Pontiac is an 82-year-old brand, known for its affordability, style and performance. The 2009 models are designed to move the Pontiac brand onward and upward. On October 2nd and 3rd, GM invited me to an all-expenses-paid Pontiac media event at the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving where I not only learned valuable driving techniques, but also got to put the pedal to the metal and really see what Pontiac’s high performance cars can really do.
During the autocross exercise at the Bondurant, I was able to test drive five Pontiac cars: two G6 sedans, one with a four-speed automatic transmission and the other with a four-cylinder six-speed automatic transmission; G6 GXP performance line coupe; G6 GT retractable hard top (RHT) convertible; and the 2009 Solstice (both manual and automatic transmission). The autocross course was meant to test the car’s handling as well as allow the driver to practice the skills learned in the ground class. It included a variety of tight right and left turns as well as a few short straight-always where we could test both the speed and brake power of the vehicles.
A Family of High-Performance Vehicles
One of the cars I liked the most was the G6 GXP performance line coupe with Hydra-Matic 6T70 six-speed automatic transmission and 3.6L DOHC V-6 VVT engine creating 252 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque at 3200 rpm – an all-out show stopper. It is the most powerful of all the G6 vehicles and handles and turns very smoothly. The GXP coupe has an aggressive front style with a back spoiler and very comfortable seats.
The GT convertible, although not as powerful as the GXP, is very unique in that it looks just like the coupe with the top up. The removable hard top allows consumers to drive the car in any weather condition without worrying about water seeping through the top and includes a double-hinged design for easy stowing in the trunk. The GT convertible managed turns with ease despite my efforts to burn rubber throughout the autocross, testing the brakes and throttle.
Handling the Solstice
On day two of our high-performance driving lesson, the other media representatives and I went back to the autocross. This time, we got a chance to play with the 2009 Solstice in both manual and automatic transmissions. The Bondurant teachers critiqued our driving skills as we sped through the course. After a few practice runs, they timed each of our two-lap runs. My first time was 1:04.7 and my best was 1:02.7. The interesting thing was, my fastest time felt to me like my safest run.
The Solstice GXP was by far my favorite car in the portfolio. Not only is it a very powerful vehicle with a 2.0L Ecotec DI Turbo VVT engine and 250 horsepower, but it feels like a point and shoot type of car; meaning wherever I looked and steered, the car was there before I knew it. Since I was racing the clock, there were a few moments where my skills as a driver were lacking. Here is where a driver can really feel the StabiliTrak balance out the vehicle so that he or she can keep on driving.
Be the Driver
One of the most important lessons I learned during my short stay with Pontiac at the Bondurant School is that a car by itself can only do so much. It is up to the driver to make it run safely and smoothly. However, knowing the features in your car and what it is capable of doing is also very important and can even save your life. Although high performance features make a car more fun to drive, most day to day car rides do not require such features. Remember the car can only do so much; it is up to the driver to practice and use safe driving techniques.