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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Making a good first impression is everything.

From the first time you look at the Solstice, it impresses you. The design is aggressive and clean, with a very classic shape to it and smooth lines that are easy on the eyes. Nothing about the exterior styling of the car clashes; everything has a place and is there. The shape is classic, with a long hood and short rear deck.

However, when you're making new acquaintances, you can't just stun everybody the first time you meet, and then be lacking everywhere else. That's why the Solstice shines.

You get inside, and you're greeted by very minimalist gauges; you get fuel, a speedo, and your tachometer. You don't even know if the car's warmed up yet; the lack of the coolant temperature gauge is a bit unnerving, but if you're easy with the car for the first ten minutes or so, everything should be alright. The seats are supportive and the driving position is comfortable.

On my drive, I never once felt like I was at odds with the interior ergonomics. In some cars, when you're close enough to the pedals to be comfortable, you're too close to the steering wheel, or the shifter is not in the right spot.

In the Solstice, everything is right there, within easy reach. The most satisfying part is the location of the shifter - your right arm sits right on the center tunnel, and your grip of the shifter is perfect. The steering wheel is the right size and shape, with a simple three-spoke pattern. Although it isn't wrapped in leather, it still feels sturdy and comfortable in your hands, and is thick enough to give you the perfect grip for cornering.

Once you've gotten used to your surroundings, putting the top down is a very simple process. Just open the trunk, pull the latch above the rearview mirror, and fold the top back. It slips easily into the trunk, and it only takes about 20 seconds. Many people will gripe about the lack of a power top; first off, don't be lazy. Secondly, a power top adds weight, and the Solstice is all about being slim and lithe.

Once you're on the road, you'll notice the dual nature of the Solstice. The around-town, easy driving manners of the car are apparent right away. The engine and transmission are quiet at low revs, and the clutch is light enough to prevent fatigue if you get stopped in traffic. The engine is perfectly happy just sort of humming along.

Then there's mean monster Solstice. Equipped with the 177-hp 2.4L Ecotec with variable valve timing, the engine has plenty of grunt for the 2880-lb roadster. The most interesting characteristic of the 2.4L is how it doesn't behave like a long-stroke 4-cylinder. It loves to rev up to high RPM's, and sings to its 7000 RPM redline with a very mechanical engine note. Unfortunately, when you wind the motor out, the sound of the exhaust is impossible to hear over the intake sounds as well as the mechanical noises of the engine & transmission. A bit more open exhaust would make the sound a little more visceral.

The 5-speed Aisin manual transmission is a good match to the engine. The throws are short and positive, and it never has trouble keeping up with the 2.4 liter. The gates are very tight, and feel like a 6-speed like Toyota's unit in the Celica GTS, but unlike the Toyota's gearbox, you never wonder if you're in the right gear.

When you get into hard driving, the Solstice is deceptive. The engine has decent amounts of torque, but as I stated before, it loves to rev. It has the characteristics like that of a Honda engine, where you have to keep the RPMS over 4000 to get any significant power. This requires a little more rowing of the gears, and downshifting another gear from what you think is appropriate for the speed you're going.

When you're blasting down country roads, it's fine, because 2nd and 3rd gear are perfect for zipping through the twisties. However, on the interstate, I downshifted from 5th to 4th gear, expecting the midrange to carry me into the flow of the fast lane, but I found it decidedly lacking. A downshift into 3rd gear, however, plopped the engine at 4500 RPM and it squirted forward happily.

Top-down motoring is quite a pleasure in the Solstice. The wind is in your hair, the sun is shining, and you never feel like you're being buffeted or abused by the elements. At speeds of 55-60, the noise in the cockpit is quiet enough to carry on a conversation at normal volume. At highway speeds, the wind noise increases; putting the windows up quiets down the cabin to a very appropriate volume.

When you throw the Solstice into the turns, it feels extremely solid. The test numbers register .90 G's on the skidpad, but test numbers only tell half the story. The other half is how it feels; if you were driving a Ferrari, it would feel very razor-edge, where one wrong move would put you into the ditch. The Solstice is forgiving, and predictable, with very flat handling. There is barely any body roll when the car is driven smoothly and nothing is done to upset the traction. It's a car you could easily make quick laps around a race track in even as a rookie.

For such a handler, the ride is very compliant and not at all uncomfortable. Over terrible Michigan roads, even with the 18-inch wheels and stiff chassis, road imperfections were not an issue. Everything felt solid, and vibrations were minimum. Even over the choppiest of bumps, the steering didn't feel darty or jittery. It stayed on course, and went directly where I told it to with zero drama.

I have to say my Saturday morning jaunt around Livingston County in the Solstice was an enjoyable, almost addictive experience. I know if I had the $20,000 in disposable income to put down on a car like this I would do it in a heartbeat. The car is solid, well engineered, and a blast to drive. It grabs all sorts of attention, and I'm pretty sure my drive made plenty of good first impressions.

For photographs of the Solstice, go here:
http://www.redlineforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3319

Chris Svoboda
 

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Thank you... excellent review.

I am very interested in this car and the Sky. Being 6'3" I'm curious on the overall size as I haven't seen one in person. I've been in the Honda S2000 and BMW Z4 and find them comfortable. The Miata is way to small as my sightline is at the top bar of the windsheild and with the roof up it's impossible. How is it in the Solstice?
 

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Good review man... very nice...
 

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Dude, that review was written better than some I've read in Car and Driver. You should definitely submit some of your reviews to Car and Driver. Even if they don't sign you for full time, you may still be able to do freelance for them and possibly several other magazines. Can't wait to read a review on the SKY, if your dad gets one of those. We can hope.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for all the input, guys, it means a lot. I appreciate it; it's really just nice to have:

a) a father who brings me the newest & most fashionable toys to spend an hour flogging, and
b) all of you guys, for reading it, and offering your support & encouragement.

As for what he'll be bringing home in the future, I don't know. It remains to be seen, but I'll try to get him to find me something exciting so I can do a follow up. Maybe you guys could make suggestions; we're pretty much limited to GM models, and stuff that's going to be coming out reasonably soon.

Thanks again!
 

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hey if you'll allow me to i know the editor of sport compact car mag, i could send him a copy of this for you. i woln't do it without your permission though. let me know. ill need your return address info to so he can send you a reply, i would tell you to send it but it may not make it to his desk if you know what i mean, ill fax it to him (direct on his desk) a really close friend of mine is a really close friend of his thats how i met him when i am out ther we go golfing and fishing all together. talk to you but very good review
 
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