Saturday, April 28, 2007

Toyota vs. General Motors...Comparison Test

Pontiac G6 near Zion National Park, Utah

As you can see from my profile, my wife and I have two late-model Camrys, one a 2004 LE 4-cylinder with 4-speed automatic and the other a 2005 XLE 4-cylinder with 5-speed automatic. This is really by family happenstance that we have two nearly identical cars.

As posted earlier, we took a vacation to the southwest US last month. Gorgeous scenery and very nice weather; not too many tourists either. So if you're an empty nester or otherwise have no school-age kids, go in spring or fall.

We flew to Las Vegas and rented a 2007 Pontiac G6 sedan from Alamo. The Alamo experience has its own sorry sideline, but I'll deal with the car itself, not the rental company. We drove over 1600 miles total, on 2-lanes and interstates (and a few unpaved roads), flat land and mountains, so we gave it a good workout.

Of course, in traditional rental car fashion, the car was a base G6 without even anti-lock brakes. Side curtain airbags were standard (wonderful), and it did have a sunroof(!), 3.5-liter V6, alloy wheels, coal-bin black cloth interior, and manually adjusted seats (except power height adjuster for the driver).

Pluses: nice V6 power, competent A/C with the intuitive manual rotary climate controls (3 simple knobs - pioneered in the US by the '86 Taurus). Good ride, good handling. Steering felt artificially heavy at first, but we quickly got used to it. Nice sized trunk, comfy front seats with good side bolstering. Engine compartment was well laid out for checking oil and adding water to the EMPTY washer reservoir, etc. Wind noise from the sunroof was actually quieter when it was fully open than when tilted up, the opposite of our '04 Camry. (We had it open a lot.) There even was a padded ("soft-touch") dash, except for the center stack. We never used the radio. So in terms of the basics, give GM a thumbs up!

Minuses: 4-speed auto with no discernible engine braking when placed into 3rd on steep high-speed downgrades. Like our former '90 Mercury Sable, you can't manually select 2nd for lower speed downgrades. No "PRNDL" indicator on the dash. Red gauge lighting -- okay, but not really my preference. "MPH" illuminated in red on the speedo -- makes you think a warning light is on, especially at night. Too-small side glass (when can we have big windows back)?

Have to use the trip computer to reset the twin trip meters -- why not the usual button on the speedo instead? Tiny YELLOW indicators on the climate control to indicate recirc vs. fresh air, and a/c on. Why not green? Yellow's fine for the rear defogger. The passenger seat was like sitting in a tub -- way down low. My wife and I couldn't reach items temporarily placed on the dash from the passenger seat, with the seat all the way back for maximum legroom. The cruise control didn't hold speeds as steadily as in our Camrys, and those dainty little buttons for "set" and "resume" have to go! And there were no recesses in the headliner to store the thick sun visors.

On the details, give GM a thumbs down!

Overall winner -- Camry.

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