Redesigned for the first time in nine years, the full-size Pontiac Bonneville sports new, aggressive styling, a new platform with improved handling and braking, available StabiliTrak anti-skid system, dual-zone climate control, head-up display, and more interior room.
Still a family sedan that goes ‘Vroom’
Redesigned for the first time since 1991, the full-size Pontiac Bonneville sedan continues to be an aggressively-styled, performance-oriented family car. Now with a distinct wedge-shaped profile, a sharper nose, higher tail, bigger front fog lamps, and larger grille inlets, the Bonneville is the perfect car for Firebird owners who got married and had kids, but weren’t about to get shoe-horned into a minivan.
There’s more to the new Bonneville than its updated styling, though. The 2000 Bonneville is built on a completely new platform which it shares with the Cadillac STS. This front-wheel-drive platform has a fully independent suspension, improved suspension geometry with a wider stance, a longer wheelbase, a standard load-leveling system, and upgraded steering.
The 2000 Bonneville is about the same length and width as the previous Bonneville, but its wheelbase is 36 mm (1.4 in.) longer. This provides a longer passenger cabin, more legroom, and a slightly better ride.
In addition, the Bonneville’s new body structure is substantially stronger and safer. According to GM, the Bonneville’s new platform offers a 27% increase in bending (front to back) stiffness and a 67% increase in torsional (side-to-side) rigidity. For the driver and passengers, this translates into a more solid, vibration-free ride, greater crash safety, and improved handling.
The 2000 Bonneville has a completely redesigned interior and some additional features on some models, including dual-zone climate control, programmable memory settings, and a head-up display.
The head-up display (standard on SSEi models) is a bright-green/blue LCD-type display projected onto the windshield just below the driver’s line of sight. It shows km/h using numbers, turn signal indicator arrows, radio stations, high beams, and low fuel warning. The height of the display can be adjusted within about an inch, and the brightness can be also be adjusted. If desired, it can be turned off.
The advantage of a head-up display is that the driver doesn’t have to look down at the instruments, and refocus his/her eyes when looking up at the road again. Personally, I find it distracting to have numbers flashing in front of me while I’m driving.
The Bonneville’s driver-oriented instrument panel includes a full set of analogue instruments: speedometer, tachometer, oil pressure gauge, voltmeter, coolant temperature, and tire inflation monitor. Supercharged SSEi models have a boost gauge instead of a voltmeter.
The new dash sweeps around down to the floor console, and includes large, protruding buttons and dials and no less than eight round air vents. It’s not an elegant design, but controls are easy to use, and is fully backlit in red at night. The ignition keyhole has been moved from the steering column to the dashboard where it’s easier to see.
A Vehicle Systems Monitor watches over tire pressures and fluid levels and displays “door ajar” and other advisories. Secondary radio controls on the steering wheel allow the driver to adjust radio volume and station settings without taking their hands off the wheel or eyes from the road.
The Bonneville has a long list of lighting, climate control, driver’s seat position, and radio settings that are memory programmable to accommodate the individual preferences of two different drivers.
Raised front seats allow rear passengers more footroom under the front seats, but the rear three-person bench seat is shaped into two bucket-type seats which I found a little too deep.
‘Catcher’s Mitt’ Front Seats
An important new safety feature is the front ‘catcher’s mitt’ bucket seats with self-aligning head restraints. Similar to Saab’s front seats, these seats bend in a crash bringing the head restraint closer to the head of the front passengers, thereby helping to alleviate whiplash.
Another new safety feature is StabiliTrak, an anti-skid system that automatically brakes individual wheels to control lateral skids during sudden maneuvers on slippery surfaces. StabiliTrak is standard on the top-of-the-line Bonneville SSEi and optional on other models.
As before, Bonneville’s have four wheel disc brakes, but for 2000 they are larger and more powerful. In addition, SLE and SSEi models now have larger, standard 17 inch alloy wheels and H-rated performance radials.
