2008 Pontiac Torrent Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
September 8, 2008

The 2008 Pontiac Torrent offers good room and a great new GXP edition, but other choices in the segment are more refined and more modern.

TheCarConnection.com's editors read the latest reviews on the new 2008 Pontiac Torrent to write this comprehensive review. The car experts at TheCarConnection.com also drove the 2008 Pontiac Torrent, and they use that experience to steer you to the right opinions and advice, so you can choose a perfect car.

The 2008 Pontiac Torrent is an older crossover with good room, but some shortcomings keep it from being a top choice in the segment.

However, properly equipped, the 2008 Pontiac Torrent has some good qualities. The five-passenger Torrent SUV/crossover can finally live up to its name, once it becomes a GXP edition. The GXP package on the 2008 Pontiac Torrent is built around a dual-overhead-cam 3.6-liter V-6 (sourced from the Cadillac CTS) that's massively more powerful than the 3.4-liter V-6 that's been the standard Torrent powerplant since the model's 2006 introduction. The new engine produces 264 horsepower, a great leap forward of nearly 80 hp over the 3.4's not-so-torrential 185 hp rating. The GXP package (available in front- and all-wheel drive) also includes a standard six-speed automatic transmission with "tap up, tap down" manual shift control, polished 18-inch rims with 50-series Goodyear Eagle RS-A performance tires, a unique hood with twin pressed-in "aero scoops," dual exhaust tips jutting out of the rear valance, and projector-style fog lamps leading the way up front. The suspension's been lowered and tuned to be firmer, too. GM's StabiliTrak integrated electronic traction/stability control system is also included, as are heated front seats, a performance-themed gauge cluster, and GXP-specific exterior and interior trim.

So what kind of performance does the 2008 Pontiac Torrent GXP deliver? Zero to 60 is now reachable in about 6.9 seconds with the front-drive version. All-wheel-drive versions are maybe a tenth or so slower. Either way, this is a huge improvement over the 3.4-liter Torrent, which needs closer to 10 seconds to make the same run. There is a price to be paid for this performance edge, however. This is not the SUV to think about taking off-road. Even a little. The base version is considerably less inspiring, with some noticeable body flex and sluggish steering.

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In more introverted matters, the Torrent is a well-sized, well-organized package, particularly if you need the family-friendly versatility. Though it doesn't offer a third-row seat, the Torrent is extremely roomy, even in the backseat (it's comfortable enough for six-foot-tall passengers). The roominess extends to the cargo area, which is almost big enough to handle another person at 35 cubic feet. The controls for the A/C system and radio are simple, effective rotary-style knobs that can be operated by feel without having to look at them as you drive. The dash layout is swell, too, though not as rich and finished-looking as some of GM's newer models such as the new Chevy Malibu and the absolutely gorgeous Buick Enclave. There's still a bit too much rhino-hard black plastic that detracts from the quality feel a $30,000 vehicle ought to convey in 2008.

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2008 Pontiac Torrent

Styling

The 2008 Pontiac Torrent offers a conventional crossover shape with distinct Pontiac cues.

The 2008 Pontiac Torrent has many improvements over the previous model, and the new Pontiac Torrent 2008 GXP version brings sportier looks to what TheCarConnection.com notes may be a dated design.

The Torrent is a near-twin of the Chevrolet Equinox, but some distinct styling cues give it a little breathing room of its own. Cars.com notes "the Torrent's twin-port grille is traditional Pontiac," and goes on to describe the Torrent’s classic crossover shape: “Headlights that wrap into the front fenders flank the grille, below which is a wide air intake. The front and rear overhangs are short, and the fenders are flared. Fog lamps and front and rear skid plates are standard.” MSN Autos says the Torrent “looks sportier than the Equinox”; in fact, it's “sporty enough for a roomy SUV, although it can't match the appearance of something like the Infiniti FX sport-utility vehicle, which emphasizes sport over utility.” Kelley Blue Book advises "if you're looking for an SUV that stands out from the pack, the Pontiac Torrent's attractive shape barely pokes its head past the average mark."

The new GXP model helps somewhat, with its larger 18-inch wheels and lower stance giving it a sportier demeanor. "Some chrome from the company parts bin, including door handles and dual exhaust tips, round out the [GXP] package," reports Automobile. They also note "the absence of a roof rack gives the 2008 Pontiac Torrent GXP a smoother design flow compared to the standard model."

Inside, the Torrent is a little more distinctive. Cars.com says the Pontiac Torrent has "a well-designed interior," and MSN Autos talks about the “quiet, inviting, sporty looking interior.” Kelley Blue Book gripes that "some controls are not as logically laid-out as they might be, and the base vehicle isn't so different from its Equinox cousin." Cars.com adds that the 2008 Pontiac Torrents "have a unique gauge cluster and leather-wrapped steering wheel." Edmunds considers the interior “attractively styled” and remarks “the driver faces a stylish set of chrome-ringed gauges, sporty three-spoke steering wheel and a simple control layout.”

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2008 Pontiac Torrent

Performance

The 2008 Pontiac Torrent responds with crossover carefulness, not sportscar sensitivity—even in GXP trim.

The 2008 Pontiac Torrent is available in a GXP trim that offers a kick-in-the-pants boost in performance with its new 3.6-liter V-6 lifted directly out of the Cadillac CTS.

The base Torrent is equipped with a 3.4-liter V-6 with 185 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque. Edmunds notes "though the output of GM's familiar 3400 V6 is uninspiring, it offers adequate low and midrange torque for most situations." Kelley Blue Book agrees that the standard 3.4-liter powerplant "has more than enough horsepower and torque to provide a nice balance between good acceleration and reasonable fuel economy." MSN Autos vouches it’s “as reliable as sunrise, but also call this pushrod engine a yawner.”

In the GXP, Pontiac shoehorns a 3.6-liter V-6 that pumps out 264 hp and 250 pound-feet of torque. ConsumerGuide says "the 3.6-liter V6 engine provides very good power delivery from a stop and for highway passing and merging." Edmunds calls the engine “powerful,” and Pontiac reports the GXP Torrent hits 60 mph in about 6.9 seconds with the front-drive version. All-wheel-drive versions are maybe a tenth or so slower. Either way, this is a huge improvement over the 3.4-liter Torrent, which needs closer to 10 seconds to make the same run.

The base Torrent has a five-speed automatic transmission, while the GXP gets a six-speed auto with manual shift control. Kelley Blue Book notes that "Pontiac's adaptive five-speed automatic transmission delivers near-seamless shifts and its fifth gear helps maximize fuel consumption at highway speeds." Edmunds adds it offers “manual shift control.” During their testing, ConsumerGuide observes the Pontiac Torrent 2008 six-speed transmission's "tendency to hunt between gears at highway speeds."

The Pontiac Torrent has EPA-estimated fuel economy that is identical for both front- and all-wheel-drive versions: 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway for the 3.4-liter engine and 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway for the 3.6-liter V-6. Cars.com notes, surprisingly, "the more-powerful engine has nearly the same mileage ratings as the smaller one." The slight difference in fuel economy has a lot to do with the transmissions and the fact that the 3.6-liter engine is more modern and refined. Kelley Blue Book recommends that "those seeking more performance should look to the 3.6-liter engine, which features variable valve timing for better fuel economy."

When it comes to handling, even the GXP edition still aims for a comfortable feel, not nimbleness. Edmunds notes "most small SUV shoppers will find the Pontiac Torrent's ride and handling balance reasonably carlike and quite acceptable." They note the Torrent’s body roll while cornering, as well as the power steering's lack of "responsiveness." According to Kelley Blue Book, "the quiet-running Torrent is easy to drive, stays on course easily and body lean through curves is less than for some of its competitors." ConsumerGuide tests only the GXP model; they declare that "despite the aggressive suspensions and tire combination, the GXP's handling isn't what we would call sporty." They notice that the tracking and straight-line stability is good, as are the braking control and overall grip, but "there is quite a bit of body lean in turns," and the steering feels "numb." Edmunds believes that the GXP's "performance-tuned chassis is calibrated to handle more power and offers greater potential for speed."

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2008 Pontiac Torrent

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Pontiac Torrent has ample, comfortable seating, but can seem noisy and a bit plasticky.

