The 2008 Pontiac Solstice’s high curb weight is overshadowed by fantastic handling, great balance, and the power and economy of the optional turbocharged engine.
While a thoroughly modern DOHC, variable valve timing four-cylinder with 173 horsepower, 167 pound-feet of torque, and 2.4 liters of displacement, the Solstice’s base engine doesn’t sound particularly sexy, nor does it motivate the nearly 3,000-pound roadster with a surplus of verve. Says Car and Driver of this engine, it “makes decent numbers, but decent isn’t good enough when your little roadster weighs a ton and a half.” Edmunds agrees, claiming “it doesn't feel much like a sports car engine.”
Step up to the optional 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder available only in the Solstice GXP, and motivation changes dramatically. With 260 of both horses and pound-feet of twist, this engine graces the Solstice with “a Miata-mincing mid-five-second 0-60 acceleration time” and increases “highway fuel economy from 25 mpg to 28, while maintaining a 19-mpg rating around town,” according to Car and Driver. “The GXP's four-cylinder is the strong, silent type,” says Automobile, “boasting a specific output exceeding that of every turbocharged engine on the market save Porsche's new 911 and Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution.”
As Colin Chapman’s mantra dictates, weight is the enemy of performance. The Solstice doesn’t impress here, with a curb weight some 500 pounds greater than the segment’s darling, Mazda’s MX-5 Miata. Thankfully, its 1.5-ton footprint is remarkably well managed by a commendably stiff structure, excellent suspension tuning, and near 50/50 front/rear balance. Car and Driver feels that both the base roadster and the GXP “match the good looks of their sheet metal with sparkling handling” while simultaneously lamenting that the platform is “too heavy to match the vivid immediacy…of the Mazda MX-5.”