- Quick, direct steering and responsive handling
- Turbocharged GXP model delivers awesome acceleration
- Great, uncompromised styling
- Seats lack comfort and support
- Awkward driving position
- Lack of interior storage
- Manual top mechanism could be much simpler
- Cargo space limited with top down
The 2008 Pontiac Solstice keeps it simple, valuing sports-car responsiveness over comfort and practicality.
The sporty Pontiac Solstice, the sibling to Saturn’s sleek Sky roadster, is available in two main versions for 2008: base and GXP.
A 2.4-liter, 177-horsepower inline four-cylinder engine is standard on the 2008 Pontiac Solstice. The high-performance GXP model features a 260-horsepower turbocharged direct-injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, firmer suspension setting, GXP-specific 18-inch wheels with high-performance tires, GM’s StabiliTrak stability control system, polished stainless steel dual exhaust tips, revised front and rear fascias, and GXP-specific interior trim, including “GXP” embroidered sport buckets. On both models, a five-speed manual transmission is standard, a five-speed automatic optional. Both Solstice models have rear-wheel drive.
The base engine has plenty of power to move the 2,860-pound Solstice quickly; with the manual gearbox, its 0-60-mph time is only 7.2 seconds, according to GM, while the turbo shortens the 0-60 figure to about 5.5 seconds. The base engine lacks refinement and can be quite coarse in sound and feel, but the 2008 Pontiac Solstice GXP’s turbocharged engine and different gear ratios feel more sophisticated and responsive; the turbo doesn’t bring much lag (hesitation) either.
With a firm but not uncomfortable ride, and precise, quick-ratio steering that brings a good feel of the road, the 2008 Pontiac Solstice is in its element on tight, curvy roads. Even approaching the limits of adhesion, the Solstice handles predictably.
Inside, the 2008 Pontiac Solstice isn’t quite as alluring. The seats are rather narrow and unsupportive, and some of the controls are located in odd places. The driving position is difficult for taller or shorter drivers, as the steering wheel doesn’t telescope, and the cabin lacks modern must-haves such as abundant storage cubbies and sturdy cup holders.
The soft-top arrangement in the 2008 Pontiac Solstice requires getting out of the car to secure two anchor points for raising the top, while the top lowers below the rear-hinged trunklid and occupies much of the already small cargo space. Visibility is more impaired than typical with the top up, and when down, the top tucks into the trunk and occupies much of the already small cargo space. Wind noise with the top in place—and wind buffeting with the top down—could use some improvement.
Though not as loaded in standard form as the Saturn Sky, the 2008 Pontiac Solstice does come with a CD stereo, rear defroster, an adjustable steering column, and a considerably lower base price. A full range of options can be ordered, including power locks, mirrors, and windows; keyless entry; cruise control; leather seats; a Monsoon audio system; GM’s OnStar communications/safety system; and XM Satellite Radio. Among the changes for 2008 are standard OnStar and XM Satellite Radio; a new MP3-compatible AM/FM/CD radio with an auxiliary jack; and standard tire pressure monitors.
The 2008 Pontiac Solstice has a low base price, though it skimps on standard safety features. Anti-lock brakes—considered by many to be essential on a sportscar of this type—are optional on the Solstice, and stability control is now available on the base models ordered with anti-lock brakes but standard on the GXP. No side airbags are offered. The Solstice has been crash-tested by the federal government and got four-star results in frontal and side impact. The low roadster is also one of just a few cars to obtain top five-star results in NHTSA’s rollover risk rating.