What's New for 2009
For 2009, a six-speed automatic transmission is added to the base four-cylinder Pontiac G6's options list, boosting highway fuel economy to 33 mpg. Satellite radio is now standard on all G6 models, while the trim levels and options packages have been rearranged slightly. Power-adjustable pedals are no longer available.
"Pontiac is Car." This is the latest marketing slogan from GM's "excitement" division, apparently dreamt up by someone whose first language clearly is not English. It also apparently shows an embarrassingly low bar to clear for any vehicle that wears the red arrow badge of Pontiac. As such, the 2009 Pontiac G6 is indeed car; it's just not a very good one.
To its credit, the G6 is one of the few cars in the midsize class available in sedan, coupe and convertible body styles, all of which offer attractive styling. But all are also far from being class leaders. The sedan in particular pales against much newer competing models. The G6 is marketed as a sportier entry in this highly competitive family-sedan class, but the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Mazda 6 and Nissan Altima are all more enjoyable to drive. The G6 coupe has fewer competitors, but those still include the Accord and Altima two-doors, both of which are better choices than the Pontiac. The G6 GXP model offers a powerful engine that provides quick acceleration, but its gaudy body kit (made worse with the Street Package's hood scoops and oversized rear spoiler) and the G6's inherent lack of sophistication don't exactly endear it to our more enthusiast-minded editors.
The G6 convertible is perhaps the most compelling model in the lineup, as it is one of the few affordable convertibles to feature a retractable hardtop. This design provides enhanced noise reduction and security with the top up, and the transformation to roofless takes less than 30 seconds at the touch of a button. Dropping the top opens up a backseat that's roomy enough for two adults, but with only 2.2 cubic feet of trunk space with the top lowered, good luck stowing anything larger than a Pizza Hut box. The G6's convertible competition is hardly formidable, as each features significant drawbacks in regard to roof type, fuel economy or interior quality and space. Perhaps the lone standout is the hardtop VW Eos, but it does get pricey.
We suggest looking closely elsewhere before settling on a 2009 Pontiac G6. Any model will provide reasonably stylish transportation from point A to point B, but its lack of interior refinement and disappointing rear passenger room hold it back. We think you can do better.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Pontiac G6 is available in sedan, coupe and hardtop convertible body styles. The sedan is available in base, GT and GXP trim levels, the coupe in GT and GXP and the convertible solely in GT trim.
Standard equipment on the G6 sedan includes 17-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt/telescoping steering column, a 60/40-split-folding rear seatback, OnStar and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. The Sport Package 1 adds stability control, a rear spoiler and a six-speed automatic transmission. The Preferred Package adds cruise control, keyless entry and remote engine start. The Pontiac G6 GT sedan and coupe adds those Preferred items, plus a V6 engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, foglights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an eight-speaker Monsoon stereo upgrade.
A pair of packages is available for both base and GT trims. The Premium Package adds a six-way power driver seat, leather upholstery and heated front seats. The Sun & Sound Package adds an in-dash six-CD changer and sunroof. (On the base G6, it also adds the auto-dimming mirror; on the GT, it adds chrome wheels.) The GT Street Edition adds unique front and rear fascias, a lower body kit, 18-inch alloy wheels, stability control and dual exhaust tips.
The G6 GT Convertible is equipped similar to the GT sedan and coupe but also features stability control, 18-inch wheels, the softer base suspension and the six-CD changer, with no auto-dimming mirror. The Premium Package is optional.
The G6 GXP sedan and coupe add the GT Premium Package, the GT Street Edition appearance items, a larger V6 engine and automatic climate control. The GXP Street Edition Package adds hood scoops and a huge "Hammerhead" rear spoiler.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Pontiac G6 comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 164 horsepower and 158 pound-feet of torque. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard, while a six-speed automatic comes with the optional Sport Package. Fuel economy with the four-speed is 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. The six-speed ups that to 33 highway and 26 combined, but city mileage remains unchanged.
Standard on the GT trim level and optional on the base G6 is a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 219 hp and 219 lb-ft of torque. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard. The base G6 with this powertrain achieves EPA mileage estimates of 18 city/29 highway and 22 combined. The G6 GT gets 17 city/26 highway and 20 combined.
Optional on the G6 convertible is a 3.9-liter V6 that brings a minor power boost to 222 hp and 238 lb-ft of torque. It, too gets a four-speed auto. Fuel economy is 15 city/22 highway and 18 combined. Given this meager power advantage and significant fuel-economy loss, this powertrain is not recommended.
Finally, the Pontiac G6 GXP features a 3.6-liter V6 good for 252 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is standard. In performance testing, we achieved a 0-60 time of 6.2 seconds in a GXP coupe. Fuel economy ratings are 17 city/26 highway and 20 combined, which is average for sedans with that much power.
Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS are standard on all 2009 Pontiac G6s, as is integrated traction control. The GXP and convertible models also get stability control, which is optional on the base and GT cars. Full-length head curtain airbags and front-seat side-impact airbags are standard on all G6 coupes and sedans, while convertibles feature standard front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags.
In government crash testing, the G6 sedan and coupe earned a best-possible five-star rating for driver protection in frontal impacts. Front-passenger protection has a four-star rating. Side-impact testing in a G6 sedan resulted in five stars out of five for both front and rear passengers. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the G6 sedan and coupe received a top score of "Good" for frontal-offset impact protection, while the IIHS side-impact tests resulted in a second-highest "Acceptable" rating. Convertibles fared less well, with an "Acceptable" score for frontal-offset impacts and a lower "Marginal" rating for side impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Pontiac G6 cabin is a bleak place, with an uninspired design constructed of cheap black plastic. Available metallic or wood trim, or tan upholstery, can brighten things up a bit, but there's no escaping that Avis ambience. The stereo and climate controls feature small buttons and smaller readouts that look like recycled bits from eight years ago -- they aren't the same as the user-friendly units found in most other GM vehicles. Interior space is OK, but there's more to be found in GM's related Chevy Malibu sedan -- particularly rear headroom, which can be cramped in the G6 sedan. That goes double for the coupe and convertible.
With the touch of a button on the windshield header, the convertible's two-panel roof folds and stows quickly and quietly beneath a hard tonneau cover in about 30 seconds. Once the top is stowed, luggage capacity shrinks from an already tight 12.6 cubic feet to a microscopic 2.2 cubic feet. Sedans have a 14-cubic-foot trunk with a fold-down rear seat.
While the base G6 sedan features a numb electric-steering setup, the GT and GXP's hydraulic power steering is much more communicative and to our liking. (There have been significant reliability issues with it, however.) All 2009 Pontiac G6s deliver surprisingly athletic ride and handling qualities, which are dialed in even tighter in the firmly tuned GT and GXP. The 3.5-liter V6 delivers plenty of low-end torque for quick acceleration and easy passing, but it also gets a bit raspy at higher engine speeds. As expected, the GXP offers the most performance and sophistication for enthusiasts, with the 3.6-liter V6's impressive output and manually shiftable six-speed automatic.