Test the tech: Head turner
The first thing one realizes when taking the wheel of the Pontiac Solstice GXP is how much of an attention-magnet it is. In fact, driving through downtown San Francisco with the top down, we were getting so many rubbernecking looks that we began to nod in George Cloonian nonchalance as we cruised by the star-struck pedestrians. In order to establish whether it was the Solstice GXP or our own dashing good looks that was drawing the attention of the madding crowd, we devised a test to demonstrate the car's pulling power sans Car Tech editors. We resolved to park the car with its top down on a relatively busy street in a residential district of San Francisco.
We took up a position with a mochaccino and a notebook at a table outside a nearby Starbucks and recorded the amount of attention that the car attracted over a 30-minute period. For the purposes of this highly scientific experiment, we divided the pedestrian populace into three groups: people who stopped in their tracks to examine the car; people who turned their heads to look at the car; and people who disregarded the car altogether. The results are tabulated below.
|Ignored car||Turned head||Stopped|
As is evident from the chart, men from our random sample were far more interested in the parked Solstice GXP than women, with 6 of them stopping to inspect the vehicle at close range and no fewer than 29 turning their heads for an eyeful of the red rocket compared with just 9 women. (The only woman to stop was holding hands with a man who had stopped, so in a sense, she had no choice.) As for your correspondent, he garnered nothing more than a passing glance from a couple of the pedestrians, leading us to conclude that it was indeed the Solstice--and not our chiseled features--that were responsible for all the attention.
In the cabin
While the Solstice GXP may be a stunner from the outside, the car's interior is nothing special to look at. The main tech feature of the cabin is a standard-issue GM stereo head unit, which is far more sophisticated than it looks. Behind the drab facade, the Solstice's upgraded 6-disc, in-dash CD player is surprisingly capable, with the ability to play MP3 and WMA discs and a generic auxiliary input jack for playback of iPods and other portable music players. Our car was also upgraded to include with XM satellite radio.
The most impressive thing about the stereo in the Solstice GXP is its extremely user-friendly interface, which, despite its single-line dot-matrix display, must rank among the most intuitive OEM systems we have ever seen. When playing compressed digital audio discs such as MP3s, the stereo displays full ID3 tag information for folder, song name, album name, and artist; these can be cycled through using the very helpful i button to the top left of the display.
Navigating between folders is extremely straightforward, thanks to two dedicated buttons for skipping backward and forward; skipping tracks is equally simple using the stereo's rotary dial. For XM satellite radio, the situation is similar; the display shows information for the current channel, song, artist, and category, with the i button providing a means of switching between the various tags. We also like the way that the right-hand dial gives drivers a quick means of searching through XM channels and the way that users can customize the XM categories available by removing those music types that they don't listen to. On the downside, the stereo's display gets washed out in direct sunlight--a particular annoyance in a car with no roof.
As well as having the upgraded in-dash stereo, our tester came with the optional $395 upgraded audio system, which gave us the benefit of six "high-performance" speakers plus a dedicated subwoofer located behind the passenger seat. With so many speakers in such a small cabin, it is not surprising that the audio system delivers an immersive sound. The acoustics in the Solstice GXP are geared more toward loud, bass-heavy output than to high-end refinement. The reason for this is evident when driving on the freeway with the top down, as the Solstice suffers from large amounts of wind- and road noise in the cabin at higher speeds.
The only other major tech option on the Solstice GXP is GM's OnStar telematics service, indicated by a row of buttons along the bottom of the rear-view mirror. For $695, the car comes with OnStar's Safe and Sound package, with the option of adding turn-by-turn directions.