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Hardtop convertibles are moving down the price ladder. Pioneered in the 1950s, hardtop convertibles of the most recent generation have mostly been expensive propositions—think Benz SL, Cadillac XLR and the like.
But more and more, trickle-down economics are bringing folding hardtops to us plebes. Just this year we’ve driven the 2007 Volkswagen Eos, the 2007 Mazda MX-5 Power Retractable Hard Top, the 2007 Volvo C70, and have seen the 2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible in its razorback sheetmetal. All offer four-season driving open to the elements, or cosseted under a coupe-like roof, with a price tag below $40,000-in the case of the Mazda, far below.
The Pontiac G6 joins this growing club with some strong credentials. It’s a pretty car top up or down, and compared to all its brethren, it is inexpensive, at a base price of $28,490. But based on our driving time, the G6 Convertible GT wants for a bit more refinement before it earns our precious summer sun time.
Letting the sunshine in
Convertibles demand and command
attention. As it should, the G6 Convertible only makes you look better. It has a
sleek, slimmed-down shape, defragged of any former Pontiac frippery, and recalls
Acura’s Legend coupes, the current Honda Accord two-door and the Toyota Solara,
with a bit more elegance.
Also critical to this type of convertible, the G6’s top mechanism works easily, though it’s marginally slower than some others because the roof area is so large. It takes about 30 seconds to stow the lid or to raise it back in place.
That sizable roof is also the reason there’s not much luggage space in the trunk when the top is down. But the G6 does have two back seats that look more comfortable for a weekend bag than for any adult friends you might indulge. The seats in back are about the best of the four-seat hardtop convertibles (counting in the C70 and Eos) but still cramped for anything more serious than a trip to dinner. The doors are long and kind of heavy, all to make it easier to get into the back seats, but in no way are they like the parking-lot demon Firebird wings of yore.
2006 Pontiac G6 Convertible GTEnlarge Photo
the wheel, the seats are quite well shaped, much more so than recent
With the stylish essentials baked into it, the G6 needs only decent performance and good execution to win us over. And performance isn’t much of an issue, unless you’re expected BMW M levels of power and traction.
The G6 Convertible GT’s powertrain
sports a 3.5-liter V-6 with 224 horsepower and 230 pound-feet of torque, paired
up with a four-speed automatic.
The Convertible feels fast enough, in any case. The throttle is tuned to respond to brisk inputs and the transmission shifts smoothly to accommodate them. The V-6 has a chunky growl and is torquey at lower revs. There’s not much sense in redlining the V-6, since the power’s low in its rev range, and the extra gears of more advanced transmissions aren’t missed in the kind of mid-speed city driving the G6 excels at. However, with GM’s multivalve 3.6-liter six and six-speed automatic already available in the Coupe, we’re eager to feel it in this application.
Anti-lock brakes are standard, and in a welcome change for GM’s reputation, the brake pedal feel is quite good too.
With the bases seemingly covered, it’s a shame to leave the G6 looking for other topless options. Too many niggling complaints added up on our test car and detracted from its retractable pleasures.
2006 Pontiac G6 Convertible GTEnlarge Photo
Take the transmission. The lack of a fifth gear was no sin, but the shift lever feel and precision was. Moving the lever close to the D position didn’t always lead to a shift into Drive. The steering had a similar low-grade friction and imprecision that sapped the feel-good vibe.
And after 3000 miles of press use, our G6’s body structure had loosened significantly—or felt as if it had. Hitting a pothole in a corner sent the G6 into a shudder that amplified the soft handling settings and low-ambition tires. It felt looser than other hardtop convertibles we’ve driven recently: both Eos convertibles we drove recently seemed rock-solid.
We’d like to drive the G6 after
another round of refinement – smoother steering, a slicker shifter, and a more
refined engine. Most of all, we’d like to feel reflexes as tight as its body
lines. We’ll wait to see what the larger engine and six-speed gearbox does for
its driving feel, and hope our car’s body feel was a one-time letdown. Pair the
G6’s good looks with the Eos’ stout feel and,
Imagine our frustration: when was the last time you wanted less wiggle from something topless?
Pontiac G6 Convertible GT
Base price: $28,490
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Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 224 hp/230 lb-ft
Transmission: Four-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
Length x width x height: 189.0 x 70.6 x 57.0 in
Wheelbase: 112.3 in
Curb Weight: 3858 lb
Fuel economy (EPA cty/hwy): 21/29 mpg
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags; anti-lock brakes and traction control
Major standard features: Air conditioning; power windows, locks and mirrors; AM/FM/CD player; cruise control
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles