Originally unveiled as a formal concept car in 2004, the Pontiac Solstice was one of Bub Lutz’s performance infused pet projects. He wanted a car that harked back to the British convertible coupes that were so ubiquitous in the 1950’s & ‘60’s. What he received in the form of the Solstice was far beyond those expectations, as the car was a pleasure to drive, had exhilarating performance with the GXP model, and was quite affordable to manufacture given its multitude of shared components across General Motors.
When the initial production models began to come out in 2006 the Solstice saw staggering demand. First year production was originally slated at 7,000 units, but demand was so strong that Pontiac ended up producing over 21,000. The following year saw no lag in sales, as 2007 models numbered over 24,000 units. With the economic downturn in 2008 though, sales finally eased with only 16,000 cars produced. Quickly after the 2008 recession the death bell was sounded for Pontiac, as the combination of subsidies and US government pressure forced GM to shutter Pontiac in July of 2009. While the brand was now closed more Solstices were still produced, with some categorized as 2009 models and a select 20 as 2010 models.
The Pontiac Solstice came in essentially four flavors. There were two specific body types, a convertible and a Coupe. Of the 66,000 units produced only 1,266 were Coupes. The other variant, which came in both Convertible and Coupe form, was the GXP. The GXP package featured GM’s 2.0L DI Turbocharged engine, bumping power from 173 bhp to 260 bhp. Additional dealer installed tuning options could raise the output up to 290 bhp. The GXP’s turbocharged engine allowed the Solstice to sprint from 0-60 in 5.5 seconds. Pushing the car from a spirited weekend driver to a proper performance enthused sports car.
While the Solstice’s production history was unfortunately short, it remains one of General Motors most iconic cars of the early 21st century. Given the unending popularity that 2-seat roadsters have had throughout the past 70 years, it is easy to say that the Solstice will live on in the hearts and garages of enthusiasts for many decades to come.
Advantages & Disadvantages:
The Solstice’s robust sales show that the car was a wonderfully designed vehicle, with some of the benefits being:
• Turbocharged Acceleration (GXP – 260 bhp)
• Excellent Handling from the Kappa Platform
• Crisp & Responsive Steering
• Traditionally Gorgeous Curves & Body Proportions
• Stability Control (GXP Model only)
• Excellent Build Quality
• Affordable Mechanics (Powertrain is Shared with other GM Vehicles)
There are however some inherent design shortcomings:
• Rear Trunk Space is Virtually Unusable with the Top Down
• Naturally Aspirated Model is Underpowered
• Manual Top Operation
• Low Slung Front End is a Magnet for Hits
• The Coupe’s Targa Top does not fit in the Trunk
• Convertible Seals and Replacement Parts can by Hard to Come by
• Replacement Body Panels are Very Expensive, while Coupe Panels are Effectively Nonexistent
Ultimately, the Solstice is a very well manufactured car with certain design shortcomings that owners have simply learned to live with. Few cars in the past twenty years can provide the level of driving dynamics and performance that a Solstice can. Much less in such a compact package. In an era where sports cars continue to get bigger and heavier, the Solstice was a welcome departure to a simpler past.
Special or Desirable Options:
The Solstice came with a plethora of options ranging from colors, suspension, exterior & interior trim, convertible top colors, paint color, rims, etc… Ultimately, only two options truly matter, whether you get the upgraded GXP model and whether you get the ultra-rare Coupe. While the total number of GXP models produced was somewhere in the 13,000 range, only 1,266 Coupes were made. Of these a select 781 were GXP’s. The Coupes are broken down as follows:
• 23 Units – FRESH (HYDRO BLUE METALLIC)
• 50 Units – NARANJA METALICO BRAZEN
• 30 Units – AMARILLO SPORT (Mean Yellow)
• 354 Units – MYSTERIOUS (BLACK)
• 32 Units – DEEP (BLUE)
• 60 Units – PURE (WHITE)
• 197 Units – COOL (SILVER)
• 131 Units – AGGRESSIVE (RED)
• 50 Units – SLY (STEEL GRAY)
• 205 Units – WICKED(RUBY RED METALLIC)
• 102 Units – Pre-Production 2009 Models
• 20 Units – 2010 GM Fleet Cars
• 12 Units – Pre-Production 2010 Models
There were 20 cars built as 2010 models, 12 Coupes and 8 Convertibles. Which break down as follows:
• Solstice GXP Coupe, Kinetic Blue (Hypnotic) Black Leather LNF Manual Polished Air Heritage Ed.
• Solstice GXP Coupe, White (Pure) Black Leather LNF Auto Polished Air Heritage Ed.
