DETROIT – The all-new ’05 Pontiac G6 sedan, unveiled here at the North American International Auto Show, marks another effort by the General Motors Corp. division to revive lagging sales.
Pontiac’s ’05 G6 sedan goes on sales this fall.

Pontiac’s attempted renaissance has turned in mixed results so far. The Aztek cross/utility vehicle has been a disaster. Sales of the Vibe small car are hitting targets, but volume is relatively low due to limited production capacity. And the updated ’04 Grand Prix, which debuted in early 2003, was trailing the sales pace through November set by its predecessor in 2002 by 6.7%.

Whether G6, which replaces Grand Am, becomes a star or disappears into the abyss known as the midsize segment remains to be seen.

“There’s nothing else like the G6 in terms of style, performance and refinement,” says Pontiac-GMC General Manager Lynn Myers. “It’s a total package that is helping Pontiac re-establish itself as a performance division.”

GM definitely needs help at the lower end of the midsize car market. The Saturn L-Series has been a disappointment, and GM is dropping the Olds Alero. GM’s other entry-level midsize car, the Chevy Malibu, shares its platform with the G6. Because it is based on GM’s Epsilon global architecture, G6 stands a chance in the cutthroat segment. The platform has proved its performance and safety attributes since 2002, when Adam Opel AG’s Vectra and Saab Automobile’s 9-3 went on sale.

G6 goes on sale this fall. Additional models, including a 2+2 sports coupe and a convertible, will follow the sedan’s rollout.

G6 follows the design lead taken by Grand Prix, abandoning Pontiac’s wild exterior styling and liberal use of plastic cladding and ribbing for a clean and smooth appearance.

In fact, the separation of the hood and front bumper is nearly indistinguishable – resembling a sheet of freshly re-surfaced ice. Mounting Pontiac’s signature twin-port grille flush to the surface of the front fascia enhances the smooth look. The tightly wrapped design also is used for the rear fascia.

Overhangs are short, the A-pillar is pulled forward and the C-pillar is pushed out. Along the wedge-shaped beltline, the front windshield and rear window are steeply raked. “The G6 is about the same length as the Grand Am, but the wheelbase is 5 ins. (12.7 cm) longer,” says Jeff Perkins, G6 design manager.

“That creates dramatically shorter overhangs, which allowed us to wrap the front and rear fascias around the corners for a tighter appearance. The headlamps and tail lamps also were wrapped around the corners to enhance the tight design.”

Consider G6 to be a loose modern interpretation of the Alero.

At the start of production, the G6 and G6 GT models will be offered with a new 200-hp 3.5L V-6 engine, more standard power than the Audi A4 or BMW 3-Series, GM notes. The 3.5L V-6 features electronic throttle control and is backed by the Hydra-Matic 4T45-E electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission. The G6 GT’s automatic transmission also is equipped with a manual-shift mode. The feature allows the driver to manually select the gears without the need for a clutch.

Later in the ’05 model year, the G6 GTP debuts with an all-new 240-hp 3.9L V-6 that offers variable valve timing and active air-intake technology. Transmission choices include the 4-speed automatic or an all-new 6-speed manual.

For ’06 models, G6 will add a 2.4L 4-cyl. to its lineup. The all-aluminum DOHC 16-valve Ecotec engine delivers 170 hp. It also is mated to the 4-speed automatic.

The 112.3-in. (285 cm) wheelbase chassis is equipped with a front suspension that consists of aluminum control arms and a direct-acting stabilizer bar.

The suspension is mounted to a U-shaped hydroformed chassis cradle that is isolated from the undercarriage with four specially tuned rubber mounts. The mounts reduce noise, vibration and harshness, GM claims. In the rear, a four-link independent suspension design uses twin-tube shocks and a direct acting stabilizer bar.

Sixteen-inch wheels are standard on the G6, with 17-in. wheels standard on GT and GTP models. GTP customers also will be able to select optional 18-in. wheels. G6 features 4-wheel disc brakes. Antilock brakes are standard on GT models.

The interior features optional adjustable pedals, true-red liquid crystal backlighting for instrument panel gauges, brushed metal accents and chrome trim. The dashboard is European black, and the stereo and climate control knobs are encircled by satellite dish indentations.

Remote start is available as well as a panoramic roof, which features four sliding-glass panels to create a convertible-style open-air driving experience. Wide rear doors make backseat access easier. Whether or not the public will want to get in, GM will have to wait and see.

bcorbett@primediabusiness.com