- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2008

Pontiac’s popular Vibe lineup is all new for the 2009 model year, blending classic elements with an enhanced degree of functionality and versatility. The Vibe in all of its trim levels is still in the compact crossover category, but now features a boldness of attitude in its athletic styling, along with increased performance attributes and tight handling characteristics.

The base model 2009 Vibe begins pricing at $15,710. Popular all-wheel-drive and GT models return to the Vibe lineup, with All-wheel drive models starting $18,910 and the performance-oriented GT models starting at $19,310. Add $585 destination and freight charge for all models.

All-new and enhanced features for the 2009 Vibe include the following: a more powerful 1.8L base engine as well as a new, high-output 2.4L engine (optional for base models and standard on the AWD and GT vehicles), athletic exterior styling with an exaggerated rake to the windshield, all-new sheet metal and lighting elements, a freshened, driver-focused interior design with greater user friendliness of controls, standard electronic vehicle stability control and tire pressure monitoring systems, six standard air bags and enhanced functionality with integrated cargo management system and fold-flat front seat.

Improved off-the-line performance comes from a 132-horsepower 1.8L DOHC four-cylinder delivering 128 pounds-feet of torque, which is standard on base models, The engine benefits from dual variable valve timing and is coupled to a standard five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic.

Higher performance is available from a larger, 2.4L DOHC engine that generates 158 horsepower and 162 pounds-feet of torque. The 2.4L engine is standard on AWD and GT models, and optional on the base model.

A four-speed automatic transmission comes as standard on AWD models, while buyers of the 2.4L- equipped base or GT models may choose between a standard five-speed manual transmission or a new, five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission that features Driver Shift Control which allows the driver to manually select gears utilizing tap up/tap down controls.

EPA fuel economy is estimated at 26 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway with the 1.8L engine and manual transmission - with the automatic, fuel economy estimates are 25 in the city and 31 on the highway. Estimates for the 2.4L engine on the GT are 21 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway with the manual gearbox and 21 city/29 highway with the five-speed automatic. AWD models with the 2.4-liter and four-speed automatic combination is expected to deliver 20 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway.

The new Vibe’s ride and handling characteristics have been refined to deliver a more responsive driving experience, with particular focus on reduced noise, vibration and harshness. All models utilize a MacPherson-strut front suspension design, and the base model has a revised torsion-beam rear suspension that provides a more comfortable ride, while the AWD and GT models incorporate a multi-link independent rear suspension with the emphasis on enhanced driving control.

All Vibe models come with four-wheel disc brakes with standard ABS, along with electronic stability control and traction control. Steering control is assisted by an electric power steering system that provides variable-effort performance and enhanced fuel economy since there is no engine-driven power steering pump.

The new Vibe combines a space-enabling small SUV design with a forward-motion profile building on the design of the original 2003 Vibe, which was launched in 2002. All of the sheet metal is new, with the faster windshield angle contributing to its sleeker look, and the large wheels and minimal overhangs resulting in an aggressive, firmly planted stance. The Vibe’s three model variants - base, AWD and GT - differ from one another with unique styling cues. The AWD features a standard roof rack and the GT has its own front fascia - with larger fog lamps and lower-fascia air intake - rocker moldings, roof spoiler and a bright exhaust tip. All models offer distinctive wheel options.

The 2009 Vibe’s interior is all-new as well, featuring a driver-focused cockpit design that is more often found in sports cars. Controls and gauges have been redesigned for ease of use, while retaining a performance-oriented look and feel.

New, knit-fabric seating surfaces provide durability with a premium look. GT models come with standard leather-trimmed seats, three-spoke steering wheel and shift knob. Seating for five is standard on all models.

The interior provides ample storage space for gear with a 60/40-split, fold flat rear seat, an oversized glove box, overhead console, a dual-tier center console and other integrated storage niches. Rubberized cargo floor strips help to prevent items from sliding. A rear cargo compartment storage organizer is standard on all models equipped with the 2.4-liter engine, providing an almost unlimited number of cargo solutions, with a multitude of hooks and net-divided compartments that fold conveniently into the floor when not in use. The 2.4-liter equipped Vibes also come with a fold-flat front passenger seat, further expanding the interior’s storage capacity.

Safety features and systems include: StabiliTrak, a Tire pressure monitoring system, dual-stage frontal air bags with a passenger sensing system, head curtain side air bags, front passenger side thorax air bags, active head restraints, three-point safety belts in all seating positions, front safety belt retractors, rear-seat LATCH child safety seat provisions in all three seating positions and OnStar.

The test 2009 Vibe was a base model equipped with the 2.4-liter engine and 5-speed automatic transmission.

The base price was set at $15,710 while the final sticker bumped up to $21,145 after adding the Sun and Sound Package, Preferred Package, automatic transmission, air conditioning with rear ducts, 17-inch bright machined 5-spoke aluminum wheels and destination charge.

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