By CL request, a partial review of the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT.
(Optional color-coded gauges shown)
(Yep.....this El Camino replacement is schedueled for late next year)
In a Nutshell: A more mature, adult, sequel to the GTO.
Several of you at CL have requested a Pontiac G8 GT review, so, after the Lexus IS-F, I gave it top priority. Like the IS-F, I got to see one at the Washington, DC Auto Show this January, but it was up on the turntable, so I couldn't really get a close-up look or inspection...they didn't even bother to unlock and open the doors, because it had not been released yet (auto marketers truly make me want to throw up...they are the bane of my existance).
The car is now arriving at local Pontiac dealerships in my area, but a number of dealerships are not allowing G8 GT test-drives without a formal commitment to buy or a signed Bill of Sale, even with a salesperson or deale representative riding along, even for a mature, responsible driver like me. Several different dealerships said the same thing, so maybe this is something coming down from Pontiac or zone managers.....I don't know. I might have been able to talk my way into a test-drive if I had personally known some of these dealer people, but most of the Pontiac people I knew had since moved on to different jobs or were no longer there. So, I just wasn't going to get a test-drive today....I accepted that. I'll try again later when more of them are in stock. But, I'm afraid that, never mind me, this dealer policy will work against possible sales....Dodge dealerships, in some cases, DO allow Charger R/T test-drives (the G8 GT's closest competitor), even without salespeople riding along. I know....I've already reviewed one. And, IMO, no one should ever buy a car, or even sign a Bill of Sale......without a test-drive FIRST, not later.
The Pontiac-Buick-GMC dealership I was at today had two G8 GTs in stock, both of them in the showroom...a white non-sunroof model and a gray one with the sunroof (that, of course, gave me a chance to compare headroom in both of them). I knew that some of you were waiting for a review of this car or are interested in buying one (if so, you may get to test-drive one before I do), so I decided not to waste the trip. I figured, while I had the chance, I'd do a static review of both cars, post the results, and just do an update later when I get a chance to drive one. That way, you guys will, at least, know most of the things about the car in detail, except for its its road performance (I couldn't check the Blaupunkt stereo sound quality, either, of course, without the key). So, I went to work on those two cars in the showroom...checked them inside and out. I did everything but take them apart and re-assemble them with my tool kit. The salespeople were happy to accomodate, at least in that area.
So.....here's what leads up to the G8, and the reason for its existance. Pontiac, after four years of production (originally it was scheduled for three years), decided to drop the somewhat slow-selling GTO for 2008 and replace it with a somewhat larger, but still sport-oriented, 4-door sedan that would appeal to more mature, adult drivers that were more likely to need the rear-seat room, and less likely to go around doing tire-smoking burnouts. As a result, the G8 GT has a still-large 6.0L V8, but slightly down in HP/torque from the GTO's 400 or so. Base, non-GT versions are available with a 3.6L VVT V6 with 256 HP and 248 Ft-lbs. of torque for those who want a lower price or don't need the power of the GT.
Like the previous GTO and its Australian Holden Monaro-derived platorm, the G8 is also derived from a Holden platform; in this case, from the medium-to-large Holden Commodore, a car widely respected and sought-out in Australia. In fact, both of the G8 GTs I looked at today were built in the Elizabeth, Australia, plant. The car has many Commodore features both outside and inside, but, being a Pontiac, has the signature twin-grille and hood scoops (more, of course, on that below). In going only with a 4-door sedan version, the Pontiac marketers followed the same line of thinking as Dodge did with the 4-door Charger sedan (the Magnum wagon version of the Charger having now been dropped). With the full-sized Pontiac Bonneville sedan also having been dropped, this will leave the G8 and the Grand Prix as the largest of their American-market sedans. And....here's something interesting......an El Camino-like, Sport Truck version, with two doors and a pickup bed in the rear, is reportedly coming for 2010.
Like I indicated above, two versions of the G8 are offered (for now)......a base, V6-equipped G8, and the V8-equipped G8 GT. The option list for both versions, untypical of many GM cars, is quite simple (see the web site)...basically, just a few Premium/Sport Packages and a sunroof. Two automatic transmissions (no manuals) are offered.....a 5-speed sportshift automatic on the base G8 and a 6-speed on the G8 GT. Four interiors are offered on the G8.....Onyx (Black) cloth or leather, and two-tone red/black cloth or leather. Both cars I looked at today had the all-Black leather interior.....IMO, not one of the car's more impressive features (more on that below).
Even without a formal test-drive, based on what I saw today, I had strong feelings about this car, both pro and con. This car, IMO, has some superb features, some that are strange, and some that border on absurd.
Details coming up.
Model Reviewed: 2008 Pontiac G8 GT
Base Price: $29,995 (includes destination/freight)
Premium/Sport Package: $1850 (white model)
Premium/Sport Package/Sunroof $2745 (gray model)
List Prices as reviewed:
$31,845 (White model without sunroof)
$32,745 (gray model with sunroof)
Exterior Colors: White Hot, Panther Gray Metallic.
