Pontiac, synonymous with cars for years, is set to take another crack at the booming SUV market, according to the Detroit News. And General Motors Corp. hopes the new Torrent sport/utility vehicle will go where the Aztek failed to climb — up the sales charts. The 2006 Torrent, which hits showrooms next fall, is a small SUV based on the same platform as the Chevrolet Equinox. GM released a sketch of the vehicle at the California International Auto Show. The first public showing of the vehicle will be in January at the Los Angeles International Auto Show. Pricing hasn't yet been set. According to the Detroit News account, the Torrent will join the new G6 sedan and Montana minivan as important high-volume newcomers to Pontiac's lineup. “Pontiac is a brand on its way back,” said Robert Lutz, chairman of GM North America. GM execs have predicted Pontiac revivals in the past only to see sales stall. The last time Pontiac ventured into the SUV segment, it landed with a thud with the widely panned Aztek. The Torrent isn't nearly as large, or extreme, and its basic design has already been validated in the marketplace with the success of the Equinox. Some analysts speculate the Torrent provides GM the opportunity to phase out the Aztek. While Lutz conceded the Aztek has “been a volume disappointment,” he wouldn't speculate on its future. The Torrent will be built at GM's joint venture plant in Ingersol, Ontario, alongside the Equinox, and using the same Chinese-built 185 horsepower, 3.4 liter V-6 engine that powers the Equinox. The Torrent will be available in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive, and its suspension will be tuned for the tighter handling characteristic of Pontiacs. In addition to Torrent, Pontiac also plans to market the Grand Prix GXP. It joins the Bonneville GXP as the second in the souped-up Pontiac series for high-performance enthusiasts. The front-wheel drive Grand Prix GXP features a 290 horsepower, V-8 engine with displacement on-demand technology. It allows the engine to run on either 4 or 8 cylinders depending on the need for power, providing an estimated 12 percent fuel economy improvement. The first Grand Prix with a V-8 engine since 1987, it can hustle from 0 to 60 mph in just six seconds. Among the features setting it apart from the conventional Grand Prix are a GXP-specific monochromatic exterior, 18-inch forged aluminum wheels, and a Hydra-Matic four-speed electronically controlled transmission with tap shift. GM hopes Pontiac will benefit from an enhanced portfolio and the introduction this fall of the G6 sedan and Montana SV6 minivan, and next year's Grand Prix GXP, Torrent, and two-seat convertible Solstice.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials