Pros: Speed, acceleration, handling, styling, performance
Cons: Interior design is sub-par even for GM
Well I'm writing this review because I had a heck of time finding an objective review of the car before I bought one. All the reviews I found either did little more than recite the specs from the sticker, or were obviously written by someone who was bitterly disappointed that after spending $32,000 they didn't get the small family luxury sedan they were hoping for.
First off, I'm one of those who thinks the WS6 is a rolling work of art. I guarantee that you'll turn heads no matter where you go with this thing. The ram air intake gives it a mean, menacing look that no other car on the road has.
Don't listen to those fools who say only trailer park rednecks drive the Trans Am and Camaro. They're all referring to the models from the 80s, and any car that's 15-20 years old has a good chance of ending up in a trailer park. The new WS6 is rare, and it's almost $35,000. Don't expect to see any rusting out and up on blocks in Hickville.
The T-tops are a great compromise between a convertible and a hard top, and the T/A and the Camaro are the only cars left with them. The last two cars I've had have been convertibles, and in under two years, both tops had ripped and collected so much dirt they looked like crap. The T-tops will never deteriorate, will never need to be replaced, and can be pulled out and placed in the trunk in under a minute. All you have to do is unlock them with the door key, pull a handle and push up. Then they drop into slots in the trunk, and you close the handle again to lock them into place.
It's really too bad the interior was developed by the janitors at GM while the real engineers were out to lunch. Aside from the hump on the passenger side floor, there's the power outlet that can only be accessed while the parking break is engaged. Why it has an ash try i don't even know, I don't smoke, but this is the smallest ash try I've ever seen. There is one cup holder for the driver, placed right where your forearm rests while driving. While the holder on the passenger side is cleverly designed to fit into the console, you'll be in trouble if your passenger happens to have legs because it's in the way when it slides out. Fortunately, your passanger's legs will already be turned to the right due to the aforementioned hump in the floor.
I won't complain about the truck space, because I knew before I had it that it didn't have any. All you have is the small shelf behind the back seat, and the well where the T-tops go. Just in case you ever need a bit of extra space the seats fold down leaving enough room for a pair of suitcases. Unfortunately anything you want to put in the hatch has to be lifted over the T-Top well, making it hard to load and unload.
Don't expect to ever put an adult, or even a teenager in the back seats. Ever. I have friends who are about 5'5 and even they don't fit back there. The only thing I can use them for is a little extra cargo room. Lots of people complain about that, but as long as you buy the car knowing it's a two-seater you'll be happy with it. But to be fair, I've ridden in both a new Mustang, an Eclipse, and a Tiburon, none of them have any more room in back.
Then there's the hatch. The spoiler looks great, but when it rains, water collects on it and then runs right into the back seats/trunk when the hatch is opened. Not that the hatch is that easy to get open to start with. In the colder months it sticks after you press the release button. So you have to push the button to release it, pull up on it a bit, release it again, and pull up on it again before it'll open. From what I've heard there is a fix you can do yourself that simply involves putting better springs from a hardware store in. But for $32,000 the hatch should open on the first try every time. (Little things like this are what earned the "Poor" quality rating)
The leather seats are pretty comfortable, but the power seats were not what I expected. They move front/back, and have a lumbar and side support. It would be perfect if they just moved up and down a hair so shorter people like me could get a better view over the huge hood. But once I find the right position, I'm fine for a few hours. And believe me, once you get into this car you'll never want to pull over.
The 500 watt Monsoon system is the best factory radio I've ever heard. Sure, some people say it's not enough, but it's a factory radio! All the same, I do wish that they would have taken 2 of those 10 speakers and put them on the huge, empty dash. It sounds like 95% of the sound is coming from behind you. The 7 band equalizer gives you complete control over the sound, but it's very sensitive and has to be adjusted constantly. The preset buttons aren't laid out in an intuitive way, making them hard to use, but the steering wheel mounted controls are so great I rarely touch the radio. I don't have the 12 disc changer in the trunk, but I suggest you save yourself $500 and just buy a CD book for $10. Don't buy a holder that goes on the visor like I did, there isn't enough head room for it.
Speed and Handling
With a 5.7 liter LS1 Corvette engine under the hood putting out 325 horses, you won't find a cheaper car with more power. This is a truly amazing piece of machinary, check out boards like LS1.com or Fbody.com and you'll find that it's generally accepted that the HP ratings on the T/A and the Z28/SS are significantly under-rated. Most Fbodies dyno around 300 to the rear wheels. Add back about 15% of that power that gets lost in the power transfer and you've got numbers way above what's advertised. Especially if you take into account that the Ram Air power isn't even picked up by a dyno because there's no air being forced into it.
Drop the pedal to the floor and you'll be in for one exciting ride. You'll burn just about anything off the line with this car, but be careful, you've got enough power to spin the wheels at will. The first few times I passed someone on a two lane road I glanced down at the speedometer just as I pulled back into the right hand lane to find that I was moving comfortably at almost 100 mph. At 80-90 mph on the highway the ride is smooth and the engine is barely turning at under 2500 rpm, you'll swear you were only going 65. And you'd better like racing, because just about every guy under 25 is going to want to race you when he pulls up next to you at the light...no matter what he's driving.
The exhaust gives out a good constant rumble that's just below the point where it would be annoying, and the polished tips are very attractive. If it's not loud enough for you, there's a great variety of after-market systems that look and sound great on the T/A.
You'll get surprisingly good gas mileage on the highway, much better than any SUV on the market. But if you're driving in town I promise you'll get far less than the 18 mpg or so the sticker advertises. Unless you drive like my grandma that is.
The steering is tight for the corners, and the car is pretty easy to park for it's size. I tend to back it in because of its length. Personally, I don't have a problem seeing past the spoiler like others mention. It's only about an inch high, and I can see both above and below it.
Sure it doesn't handle like a much smaller car European sports car, but that's because it's not a smaller European car. It's bumpy at times, especially on bad roads, but that's what you get when you have a high performance suspension with wide tires.
The traction control I think is a must, even in the rain it's easy to kick the back end out. But before that scares you away, I will say that it kicks in before you know you're spinning, and it typically kills the gas, adjusts the power to the rear wheels, and you're back on track before you can even start to correct the slide yourself. If you live in the north, expect a few days every winter where you just won't be able to drive it.
If you're looking at the base Firebird, do yourself a favor and keep looking. - there's simply no compelling reason to buy one. They're overpriced (you can get a Mustang GT with 65 more horses for less money) and all the faults of the Firebird add up fast when you don't have all that power to play with.
Faults you say? Well I've had the car for a year now, 15,000 miles and I've got a few complaints. First off, I don't dive my car all that hard, most of my driving is done in town at under 45 mph. But in under a year my front rotors have warped and there is no chance the tires will last more than 20,000 miles. I can expect to pay near $200 per tire within a year of having the car. Blame that on me if you want, but I check the pressure once a month - and no I don't do spin the tires at every light or do doughnuts in empty parking lots for fun.
If you're looking for one of the last American muscle cars then you're in the right place. If you've got a family and you're looking for a cool car to drive to work and around town with the kiddies you might want to keep looking. As long as you buy this car for the right reasons you won't be disappointed.