2009 Pontiac G8 GTPosted on October 12th, 2008
Sport sedan with a European attitude
By Nina Russin
The G8 is Pontiac’s answer to the 3-Series: a mid-sized sport sedan in the European tradition. Engineers validated the G8 at Germany’s famed Nurburgring race track, proving that the G8 is more than a pretty face.
As euro values escalate, the G8 offers buyers a more affordable alternative to its German competitors. Base price is just over $30,000.
Pontiac raises its internal bar
For years, the Pontiac moniker has been synonymous with performance, but of a different sort. I remember the GTOs of the 1960s: some of the greatest muscle cars ever produced. Pontiac Firebirds weren’t half bad either.
Both models had an overabundance of power under the hood but lacked the refinement to rival what was coming out of Europe. Though exterior styling was iconic, inside the cars lacked character. There was a lack of finesse in ride and handling as well: too much gear lash, poorly tuned suspensions, etc.
All of that changed with the G8. It’s stylish in a way that will stand the test of time, solid, and powerful. The GTO was the king of the dragstrip: the G8 is a true GT: a grand tourer tuned for high-speed driving.
Three high-performance powertrains
The test car is the GT grade: the volume-leader perched between the base V-6 model and upscale GXP. Power comes from a 361-horsepower V-8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission.
An active fuel management system cuts power to half the engine cylinders when engine loads are low to improve fuel economy. Despite that, gas mileage is rather poor: about 18 miles-per-gallon on average.
Standard performance features on the rear-wheel drive sedan include a sport-tuned fully independent suspension, limited slip rear differential, variable rack-and-pinion steering, and stabilitrak stability control.
A sport package adds aluminum pedals, and upgrades the standard eighteen-inch wheels to nineteen-inch rims with summer performance tires ($600). All grades come with standard front and rear disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking.
Pontiac exteriors have always turned heads: the G8 has fit and finish to match its wow factor. Up front, a Pontiac logo sits in the center of a dual port grille. Dual air scoops help the naturally-aspirated engine breathe, as do dual stainless exhaust tips.
Designers pushed the wheels as far to the corners as possible to enhance stability in the corners. The optional wheels and low-profile tires create large contact patches with the road.
The G8 may have the nicest interior I’ve ever seen Pontiac produce. Gone are the myriads of oversized buttons cluttering up the instrument panel. Ditto for tall gearshift levers with ungainly-large shift knobs.
A premium package on the test car upgrades the standard cloth to perforated leather seats with six-way adjustments and seat heaters up front ($1,250). Seat bolsters are big enough to hold the driver and front passenger in place, without interfering with access and egress.
Power window controls and mirror adjustments are on the floor console where they are easy to reach from either front seating position. A large center console bin has a 12-volt power point for recharging electrical devices: there is a second power point at the base of the center stack.
A gate-style shift lever on the floor has manual gear select options. Redundant audio controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction. The standard audio system includes an AM/FM radio, CD changer and MP3 plug-in. XM satellite radio is standard with three months of complimentary service.
Standard Bluetooth connectivity allows gives the driver hands-free phone access. The Bluetooth system is integrated into the OnStar system, that automatically alerts police and medical personnel if the airbags deploy.
Audio and dual-zone climate controls on the center stack are simple and easy to reach. The G8 has an exceptionally large glovebox with a shelf for storing car documents. All four doors have map pockets with molded bottle holders.
An optional power sunroof ($900) brings extra ambient light into the back of the car. The outboard second-row seating positions have ample head, shoulder and legroom. A tall transmission tunnel impinges on legroom for the center seating position.
Second-row passengers get separate air vents, located in the back of the center console. The middle seat folds flat to produce a work surface with two cupholders. The pass-through extends the cargo floor for holding skis or golf clubs.
Solid, confident performance
Pontiac engineers used a high percentage of high-strength steel throughout the unitized body structure, giving the G8 a high level of torsional rigidity. The stiff body structure translates to exceptional steering feedback, and a very positive on-center feel.
The engine is located low and rearward in the chassis cradle to give the car a low center of gravity for better cornering, and a weight balance close to 50/50. I took the car into a couple of decreasing radius turns to see if I could break the back end loose. The G8’s rear axle stayed glued to the road.
Rubber suspension mounts minimize noise and vibration inside the passenger cabin. There is no noticeable wind noise around the windshield or outside mirrors. The suspension provides a crisp ride without beating up the driver and passengers.
Visibility to the front and sides is good. The side mirrors are small enough to not obstruct the driver’s view merging onto the highway. There are rather large blind spots to the rear. I can’t tell if this is due to the shape of the mirrors, or the width of the car’s rear pillars.
Deep long trunk
The G8 trunk is too shallow to be bicycle friendly, but it’s deep enough to hold quite a bit of luggage. A standard cargo net keeps grocery bags in place. A standard trunk latch release on the remote fob makes it easier to load cargo in back.
All grades come with front, side and side curtain airbags, electronic stability program, traction control and antilock braking. The G8 has yet to undergo federal crash tests.
Pontiac builds the G8 at its Elizabeth, Australia assembly plant.
Likes: A sport sedan with exceptional power and performance; the G8 can hold its own against similar products from Germany.
Dislikes: Large blind spots to the rear. Poor fuel economy.
Model: G8 GT
Base price: $30,675
As tested: $34,110
Horsepower: 361 Hp @ 5300 rpm
Torque: 385 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 15/24 mpg city/highway
Leave a reply