Pontiac Sunfire Convertible pops its top in time for summer
Date Posted: 5/10/2005
Designers at the Pontiac Division of General Motors devised just the thing to erase any image of those sub-zero temperatures which invariably accompany the annual February exposition of automobiles in frigid Chicago.
There, spinning on a spotlighted platform in the heart of Pontiac's display at the Chicago Auto Show, a racy red convertible looked so sleek and sassy with its crisp prow, sharply canted windshield and rear spoiler.
Then the incredible occurred: That car spoke to me.
"Come on up," it begged. "Sit in my driver's seat."
Strapped in place, hands now locked on the wheel as this convertible and I turned together on the twirling dais, my mind drifted beyond the winter weather outside and into that eternal warm and soothing springtime which always comes with Convertible Fever.
Pop the top, feel the fresh air, let that sunshine in.
Pontiac's new Sunfire SE Convertible makes it easy.
A single latch, mounted front and center atop the windshield, unlocks Sunfire's new lid with an easy twist which also sends the steel-braced vinyl top hustling rearward, where it folds into a storage bay concealed between rear seatback and trunk.
Once Sunfire's top has been dropped, you may mount a 3-piece boot to cover the folded pleats and enhance the sleekness of its exterior silhouette. When not needed, the center section of this boot stows in the well behind the rear seat as side panels go to the trunk.
With top raised a vinyl exterior layer ensures waterproof coverage, while a headliner dresses the interior.
Also, you may dismiss any outmoded convertible notions of fuzzy plastic rear windows because Sunfire provides a large glass rear window for crystal-crisp visibility.
Pontiac's new convertible starts with sporty Sunfire Coupe, the new subcompact which emerged last fall as a modern replacement for the aged Sunbird series.
To create the convertible version, Genasys, an automotive outfitting company in Lansing, Mich., takes a Sunfire coupe underbody and reinforces the chassis with structural components like secondary rockers which improve chassis stiffness, special side frames to strengthen the A-piller, plus another cross member added to the frame immediately in front of the rear seat to stem the natural torquing tendency of a convertible body due to the ragtop's lack of a superstructure.
You'll never see these new structural components, however, because they're buried behind all the swoopy sheetmetal, but you'll certainly notice their effect when steering Sunfire through a twisty turn set.
It feels stable at highway speed, flat and predictable in curves, even aggressive.
The suspension, with progressive ride tuning linked to Sunfire Coupe's setup, includes higher spring rates, a front anti-roll bar, dual-path front struts and a quicker steering ratio for the power rack and pinion design.
Stopping comes quickly too, thanks to power-assistance from 4-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock action.
Then for juice, Pontiac offers two 4-cylinder choices.
Sunfire's base 2.2-liter engine with overhead valving produces 120 horsepower.
This plant, when mated to the standard automatic 3-speed transmission, scores up to 31 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency. Couple that to Sunfire's 15.2-gallon fuel tank and the cruising range extends to 475 miles.
An optional 2.3-liter engine teams dual overhead cams with four valves in each cylinder to boost output to 150 hp.
With this optional plant, you may select a sporty 5-speed manual shifter or a 4-speed automatic containing sophisticated electronic controls. The engine's redline hits 6500 rpm, so with the 5-speed you can punch it high through each gear to maximize thrust.
The more powerful engine is the one I tested in California with John Middlebrook, Pontiac's general manager, bravely riding in the passenger's bucket seat.
"This car really works," Middlebrook observed. "We've packed Sunfire's interior with highly usable comfort content, then took extra steps to add responsive mechanical systems. We think with Sunfire you can have it all -- economy, comfort, fun."
The passenger compartment, with twin reclining buckets in front and space for up to three in back with surprising legroom for a convertible, contains an array of convenience items, plus functional hardware such as a driver's seat with firm interior support systems that hold your body securely in place around a hard turn.
Door and dash surfaces look so radically round and fluid in form, even down to details like the sculptured shape of a levered door handle and downward curving roll of a creased ledge which wraps across the panel's face from one door to the other.
A new dashboard holds instruments and controls like you'll find in an expensive sportster, and that glove box: It's big enough to carry a 12-pack of cola cans.
An optional sport interior package brings driver's seat lumbar adjustments, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and seatback storage pockets.
You could say that Sunfire in ragtop format resembles a Firebird, only in miniature, with muscular bodyside bulges at wheel wells, a sharp cut to the tapered nose, circular wrap in the stocky tail treatment and everywhere with one fluid curve oozing into the next.
An assertive spoiler shows up on the back decklid, and Sunfire's 15-inch wheels roll on R-rated touring tires.
Then check out Sunfire's crazy color schemes -- bright red or white or metallics in dark purple, light blue or brilliant blue. Interior hues will put extra spark aboard, either in neutral or graphite colors, or bold aqua and bright, bright red.
Safety elements range from dual airbags for front riders to the 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, body-mounted safety belts, knee bolsters and 5-mph front and rear bumpers, plus Pontiac's unique slotted frame rails which permit the vehicle to absorb more impact energy near the front of the body structure to buffer the passenger compartment.
Pricing for Pontiac's convertible begins at $17,250.
1995 PONTIAC SUNFIRE CONVERTIBLE
| Vehicle Specifications:
| 1995 PONTIAC SUNFIRE CONVERTIBLE Specs
| Model Options:
| Overall Length:
| Engine Size:
||OHV 2.2-L I-4
DOHC 2.3-L I-4 16v
2.3-L: Manual/5, Auto/4
| Gas Mileage:
||2.2-L: 24/31 mpg