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The Pontiac G6 lineup has been expanded for 2006. A sleek two-door coupe and a dramatic folding hardtop convertible join the attractive four-door sedan that was launched as an all-new nameplate for 2005.
The mission of the G6 is to beat the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Mazda6 on value, a proposition bolstered by GM's lower prices for 2006. While the G6 doesn't offer the refinement or attention to detail of its Japanese rivals, it's an alternative worth considering for shoppers in the mid-size car market. (The G6 replaces the Grand Am, which has been discontinued.)
The G6 sedan line has been expanded for 2006 as well, with multiple engine and trim levels available. Engine choices for 2006 include a 2.4-liter four cylinder for the base model, the 3.5-liter V6 that comes on the GT, and a 3.9-liter V6 with variable valve timing for the new GTP models. Transmission choices include four-speed automatics for all three engine choices and a six-speed manual for the high-performance 3.9-liter GTP.
We've driven a G6 GT sedan and a GTP Coupe. We found the G6 has good road manners even when driven hard, benefits of its long wheelbase and European-designed architecture. The sedan is roomy and plush with excellent overall function and its price point has made it a popular choice as a mid-size sedan. The coupe is comfortable and sporty.
The G6 offers some interesting features. The car can be started remotely from the comfort of your home by pressing a button on the key fob, a luxury on bitter cold winter mornings or sweltering summer afternoons. A Panoramic roof is available on sedans, with panels that slide rearward creating a sunroof large enough for the back seat riders to enjoy an open-air experience. For a real open-top experience, the new convertible features one of the longest retractable hardtop roofs in production.
The Pontiac G6 is fun to drive and quite pleasant for cruising around. We found the sedan and coupe reasonably quiet around town. A few powertrain and road noises slipped in here and there, and there was some wind noise from the sharp-cornered mirror bodies. The ride is comfortable and smooth and the car tracks well. The electric power steering is nicely weighted in terms effort at the steering wheel rim, but a little vague in fast transitions.
The 3.5-liter V6 is quiet and smooth, with a 0-60 mph time that's just enough to keep you out of trouble, but not enough to make your heart beat faster. The more powerful GTP delivers more sprightly performance. The GM EcoTec 2.4-liter is from the same double overhead-cam engine family used in the Saab 9-3, Opel Vectra, and Chevrolet Malibu. The four-cylinder engine is restricted to the base model, and the big HO V6 is available only on the GTP models.
The 3.5-liter V6 produces 201 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. The 3.9-liter engine that comes in the GTP is rated at 240 horsepower, 240 pound-feet of torque (227 hp and 235 lb-ft in the convertible). The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is rated 167 horsepower, 162 pound-feet of torque.
While the G6's V6 engines are updated significantly, they are overhead-valve engines (GM calls them cam in block), low-tech to be sure, but GM has refined this design and they are relatively smooth and quiet and get decent fuel economy, with an EPA City/Highway rating of 21/29 miles per gallon for the 3.5-liter. The 3.9-liter features variable valve timing, which alters when the intake and exhaust valves open and close as the engine revs for more power and efficiency. Some torque steer was evident, a mild tug on the steering wheel on full-throttle starts and low-speed kickdowns.
The automatic transmission worked flawlessly. The four-speed automatic is matched well to the engine's power and torque bands, though it's one gear short of many of the G6's competitors, and performance and fuel economy are consequently affected. Most of the time, we simply put it in Drive and drove. However, it features a neat, simple manual-control mechanism that allows the driver to shift manually. When the manual mode is selected, it will not automatically upshift for you at redline, it goes right up against the rev limiter, a strategy that enthusiasts prefer. An indicator light in the instrument panel helps remind you to shift.
We did a number of 90-0 mph ABS panic stops with the car on a deserted country road, and it stopped straight and true every time with no fade. The brakes have a nice, progressive power application through the pedal.
The Pontiac G6 is a roomy car that offers good road manners and excellent overall function, especially at initial prices. It does its job well and sales numbers will surely increase now that the line has been fleshed out with coupes, convertibles, high-performance and a low-price leader.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw filed the report on the sedan from the Detroit area; with Mitch McCullough reporting on the coupe from Los Angeles.