Interior: Black Leather
Drivetrain: RWD, transversely-mounted, 6.0L SFI V8, 361 HP @ 5300 RPM, 385 Ft-lbs. torque @ 4400 RPM,
(no, this is NOT the same engine used in 2004-2007 GTOs), 6-speed automatic transmission with Sport shift.
Superb, Knock-Out exterior styling.
4 doors allow greater interior flexibility than GTO predecessor.
A good GM alternative to the Hemi Dodge Charger R/T.
Sport Truck version coming for 2010.
Superb-looking, 5-spoke, traditional Mag-style alloy wheels.
Comfortable front and rear seats.
Great legroom, front and rear combined (unusual in many cars of this size)
Good front seat headroom without sunroof.
Clever handbrake handle.
Good ground clearance even with Sport Package lower-body trim and 40-series tires.
Excellent primary gauge package.
10-20-30, etc....speedometer numbers easier to read than the more common 20-40-60, etc...
Leather trim package includes partial leather trim on door panels as well.
Generally good exterior hardware and trim.
Gas-strut-supported hood has no prop-rod.
Fairly well-designed and finished cargo trunk has articulating hinges.
Solid-feeling, solid-closing doors.
Articulated trunk hinges.
Overzealous dealerships (as I write this)
Outside mirrors too small and flimsy.
No manual transmission offered for purists.
Overly flimsy glove box with inside trunk realease.
No spare tire of any sort, even without run-flat tires.
Rear seat does not fold down for cargo (but has a pass-through).
Unpleasant leather on seats and door trim.
Flimsy, unpleasant steering wheel switches.
Marginal front-seat headroom with sunroof.
Poor underhood engine access.
Some flimsy underhood components.
Too much black monotone (IMO) with the standard black interior.
Cheap, poorly done silver interior trim.
Only six exterior paint colors offered.
Cheap, honeycomb black plastic upper and lower grilles.
OK paint job but could be better.
Unusual power-window/mirror switch location on center console.
Although strongly based on the Australian Holden Commodore, there is no mistaking this car as a Pontiac when you first walk up to it. The split twin-trapezoidal grlles, the big red Pontiac arrowhead logos, the twin GTO-style hood scoops, the nice 5-spoke mag-style wheels....all shout Pontiac like a bass drum. And, in this case, IMO at least, there is nothing wrong with that.......this is a DAMNED good-looking car. The exterior styling, to my eyes, is superb. It is not aero/bullet-shaped or like an imitation space ship, yet is not excessively conservative......just beautiful lines, front to back. The pictures in the Pontiac brochure, web site, and on the Internet just don't do justice to its exterior beauty, especially in white, until you have seen it in person. VERY few cars today really impress me with their exterior looks.....but this is one of them.
The front end is also somewhat similiar to the BMW 3-series, with very short overhangs forward of the wheel wells (this affects the underhood room), twin-split grille, dual horizontal headlights, and lower one-piece grille. The roofline, of course, is raked, but not excessively so. There is fairly good ground clearance, even with the lower-body air dams and skirts....a weak point with many Sport packages. The classic, American Mag-style, 19", 5-spoke alloy wheels are as superb as the body, although the extremely low-profile P245/40-series tires promise a stiff ride (more on that, of course, when I get to drive it). In back, the clear plastic taillight covers look smart and not too garish, although they might look even better if they were slightly larger and ran into the trunk lid. But all in all, by my tastes, the exterior styling of this car, by sedan standards, approaches perfection, and there is very little I would do to change it.
The quality of the paint job is OK, and fairly good.....typical GM, which means better than past GM paint jobs, but not quite to Lexus, Acura, Infiniti, or Audi standards for gloss, depth, smoothness, or orange peel. Again, the G8 seems to look especially good in white. It is not the oyster-pearl white that is so nicely done on some luxury cars, but a regular white that really looks good in the G8's body style. For those who disagree, or don't like the white, five other colors are offered....Magnetic Gray Metallic, Ignition Orange Metallic (a pretty Sunset/Burnt orange), Panther Black Metallic, Stealth Blue Metallic....a heavily metallic medium blue, and Liquid red....the traditional Fire-Engine red. I would take the white or the orange hands-down.
The quality of the outside sheet metal seems quite solid....as are the doors, hood, and trunk lid. All of the exterior hardware, likewise, seems solid and well-done except for the somewhat lightweight-feeling twin outside mirrors (which, IMO, are also physically too small), and the rather tacky looking and feeling black honeycome grilles up front. All of the exterior trim, unlike many other GM products, also looks classy and feels solid, with well-done chrome. The four door handles are especially classy, with chrome strips on either side of a wide body-color strip in the middle.
All in all, an extremely well-done exterior.
