Heck, Elton John spent more than that on his hair. The reason the Solstice is so good is that GM didn’t compromise. The car’s chassis – hydroformed, super-stiff steel tubing – was created specially for the Solstice. GM designed a complete new suspension. It borrowed a rear diff from a Cadillac.
And to replicate the complex curves of the concept’s body, the steel outer panels were expensively hydroformed, instead of being stamped in the traditional way.
In the metal, the Solstice looks gorgeous. It’s all round and curvy with strong, muscular haunches over the wheels and big 18-inch rims pushed way out to the corners. And its silvery framed windscreen surround echoes those of old British chrome-framed sports cars of the ’50s.
Size-wise, it’s 3988mm nose to tail, which is almost identical to the Mazda. But it boasts another 76mm in its wheelbase, and 83mm in the waist for a more accommodating interior.
Slide behind the wheel and you sit deep and low in a cockpit that’s simple, functional and cosseting. The seats have plenty of side bolstering for support in corners. And the 2413mm wheelbase means there’s space for a six foot-plus driver to get comfy.
The ergonomics are outstanding, too. You don’t so much as sit in the car as wear it. The stubby gearshift is right there. The thick-rimmed steering wheel is at just the perfect angle. The pedals are spot-on for heel and toeing.
Yes, some of the trim looks a little cheap and cheerful, and GM’s designers could have been more creative in creating some extra storage space – there’s very little. But the chrome-ringed instruments look classy and all the switches and controls have a solid, upscale feel to them.
The hood works well too, though at first glance it appears like it was designed by a committee. Dropping the top involves getting out of the car for a start, unlike the Mazda’s hood which can be lowered and raised from the driver’s seat.
First you release the catch on the windscreen frame, then open-up the rear-hinged ‘clamshell’ boot lid. Fold back the canvas top into the rear compartment and slam shut the hard cover. Twenty seconds max. Once up, the top fits superbly and keeps wind noise down to a whisper. It also has a glass rear window that’s heated, and a cloth liner to cover the metal framework.
As for boot space, you’ll need to leave the Samsonites at home. Even with the top up there’s scant room. A soft, squashy bag may fit with the roof down.
At the heart of the new Solstice is GM’s latest 2.4-litre four-cylinder Ecotec motor. It’s an all-aluminium unit with overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. Normally it’s mounted transversely, but here it’s been re-worked to run north-south so that it can drive the rear wheels through a five-speed manual box sourced from a Chevy pick-up.
Cranking out 177bhp, its power output is pretty much on a par with the new MX-5’s 170bhp. But the Pontiac has more torque; it packs 166lb ft compared with the Mazda’s meagre 140lb ft. What the Pontiac gains in muscle however, it loses in weight; it’s around 136kg heavier.
Twist the key and the Solstice barks into life. The Ecotec’s not a zingy revver, like a Honda S2000’s VTEC, but it spins eagerly and easily to its 6900rpm red line without sounding buzzy or coarse.