G8: Good to go fast-Rear-drive sedan redeems Pontiac
Like the Charger, a lot of car for the money.
From the Detroit Free Press:
G8: Good to go fast
Rear-drive sedan redeems Pontiac
BY MARK PHELAN • FREE PRESS COLUMNIST • April 3, 2008
The 2008 Pontiac G8 sport sedan has lightened my karmic burden immeasurably. For that alone, I would love the car.
The fact that it's a stunning value and a gorgeous mission statement on wheels for GM's excitement division is gravy.
For years, Pontiac sedans have brought out the worst in me, the mean side that says unkind things that are true but don't need to be spoken. Yes, that dress makes you look fat. Wow, that's quite a bald spot. Your kid is a brat.
Wow, your house really is a mess.
In the case of past Pontiacs, my mean-spirited reaction was a nasty sneer whenever one drove by going fast, as if it actually were the sport sedan the brand claimed to produce.
The cars deserved scorn, but the customers were blameless. They believed Pontiac's advertising and bought the string of inferior cars it produced in good faith. They expected aggressively styled cars like the Bonneville and Grand Prix to drive like they looked. Pontiac had fooled them.
Pontiac's sales dwindled as buyers saw through its act. The brand had to atone for its sins or face extinction.
The powerful and superbly balanced rear-wheel drive G8 gives Pontiac a new lease on life. The brand has done good deeds -- starting with the Solstice roadster, continuing with the G6 hardtop convertible and now the G8 -- and been reincarnated as the thrill merchant it longed to be. If Pontiac delivers a line of exciting and affordable cars, it may ascend to the heavenly fast lane alongside St. BMW.
Blow this chance, and Pontiac deserves to die and come back as a cockroach. Or a Yugo.
Prices for the 2008 Pontiac G8 start at $26,910 for a base model with a 256-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 and five-speed automatic transmission. The G8 GT features a 361-horsepower 6.0-liter V8 and six-speed automatic transmission and has a starting price of $29,310.
I tested a very well-equipped G8 GT with a sticker price of $30,560. All prices exclude destination charges.
Pontiac doesn't offer a manual transmission, a disappointment in a car that's otherwise ready to duel with superb sport sedans like the BMW 3- and 5-series and Cadillac CTS, but costs thousands of dollars less.
Pontiac will provide an optional six-speed manual transmission in the 400-horsepower 6.2-liter G8 GXP due to go on sale late this year.
That's fine, but the ability to downshift hard and slice through the gears on a curving country road is one of the few pieces missing from this wonderful sport sedan.
In addition to the more expensive CTS, 3- and 5-series, the G8 competes with cars like the Acura TL and RL, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus, Lexus IS and GS and Lincoln MKZ.
Despite a few minor flaws, the G8's looks, performance and value should put it on the shopping list for anybody who wants a roomy, comfortable sedan that looks great and runs like a scalded cat.
The G8's styling is a dramatic and welcome departure, but it's immediately identifiable as a Pontiac thanks to its dual-port grille and dart badges. The twin hood scoops are a bit 1970s-Trans Am-like for my taste, but the G8's pure sport sedan lines and stance provide contemporary class.
So contemporary that you might walk away with a fistful of deposit checks if you removed the scoops and Pontiac badges and showed the G8 to a roomful of BMW owners.
Aside from the lack of a manual transmission, there's nothing about driving the G8 that would send them to the refund window.
The G8 uses General Motors' new global rear-wheel drive architecture -- codenamed Zeta. The global engineering team that produced the car in GM's Australian tech center studied the finest sport sedans and graced the G8 with a near 50-50 front-rear weight distribution for perfect balance in sharp maneuvers. The independent suspension absorbs bumps and keeps the car flat, stable and securely planted through fast curves.
In a car like this, it's easy to fall into the racer's "what's behind me doesn't matter" mindset, but the sideview mirrors are too small. I was never entirely comfortable with the field of view they provided.
The torquey V8 gives the G8 effortless acceleration in everything from slicing through surface traffic to long, fast highway runs. The car is very quiet at high speeds. The little wind noise generated by the A-pillars dies without a whimper in the G8's soft interior materials, and interior fits are generally good.
The gaps around the heater vents in the front doors are rather wide, however, and the cupholders could use a rubber flange to keep their contents from rattling about.
The latch for the center console lid is blocked when the cupholders are full, but ergonomics are otherwise excellent, and all the gauges and controls are easy to read and reach.
The G8 lacked a couple of features I expect in cars priced around $30,000, however. A memory function for the driver's seat and mirrors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror would be welcome.
Front and rear passenger comfort are excellent, thanks to an exceptionally large 107 cubic-foot interior -- bigger than any of its competitors save the Taurus. At 17.5 cubic feet, the trunk also easily outclasses everything but the Ford.
The V6 G8's EPA fuel economy ratings of 17 m.p.g. city/25 m.p.g. highway stack up well against its six-cylinder competition.
The G8 GT matches or beats the fuel economy of V8 models such as the BMW 550i, Chrysler 300C, Dodge Charger and Lexus GS460, however.
The fact that you can even mention a Pontiac sedan in the same context as great cars like the 550i, CTS and 300C says everything you really need to know about the G8's virtues. Factor in a price tag that's thousands less than the BMW and Cadillac, and you've got a car that will make its owners feel like they've ascended to Nirvana.