Most of the reviews read by TheCarConnection.com praise the 2008 Pontiac Torrent's comfort level and ample front and rear legroom, but are less enthusiastic about its fit and finish.

Seating is more spacious and comfortable than in many five-passenger crossovers. ConsumerGuide notes that the Pontiac Torrent has "plenty of headroom and legroom up front, and the seats offer fine support." They call the Pontiac Torrent 2008 Multi-Flex sliding rear seat "clever," and its 60/40 split design can accommodate three child safety seats or two with one of the seatbacks folded. Kelley Blue Book says that the 2008 Pontiac Torrent "is one of the easier SUVs to enter, and the rear seat provides ample leg space even in its farthest-forward position." They call the seats "generously supportive and comfortable," but "nearly devoid of side bolstering." According to Edmunds, "the midsize Torrent offers plenty of room for its occupants and their stuff, including plenty of rear headroom and legroom."

Besides earning praise for its generous legroom, the Pontiac Torrent also gets high scores for its cargo capacity. Kelley Blue Book tallies "35 cubic feet behind its upright seats, and a healthy 69 cubic feet available with the seats folded." The 60/40-split seats accommodate long items, and they like the many cubbies and door pockets that can store small items.

According to ConsumerGuide, "the quality of Torrent's interior trim is improved for 2008, though the overall tactile experience still trails that of most competitors." According to Edmunds, "hard plastic abounds, but the Pontiac Torrent's cabin is attractively styled and solidly constructed." ConsumerGuide gripes that the GXP's engine "is particularly unrefined, the exhaust note is raspy, and tire noise is excessive." They also claim that their test model "suffered from loud wind whistling around the side windows."

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2008 Pontiac Torrent

Safety

The 2008 Pontiac Torrent is a solid and safe vehicle, but the full-length side curtain airbags are optional, not standard.

TheCarConnection.com finds that the 2008 Pontiac Torrent gets high crash-test scores, and it boasts an impressive list of standard safety features.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) frontal crash testing, the Pontiac Torrent earned a five-star rating (the best possible) for the protection of front occupants; it scored the same for front and rear occupant protection in its side impact tests. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests, the Pontiac Torrent scored a highest possible "good" rating in frontal offset testing. Side impact tests were not performed on the 2008 Torrent by the IIHS.

According to ConsumerGuide, the 2008 Pontiac Torrent has the following standard safety features: anti-lock disc brakes, traction control, an antiskid system, front side airbags, and side curtain airbags. Edmunds adds that the Pontiac Torrent 2008 is equipped with OnStar and that "full-length side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor are optional, but front-seat side airbags (that provide torso protection) are not available." Cars.com mentions "the new Electronic Trailer Sway Control, which automatically detects trailer sway caused by an improper trailer weight balance or excessive vehicle speed, then activates the stability system to maintain control."

As for visibility when driving this SUV, ConsumerGuide notes that the "thick front roof pillars block vision when cornering and rear sight lines are hindered by the sloping roof."

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2008 Pontiac Torrent

Features

The 2008 Pontiac Torrent sports a long list of standard features, missing only a handful of high-tech items, such as Bluetooth.

The 2008 Pontiac Torrent is available in two different flavors: the base-model Torrent and the GXP. A plethora of options is available for each, or you can order the Torrent with one of Pontiac's upgrade packages.

According to Edmunds, "the Pontiac Torrent is a well-equipped midsize crossover SUV available in either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive configurations." Kelley Blue Book notes "buyers who wish to customize their Pontiac Torrents can obtain a fair number of accessories in addition to factory-installed options."

According to ConsumerGuide, the following comfort and convenience features are standard: air conditioning, an interior air filter, OnStar, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a fold-flat passenger seat, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player, a digital-media player connection, automatic headlights, and remote keyless entry, as well as power mirrors, windows, and door locks. Upgrading to the Torrent GXP gets the larger engine and sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, remote vehicle starting, steering wheel audio controls, a sports instrument panel, front sport seats with multilevel heating, and a powered driver seat.

Options include side curtain airbags, leather-trimmed seats, DVD navigation, a moonroof, XM Satellite Radio, and a premium sound system, says Kelley Blue Book, or "GM's accessory division can supply 19 extra items to suit owners who crave a custom look."

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7.6
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 9.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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