Open up the fairly heavy, solid-feeling hood, and nice, twin gas struts hold it up without the need for an awkward prop-rod (I wish this was standard on all vehicles). The hood itself has an insulation pad underneath to help quell engine noise, though this car, of course, was not designed to be luxury-car quiet (more on that when I get to drive it). The big 6.0L V8, as one would expect from the short front fender overhangs, fits in rather snug, and is displaced rearward somewhat for optimum weight distribution....this is becoming more and more common in front engine/rear-drive vehicles. A huge plastic logo-equipped engine cover, again becoming increasingly common, blocks almost everything on top of the engine but the oil dipstick and filler cap. The ABS computer and lines are accessable on the left, but block everything below that. Some of the plastic reservoirs and tubes seem to be made of thin, flimsy plastic.....one has to question their durability, especially the coolant reserve tank that holds hot coolant under pressure. Plastic covers pretty block access to the rest of the underhood components....looks like another take-it-to-the-shop car for minor servicing instead of doing it yourself.
Inside, although there are indeed some nice features, things take a general downturn from the superb exterior. The doors, a stated before, feel substantial, and shut solidly. The front seats are generally comfortable and supportive, although the leather on them is not particularly nice....it has the same dull, grainy look and feel as the leather used on some German cars.....the BMW Dakota Leather comes to mind. Although the leather, unlike some other cars in this price class, also covers part of the door panels as well, the overall effect, especially in the all-black interiors, was, IMO, not very impressive. There is too much monotone black, like a coal mine, and broken up a little on the dash, center and door handles by cheap-looking painted silver plastic trim. Red/black interiors are available for those, like me, who don't like all-black, but the two/tone bright red/black seats (only on GT models) go the opposite extreme.....they look a little garish. And the two-tone package, like on the GTO, also includes color-matched red dash gauges, which makes it look even more garish.
The three-spoke steering wheel, manually adjustable for tilt but not telescope, has nice leather wraping, and the stitches don't bother your hands much like they on some leather steering wheels, but both the painted-silver spokes and the buttons and controls on the spokes look and feel cheap and flimsy. I especially liked the round speedometer and tachometer. The speedometer, unlike the more common 20/40/60 markings, has them every 10 MPH (10/20/30/40, etc.....) which, IMO, is much easier to read at a glance. I still don't know why BMW, which prides itself as the ultimate driver's car, hasn't adopted this type of markings yet. The headlight switch, like on most American/European designed vehicles, is a rotary switch on the left side of the dash, rather than on a steering-column stalk like Japanese/Korean vehicles. Most of the dash buttons and ***** are well-designed and of suitably durable plastic, but the center-stack buttons for stereo/climate control, inlike most other new GM cars, have painted silver plastic rings instead of the more common chrome rings. The four dash vents are simple to operate, well-designed, and have firm *****. A German-designed Blaupunkt stereo sits in the center-stack.....I was unable to sample its sound quality without the key, and will report on it when I test-drive the car. The parking-brake handle is cleverly intergrated into the center-console trim.....I have seen this on a few other cars, but it is unusual. The glove box is awful....some of the flimsiest, cheapest plastic I've ever seen for one......and you have to open it and pop a button inside to relase the trunk lid. The power-window and power-mirror switches are located, not on the door panels, but on the center console....again, unusual, but I have seen that before.
Headroom, up front, was fine for tall people in the non-sunroof model, if the seat cushion was adjusted low, and, not suprisingly, a little less for the sunroof model, where some seatback-rake was needed to compensate. However, more surprisingly, in back, sunroof or not, it didn't seem to make much difference (good either way).......probably due to the design of the roofline and the fact that the rear seat cushions tilted way down and back and the seatbacks were somewhat raked at an angle, which kept your head low enough to clear even the raked rear roofline. Legroom was excellent, front and back....and, more importantly, there was good, almost limo-like leg room in back, even with the front seats adjusted for tall people....most unusual in many of today's sedans. I could get even my big size 15 shoes in and out of the rear seat with a minimum of fuss, although the opening between the B-pillar and the rear seat cushion, while wide, isn't quite as generous as the rear-seat foot room itself. Finally, a leather-covered arm rest is built into the center of the rear seat...it is part of the assembly that includes a pass-through hole in the rear seat for long items.
Open the solid-feeling trunk lid, and the articulating hinge assemblies allow the lid to open up and forward past 90 degrees....a boon to loading large items, and for keeping the edge of the lid away from your head. The slanted rear roofline, as in most of today's sedans, cuts into part of the opening itself, but there is still room, by sedan standards, to load all but the largest and bulkiest items. The trunk compartment itself is fairly well-finished in a thin grade of gray carpet, but, without run-flat tires, the lack of ANY kind of spare tire/wheel assembly is inexcusable. There is nothing but a big circular hole under the trunk floor (presumably where the spare tire goes on the Australian versions)...and you can't even use it as part of the usable trunk space either. Pontiac's bean-counters decided to give you a pressurized Fix-a-Flat bottle instead....only, if the tire is damaged enough, or the leak is bad enough, it WON'T fix the flat.....you're stuck until the tow truck comes. Come on, Bob Lutz (GM President)...you and your designers can do better then this.....the superb styling you gave this car proves that.
The rear seats don't fold down for added cargo space, but a handy, drop-down, pass-through hole allows long, narrow items like skis to be carried. All in all, despite the absurd lack of a spare tire, one of the better trunks among contemporary sedans.
ON THE ROAD:
On hold, of course, until the formal test-drive.
Also on hold until the test-drive.