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The Pontiac Solstice was a unique and special car short-changed, like many others, by the financial crisis of 2008. It certainly had unconventional looks, but for all its whimsy, the Solstice was a proper roadster. Engine at the front, drive axle in the back, the Solstice scorched onto the scene in 2006, ahead of customers forming a blockbuster-sized line out the door. The Solstice is easy to find and cheap to buy, and like any other enthusiast’s car, it can handle some modifications. Here’s how you can get more power from your Pontiac Solstice.

Pontiac made two different versions of the Solstice

Pontiac Solstice drifting in Long Beach, California
Pontiac Solstice drifting in Long Beach, California | Paul Mounce/Corbis via Getty Images

One variant of the Solstice is clearly superior to the other, though it may be harder to find. The original Solstice had a 2.4-liter inline-four sending 177 horsepower to the rear wheels with an open-slip differential. GM cut several corners to save money with the Solstice, including the Chevrolet Cobalt’s engine and the Colorado’s manual transmission, and the Cadillac CTS’ differential, according to Hagerty

It was meant to compete against the likes of the Mazda MX-5 Miata but didn’t stand a fighting chance until 2007 when GM outfitted the car with new suspension and a limited-slip differential as part of the Z0K package. Toward the end of its life, the Solstice got all of this and more. Called the Solstice GXP, the car received a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four that made 260 horsepower. 

Some dealers offered a particular tune that gave the Pontiac Solstice 290 horsepower and heaps of torque tantamount to 340 lb-ft, according to Car and Driver. The turbo engine was a massive improvement over the naturally aspirated, rather sluggish 2.4-liter. Of course, this wasn’t all that the Solstice had to offer. 

The Pontiac Solstice is ready for a tune

Pontiac Solstice on display in Detroit
Pontiac Solstice on display in Detroit | David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Along with a twin-scroll turbocharger, GM fitted the Pontiac Solstice GXP engine with direct injection, continuously variable valve timing, and a forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods. These are ingredients for more boost. Solstice owners claim slight differences in horsepower from exhaust systems and cold air intakes, so naturally, a tune is the next avenue to explore. You can buy what is essentially the dealer’s tune by GM for $883 from Crate Engine Depot. 

It includes a couple of sensors and a plug-and-play harness adapter. It’s also emissions-compliant across the country, though it requires dealer installation and a reflash. However, most owners swear by a Trifecta tune. It offers several, and the process is a bit more complicated but much cheaper. It requires you to install your Trifecta software through an intuitive set of instructions. Owners report increasing the boost to 26 psi in race trim, but a calmer 19 psi for daily driving.

Can the naturally-aspired Pontiac Solstice owners upgrade their engines?

Pontiac Solstice drifting in Las Vegas
Pontiac Solstice drifting in Las Vegas | David Allio/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

Naturally aspirated owners aren’t out of options. According to some Solstice owners, the 2.4-liter responds well to an aftermarket cold air intake and exhaust, adding minimal horsepower but shifting the torque curve to mid-range RPMs. Universally, the car comes with tires that don’t grip well, so replace them. If buying the base model, invest in a complete suspension overhaul. All of this amounts to a solid Miata competitor, with almost 100 more horsepower.


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