In addition to dual front airbags, side airbags are now standard on base (SE) models as well as SLE and SSEi models.
The Bonneville’s powertrain choices remain the same as before: a standard 205 horsepower 3.8 litre pushrod V6 engine, and on SSEi models, a supercharged 240 horsepower version of this engine.
According to GM, the Bonneville has more standard ‘punch’ than any of its key competitors. The base engine generates 205 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 230 ft.-lb. of torque at 4000 rpm, and a 4-speed automatic transmission is standard. The supercharged version offers 240 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 280 ft-lb. of torque at a relatively low 3600 rpm. This engine is mated to a heavy-duty version of the same 4-speed automatic transmission.
GM’s 3.8 litre V6 has been around for more than a decade, and has been refined over the years. Though it’s not a high-revving, overhead cam engine like many powering the Bonneville’s competitors, it has the advantage of low-end torque, inherent smoothness, and proven reliability.
My test vehicle was an SSEi with the supercharged engine. This engine in particular, has terrific responsiveness at lower rpms, allowing quick starts, effortless passing, and safe high-speed lane changes. Though it has a lot of torque, there’s not much ‘torque-steer’ during hard acceleration. At cruising speeds, this engine just loafs along at just 1800 rpm in top gear, barely making a sound. Highway cruising is quiet and pleasant.
Fuel consumption is fairly heavy though, particularly if you have an aggressive driving style. Transport Canada’s most optimistic mileage figures are 13.5 litres per 100 kilometres (21 mpg) in the city, and 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres on the highway.
With the widest track in its class, wide low-profile tires, and an independent suspension, the Bonneville handles well for a 1690 (3715 lb.) front-wheel-drive sedan. Understandably, it feels rather heavy, and the Magnasteer speed-sensitive variable-assist steering is not very sensitive, but the Bonneville corners flat at high-speed with minimal nose-dive under braking and offers generally favourable vehicle dynamics.
It’s no BMW, but neither’s the price.
Three Trim Levels : SE, SLE, SSEi
For 2000, the Bonneville is offered in three trim levels, SE, SLE, and SSEi – the mid-range SSE trim has been discontinued.
Base SE models start at $30,740, up from $29,000 in 1999. 2000 SE models however include more standard equipment, as mentioned above. Standard SE features include the 3.8 litre V6 and 4-speed automatic transmission, P225/60R-16 inch tires, variable ratio power steering, four wheel disc brakes with ABS, automatic leveling suspension, battery run-down protection, and engine block heater.
Standard SE interior features are floor console and shifter with two cupholders and power point, AM/FM/cassette with four speakers, air conditioning, full instrumentation, cloth 45/45 bucket seats, overhead console with power point, power central door locks, tilt steering wheel, power mirrors, front and side airbags, and rear child locks and tether anchors.
Bonneville SLE models start at $35,685, a jump from $29,780 last year, but again, much better equipped for 2000. In addition to the features found on the SE, the SLE adds larger P235/55HR-17 inch radials and 17 inch multi-lace alloy wheels, sport-tuned suspension, dual exhausts, rear spoiler, extra side body cladding, and a more aggressive bumper with the fog lamps relocated towards the centre of the bumper.
Standard SLE interior upgrades include AM/FM/CD player with steering wheel controls and six speakers, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, six-way power front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, pollen filters, heated outside mirrors, trip computer, compass, oil life monitor, and retained accessory power.
Top-of-the-line SSEi models are $41,995, up from $36,685. Additional standard equipment includes the supercharged 3.8 litre V6 and heavy-duty 4-speed automatic transmission, all-speed traction control, StabiliTrak anti-skid system, AM/FM/CD/auto-reverse cassette with Bose eight-speaker sound system, leather upholstery and eight-way power front seats with two memory settings, magnetic speed sensitive variable-assist steering, head-up display, and a roadside emergency kit with a tire inflation device.
More information about the Bonneville can be found at www.gmcanada.com.