Tough times for GM prompted the company to cancel its 2008 Los Angeles auto show festivities, at which it would have officially revealed the refreshed Pontiac G6 amid lights and fog and thundering music and a proud bunch of vehicle line execs. But the show is still a huge draw for a million or so consumers each year, so GM brought the new G6 anyway, opting not to wait until the Detroit auto show in January for its rollout, as was the case with another vehicle scheduled to make its debut in L.A., the all-new 2010 Buick LaCrosse.

It’s just as well that GM skipped the champagne and fireworks for this one, as the changes barely merit mention. The front and rear bumpers are slightly more sculpted than before, the headlamps have new facets, and the exhaust tips are larger. The interior gets new gauges and new center stack controls, as well as new dark satin-nickel trim bits. That’s about all for the stuff you can see.

Under the skin, the G6 is also pretty much stet, the only changes of note being the offering of an E85-capable version of the optional 219-hp, 3.5-liter V-6, and the availability of the 164-hp 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder in coupe models for the first time, the latter featuring a six-speed, paddle-shifted automatic with an EPA rating of 33 mpg on the highway.

The midcycle refresh for Pontiac’s bestseller comes not a moment too soon, with the mid-size sedan game becoming fiercer than ever as buyers return to cars from larger trucks and SUVs. And after selling for four years with few changes, the G6 has been eclipsed by the competition, including the bestselling Toyota Camry, the perennial 10Best-winning Honda Accord, the best-ever Chevrolet Malibu, the all-new Mazda 6, and, soon, the reinvigorated 2010 Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan. We’re not sure if the mild upgrades are going to do much to elevate the G6’s standing in the field, but they should keep it viable, particularly for its many fleet customers. Pricing ranges from just under $19,945 for the “special value-priced” base G6 sedan to $32,970 for the G6 hardtop convertible.

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