Taking into consideration the comments of various reviewers, the 3.6-liter V-6 engine powering the GPX Torrent is exciting and fun, making it the only model worth consideration from a performance standpoint.
Kelley Blue Book says 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 that the Chinese-built engine is “as reliable as sunrise, but also call this pushrod engine a yawner.” The base Torrent is equipped with a 3.4-liter V-6 with 185 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque. Edmunds notes that "though the output of GM's familiar 3400 V6 is uninspiring, it offers adequate low and midrange torque for most situations."
The 3.6-liter V-6 engine powering the GXP delivers 264 hp and 250 pound-feet of torque. Edmunds calls the engine “powerful,” and Pontiac reports the front-drive GXP Torrent hits 60 mph in about 6.9 seconds. All-wheel-drive versions are maybe a tenth of a second 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. ConsumerGuide says "the 3.6-liter V6 engine provides very good power delivery from a stop and for highway passing and merging."
Where the GXP gets a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control, the base Torrent only has a five-speed automatic. In their testing, ConsumerGuide observes the Pontiac Torrent GPX’s six-speed transmission has a "tendency to hunt between gears at highway speeds." 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.”
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." 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. The Pontiac Torrent has EPA-estimated fuel economy that is identical for both front- and all-wheel-drive versions: 17 mpg city, 24 highway for the 3.4-liter engine and 16/24 mpg for the 3.6-liter V-6.
In regard to handling, although the GXP edition is the sportier of the two 2009 Torrent models, its handling leans more toward comfort than nimbleness. 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 and declares 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 are 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." 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."