(from GM Press Release) "Keep
it simple, pure, and beautiful and it will be easy to love."
These were the basic inspirations set
down by Bob Lutz, GM’s chairman of North American Operations, in
creating a "sketch-off" for the first concept vehicle commissioned by
GM’s new product chief. The call went out at the end of September, and
by mid-October, the Pontiac Solstice roadster concept – an open-air,
sporty, “gotta-have-it” car – was under development.
"The North American market is ripe for an
affordable, pure roadster executed to top global standards on perceived
quality, both inside and out," Lutz explained. "The Solstice is striking
in its purity and simplicity. The exterior lines are strong, bold and
clearly Pontiac – but not over-the-top. The interior is focused on the
essential elements of driving – functional, precise and inviting,
executed in a manner that exudes quality and tactile feel.
"In its performance, we simply wanted to
capture the true essence of what Pontiac brand character has
historically been about – a stunning amount of thrust, and handling that
exceeds the bold promise of the exterior sheet metal. This is youth
marketing at its best and most elementary form – no matter how old the
The program was executed in just under
four months from the first sketch to the running vehicle. The thesis is
an affordable roadster that would sell for about $20,000 and would be
very easy to build in a flexible manufacturing environment. This was
accomplished using existing componentry from the GM system.
"This is about taking the best and most
appropriate pieces from our system and orchestrating them in a way that
is compelling," Lutz said. "This was one that we wanted to execute in a
manner that would make production a real possibility. Frankly, the
amount of creativity and ingenuity the team used in fulfilling that
requirement of the program was really heartening to watch."
The first sketches for the vehicle
actually hit Lutz’s desk as a stunning coupe penned by designer Franz
Von Holzhausen, a recent addition to the GM California design studio.
"I actually decided to throw this
particular sketch into the running at the last minute, " said Von
Holzhausen. "It was based on a coupe I sketched awhile ago and thought
might look good as a roadster, so I thought I’d give it a go. I guess
the rest is recent history — the ability to design on a program like
this is a great opportunity. As much as I’ve enjoyed doing the roadster,
it would be great to see a coupe come into play somewhere down the
Recently, at the North American
International Auto Show in Detroit, GM displayed a full-size foam model
coupe version of the Solstice for the press and public.
The exterior of the Solstice roadster is
finished in a rich gunmetal gray color, giving the nod to a slight
European understatement in the approach. The front end is marked by
Pontiac’s signature dual-port grille. Imposing 19-inch front and 20-inch
rear performance tires and wheels fill the wheel openings to provide a
wide, planted stance that accentuates the curves of the body.
The drop-top is a simple
"one-hand"-operated manual fold-down that stows neatly underneath the
speedster-style hard cover.
The interior is wrapped in saddle-brown
Fragola leather surfaces with exterior color and titanium accents on the
console and dashboard. The interior is intimate and clean with attention
to detail of execution while avoiding unnecessary accents or controls.
The driver-oriented cockpit uses a
two-gauge cluster with tachometer and speedometer. Other critical driver
information is displayed on a small LCD screen to the right of the main
The soul of any worthy roadster is the
powertrain. The Solstice is powered by a rear-wheel-drive 2.2-liter DOHC
supercharged Ecotec four-cylinder engine generating up to 240 horsepower
with premium fuel. The supercharger is an off-the-shelf unit supplied
right out of the GM Service Parts performance catalog. The engine is
mated to a Borg-Warner performance six-speed manual transmission, the
same one used in the Corvette.
The Solstice’s basic structure started
life as a derivative of GM’s global small car architecture, with several
modifications for structure and balance, including extensive use of
The front end uses a simple and reliable
strut configuration with a rack-and-pinion steering system derived from
the Subaru WRX, one of GM’s alliance partners. The all-aluminum
independent rear suspension is derived from GMs mid-size crossover SUV
family and also doubles as the mount for the rear differential, which
came from the new GM mid-size SUVs. Unique fabricated drive shafts power
the rear wheels.
While no plans are existing for
production, Lutz is clear it’s something that’s on his mind.
"Obviously, you can’t say it’s going to
be produced before it’s had a chance to make the rounds," he explained.
"Having said that, you’ve got to feel good about a vehicle such as this.
Clearly we’ve approached it with a mindset toward production based on
low investment, minimal validation time and flexible manufacturing.
"Frankly, like all the programs we want
to pursue, the litmus test will be how passionately people tell us they
absolutely have to have it. At the end of the day, that’s all that