Full 2008 Pontiac Torrent Review
What's New for 2008
A new GXP trim level debuts this year; this performance model comes with a 264-horsepower 3.6-liter V6, six-speed automatic transmission and sport-tuned steering and suspension components. Other changes this year include minor equipment adjustments and a retuned suspension for regular Torrents that Pontiac says provides better ride and handling characteristics than before.
Among the roomiest of the five-passenger SUVs, the 2008 Pontiac Torrent splits the difference between the compact cute-utes and the midsize sport-utilities with three rows of seating. Like its corporate twin the Chevrolet Equinox, the Torrent is geared primarily toward buyers who desire rugged good looks yet easy-to-drive manners in a vehicle that can comfortably carry a family of four and associated cargo.
Despite the aggressive appearance communicated by its cosmetic skid plates and pronounced wheel arches, the Pontiac Torrent is a car-based crossover much more adept on pavement fair or foul than it is tackling any distant boulder-strewn outback. All-season tires, minimal ground clearance and a light-duty all-wheel-drive system offer all the evidence you need, and the new, lower-slung GXP only reinforces the Torrent's true street-oriented intentions. Inside, the versatile cabin features a sliding second-row seat and a movable parcel shelf that both serve to optimize the space for both people and cargo. With occupants in place, the Torrent offers plenty of useful diversions like MP3-capable audio and optional navigation and rear-seat DVD entertainment systems.
Under the hood, the standard 3.4-liter V6 engine offers decent if not especially refined performance. It also delivers respectable fuel economy with highway mileage in the mid-20s, as does the much more powerful and modern new 3.6-liter V6 in the GXP. This sportier new model also features a six-speed transmission with manual shift control, performance suspension tuning, 18-inch wheels, revised steering and exclusive exterior styling details.
Despite its improved and likable nature, the 2008 Pontiac Torrent suffers from a few weaknesses. The interior has a few too many low-quality plastics, and the lack of a third-row seat, despite the debatable nature of that feature's usefulness, hurts the Torrent's standing among consumers seeking just-in-case utility. As such, top rivals like the Hyundai Santa Fe, Mitsubishi Outlander and Toyota RAV4 might prove to be more desirable choices. Still, the Torrent is a well-rounded crossover that's handsome, roomy, safe and, in GXP guise, notably sporty. If you're shopping for a reasonably priced vehicle with a flexible five-passenger cabin design and an abundance of features, it's certainly worth checking out.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Pontiac Torrent is a midsize crossover SUV available in two trim levels -- base and GXP -- with a choice of either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. All Torrents seat five passengers.
Standard equipment on the base Pontiac Torrent includes 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary audio jack, cruise control, full power accessories, OnStar, a trip computer and three 12-volt power points. Upgrading to the Torrent GXP gets you more power, performance-tuned suspension and steering, 18-inch wheels, unique hood and body-color bumpers, dual exhaust outlets, privacy glass, remote vehicle starting, a sport instrument panel, front sport seats with multilevel heating, a power driver seat, steering-wheel audio controls and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Some of these regular upgrades plus extras like leather upholstery are available on the standard Torrent in the Preferred and Premium packages; a GXP Premium Package is also available with special perforated leather seat inserts. The Sun and Sound Package adds a premium Pioneer audio system with an in-dash CD changer and a sunroof. Stand-alone options include a navigation system, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, satellite radio, a towing package and 17-inch wheels on the standard Torrent.
Powertrains and Performance
The base Torrent is equipped with a 3.4-liter V6 good for 185 hp and 210 pound-feet of torque. It's mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Though the output of GM's familiar "3400" V6 is uninspiring, it offers adequate low and midrange torque for most situations. The GXP features a 3.6-liter V6 that generates a much more impressive 264 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. It comes with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. Properly equipped, the Torrent can tow 3,500 pounds. EPA estimated fuel economy is similar for both front-wheel- and all-wheel-drive versions: 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway for the 3.4-liter engine and 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway for the 3.6-liter V6.
Antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control (now with trailer-sway mitigating technology) and OnStar are all standard on the 2008 Pontiac Torrent. Full-length side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor are optional, but front-seat side airbags (that provide torso protection) are not available. In National Highway Transportation Safety Administration frontal crash testing, the Pontiac Torrent earned a five-star rating (the best possible) for the protection of front occupants and scored the same for front and rear occupant protection in its side impact tests. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests, the Torrent scored a highest possible "Good" rating in frontal-offset testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
Thanks to its long wheelbase and a rear 60/40-split bench seat that can slide nearly 8 inches fore and aft, the Torrent offers plenty of room for larger passengers or cargo. There are 35 cubic feet of luggage space behind its upright rear seats, and a healthy 69 cubic feet available with the seats folded. An available rear cargo shelf adjusts to accommodate differing loads, and can also double as a serving table. There are also door pockets and lots of storage cubbies for small items. The driver faces a stylish set of chrome-ringed gauges, sporty three-spoke steering wheel and a simple control layout. Hard plastic abounds, but the Torrent's cabin is attractively styled and solidly constructed. Although the standard front bucket seats are somewhat lacking in lateral support, they're still acceptably comfortable on long commutes.
Most small SUV shoppers will find the 2008 Pontiac Torrent's ride and handling balance reasonably carlike and quite acceptable. The suspension tuning of the standard Torrent is biased toward a smoother ride at the expense of sharp handling, so it exhibits some body roll when cornering briskly. In addition, its electric power steering feels numb and lacks responsiveness. Consumers looking for quick moves will probably prefer the GXP, as its performance-tuned chassis is calibrated to handle more power and offers greater potential for speed.