What's New for 2009
Only minor equipment changes make their way into the 2009 Pontiac Torrent. Side curtain airbags, satellite radio and a digital compass are now standard on all models, and Bluetooth phone connectivity is also available.
As more consumers look to get out of large, gas-swilling SUVs, they're realizing that compact and midsize crossovers strike an appealing compromise between practicality and fuel efficiency. The 2009 Pontiac Torrent is a good example of this burgeoning crossover breed. Like its twin, the Chevrolet Equinox, the Pontiac is aimed at buyers who want the rugged look of an SUV but the drivability and smaller footprint of a car. The Torrent neatly splits the difference between "cute utes" and traditional trucks, boasting decent cargo and passenger space along with superior maneuverability.
Although the Pontiac Torrent looks as if it could tackle the wilderness, this car-based crossover is much more adept on pavement than it is off the beaten path, thanks to its light-duty all-wheel-drive system and minimal ground clearance. Still, the Torrent offers plenty of utility. Its versatile interior offers an adjustable, split-rear-seat design, and there is also a choice of two V6 engines under the hood. The GXP's 3.6-liter engine, in particular, puts the Torrent at the top of the segment in terms of acceleration, and the available all-wheel-drive system provides sure-footed traction in foul weather.
Of course, the Torrent faces a number of solid competitors in the mid-$20,000 range. The Hyundai Santa Fe, Mitsubishi Outlander and Toyota RAV4, for example, all offer optional V6 power as well as a third-row seat (though the actual usefulness of this feature is debatable on these compact vehicles). Customers should also think about the Saturn Vue and Honda's perennially popular CR-V. Overall, the Torrent doesn't quite match up to the all-stars in this segment due to its interior faults, but it's still worth including in your small and midsize crossover search.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 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 Torrent includes 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, Bluetooth, a flat-folding front passenger seat and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat that slides fore and aft and reclines. A six-speaker audio system with a CD/MP3 player, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack is also standard.
Upgrading to the Torrent GXP gets you a more powerful V6 engine, performance-tuned suspension and steering, 18-inch wheels, 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 the GXP's upgrades are available on the standard Torrent in various packages. In addition, both trim levels can be equipped with an upgraded seven-speaker Pioneer audio system, a navigation system, a DVD rear-seat entertainment system and Bluetooth.
Powertrains and Performance
The base Torrent is equipped with a 3.4-liter V6 good for 185 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque. It's available only with a five-speed automatic transmission. The GXP bumps up to a 3.6-liter V6 that pumps out 264 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. It comes with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control.
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. Both models have an EPA combined estimate of 19 mpg. That's notably less than four-cylinder-powered rivals like the CR-V and RAV4.
Antilock disc brakes, traction control, side curtain airbags, OnStar telematics and stability control with trailer-sway-mitigating technology are all standard on the 2009 Pontiac Torrent. Front-seat side airbags (for torso protection) are not available. In government crash tests, the Pontiac Torrent earned a top five-star rating for the protection of front occupants in a frontal impact, as well as five stars for front and rear occupant protection in side impacts. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests, the Torrent scored the highest possible "Good" rating in frontal offset testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Torrent's 60/40-split rear bench seat, which can slide nearly 8 inches fore and aft, makes it roomy and versatile for both passengers and cargo. There are 35 cubic feet of luggage space behind its upright rear seats, and a respectable 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 door pockets and lots of storage cubbies for small items. The three-spoke steering wheel gives off a sporty vibe, and the dash boasts a simple control layout, but lots of low-rent plastic cheapens the look of an otherwise attractively styled cabin. Other disappointments include poorly placed cupholders and a lack of lateral support for the front seats.
Most shoppers looking for a small to midsize crossover SUV will find the 2009 Pontiac Torrent relatively nimble and easy to drive. The standard Torrent offers a smoother ride at the expense of handling response. Those looking for more power and performance will prefer the GXP's upgraded engine and performance-tuned chassis -- especially considering the minimal difference in fuel economy.