Oh, Pontiac. You felt like you were just getting underway and then suddenly cut down in your upswing. During the twilight of Pontiac history, the brand produced one of our favorite cars of all time: the Pontiac Solstice Coupe. The Solstice on its own was always a looker, but didn’t have the knife-edge look or platform of a full-on sports car. Add a roof, removable targa panels and additional chassis stiffness, however, and a Solstice sports car you make. Unfortunately, only 1,266 escaped before Pontiac fell on its sword. The good news: the cheap performance targa isn’t quite dead yet.
No, as much as we wish it was, Pontiac isn’t coming back to life. However, the Solstice Coupe may have a soulmate halfway around the globe. Enter the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF. Fun, sports car underpinnings? Check. Trick removable targa roof? Yep. Stunning coupe silhouette? Very, very check. So the two roadsters-turned-coupes seem to have the same bones. And it doesn’t end there.
Pop the hood, and under each you’ll find inline four cylinder engines. The Mazda makes due with a 2.0L naturally aspirated unit delivering 155 hp and 148 lb-ft torque. The Pontiac dials things up a bit, adding a turbo for 173 hp in base spec, or a stout 260 hp in GXP trim. Pricing is roughly equivalent, with the GXP Coupe starting at $30,995, and MX-5 RF getting underway at $31,555. True, a 105 hp difference is hard to ignore. Luckily, since the RF shares the MX-5 powertrain, you won’t struggle to find turbo kits that put up similar numbers, in a chassis that weights substantially less than the Solstice. Or, if you truly like to stare death in the face, Flyin’ Miata will happily turn your Miata into a 525 hp, V8-powered monster.
Due to it being one of the rarest cars ever produced, finding a low-mileage, reasonably priced Solstice Coupe isn’t an easy task. Yet, thanks to the MX-5 RF, you can grab a very similar recipe, with just as much potential, right out of the factory. Unrelated: we’re happy to babysit the keys for a few days should you decide your RF needs a little LS power under the hood.