finish lend a definitely upscale feel. There are three interior trim options: base cloth, premium cloth and leather available in two colours: ebony or ebony with light cashmere inserts and door trim.
Torrent Marketing Manager Santo Giardina, says the Torrent was designed to be low, wide and planted. As one of the largest vehicle in the segment it is also the roomiest. One area of particular interest for many is rear seat legroom and the Torrent offers more than anything this side of a stretch limo. With the rear seat at the rear-most limit of its travel there is enough legroom for a seven-footer – wearing big boots with his legs stretched! The rear seat will also accommodate three child seats and side curtain air bags are available. The engineers are especially proud of the “Multi-Flex” rear seat and multi-function cargo area behind it that offer numerous combinations of people and package storage. In addition the back of the front passenger seat can be folded flat to accommodate really long loads.
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The use of lightweight aluminum wheels instead of steel, reduced un-sprung weight and allowed the standard FE2 suspension to be tuned for a more sporty feel with unique bushings, spring rates and shock absorber valving. The electric power steering has been specifically tuned for the Torrent to provide more feedback. This speed-sensing, variable effort system eliminates the use of an engine-driven power steering pump, reservoir, fluid and plumbing.
The Torrent will be available with front or all-wheel-drive powered by a 3.4 litre V6 coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission. The six, with aluminum heads, produces 185-horsepower. Four channel ABS is unfortunately optional. When specified on FWD models, it is paired with electronic traction control.
Standard equipment includes: power locks with remote keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, air conditioning, height adjustable driver seat, three 12-volt auxiliary outlets, six-speaker audio system and aluminum wheels. Major options include: AWD, side curtain airbags, heated seats, leather interior, power sunroof and several audio upgrades.
Pricing has been set at $26,585 for the FWD model and $29,195 for the AWD. A maxed-out Torrent with all the options tops out at about $35,665.
Pontiac stores stood out in a world crammed with SUVs. They had the ill-fated Aztek, but nobody was sure what it was and most are trying to forget about it. With the arrival of the Torrent, Pontiac adds a proven and refined choice to the market, one which offers exceptional space and utility with standard V6 power.