Throughout the course of time in the autoverse, so many sports cars have come and gone. Some, like the Corvette or 911, have spanned decades and garnered millions of fans and followers. Others, like the BMW Z8 or Mustang GT350, showed up just long enough to make us fall in love and then dashed away before we could even make it to the bank to cash in our home equity and get to the dealership. But one car, in particular, showed up and received mixed reviews, and now, with some time and perspective, it has become clear that the Pontiac Solstice may have been one of the most underrated sports cars in recent history.

Produced from 2005 (as a 2006 model) until 2010, the Pontiac Solstice was brought to life by the Vice Charmain of Product Development, Bob Lutz. It took four years to bring his dream to life after debuting it at the 2002 Detroit North American Auto Show, but the low-slung two-seat drop-top dropped jaws and finally brought back some excitement to GM’s ‘Excitement Division.’

Beneath its sinewy and curvaceous exterior of the Pontiac Solstice was, at first, just a naturally-aspirated 2.4-liter Ecotec inline-four cylinder engine that produced a reasonable 177 hp and 166 lb-ft of torque. But then, when the more powerful GXP trim showed up in 2007, things got really fun. Powered by a smaller, but more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecotec inline-four, power jumped to a much more impressive 260 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. There was also a dealer option to boost power on the turbo engine to an even higher 290 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque. With either engine option, owners had a choice of either a 5L40-E five-speed automatic transmission or an Aisin five-speed manual transmission. That power was then routed to just the rear wheels to give the Pontiac Solstice a true sports car feel.

When Car and Driver got their hands on one of the quicker GXPs back in the day, the 3031-pound Solstice rocketed from 0-60 mph in just 5.6 seconds and through the quarter mile at 14.2 seconds at 98 mph. Keeping in mind that this was the mid-2000s, those times made Pontiac’s hot rod quicker than the Porsche Boxster, and quick enough to make Honda S2000 owners more than a little nervous. The added weight of the turbo did diminish the Solstice’s skidpad number to a still-respectable 0.85 g (versus 0.91 g for the base car). Braking from 70 mph took just 170 feet, and one of the real impressive stats the Solstice posted was at the pump, with and EPA fuel economy rating of 22/31 city/highway.

What many people may not recall is that just before its production end, the Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe debuted in 2009. Mechanically identical to the GXP convertible, the Coupe not only offered up more cargo space, but a very unique Jaguar F-Type-esq look, and even more impressive performance thanks to its lighter 3080-pound weight and sturdier chassis. The GXPC ran from 0-60 mph in a scant 5.2 seconds, while blasting through the quarter mile in just 13.7 seconds at 102 mph.

When it debuted as a 2006 model, the base Pontiac Solstice could be had off the showroom floor for a mere $19,915 base price, a true accomplishment in the pre-mortgage crisis economy. When the more powerful GXP came around in 2007 that base MSRP remained at a still-impressive $26,515 (while the base car’s bottom line had risen by about two grand by then).

The Pontiac Solstice, much like its namesake implies, came and went like that special kind of Summer. Captivating, exciting, memorable, and yet all too brief, Bob Lutz’s dream car had everything we could have wanted in a twenty-thousand-dollar sports car. While the legacy of Pontiac’s last sports car may be debated by some, there is no denying that the Solstice was underrated but should never be forgotten.

Photos: Pontiac

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