- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

With the introduction of the Torrent last year, Pontiac finally got its own small crossover. As so often happens with a multidivisional carmaker such as General Motors, the Torrent owes its platform and a number of mechanicals to the Chevrolet Equinox.

It’s not a rubber stamp of the Chevrolet, but similar in many respects. A bit pricier and offering more standard features than the entry-level version of its GM cousin, the Torrent will appeal more to buyers already loyal to GM and the Pontiac brand in particular.

There are a bevy of solid crossover entries out there and the Torrent, while an equal to most, doesn’t stand out. It’s a worthy competitor, though, with more than its share of attributes, such as the sliding second seat and remote vehicle start capability, to give consumers a compelling reason to buy it.

The Torrent name conjures up visions of explosive excitement. That’s certainly not the case. Operating in the mainstream, it neither dazzles nor disappoints. It’s a utility player that can be counted on to get the job done without attracting too much attention.

Refusing to overcomplicate the buying experience, Pontiac has held Torrent to one trim level, engine and transmission. Even if you don’t spend another nickel over its $22,885 base price, you still wind up with a grocery list of standard features such as 16-inch aluminum wheels, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, driver information system, six-speaker audio system with CD player, and air conditioning.

New to this list for 2007 are vehicle stability control and four-wheel disc brakes. While there are a few stand-alone options such as a $995 DVD entertainment system and the $295 17-inch aluminum wheels, most upgrades are lumped into three option packages.

The $1,750 Preferred Package, for example, offers six-way power driver’s seat, premium cloth seating, cruise control, auto-dimming rearview mirror with outside temperature and compass, redundant audio controls on a leather-wrapped steering wheel and carpeted floor mats.

Pontiac didn’t look far to find the Torrent’s V-6. It’s the 3.4-liter corporate 3400 V-6 that’s done yeoman’s duty around GM for years and also powers the Equinox.

It’s reliable, if not dynamic, generating 185 horsepower and 210 foot-pounds of peak torque. Durable, fairly quiet and smooth, it won’t pin you against the seat, but is satisfyingly responsive. Power is funneled to the wheels through a smooth-shifting five-speed automatic transmission. Providing acceptable acceleration, this powertrain delivers all the get up and go you’ll need to zip around busy city streets and cruise effortlessly on the freeway. Torrent has competitors with more impressive under-the-hood credentials, but holds its own from red light to red light.

Fuel economy is about average for this segment with an Environmental Protection Agency rating of 19 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

Torrent’s carlike ride is an upshot of its four-wheel independent suspension tuned more toward passenger comfort than taut handling.

It wallows a bit in the corners, but no more than many others in its class.

The steering could be tighter; however, its overall road demeanor is pleasing and performance fulfilling. Standard are antilock brakes and traction control. For some extra stability and foul-weather handling, buyers can opt for the $895 all-wheel-drive system. This is a transparent system that makes no provision for off-roading by providing a 4-low gear. On slick pavement, though, AWD is a welcomed function.

Torrent’s cabin is roomy and comfortable. Adjusting between more rear-seat passenger legroom and additional cargo space is as simple as sliding the 60/40 split backseat backward or forward along its nearly 8-inch track. It also folds flat for a serious increase in cargo-carrying capacity from 35 cubic feet to 69 cubic feet.

Likewise the front passenger seat folds flat for even more hauling versatility and room. Although three adults across the rear seat would probably feel a little cramped, Torrent offers seating positions, three-point safety belts and head restraints for five.

The arrangement of knobs and gauges is logical and convenient. Audio functions are located above the three-knob climate-control system.

Owners shouldn’t find themselves digging for the owner’s manual to operate any of the key systems. It’s all straightforward and simple.

Front side-impact and front/rear side curtain air bags are available as $1,090 option that also includes one year of OnStar Safe & Sound service.

Although the Torrent isn’t a standout in its segment, there isn’t much to complain about either. It’s a competent crossover blending a sedanlike passenger experience with an SUV ambience.

Pontiac hasn’t skimped on standard features. The attention to detail is obvious and the fit and finish quite good.

Bottom line: It probably won’t lure very many owners out of their Rav4s or CR-Vs, but should provide GM loyalists shopping for a crossover with all the reason they need to stay within the GM family.

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