There are many people who shop as a hobby, and while we all do our share during the Christmas holiday season, there are others who don’t let the calendar slow them down. I know this because any website I have ever researched for a possible vacation destination lists “shopping” in the top three items of “things to do.” (Right behind golf and fine dining)
While some might say that going to car shows is a type of shopping, I could agree if it’s a new car show and you are seriously considering buying a new car. I tend to think of that more along the lines of information gathering since the only shopping I do at a car show is usually for a t-shirt, and the occasional diecast car. Ever since the display cabinet has reached its capacity of shelves and stands, even the diecast shopping has dropped off considerably.
I have witnessed shoppers leaving outlet malls laden with enough bags to warrant a container ship to get them home, or at least a delivery van. I can certainly understand the hunt for a bargain on something you want, but gathering so much stuff just as a way to have fun escapes me. This isn’t to say that car-guys don’t shop, because we do, either for bits and pieces for the project we have underway, or for the next dream machine.
I openly admit to being an online addict of both the Carmax and Autotrader websites. This isn’t like looking at the options list on a new car where you can pick and choose items at will; this is more like a treasure hunt, as you filter choices for a car with that certain color, those certain options, and that look that says it has been pristinely cared for.
In my last blog post, I expounded on several models that I found personally appealing, one of which was the last generation Pontiac Bonneville. I also commented on what a sexy design style I felt the car possessed, as well as some analogies with the female gender allure.
While browsing the Autotrader site, I ran across a prime example of this car that was a mere forty or so miles from my home. It was my day off, the weather outside was lovely, albeit a bit brisk, so I climbed aboard my convertible and set out to see this sheetmetal sculpture in person.
Sometimes driving a car can either dash any notions you had about a certain model, or cement in your heart that you must own one before you die. I was determined to find out if the Bonneville fit either of these categories. The gemstone I found was a 2004 SLE model, which was the next option level down from the hi-zoot SSEi. The SLE packs all the luxury options of the SSEi, as well as its outward appearance package, but lacks the supercharged 3.8 V6 engine and the cockpit heads-up display. While some see the SLE as a cheap shot or knock-off, I look at it as a slightly more reserved choice. The normally aspirated 3.8 V6 in the SLE has a long standing reputation as a tough-as-nails, reliable engine that delivers ample power with excellent fuel mileage. The heads-up display is a great toy, but not vital in any way especially given the Bonneville’s already impressive instrument panel.
Upon arriving at the dealer lot, the Bonne was easy to spot amidst a sea of mundane sedans and SUVs. As I drew closer, I could feel the almost magnetic pull I had felt so many times before. Walking around and viewing the car form every angle was a feast for my eyes, especially since this car was wearing the optional white/gold tri-coat paint. This color was used to adorn Cadillacs and upscale Buicks, but its presence on the boldly styled Pontiac was a touch of sleek elegance. If you are unfamiliar with this color scheme, allow me to elaborate, as it is not some garish chameleon light show. The tri-coat refers to the white base coat, which is then covered with a golden yellow pearl coat, and topped with the protective clear layer. The end result is a car that appears bright white, but when the light strikes the car, a faint golden hue thinly highlights its every curve. The effect as you move around the car is subtle, as though the sun’s rays are painting a sparkling set of pinstripes that change with each angle. The glow of sunset on the car does the paint an enormous compliment as darker hues grace the lower body panels.
My Sebring convertible is a solid white color, and when it’s clean and sitting under the sun I think it’s a beautiful machine, but the tri-coat paint on the Bonne is absolute artwork in motion.
Some women lose a measure of their sex appeal after they become mothers, while others seem to bask in it even more. To see the Bonneville in black or red is a visual that provokes images like Angelina Jolie in black leather, or Jessica Alba in red spandex, but the white tri-coat was more like Amy Adams in one of those strapless evening gowns with the split that shows off her legs. While Amy Adams usually fits an image of glamorous but wholesome, imagine such a woman whispering naughty innuendo in your ear and you start to get the idea.
The tan leather interior has copious amounts of space, and the power driver’s seat has enough adjustment to keep a guy amused for hours. Besides the usual fore/aft/up/down is power recline and a round rocker button that activates various bladders in the seat to tailor support where you like it. Throw a little soothing heated surface into the mix and you have a command chair worthy of a business jet, and that may well be the best analogy for this car because that’s the kind of feel it delivers.
The cockpit is well laid out with every control focused on the driver, from the Bose audio system with steering wheel inputs to the dual zone climate comfort, every switch and knob is easily within reach.
The thrust from the V6 may not be sports car fast, but it moves the car with enough purpose to not be regarded as gutless, and the growling exhaust note from the twin tailpipes is very subdued. The ride was glass smooth and the cornering was impressive for a car of this size. As I mentioned, the interior is quite spacious with nicely appointed HVAC vents, plentiful cupholders, and lights with grab handles at each entry. The trunk is positively cavernous, with ample space for family luggage, or a family you wish to smuggle to another location.
From its glowing and flawless exterior, to its supple, tan leather interior, to its glistening chrome sawblade style wheels; the overall experience of driving the Bonne was a pleasant one. I can fully understand the beguiling aspect that entices one into buying one of these cars, and why someone would be willing to tolerate a level of problem repairs. I still don’t know if I would say I must own one before I die, but I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to the idea. I’m sure the experience will stick with me for a while to come, but I’m also quite sure it won’t stop me from shopping online for other cars.
At least I did keep my own advice of not buying impulsively on my first visit. But thank you Bonne for a lovely afternoon.