Sunday, June 22, 2014

2006 Pontiac Torrent Review. First Impressions.

Okay, I'm still having myriad issues with Blogger right now, but this is going to take a month to get articles moved over. Maybe more due to the time constraints involved. Now that we got that out of the way...

Note, this is a USED car with 95,000 miles. It is not new by any fashion and in fact General Motors no longer makes vehicles under the Pontiac brand. The Torrent was made from 2005 through 2009, and shares a platform with the Chevrolet Equinox. This is the second Pontiac we've bought and I just got the car today. It is a raised station wagon, commonly referred to a sport utility vehicle or S.U.V.. The length is 188.8 inches (15'9'') or 4796 mm. The wheelbase is 112.5 inches (9'4 1/2") or 2858 mm. The track or width is 71.4 inches or just a half inch shy of six feet wide and the height is 69.3 inches or 5'9 1/3". The vehicle is almost as tall as it is wide and two and half times tall as it is wide. It's nearly similar in every dimension as the Buick Rendezvous I traded in. The Torrent is one inch longer, one inch narrower and once inch lower than the Rendezvous. The wheelbase is nearly identical. The cargo area is about a third smaller but the leg shoulder and hip room are about the same. The headroom is a little smaller in front, but with the height to the seat all the way down, this is not a huge concern. This car came with a CD player with XM radio, a four way power driver's seat with manual lumbar and recline. Manual heating and air conditioning, projector fog lamps, power mirrors, front seat warmers, remote keyless entry, a tachometer, a compact spare, cloth seats and a power moon roof which I'm not crazy about. It also has cruise control and radio buttons in the steering wheel spokes. It's silver with a black interior and five cup holders, two power jacks, and no entertainment system for the kiddies or a built in GPS. It is all wheel drive. Under the hood is a 3.4 liter (204 cubic inch) LNJ V-6 with electronic throttle control and 185 horsepower (138 kw) and 210 pounds feet (285 Newton Meters) of torque. This is mated to a five speed Aisin AF33 Automatic Transmission. I'm going to guess this engine is going to get about 20 mpg and has a 16 gallon tank. It cost me about $48 to fill this up from 1/8 a tank. The curb weight is 3,602 pounds, which is about 80 pounds lighter than my first car (A 1977 Olds Delta 88 Royale) or about 418 pounds lighter than the Rendezvous (the all wheel drive might add more to the weight).

Even with all of this, the Torrent is a big vehicle. The hood is longer and the windshield not as raked. meaning the total volume inside is going to be smaller. This will make changing the spark plugs much easier, although the engine compartment is pretty tight. It has an undercover for noise and to make the mess of wires, hoses, mechanical parts and whatnot appear less cluttered. The battery is hidden inside a plastic case, and the transmission has a fill plug and no dipstick. As least the oil is still checked with one (whew). There is also the added benefit of a transfer case and a rear differential to service on this one. The best thing I can say is to take this to a garage for repair. There is also a cabin air filter, which I've yet to try and figure out where that is. The light bulbs are pretty simple to replace but all are working at this time. The appearance is pretty handsome, in my opinion for a GM vehicle of this era. It shares the same platform with the Chevrolet Equinox, but has red tail lamps, a split grille and uncluttered look about it. This is a lot to be said for a vehicle of the Pontiac brand, as nearly every model before, including the Aztek the Torrent replaced was rife with body cladding. While the Aztek was busy with every angle and shape imaginable, the Torrent is subdued.

The interior is also what you would suggest from Pontiac, clean, simple and with large controls. Unlike the earlier Pontiacs from the 1990's onward, The gauge cluster on this has red needles and yellow faces, unlike the twinkly silver and teal faces that were impossible to read in certain light situations on my old car. The rest of the controls are red, however. Unlike the Rendezvous, which had the shifter on the steering column, this one has the shifter on the dash, which is something I like a lot better. The controls themselves are not the most intuitive and took some guessing to what was what. Quickly, I found that the window controls were behind the shifter (only the driver's is lit) and the seat warmers were in front. The fog light control is "conveniently" located to the upper right side of the radio and heater controls. The radio has a nice and quality appearance to it, but you have to push a "feed" button to feed a CD and the controls are a bit complicated. The heating and air conditioning controls seem a bit low, and kitschy. The best bet is to leave the A/C and radio control where you want them and not bother with them while driving. This is a good practice on any car. The power moon roof (surprise) has the control in between the map lights and is pretty simple to operate. I would not do this while driving though. If you prefer, there is a panel to block this off. Since the interior is dark, I like leaving this panel open for more natural light. Moon roofs have a tendency to leak in the worst places if not maintained, so this is going to be something I'm going to have to learn to maintain real quick. The cup holders are unobtrusive; almost to the point that I had go to the owners manual to find them. These will hold a 32 ounce cup, but for the 44 ounce, better use the molded one in the console.. The armrest for the driver is in a good spot, and flips up to reveal a CD rack and there's a small storage compartment inside. There is a pocket on either side of the console and in each front door for maps and the like. They aren't much bigger for anything else though. The glove compartment is decently sized and accessible by the driver. Something I would have to get out of the car to do with the Rendezvous. The lights and wiper controls are mounted on stalks (a Pontiac trait) and take a bit of deciphering as to what they do. Adjusting that steering column will get the wheel just about right for six footers at the uppermost position. Fortunately, the driver's seat is low enough to prevent my cell phone from snagging on the steering wheel. This always happened on the Rendezvous with the wheel in the usual driving position and it was annoying. The driving position is superb, but six footers take note: You need to be behind the stop lines on the pavement or you will struggle to see the traffic signal.

The seats are firm and have modest thigh support with adjustable headrests. The power controls allow you to move the seat back and forth as well as up and down. All other control are manual. The front seat passenger may have a slightly harder time getting the seatback up straight, which has a semi hard plastic back to it. The reason for this is so you can fold the front passenger seat forward to carry skis, a snowboard, pipes, or that potato cannon you made from those pipes. Back seat room is almost freakishly roomy, even with the front seats all the way back. Although this is noticeably narrower than my last car, there is still enough room to fit three adults. A third row seat is not available in the Torrent, nor should it ever be for vehicles this size. These are barely big enough for small children anyway. Better to buy a big van or larger SUV. Cargo room with the seats up is noticeably smaller than my old car, with a higher load floor. This is not a problem from me as I have arthritis and prefer to reach the seatbacks from the tailgate without straining. Another nice feature (in this writer's opinion) is that the spare is inside the cargo area under a panel in the floor. Much better than under the vehicle held with a subhuman tire winch that always breaks and is a P.I.T.A. to use; not a nice feature to use in the rain or with cars speeding past you. You can even put a full sized spare in there, which is nice for towing a trailer. The tire winch broke on my Rendezvous (thank you Wal Mart) and it was going to cost $250 to get this replaced! I'll carry the spare inside thank you! The cargo cover also doubles as a table for camping or tailgating. The jack and lug wrench are in a side compartment on the driver's side and the fuel door is on the right side.

The ride is firm, but not punishing on Michigan's decrepit roads. The steering assist is also firm, with a consistent feel. It helps this is electric rather than hydraulic. Brakes are disk in front and drums in the rear, which this writer prefers anyway. Disk brakes in back seem to create more durability problems for both the back and the front including pad and rotor wear. I've seen this with the Chrysler Imperials, Pontiac Grand Prix, and Buick Regal to name a few. Buyers seem to like this idea and manufacturers are getting on the bandwagon, but all they seem to do is add more cost without increasing braking performance all that much. Workers even managed to put the rear rotors on the front of certain 2014 Chevys and Buicks. Go figure, but I digress. Even with all of this, GM is something I'm familiar with and had the best reliability for the money. Time will tell if the Torrent is reliable, but I'm not going to be fixing this much anyway, save for pads, shoes, rotors, drums and bulbs anyway. It wasn't everything I wanted, but for the money it comes the closest. I bought this over a Kia Rondo (too small and beat up), a Chevy HHR (poor driving position and "ugly" inside and out according to my wife) and a Saturn Vue (wife didn't like the color, a bit banged up). We also quickly ruled out the Dodge minivans because the seats were physically too small in the rear for anything more than really little children. We're talking toddlers here.  Maranatha!

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