Retractable hardtops are nothing new. But what was once an exclusive feature of low-volume luxury cars like the Cadillac XLR, Lexus SC430, and Mercedes-Benz SLK and SL is now found in mainstream cars with four real seats and family-car functionality. In truth, the US is a few years behind Europe (the continent, not the band), where nearly every new convertible comes with a solid roof. That brings us to the Pontiac G6 Convertible, America's first four-seat hardtop convertible since the Ford Skyline.
For the sake of humor, the hardtop convertible would best be described with an analogy to the erstwhile McDonalds McDLT. The G6 does exhibit some hot-side hot, cool-side cool functionality, but it is of more a dual nature than the separate compartments of that famously failed burger. So the G6, and hardtop convertibles in general, are more like those khaki pants that can be unzipped into a pair of shorts. The G6 does a fairly good impression of a real coupe when the top is up; only the Rubenesque rear and the C-pillar located well inside the rear quarter panel hint that something is out of the ordinary.
Push the button between the map lights and G6 folds its roof down in a concert of electric motors opening the trunk and folding the top out of sight. In convertible mode, the G6 is (rather predictably) a convertible. The windshield and the thick roll bar that surrounds it looms a little close to the driver, but overall it's a pleasant and airy experience.
The problem, or perhaps compromise, with the G6 convertible is luggage space. In the trunk there's a soft tonneau cover that separates the top-down section. Unfortunately the space, above the compact spare tire, is only about the size of a giant New York-style pizza. Should you want to deliver your jumbo pizza with the top down, you have to put the top up to access the space. On the bright side, there is a sizeable amount of room in the trunk with the top up.
One other compromise with the G6 convertible is weight. Since it was essentially designed by cutting the top off of a G6 coupe, the roof, all of the extra motors and added structural reinforcement to compensate for the lost roof all add weight. And losing the roof doesn't help quell vibrations on rough roads. The right (or wrong, as it were) frequency of bumps, the cowl shake in the G6 makes you wonder how GM released to the public. But in truth such shimmy-shammy is only bad compared to stiffer, more purpose-built convertibles like the Porsche Boxster. When it comes to four-seats - and by that we mean four real seats and not grocery shelves found in the Porsche Carrera - the only similarly priced convertible is the Chysler Sebring and the Pontiac's rigidity is far superior. There's also the forthcoming Volkwagen Eos, which should give the Pontiac a run for its money.
But in the end, the G6 convertible achieves what it sets out to do. It's a year-round convertible, and an honest car with four seats. Owners will have to accept the inconvenient top-down storage, smallish rear seats, and inferior rigidity, but they gain the pleasure of top-down motoring with a totally weatherproof top. It seems like a fair trade, as long as you're willing to remember that the G6 isn't a sports car like so many other convertibles; the G6 is a regular car, with a folding roof.