First introduced earlier this year at the North American International Auto Show, the new Pontiac Torrent GXP has finally arrived.

Featuring new styling and a brand new powertrain, the 2008 Torrent GXP makes good on its promise of delivering more performance.

Sharing the same platform as the Chevrolet Equinox, the Torrent GXP takes the Pontiac mid-size crossover to a new level.

Like the previous Torrent model, consumers still have the option of front-, or all-wheel drive for the versatile five-passenger vehicle.

The platform still provides a lot of flexibility — and room — for consumers needing both comfortable room for passengers and cargo options.

In addition to having a rear seat that still slides eight inches, reclines, splits and folds flat, there’s 35.2 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seat (68.6 cubic feet with the seat folded flat). Another nice thing about the Torrent GXP are the shelves and many cargo compartments that aid in carrying and stowing items.

While the styling has been enhanced to convey a sportier look and feel — sculpted hood, lowered front and rear fascias, elimination of the roof rack, chrome details and a number of other interior enhancements — the big news for ‘08 can be found under the hood.

The 3.6-liter V-6 engine, mated to a much welcomed six-speed automatic with manual touch shift, improves the 0-60 mph performance to just under 7 seconds.

Standard safety features now include StabiliTrak electronic stability control system, tire pressure monitoring and ABS with brake assist and trailering stability.

During my week-long test drive I found the Torrent GXP a nice vehicle. It is certainly well suited for the needs it was designed to meet and crossover shoppers should be pleased with its versatility, styling and high number of standard features.

Ride and handling have been enhanced thanks in large part to its performance-tuned suspension and wide track.

Stiffer shock valving, spring rates and suspension bushings, along with stronger stabilizer bars and hydraulic power steering deliver impressive handling in all driving situation.

However, one thing that hasn’t changed is the turning circle, which still requires nearly 42 feet to turn around.

While I agree wholeheartedly that performance has been enhanced over the previous model, it’s not exactly what I would call a performance vehicle.

It’s not bad and I believe most prospective buyers will be very pleased with the ride and handling characteristics — especially when factoring in the improved fuel economy ratings. (The Torrent GXP all-wheel drive model has an EPA fuel economy rating of 16 mpg city, 24 mpg highway).

But consumers who are expecting “Pontiac Excitement” performance will still likely find the Torrent GXP slightly underpowered.

With a base price starting in the $23,000 range for the front-wheel drive version, the 2008 Pontiac Torrent GXP is worthy of a test drive for those in the market for a mid-size crossover.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at neal.white@waxahachiedailylight.com.