- The Washington Times - Friday, December 28, 2001

If you want a roomy, upscale luxury car that also has a sense of fun, look at a Bonneville. It's made by Pontiac, the automaker that "builds excitement."
Although the Bonneville has been around for years, there is nothing old or boring about this sedan. Every inch of it is youthful, yet it is loaded with comforts intended to make the owner of this $29,725 car feel the money is well spent.
The base price of my tester was $25,530 but a couple options drove the price up about $4,000. They included an AM/FM cassette and CD player with six speakers that produced concert hall quality. This sound system even has some controls on the leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Another option is a special heating, ventilating, air conditioning system that includes air filtration, plus dual climate controls. Traction control is also important to driving stability.
More options include a six-way power heated driver's seat, plus a sunroof and a garage door opener, as well as a handy remote door opener. These features are expected on very high-priced cars, but to include them on a Bonneville seems a bit out of character.
But not according to Bob Krout, the Bonneville brand manager. He said this car was started in 1999 and 50 percent of its sales are for the SE model because it offers exactly what buyers want. "They told us they wanted a full-size car that is powerful, has an attitude, and includes luxurious features."
Mr. Krout said most buyers have owned other Pontiac products and have worked their way up to the top of the line. He also notes that they don't want to move to another brand; they want to remain in the Pontiac family.
Although there are minor changes in the front and rear appearance this year, the Bonneville retains its family image, especially with an air dam on the rear trunk lid. The opening of the trunk lid, by the way, is wide enough to get a good-sized parcel into the trunk, and if needed, the center of the rear seatback opens for carrying long objects, such as skis or fishing poles.
Mr. Krout said about 25 percent of the Bonneville SE buyers opt for a front bench seat. That eliminates the center cup holders but provides seating for six passengers instead of five. My preference is for a five-passenger design featuring Connolly leather bucket seats with lumbar support. The seats look good, smell good and most importantly they feel good. Rear seat passengers will also find comfortable seats plus ample legroom.
The Bonneville has good structural reenforcement for better crash protection.
The Pontiac engineers have designed one-piece side frames, plus strong seat and belt anchors, which allow the belt to fit comfortably across the chest. This car also exceeds the requirements for roof crush, side intrusion and off-center collision.
The sturdy frame has allowed the engineers to build a stable suspension system, which in turn helps a driver avoid a collision by being able to swerve and still retain control of the car.
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