I can't help wondering whether convertibles with lightweight fabric roofs will go away, especially now that Pontiac is selling a V-6 powered convertible with retractable hardtop that starts at less than $30,000.
A handsome car with four seats usable for adults, the 2006 G6 convertible is an appealing vehicle.
Two V-6 engines are available and generate upwards of 200 horsepower for good power. Trunk space is a commendable 12.6 cubic feet, and the G6 rides rather nicely.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $28,490 for a GT model with base, 201-horsepower V-6 and automatic transmission is nearly $11,000 less than the previous lowest-priced retractable hardtop convertible on the market - the 2006 Volvo C70.
Indeed, the G6 convertible starting price is only $970 more than the price, including destination charge, for a 2006 Toyota Camry Solara convertible with V-6 and a fabric roof. Like the G6, the Solara has seats for four and comes standard with an automatic transmission.
Volkswagen plans to sell a four-seat, retractable hardtop convertible - the 2007 Eos - beginning this fall in the United States with a starting price of $28,620. But the base Eos has a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission. An Eos with V-6 and automatic transmission starts at $37,480.
There's more to the G6 convertible than value pricing. The hardtop roof that's power operated makes for an all-weather car.
I scarcely noticed the roof seams on the exterior of the test GTP Convertible when it arrived with the top on. The red car looked like an attractive coupe, which was just what the designers wanted.
But with the push of a button - and Pontiac officials specify that the engine remain running - the roof opens and two, big, steel pieces atop the car fold and descend into the cavity at the rear of the vehicle.
Storage of the roof reduces trunk space from the maximum 12.6 cubic feet to just 2.2 cubic feet.
A driver has to be sure to have a pull-shade mechanism in place in the trunk beforehand so the roof "knows" that it won't crash down onto luggage or other big items in the trunk. Besides the steel panels, the trunk must stow the rear glass window of the convertible.
The hydraulically driven folding operation takes some 30 seconds, which is longer than in many other convertibles.
But the top - crafted by well-known convertible top maker Karmann in Germany - doesn't appear to be as complicated as the four-panel system in the Volvo C70 or the five-panel roof system in the VW Eos.
With the roof on, the GTP convertible had a relatively quiet interior, though there was a bit of cowl shake over rough roads. The shake was more evident when the roof was down.
Still, the front-wheel drive convertible didn't convey road bumps jarringly to passengers. Instead, the ride was quite routine.
I had to plan U-turns carefully, however, because the convertible's 40.3-foot turning circle requires a lot of room - even more than a base Dodge Ram pickup, for example.
The GTP engine in the tester was the uplevel, 227-horsepower, 3.9-liter V-6 generating 235 foot-pounds of torque at 3,000 rpm.
The power seemed well-matched for this substantial-feeling car weighing nearly 3,900 pounds. The G6 didn't race forward, but it didn't feel sluggish, either.
Performance numbers are about on par with those of the midsize Camry Solara convertible, whose sole engine - a 3.3-liter V-6 - is rated at 225 horsepower and 240 foot-pounds of torque at 3,600 rpm.
But the Solara has a fabric top and weighs some 300 pounds less than the G6. This lighter weight, plus a five-speed automatic transmission versus a four speed in the G6, helps translate into better fuel economy ratings for the Solara.
The 2006 Solara's combined city/highway rating from the Environmental Protection Agency of 24.5 miles a gallon ties with the 2006 Chrysler Sebring as top fuel-thrifty, four-passenger, V-6 convertibles in the United States.
The best combined rating for the G6 is 23 mpg, and the car's fuel tank holds 2.1 fewer gallons of gasoline than does the Solara, so fill-ups come more frequently.
Every G6 convertible has a number of standard amenities, including power door locks, remote keyless entry, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, floor mats and cloth seats. OnStar, the emergency notification system created by parent company General Motors Corp., is not yet available on the G6.
THE VEHICLE: 2006 Pontiac G6 GTP, a front-engine, front-wheel-drive, four-passenger, midsize convertible with retractable hardtop
BASE PRICE: $27,865 for GT convertible; $29,365 for GTP convertible
DESTINATION CHARGE: $625
PRICE AS TESTED: $31,740
ENGINE: 3.9-liter, overhead valve, high-output V-6 with continuously variable valve timing producing 227 horsepower
TRANSMISSION: Four-speed automatic
EPA MILEAGE: 18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway
LENGTH: 189 inches
WHEELBASE: 112.3 inches
CURB WEIGHT: 3,877 pounds
BUILT IN: Lake Orion, Mich.
KEY COMPETITORS: 2006 Volvo C70, 2006 Toyota Camry Solara, upcoming 2007 Volkswagen Eos
OPTIONS: LEATHER-TRIMMED SEATS WITH LEATHER-WRAPPED STEERING WHEEL, SHIFT KNOB AND PARKING BRAKE HANDLE AND FRONT-SEAT HEATERS, $1,265; SIDE-MOUNTED AIR BAGS FOR FRONT SEATS, $295; REMOTE VEHICLE STARTER, $190
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