For many people in America, summer is just around the corner. That means getting to swing a leg over a motorcycle or go top-down in a convertible. If you’re shopping for a convertible for this season, be sure to take a peek at a Pontiac Solstice or a Saturn Sky, you might be surprised at how fun they are.
Back in 2007, teenage me booted up a brand new Xbox 360 and popped in my very first Xbox game, Test Drive: Unlimited. That game was so fun that it’s permanently imprinted in my memory. I know we aren’t a video game site, but let me gush for just a moment here.
Yes, the physics weren’t great and the car customization was practically non-existent. But you know what I loved to do? I loved to hop in my digital Saturn Sky Red Line and take a road trip around the game’s interpretation of Oahu.
The scale of this game was impressive. Today, games like Forza Horizon 5 wow with incredible scenery and dynamic weather. Test Drive: Unlimited? The sheer scale of it was immense. Test Drive: Unlimited‘s map was an astonishing 596mi². Compare that to just 38mi² for Forza Horizon 5. Seriously, if you decided to drive the entire ring of TDU’s map, it was well over 200 miles long. Couple that with the avatars, the 80-player multiplayer servers, the houses, and the interactive virtual car dealerships, and the game was a ball. I still remember 20+ people drag races in the game.
What I’m getting at here is that a video game created then cemented my love for GM’s Kappa platform cars. These were another one of those awesome Bob Lutz ideas and I’m glad that they were put into production, even if parts bins had to be robbed to get there.
Buying my 2008 Saturn Sky Red Line last year was a dream come true! The real car is even cooler than the digital one.
Today’s COTD winner Nsane In The MembraNe took me down memory lane in Shitbox Showdown:
I have a deep nostalgic love for the Solstice. I still have memories of being at a barber shop with my dad one Saturday afternoon, opening a car magazine, seeing the concept, and falling in love with it. I remember being ecstatic when it actually went into production…and I still get excited when I see them or Saturn Skies in person.
Are they amazing cars? Not really. They’re mid 2000s GM parts bin zombies. But the recipe works every time…they’re small, rear wheel drive, manual, and have a roof that goes down. If you can’t enjoy that I don’t know what to tell you. They’re also cheap.
I regularly browse local listings for small manual roadsters and you can find decent enough examples for under 10 grand and nice examples of the Redline/GXP for about 15. Plus a lot of folks bought them as pure weekend cars so many were garage kept and have low miles. I think they’re slept on to be honest and I may take the plunge on one of the turbo versions at some point.
As much as I love Miatas I also love weird and different stuff. These are weird and different but are yet to be coated in Unobtanium. Hopefully it stays that way.
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with either of the Kappas that we got in America. The Pontiac Solstice and the Saturn Sky are the same cars underneath but with different external flair. You also can’t go wrong with engine choices. The king is the 2.0-liter Ecotec LNF turbo four found in the Solstice GXP and Sky Red Line which makes 260 HP and 260 lb-ft torque. In my experience, this engine will put a smile on your face with every stab of the throttle.
Though, some searches of forums suggest that the engine might not be the most durable thing in the world. I’ve seen a lot of these for sale with dead engines with around 150,000 miles, sometimes less. Nobody knows how many of these die off, but they seem to die more often than the naturally-aspirated cars.
But that’s fine! The base 2.4-liter Ecotec LE5 seems to be a durable engine. The engine is making a less impressive 177 HP and 173 lb-ft torque. It won’t wow you, but I’ve seen a lot of LE5-equipped Kappa cars with 200,000 miles and even 300,000 miles on them.
GM even infused some Corvette DNA in these by giving them hydroformed frame rails and a double-walled driveshaft tunnel. Subjectively, I feel like I fit better in one of these than in a Miata. What I’m getting at here is the next time you look for a convertible, consider a Pontiac Solstice or a Saturn Sky, you’ll be glad you did.