Pontiac to add ‘ute’ and coupe

  • 09-Jul-2008 05:30 EDT
Pontiac Solstice Coupe 2009.jpg

The forward section of the Pontiac Solstice Coupe’s roof is removable; the remainder is fixed aft of the B-pillars, where the backlight lifts for access to the cargo area. An optional soft roof cover stores in the cargo area.

The G8 Sport Truck “takes Pontiac into a whole new category,” said General Motors Corp. Vice Chairman Bob Lutz at the New York International Auto Show. “In fact, it’ll be by itself in that category, because there’s nothing else like it on the market today.”

Lutz looked at ease sharing GM’s New York show stage with rap-music megastar (and Pontiac G8-owner) 50 Cent during the introduction of two new Pontiac models, the 2009 Solstice Coupe, and the 2010 G8-based pickup—the latter still known by its temporary Sport Truck name. (As of this writing, GM had not yet officially named the unibody pickup, pending an Internet contest to name it. But indications are GM won’t resurrect the El Camino badge last used by Chevrolet 20 years ago.)

According to Lutz, spinning off a pickup version of the G8 sedan (itself the U.S. version of GM’s Holden Monaro muscle car) was a “no-brainer”—particularly since a Monaro “ute,” as car-based pickups are called in Australia, already exists Down Under. Start of production is slated for the second half of 2009 at GM Holden’s Elizabeth plant in South Australia.

G8/GTO Product Manager Brian Shipman confirmed that the G8 Sport Truck is based on GM’s Global Rear-Drive architecture, formerly known as Zeta. “It’s essentially the sedan from the B-pillar forward,” he said. “It was extremely cost-effective for us to do. It was styled by our team in Warren working together with GM Holden designers.”

From the B-pillar rearward, the vehicle uses the longer of two wheelbases currently underpinning various models based on the Global RWD platform (some of which are sold in the Middle East and China).

“Its wheelbase is roughly four inches longer than the G8 sedan’s, and the vehicle is approximately six inches longer overall,” Shipman said.

Hood, doors, IP, front seats, fuel tank, front suspension, 6.0-L OHV V8, and six-speed automatic transmission are carried over from the G8 GT sedan. The roof and 74-in (1880-mm) long steel cargo box are unique to the pickup. All totaled, there are 60 unique parts in the ute compared to the G8 sedan, many of them reinforcements in the rear body area. Body structure development benchmarked the BMW 5 Series in torsional and bending performance, “and we were spot-on target,” Shipman said.

The vehicle is designed with a one-half-ton (455-kg) cargo capacity and 3500-lb (1590-kg) towing rating. This necessitated modifying the sedan’s independent rear suspension slightly to handle greater loads. (There are no plans to offer an all-wheel-drive version.)

“The shocks and springs are slightly shorter, and the rear sway bar is actually smaller,” Shipman noted. “Same wheels and tires as on the GT sedan—18-in standard and 19-in optional.

As for the Sport Truck’s potential production volume, Shipman isn’t yet prepared to predict, casting aside references to Subaru’s unsuccessful Baja and other recent car/truck hybrid efforts. He believes it will be “a healthy niche player” in markets such as Texas and California, where customers “want sporty performance with some utility, too.”

Few, if any, new vehicles (including concepts) shown at the recent New York show could match the 2009 Pontiac Solstice GXP coupe in what one auto writer called “rear-quarter appeal.” Indeed, the car’s overall form and particularly the interface of its curvaceous “fastback” greenhouse and rear-quarter surfaces drew a constant crowd around General Motors’ display area.

A coupe version of the popular Solstice roadster was first hinted at by a concept shown at the 2002 North American International Auto Show, and the media got the signal that the program was approved when GM executives unveiled (under embargo) a late prototype during its annual year-end holiday party in 2006.

The forward section of the coupe’s roof is removable; the remainder is fixed aft of the B-pillars, where the backlight lifts for access to the cargo area. An optional soft roof cover stores in the cargo area. GM intends to offer a garage-storage case for the roof panel through its accessories group.

According to Chief Engineer Bruce Kosbab, only minor structural changes were required to ready the Solstice roadster for coupe duty. The rear fenders and fascia were carried over; taillight assemblies are unique to the new model.

Roof construction features a composite sheet-molding compound (SMC) cover fitted to an aluminum frame. It is supported by an aluminum roof bow attached with aluminum brackets. The bow and brackets provide a favorable strength-to-mass ratio, Kosbab said, adding that the change to the coupe body style resulted in only a “slight increase” in curb weight.

The removable roof panel is magnesium, also with an SMC cover; the 31-lb (14-kg) piece can be removed by one person.

Inside, the front seats and IP carry over from the roadster. But removing the folding-top mechanism allowed the coupe’s engineering team to develop a flat cargo floor and multiple storage compartments.

The standard coupe will use the base Solstice roadster’s 2.4-L Ecotec four-cylinder rated at 173 hp (129 kW). The hotter GXP version is powered by the turbocharged-and-intercooled 2.0-L Ecotec rated at 260 hp (194 kW).

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