• Solstice GXP Coupe, Red (Aggressive) Black Cloth LNF Auto Polished Air
• Solstice GXP Coupe, Dk Labryinth Met (Sly) Black Leather LNF Manual Polished Air
• Solstice GXP Coupe, Dk Labryinth Met (Sly) Red Leather LNF Auto Chrome Air
• Solstice GXP Coupe, Merlot Jewel (Wicked) Met Black Leather LNF Auto Chrome NO Air
• Solstice Coupe, Kinetic Blue (Hypnotic) Lt. Cashmere Leather LE5 Manual Polished Air
• Solstice Coupe, Red (Aggressive) Lt. Cashmere Leather LE5 Manual Polished Air
• Solstice GXP Coupe, Santiago Teal Met Black Leather LNF Auto Polished NO Air (Canadian Spec)
• Solstice GXP Coupe, Kinetic Blue (Hypnotic) Black Leather LNF Manual Chrome Air
• Solstice Coupe, Dk Labryinth Met (Sly) Black Cloth LE5 Manual Polished Air
• Solstice GXP Coupe, Merlot Jewel Met (Wicked) Black Leather LNF Manual Polished Air
• Solstice, Pure White Black Leather Black LE5 Auto Polished Air Heritage Ed.
• Solstice GXP, Kinetic Blue Black Leather Black LNF Manual Polished Air Heritage Ed.
• Solstice GXP, Mysterious Black Black Leather Black LNF Manual Polished Air
• Solstice GXP, Dk Labryinth Met Black Leather Black LNF Auto Chrome Air
• Solstice GXP, Kinetic Blue Black Leather Black LNF Manual Chrome Air
• Solstice, Dk Labryinth Met Lt. Cashmere Leather Tan LE5 Auto Polished Air
• Solstice, Dk Labryinth Met Black Leather Black LE5 Auto Polished Air
• Solstice GXP, Kinetic Blue Black Leather Black LNF Manual Chrome Air
The rarest models of note would be the Heritage Editions. These were limited to the 2010 model year and featured Blue or White Rally Stripes, Blue accent stitching on seats, steering wheel and shift knob, plus a specific interior color combination. Only four of these were created, 2 coupes and 2 convertibles; with 3 of them being GXP models and only 1 base model. These are above and beyond the ultimate Solstice collectibles.
What to look out for:
Being a low volume car, the Solstice did suffer from some initial issues and as such has a number of potential recalls. However, there are many cars that have traveled 200k and 300k miles with only general maintenance. As is typically the case the later model years will exhibit a higher build quality. These are the things that potential used car buyers should look for.
• Differential Leaking: There is a recall on the rear end for a modified relief tube. Beyond that the GXP’s suffer from leaking and seeping around the differential seals. The only real solution is to maintain the fluid at the proper level and maintain the recommended LSD additive.
• Undercarriage: Many Solstices have been lifted incorrectly. When lifted incorrectly with a floor jack the front fenders can crack and are easily crushed. The front section of the car has specific lift points that must be used.
• Chin Spoiler & Front End Damage: Given the low stance of the car you should check the chin for damage. This can also lead to damage of the intercooler on GXP’s, as a solid hit can crack the intercooler but not show any obvious damage as it is hidden behind the plastic shroud.
• Convertible Top: The convertible top should be cycled open and closed multiple times. Typical damage can be found where the hold-down feet contact the material in the trunk. You should expect some scuffing but nothing too series. You should also check for the general alignment, as improper opening and closing with the windows up or trunk closed can cause a misalignment which will lead to damage.
• Leaks: Given that almost all Solstices are convertibles, a proper leak test should be given. If a hose is not available, just take the car through a high power car wash on your test drive. Some of the seals are rather expensive if they need to be replaced.
• Buttresses and Trunk: The buttresses should open easily and completely. It is not unusual though for them to stick a bit. In the trunk the hinges and torsion bars should be inspected. These can sometimes be damaged when opened incorrectly or due to a misalignment of the top. While all can be replaced they do require a significant teardown to gain access.
• Shocks: The original shocks had a tendency to leak, so they should be inspected.
• Water Pump: GXP water pumps have been known to fail with little more than 20k miles. It is not unusual and should be expected.
• Passenger Airbag: Check that the airbag is registering a human occupant in the passenger seat. It is a common and expensive malfunction.
• Heavy Engine Abuse or Modifications: Given how easy the GXP turbo models are to upgrade, you should perform a quick check to see how much has been done. Underneath the passenger side carpet you can locate the BCM, it shouldn’t have any indications of wear or meddling. The fuse box on the firewall should also look clean and untampered. The turbo should be inspected for any signs of external cracking and/or oil leaks. You should also check the intake tubes surrounding the turbo for oil. If you have a damaged breather on the valve cover it can cause the turbo to accumulate oil.
• Center Console and Cup Holders: Both can break easily from abuse or casual impacts. Replacement parts are available but can be expensive.
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