2002 Bonneville SE -Sporty yet luxurious

New front and rear fascias contribute to the SE's sporty look. Our test vehicle's maple-red metallic color, along with the sharp new look of the car, prompted many positive comments wherever I went. Also new for 2002: a redesigned center console with cupholders, Latch child safety-seat anchors, interior trunk release handle, Peak Expression cloth/fabric interior, and three new exterior colors polo green, dark blue metallic, and granite metallic.

Standard features on the entry-level SE now include 16-in. aluminum wheels, six-way power driver's seat, CD player, remote keyless entry, and an antitheft alarm system. They join an already impressive list that includes DRLs with twilight sentinel, PassKey III security system, power and express-down windows for both front-seat occupants, a tire-pressure monitor, and independent front and rear touring suspension with electronic level control.

I loved the car's quick response and acceleration, thanks to its standard3.8-liter V6 with four-speed electronic control automatic transmission. The powerplant produces 205 hp at 5,200 rpm and 230 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. I can only imagine how much more fun I would have had with the supercharged version that adds an extra 35 horses and jumps the torque up to 280 lb-ft at only 3,600 rpm.

Our vehicle also had a traction-control option, which helped keep the horses reined in during some pretty slick wintry weather. The four-wheel ABS with a Delco-Bosch 5.3 system provides electronic proportioning. Standard on all Bonneville models is a tire-monitoring system, which measures the rotational speed between wheels using the same sensors that communicate with the ABS. The sensors detect the increase in speed of the underinflated tire and notify the driver.

On the safety side, Pontiac claims to have exceeded requirements in roof crush, side intrusion, and off-center collisions with such structural reinforcements as a quarter-panel with one-piece side frame inner and outer stampings, stiff overall body, strong seat and safety belt anchors, and excellent cross-car integrity. For transporting little ones, Pontiac uses Latch child safety-seat anchors instead of seat belts. Two lower anchors are located between the seat back and bottom and top tether strap anchors behind the seat back.

Catcher-mitt-style seats for front passengers are designed to absorb energy and pocket a rider's pelvis and lower back regions. Self-aligning headrests rotate forward to reduce head motion. Seat belts are integrated into the seats so they move with occupants to ensure belts stay properly positioned. I found this to be a plus because, being only 5-ft 3-in. tall, many seat belts tend to be irritating while driving. A wiper-activated headlamp system is also standard.

The interior is roomy and the six-way, heated driver and passenger seats were comfortable. A 55/45-bench seat with center storage armrest is also available on the SE.

Base price is $25,530. Options include a $2,130 1SC option group (AM/FM stereo, CD, cassette, equalizer, RDS, ETR, Theftlock, leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, dual-zone HVAC system, performance axle ratio 3.05, bucket seats, traction control, and Onstar), $330 for heated six-way seats, and $1,080 for a sunroof package.

For those who like a sporty yet luxurious ride, the bottom line for our vehicle, including three separate option packages and destination charges, is $29,725.

Denise Greco