- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

When a car comes to do battle in the midsize segment, it had better pack a lunch. This is a category jam packed with overachievers that have made a career of kicking the stuffing out of wannabes that don’t quite measure up. Perennial favorites such as Honda Accord and Toyota Camry continue to dominate, but a gaggle of other credible contenders crowd the top midsize tier.

Pontiac’s G6 is in its third year of butting heads with this elite collection of no-nonsense competitors and it more than holds its own. This is particularly true of the top-dog G6, the GTP. Graceful in its appearance, the GTP packs a serious punch under its hood. Tossing in a suspension engineered to tame the twisties and a grocery list of standard features places the GTP squarely in the midsize hunt.

While the G6 is offered as a coupe, sedan and hardtop convertible, this year only the coupe and sedan qualify for the GTP upgrade.

For 2007, the GTP boasts a new 3.6-liter V-6. It delivers 252 horsepower. This is 12 more ponies than last year’s 3.9-liter V-6 could muster. Torque is up as well from 240 foot-pounds to 251 foot-pounds.

The six-speed manual transmission is no longer available on the GTP; however, the standard automatic is now a slick six-speed with manual-shift capability. These powertrain enhancements translate into a more aggressive GTP. It accelerates with unbridled gusto, yet still manages to turn in some acceptable fuel economy numbers.

The Environmental Protection Agency rates its city performance at 20 miles per gallon, increasing to 28 mpg on the highway.

I drove the $25,050 sedan for this review. If you can make due with only two doors, you’ll save yourself $200 by opting instead for the coupe.

Both come nicely outfitted with 18-inch alloy wheels, power accessories, six-way power adjustable driver’s seat, automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, eight-speaker Monsoon audio system with CD player, XM satellite radio, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with redundant audio controls and cruise control.

The longish wheelbase (112.3 inches) plays a role in smoothing out the ride. The compromise between handling and ride quality is quite good. All G6s are shod with four-wheel disc brakes. All but the entry-level version have an antilock system. The GT and GTP also have traction control. Unique to GTP is GM’s StabiliTrak electronic stability control system as standard equipment.

The clean sweeping lines of the exterior are carried inside. The plump, leather-wrapped steering wheel fills the driver’s hands.

While the adjustable steering wheel and driver’s seat should provide a nearly ideal driving position, adding the adjustable pedals, a $125 option, should guarantee the driver perfect positioning. There is 14 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk of the sedan, which is easy to access thanks to a low liftover.

Side curtain air bags protecting both front and rear seats are standard. Side-impact air bags for the front seats are a $295 option.

Having cast off the body cladding and other bric-a-brac that used to be a hallmark of its cars, Pontiac has kept the styling of the G6 simple, tasteful and enduring.

It doesn’t blend into the crowd of look-alikes in the mall parking lot, but it doesn’t stand out like a lime-green leisure suit at the winter formal either.

Extremely competent, competitively priced and carefully screwed together, the G6 GTP provides sensible family transportation. Yet, it also has the capacity to make your heart race.



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