Cars

Throwback: Pontiac Solstice

One might recall that in the early 1980s, Pontiac introduced the Fiero. It was a mid-engine, four-cylinder, small, two-seater car. When the Pontiac stopped producing the Fiero, there was a gap in its lineup. The customers of the niche started to look elsewhere. It was 2002 before Pontiac would try to fill that two-seater gap again, but this time with a little car it called the Solstice. 

2006 Pontiac Solstice on stage for its Debut
The 2006 Pontiac Solstice makes it debut | JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images

The Pontiac Solstice Debut

The 2002 North American Internation Auto Show was the place that Pontiac decided to see if they could still attract those customers they abandoned in 1988, with the death of the Fiero. Pontiac desperately wanted the excitement back and was sure the Solstice would bring it. The Solstice concept car was brought out on stage, and Pontiac stood back to gauge the public reaction. 

After the show, Pontiac went on to fast-track the production of the vehicle. It would debut the production version as a 2006 model. Unlike the Fiero before it, The Solstice was a more traditional roadster type vehicle. It had its engine in the front, was rear-wheel drive, and was a convertible. It came with a four-cylinder engine like its direct competitor, the Mazda Miata MX-5. It offered four-wheel independent suspension and near even front-to-rear weight distribution. 

Solstice Acceptance

The public loved the Solstice. They ordered over one thousand of them during the first hour the order books opened. The ailing Pontiac was thrilled to have another hit in its lineup. As quickly as the vehicles were snapped up, groups of people were already customizing them and begging for more power. In the form of the GXP trim, Pontiac would deliver a few tweaks to the suspension, brakes, and the option of a turbocharged engine that boosted horsepower. In 2009, a Targa-top coupe variant of the Solstice would also be offered in response to fan desires. 

In a review by Motortrend, they would write, 

“The Solstice is a legit sports car just because it fits like a glove and melds with you to become one on a mountain road, despite the nearly 350 pounds it has on the new Mazda MX-5. It hunkers down into quick third-gear turns, and its tail feels like it’s biting down on the back tires, the rear suspension compressing a bit. Pontiac says the Solstice will beat its competition with a maximum lateral g count of better than 0.90. Steering is light, quick, communicative, and fully up to the best moves the stiff chassis has to offer.”

Silver Pontiac Solstice Coupe
2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe

Downsides

Sadly, the Solstice could not be all things to all people. Many praised the little sportscar. But others found its convertible top cumbersome. It required the driver to get out of the cabin in order to put it up or down. Additionally, when the top was up, there was a large worrisome blindspot. The storage space was also a concern, or lack of it to be more precise. Many would complain that the storage space available in the cabin and trunk was incredibly small. 

The End of the Road

The Solstice was also not the savior that Pontiac needed. Pontiac as a whole was hurting prior to the Solstice’s debut. When the Solstice became the hit it was, it was already too late for Pontiac. In 2008 the big three American manufacturers, Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors, were being dragged before Congress to testify about their financial situation. General Motors, Pontiac’s parent company, needed a cash infusion right away to survive. Both GM and Chrysler would receive the cash infusions. Ford would walk away from the cash offer on the table because it was in a stronger financial situation. However, GM still found itself with the difficult task of having to shutter some brands to stay afloat, even with the cash infusion. So, Pontiac was shuttered, amongst other sister divisions within GM. Alas, the end of the Solstice was the 2010 model year. 

Pontiac Solstice Stats

  • Engine: 2.4-liter, four-cylinder
  • Engine Specs: 177 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque
  • Transmission: Five-speed manual transmission, or five-speed automatic
  • Wheels: 18-inch wheels
  • Performance: Zero-to-sixty miles per hour at 7.2 seconds
  • Weight: 2,860 lbs
  • Base price: $19,995
  • Total Units Sold (All Model Years): 65,724