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G6 continues GM's new product onslaught

October 29, 2004|by MALCOLM GUNN/Wheelbase Communications

The revamp of General Motors' sedan lineup continues to march along at a brisk pace with the introduction of the all-new G6.

Set to eventually replace the long-in-the-grille Grand Am as Pontiac's high-volume model, the G6 launch will, over the next year, grow to include a performance-oriented coupe as well as a hardtop convertible model.

In creating cars such as the G6, GM is attempting to energize the domestic-sedan market, an automotive category that has been dominated by Japanese competitors for the past few years. To accomplish this, Pontiac, in particular, is counting on a combination of crisp styling, improved agility and upgraded performance to win new friends and deliver the sales goods.

The G6 is built on GM's Epsilon platform, an ultra-stiff structure used by the Saab 9-3, Chevrolet Malibu and Malibu Maxx as well as a couple of Europe-only makes. Compared to the Grand Am, the G6's wheelbase has been stretched by more than five inches, while overall length has increased by three. Most of the super-sizing, combined with the outboard positioning of the wheel openings, yields an enlarged passenger compartment.

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The G6's low-front-end/high-rear-end stance is its most obvious design feature. The front resembles most Pontiacs, with its snub nose and traditional split air intakes. The rest of the car, however, is a departure from the norm, especially the short rear deck. Looking at it you would never think that trunk space is within range of most similarly sized sedans.

The interior carries over much of the old Grand Am's flavor, especially the soft-look dash and round vent openings. The gauge pods also glow red at night, a particular Pontiac trait, although the option to switch colors should be made available for buyers who would rather have something a little less vivid.

For now, the base G6 will come with a 200-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 combined with a four-speed automatic transmission. The G6 GT employs the same motor, but its four-speed automatic adds a manual-shift mode. Although not the strongest motor in its class, the 3.5 delivers a 25-horsepower gain over the Grand Am's 3.4-liter unit. Later in the model year, the G6 GTP will arrive with a more potent 240-horsepower 3.9-liter V-6 and available six-speed gearbox, followed by a new G6 base model in 2006 equipped with a 170-horsepower 2.4-liter DOHC four-cylinder.

Pontiac hopes the G6 will make its mark by offering an impressive collection of standard and optional features. Along with the usual power-operated items, it includes climate control, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, premium Monsoon sound system with six-CD changer, keyless remote entry and four-wheel disc brakes.

The GT V-6 adds anti-lock brakes, 17-inch alloy wheels and traction control.

Atop the options list is a panoramic sunroof featuring four individual glass panels that slide open in unison and stack on top of each other. The roof provides the cabin with an enormous amount of fresh air and sunshine. Buyers can also order a remote starting system, adjustable foot pedals, steering-wheel-mounted audio-system controls and both side-impact and side-curtain air bags.

The sitting-pretty G6 will likely take many Pontiac fans by surprise with its combination of clean and contemporary looks, potent power (especially when the high-output GTP arrives) and distinctive content. Rather than being revolutionary or a rehash of current technology, this mid-size sedan is a solid step forward for Pontiac and a worthy successor to the Grand Am.

© 2004, Wheelbase Communications

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