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Eric
12-28-2007, 10:14 AM
Pontiac, the brand that gave us the GTO in 1964 and officially launched the muscle car era, knows that adding a dose of horsepower to an otherwise ho-hum vehicle can have a transformative effect. A nothing-special 326 LeMans can become a Tri-Power 389 GTO. And a transportation module like the Torrent can finally live up to its name - once it becomes a GXP.

What's a GXP?

It's a new version of the Torrent that Pontiac is putting into the lineup for '08 to help juice up interest in its mid-sized, five-door crossover SUV.

The package centers around a 3.6 liter V-6 that's massively more powerful than the 3.4 liter V-6 that's been the standard Torrent powerplant since the model's introduction back in 2006.

It produces 264 hp - a Great Leap Forward of nearly 80 horsepower over the 3.4's not-so-torrential 185 hp rating. The GXP package also includes a standard six-speed automatic transmission with "tap up, tap down" manual shift control, polished 18-inch rims with 50-series Goodyear Eagle RS-A performance tires, unique hood with twin pressed-in "aero scoops," dual exhaust tips jutting out of the rear valance and projector-style fog lamps leading the way up front. The suspension's been lowered and tuned to be firmer, too. GM's Stabilitrack integrated electronic traction/stability control system is also included, as are heated front seats, a performance-themed gauge cluster and GXP-specific exterior and interior trim.

The GXP may be ordered with either front-wheel-drive ($27,830) or all-wheel-drive ($28,980). This is both unusual (most of the time with a performance-themed crossover/wagon, AWD is mandatory) and a nice choice to have - because not everyone needs or wants AWD that wants the higher-powered drivetrain. And because if you don't need or want the AWD, you can get better straight-line performance due to the lower curb weight - as well as a lighter overall feel.

The AWD system adds about 140 pounds (4,060 vs. 3,919) as well as some inertial loading - both of which slow the AWD GXP down a bit and also nip at its fuel efficiency potential (16 city/24 highway).

That may be worth it - if you want the extra grip the AWD system offers. But it's really nice to have a choice.

So, what kind of performance does the GXP deliver?

Zero to sixty is now reachable in about 6.9 seconds with the FWD version. AWD versions are maybe a tenth or so slower. Either way, this is a huge improvement over the 3.4 equipped Torrent - which needed closer to ten seconds to make the same run.

The DOHC 3.6 liter V-6 likes to rev and pulls enthusiastically to almost 7,000 RPM before bouncing off the limiter - with the six-speed automatic holding it close to redline during full-throttle runs. The "tap-up/tap-down" feature is fun to play with - but isn't necessary to get performance-feel shifts. The six-speed will respond sharply even when left in Drive; like other new-generation automatics, it's programmed with shift algorithms that let the transmission "know" when you are driving like a Hooligan - and will do things like hold a lower gear for you without being told. Modern automatics with logic boards (or whatever they're calling the brains of the operation) are impressive pieces of work that come close to matching the control and enthusiast operating capability of a manual with a clutch but without the hassle (as in stop and go city driving) of dealing with a clutch.

I did, however, experience some unsettling "clunks" when transitioning to WOT from steady-state cruise at road speeds; the problem, hopefully, was unique to the vehicle I tested, which as a press car has probably seen a lot of abuse.

Bottom line: For what is basically a minivan-like vehicle designed to look like a sporty mid-sized/smallish SUV, the Torrent GXP's acceleration/performance is top drawer. It will, for example, handily run circles around a Hyundai Sante Fe, Mitsibishi Outlander or Toyota RAV-4. None of those competitors even offer performance packages - so the GXP has a unique selling point on that score. It also delivers a far more credible facsimile of sporty handling than the typical truck-based SUV (or even car-based crossover) is capable of.

Though you're not going to out-corner sports cars, you will be piloting something a lot more agile than the typical lumbering live axle behemoth SUV - and which is happy to tackle corners at speeds that would make most of its more SUV-looking crossover competition seriously unhappy. That makes it an appealing prospect for the buyer who doesn't want to hang up the gloves just yet - but has no choice but to be at least a little bit practical.

There is a price to be paid for this performance edge, however. Because it's lower to the ground than most any truck-based SUV (and most car-based crossovers and minivans, too) and rides on some pretty aggressive low-profile rubber, the Torrent GXP's not the hot ticket for poor weather driving - even with the optional AWD. It is a vehicle best suited to paved roads - and dry weather.

That aside, it's a pretty cool package overall - especially if you need the family-friendly versatility that a vehicle of this type offers. Though it doesn't offer a third row seat, the Torrent is extremely roomy - including the back seat area. A passenger as tall as I am (6 ft. 3) still has several inches of room between his knees and the front seatbacks - as well as a couple of inches of air between the top of his head and the roof. The roominess extends to the cargo area, which is almost big enough to handle another person at 35 cubic feet. Drop the second row and you've got almost 70 cubic feet to work with. Pontiac also thoughtfully added a concave plastic cover to the passenger side front seatback that can used as a tray - or serve as a protective cover - when that seat is folded forward.

There is also a deep well between the front seats instead of the usual (and space-eating) console. It has molded wells for small items - plus an integral, molded-in CD holder toward the back that's still within easy reach. A smaller flip-up/flip-down cubby rides above this - providing some additional storage space.

GM has done great work as well in the ease of use department - and the GXP's a case in point. The controls for the AC system and radio are simple, effective rotary-style knobs that can be operated by feel - without having to look at them as you drive. I also like that you can turn of the formerly always-on Daytime Running Lamps (DRLs) and the easy-access fuse box located under the hood - which also includes a "+" power point to hook up the positive side of a jumper cable if you ever need a jump.

Good stuff.

The dash layout is nice, too- though not as rich and "finished" looking as some of GM's newer models such as the just-released Chevy Malibu and the absolutely gorgeous Buick Enclave. There's still a bit too much "rhino rear" hard black plastic that detracts from the quality feel a $30k vehicle ought to convey in 2008.

The Torrent's biggest obstacle, though, may just be the two-year legacy of not living up to its name.

At least not until now.

It's too bad GM took this long to get the GXP package into the mix.

But as the saying foes, better late than never!

END

Disco Man
12-29-2007, 01:11 AM
I am a Jeep man through and through - but this GXP Torrent is one SUV I would not mind owning. I really like it. Lot of bang for the buck. In fact this is just a peak at the Lutz plan to turn Pontiac back to the performance division with the Torrent GXP, Solstice GXP, rear-wheel drive G8, and future GTO/Trans Am/Firebird (based on new Camaro platform) . Things are really looking up for Pontiac.

Below is a link to the main page article with pictures:

http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/images/stories/automotive/pontiac/torrent/08torr-gxp-s.jpg


http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=415&Itemid=10818