February 21, 2000
Distinctly designed with integrated body sculpturing and a strong windswept look, the new sporty Pontiac is a luxury sedan that comfortably carries five people. Features that speak "Pontiac" include the cat's-eye headlamps, the downslope, and V shapes on the hood and back. The design carries into the interior with a wide sculptured dash.
I enjoyed the feeling of luxury and space combined with a smooth and easy drive. My test model was a silver metallic color with dark pewter trim--very classy.
Powerful, the supercharged V6 engine has 240hp at 5,200rpm and 280 ft.-lb. of torque at 3,600rpm and a heavy-duty transaxle with a 2.93 axle ratio. The 4-speed electronic transmission has been improved to reduce noise and vibration during low speed and parking situations.
As with many of the new cars, the latest technology abounds throughout. The heads-up display is an interesting feature on the Pontiac. It has been around for several years and has received mixed reviews. A display shows how fast you are traveling on the lower part of the windshield in front of the driver's seat.
A Magnetic Speed Variable Assist (MSVA) automatically adjusts steering sensitivity depending on driving conditions. The new Stablili Trak system uses advanced electronic equipment to enhance corner stability in adverse driving circumstances. Sensors interact with a computer to activate one of the front brakes when necessary. New technology on traction control senses when a wheel is about to lose traction and automatically regulates amount of wheel spin.
If you are used to locking the car manually, you will be surprised when the doors lock automatically when the gear shift is moved out of the park position. With a little information, you can also easily program the system to lock and unlock the car any way you want.
The wide doors allow for easy access. The interior is heavily sculptured and has easy-to-read and well-lit controls and dials. The Bose eight-speaker sound system, standard in this model, comes with four-inch combination tweeter/mid-range speakers in the rear door panels. Auxiliary radio controls are in the steering wheel.
I took a full load of people out for a ride in this car and everyone reported that they had enough room and found the experience to be comfortable and quiet.
The front seats are built like what Pontiac describes as a "catcher's mitt," and you do feel the seat surrounding you. Self-aligning headrests are built into the front seat backs. The back bench does have a slight rise in the center. The rear center armrest has storage. There are rear seat vents for heat and air that are adjustable. There are front and side airbags.
The trunk is spacious and comes with 18 cubic feet of space, a cargo net, and a pass-through to the back seat for long items. There is an inflator valve and switch on the trunk sill plate for pumping up tires or other items. My test model came with the optional trunk accessory kit containing an inflation hose and roadside emergency kit.
The SSEi has a base price of $32,250, including destination charge. However, the test model I drove was priced at $34,615, with a power sunroof, 17" chrome-plated aluminum wheels, remote compact disc changer, and heated seats. There are many luxury features for the price.