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2005 Pontiac G6

The G6 Makes Pontiac Competitive In Small Cars Again

    With the G6, Pontiac is setting a new direction for its vehicles. No longer will they be superfluous designs with yesterday’s dynamics but clean, contemporary vehicles with varying degrees of the driving excitement Pontiac is supposed to offer. Thanks mostly to heavy incentives, the Grand Am sold in healthy numbers, but it wasn’t a vehicle that could take on today’s ever-more-impressive small car competition. Thankfully, when it came time to replace the Grand Am, GM started with its excellent Epsilon architecture and built from there. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that when you build with better components, you end up with a better vehicle. That’s exactly what Pontiac has done.
     As I mentioned, the Epsilon architecture provides a strong foundation for the G6. It features a class-leading 112.3-inch wheelbase for a strong visual statement and impressive rear seat legroom as well as sharp handling—thanks to the wheels being pushed to the extreme corners. Even when tossing the car around body roll is kept to a minimum. On each corner are 17” wheels (16” on non-GT models) with V-rated rubber and antilock disc brakes. The MacPherson strut front suspension and 4-link rear setup provided our car with a good balance of composure and suppleness.
     But chassis composure alone will not sell many cars. There are many other areas that contribute to a successful vehicle. Too often in the past GM has ignored these areas. With the G6, it’s a mixed bag. The brakes, for example, felt strong and featured surprisingly good pedal feel with very little dead space at the top of the pedal travel. Some GM vehicles, Buick LaCrosse, for example, have an inch of pedal travel where nothing happens. It’s an unnerving feeling and one that we’re glad is absent in the G6. The G6 utilizes electric power steering to greater success than many other vehicles with the same system. For the most part, the boost correlates to the speed of the vehicle so the effort gets heavier when entering an on-ramp and is reduced to pinky-spinning levels in a parking garage. It’s not completely perfect by any measure and there are still occasions where the wheel feels unnaturally light for the event. Nonetheless, it’s evident engineers are making progress with these systems and that is a good thing for enthusiasts.
     A 4-speed automatic isn’t exactly on the forefront of transmission technology these days but the manual shift mode that comes standard on the GT model turns this mediocre tranny into a pretty entertaining alternative. Most of this praise is due because, unlike many competitors, Pontiac engineers programmed the transmission to actually do what the driver asks it. That means holding a gear, provided it isn’t going to send engine internals in every direction, right up to the redline. Shifts in manual mode are also satisfyingly crisp and quick.
     A 3.5-liter V6 gets the G6 down the road with moderate haste. Its 200hp and 220lb-ft of torque do a good job at blending everyday sensibilities with a bit of a performance edge. The G6 is rated at 21/29mpg city/highway thanks partly to our vehicle’s cruising-friendly 3.29-axle ratio. GT models are equipped with standard traction control for improved all-season drivability.
     All G6s are well-equipped to start with, but our GT model added some luxury features above and beyond what you’ll find in most of the competition. The panoramic power roof, for example, can open wide to lend an open-air feel to the cabin and is part of the $3,145 Premium Value Package. It isn’t very useful in December and we would be concerned about leaks ten years down the road but it does take the sunroof to the next level. Also included in the Premium Package are a 6-disc in-dash CD changer, chrome wheels and OnStar.
     The interior is a big step beyond the levels of Grand Am appointments. The dash and doors are finished in low-gloss materials and some brightwork around the gauges and vents break up the otherwise all-black cockpit. The $1,365 Leather Package on our car added Heated Ebony leather seats, steering wheel and shift knob. The seats were noted for fitting just about everyone who sat in them and keeping them in place when the roads got curvy. The climate controls are straightforward and all controls are placed within easy reach. Side impact air bags for the front seats and head-curtain air bags were an additional $690 but offer a high level of protection for the money. The only other option was one of the most useful and we’re glad it’s finally making it into vehicles from the factory. It is, of course, the $150 remote vehicle starter system. We can testify to the excellent range of the system and it’ll feel like the best $150 you’ve ever spent on the first cold morning you slip into your toasty, pre-heated car.
     If $28,275 sounds like a bit much for a Grand Am replacement we’ll remind you that our car was fully loaded with $5,350 of options. Forgo some of the luxuries (leather seats) and the gimmicks (panoramic power roof) and a G6 GT is available for $23,300. What you get for that price is a car with decent room for front and rear seat passengers, clean styling and solid performance. Quite simply, the G6 makes Pontiac competitive in small cars again.

The Good:
Clean looks, smart transmission, solid chassis, remote starter, panoramic roof impresses friends.
 
The Bad:
Electric steering, unexciting rear-end styling, questionable long-term issues with panoramic roof.
 
The Verdict:
Finally an offering from Pontiac that’s worth a good look.

Photos by Brandon Dye

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