The more you look at this thing, the worse it gets. You can’t see out of it, odd and pointless lumps cover up parts of the windows. You can’t sit in it, the terrible ergonomics and flat seats ruin the experience. You don’t want to drive it, the engine and especially the transmission are lousy. And you can’t drive it at night, the lousy headlamps shake along with the hood they’re mounted in.
What were they thinking?
Let’s not forget that Bob Lutz – the alleged marketing and product genius – had many many many flops. Did a couple of successful cars like the CTS make up for the money that was wasted putting the flops into production (or bringing them into the country)? Debatable…
No sooner did we post about the current Solstice and Sky when word comes from GM Inside News that the next generation cars have been cancelled. Follow the link in the title of this post to the original article.
As we wrote our post last week… one thing bothered us. The fact that we rarely saw a Solstice or Sky on the dealer lot, much less a new ones on the street. Could their terrible ergonomics and lousy truck-based transmission have caught up with them? And what are the ramifications of yet another Lutz failure?
We had an opportunity a few days ago to poke our heads under a Saturn Sky (identical to the Solstice) and look around. We’re not a big fan of the car because the ergonomics and design are about as appealing and well-done as a late-eighties Camaro.. Functionally there are some good elements – but bad they are hidden inside a body and seating position that you can’t see out of or sit in…
The front brakes are a decent size, although they look lost in the 18″ rims.
The rears are the problem – solid discs. The bane of road racers.
The diff and single exhaust pipe (dual outlets on the turbo model). Note that the diff is finned aluminum – a very good move.
Rear suspension – I was surprised to see Bilsteins on a base automatic-equipped model. Very nice.
Rear suspension – note the aluminum upper and lower control arms. Very very strong – probably overkill for the amount of power the car has in it’s current generation. Note the concentric bolt on the lower arm for camber adjustment and the beefy tie rod.
Front, looking back. Note the stamped steel cross members – not too strong and very heavy. This is a car that needs an x-brace underneath. Also note the single exhaust – there is not a lot of room for more. Originally, a V-6 model was planned – and we’ll probably never see it now given the increased fuel economy standards and the excellent all-around performance and mileage of the turbo engine.
Front suspension – again, very strong aluminum control arms. Not forged, but strong nonetheless. General Motors knows how to do this… you see these kinds of control arms in lots of their vehicles (even lowly crossovers and mini vans). Also note the concentric bolts for adjusting both the camber and caster.
Front suspension. Note the strong attachment of the steering rack – with only the minimal bushing (and thus minimal deflection). Very nice.
All in all, some good thinking in the suspension department. Too bad about the rest of the car. It’s due for a update in another two years, roughly – and depending on the health of General Motors. Some people believe it will share more components with the upcoming – and smaller – C7 Corvette platform. The product planners for both cars are in the same team so this may well be the general idea. Lets hope they put some major focus on ergonomics, especially eliminating the funky (and godawful slow!) top mechanism and the tiny rear window.
It’d also be nice to know where the 300-HP turbo 4 and 6-speed manual transmission are that have been shown in public. The engine was supposed to appear in 2009 and the transmission has been shown years ago. The transmission will probably just be an off-the-shelf Aisen anyway… so there shouldn’t be any reason for a delay there. The current 5-speed GM truck unit is terrible.
The Sky and especially the Solstice are popular platforms for V-8 swaps, with several companies doing it these days using Corvette components. I’m not sure I see the point of this… by the time (and expense) you switch the rear diff, transmission, engine, exhaust, cooling, electrical assemblies, and fuel assemblies – what do you have? A car about 200 pounds less heavy than a Corvette, without the torsional or flexular integrity. And certainly only partial engineering. We’re not interested in making such a compromise on an already compromised car.
Shown at SEMA in November 2006: a “GXP-R” Solstice with a 6-speed. This may preview a future option for the Solstice and Sky turbos.
See the other pictures of the GXP-R here: http://www.putfile.com/gobuick/images/45302
I think this is an important and overdue development… the transmission is one of the major flaws in this car as it currently stands. Now lets see when or even if it makes it into production. There is no excuse for not making this standard on all turbos.
Solstices (“Solsti”) and Skys are sportscars too – a very controversial statement to our fellow S2K owners perhaps. But – far more importantly – are Solsti and Sky owners true sportscar owners? Are they up to the rigors of a central Texas hill country drive? That means a lot of dirt, heat, and gravel marks on the car – with no whining about it. That also means no dusters, no slammed cars, and no showoffs. The Solstice and Sky owners passed all the tests, although a few dusters did make an appearance :-)
We were asked again to put together a new drive for these folks. The first drive, last March, was at the time the largest Solstice drive ever held in the country (gaining the attention of Bob Lutz and crew). The second, last month in August, was much smaller, but also a lot tougher, longer, and dirtier.
We led the two drives in our 2003 S2K. Another friend with an Evo brought up the rear, acting as sweep car and (when needed) as chase car.
As I say in the blog, hopefully the ideas of safe back-roads drives is firmly embedded. They’re on their own now… we’ve planted the seeds. Our next drive will be for a completely different brand of car.
Only on YouTube: a comparison test of the Solstice versus the Miata. From Best Motoring.
Driving is what it
Rock musician Jon Bon Jovi looks at the new Saturn Sky before the opening ceremony of Saturn’s “Have a Nice Gig” contest Friday evening, June 23, 2006, in Fort Worth, Texas. The contest gives local unsigned bands the opportunity to play for the chance to open for Bon Jovi at a local date of the “Have a Nice Day” Stadium Tour, and also compete for a demo recording contract. Additional competitions are scheduled for Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, New Jersey, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and Ft. Lauderdale. (General Motors Photo/Tim Sharp).
From c|net: “The 2006 Pontiac Solstice is a car for teenage girls with a love of cosmetics or midlife-crisis guys happy to get a budget boy-racer image without the performance to back it up. Those wanting a real roadster experience should look elsewhere.”
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Source: CNET Reviews – Most Recent Automobiles
AutoWeek reports on Pontiac’s plan to keep the Solstice in very short supply – keeping prices (and residual value) up.
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