2005 Pontiac G6 GT
Test car not exactly as shown. Click image to enlarge


Review by Greg Wilson
Photos by Grant Yoxon

At first, I thought it was dumb for Pontiac to discard the well-known Grand Am name and replace it with ‘G6’. It’s already hard enough for consumers to remember all the car names out there, and it takes time for a new name to gain widespread recognition. And ‘G6’ isn’t exactly memorable..

But after driving the new Pontiac G6 GT model, I can see why Pontiac would want a different name: this is really a completely different car. The G6 is built on a new platform that it shares with the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx. In addition to its cleaner and handsomer styling (in my opinion), the G6 has a much longer wheelbase that creates a roomier cabin and a smoother ride. The G6’s wheelbase is 129 mm (5.1 in.) longer, and overall, the G6 is 69 mm (2.7 in.) longer, 48 mm (1.9 in.) taller, and about the same width. The passenger cabin is 22% bigger than the Grand Am’s interior, but the trunk is slightly smaller (14.0 cu. ft. vs 14.6 cu. ft.)

What you can’t see are the improvements to the body structure which include a safety cage and a magnesium cross brace across the firewall. The G6’s new body is much stiffer with resulting improvements in handling, ride, noise/vibration/harshness reduction, and crash safety.

2005 Pontiac G6 GT

2005 Pontiac G6 GT
Click image to enlarge

The G6 features a new standard 200 horsepower 3.5 litre pushrod V6, a 30 horsepower jump from the 170 horsepower 3.4 litre V6 offered in the Grand Am. Maximum torque has also increased to 220 ft-lb @ 3800 rpm from 200 ft-lb @ 4000 rpm. However, this increase in horsepower is muted somewhat by an increase in the curb weight: from 1393 (3071 lb.) to 1533 kg (3380 lb).

The base 2.2 litre 4 cylinder ‘Ecotec’ engine in the Grand Am is no longer offered – all G6’s get the 3.5 litre V6. In addition, the base 5 speed manual transmission is no more – base G6 V6 models have a standard 4-speed automatic, and GT versions have a 4-speed automatic with a manual shift function. Rumour has it that a base 2.4 litre four cylinder G6 will arrive in 2006.

Though the V6-powered G6 has more horsepower than its 2004 predecessor, fuel consumption is slightly better: 10.5 L/100 km City and 6.7 L/100 km Hwy. However, official mileage figures show that when equipped with the 4-speed automatic with the manual shifting feature, fuel consumption increases to 11.7 L/100 km City and 7.7 L/100 km Hwy.

In terms of price, the 2005 G6 is a better value than the 2004 Grand Am. Base G6 models with a V6 engine ($24,670) are priced about the same as 2004 Grand Am SE1 with a 4 cylinder engine ($24,065). The G6 GT ($27,685) is the same price as the previous Grand Am GT, but offers more room, power and standard equipment. One important difference: the G6 is available with optional side air bags and head curtain air bags but the Grand Am was not.

An interesting sidenote: don’t be surprised if you see a 2005 Grand Am Coupe GT in the showroom. Pontiac will continue to sell this two-door model in 2005 until it is phased out altogether. They’ll also sell the four-door Grand Am to commercial fleets only. GM will have to offer a pretty good discount though, because I can’t see why anyone would buy this car for the same money as a G6.


Driving impressions

The G6’s bigger and more refined 3.5 litre V6 engine is quieter and smoother than the previous V6, and acceleration off the line is quick, but probably not quicker than the Grand Am. As well, the G6’s 0 to 100 km/h time of approximately 8.5 seconds is not class-leading, primarily because many of its competitors have more powerful V6 engines. Still, there’s more than enough power here, and in fact, too much acceleration results in torque-steer.

2005 Pontiac G6 GT

2005 Pontiac G6 GT
Click image to enlarge

For a front-wheel-drive family sedan, I found the G6 GT to be very sporty – its quick low-effort steering (variable assist electric power steering), responsive disc brakes with standard anti-lock, and nimble handling courtesy of a fully independent suspension (front MacPherson strut/rear four-link) make the G6 fun to drive around town. At the same time, the G6 is also a very comfortable sedan with a great highway ride. I was quite impressed at how the G6’s suspension absorbed potholes, pavement cracks, railway tracks and manhole covers without any sudden jarring or creaking in the body. The G6’s body does feel very solidly built.

I also liked the smooth, responsive automatic 4-speed transmission. In the GT, you can shift manually if you choose by moving the shift lever over to a separate gate, and shifting forwards or backwards to upshift or downshift.

I didn’t like the GT model’s 12 metre (39.3 feet) turning diameter: that’s a bit wide for a mid-size car. It seems that’s the price you pay for front-wheel-drive and 17-inch tires – in this case, Continental Conti Touring Contac 225/50R-17 inch all-seasons.

Another beef: a high trunklid creates some visibility problems when trying to back into a parking space. Unfortunately, that’s common with most sedans nowadays.


Interior is roomier


2005 Pontiac G6 GT
G6 GT with black cloth interior

2005 Pontiac G6 GT
G6 GT with panoramic sun roof.

2005 Pontiac G6
G6 GT with leather seating
Click image to enlarge

A roomier, sporty interior is spoiled only by radio and heater controls that have been taken right out of the Chevy Malibu! I know you’re trying to cut costs GM, but perhaps you could do it where we can’t see it!

The black interior of my test car featured durable cloth seats, metal ringed gauges backlit in red, and metal trimmed vents, gearshift lever, door handles and door trim. The quality of plastic and overall fit is better than Grand Am, but not top of its class.

A tilt steering wheel and power adjustable pedals allow most drivers to find a comfortable seating position. The front seats have beefy side bolsters for extra support when cornering, and controls are easy to reach. The illuminated radio display includes a clock and outside temperature gauge, and at the bottom of the centre console is 12 volt powerpoint next to a slot that looks purposely made for a cell phone or PDA. Between the front seats is a large storage bin with a 12 volt powerpoint inside, and a useful armrest.

In case you forget the name of this new Pontiac, there are G6 badges in the tachometer and on the lower centre console.

2005 Pontiac G6
Click image to enlarge

The rear door opening is wide – almost too wide – the pointy door design seems to gravitate towards the car parked next to you, so you have to be careful not to ‘ding’ it.

Legroom at the rear is generous, and headroom is roomy even with the optional Panoramic sunroof which takes up a couple of inches of headroom. The rather expensive Panoramic sunroof opens up in sections to reveal an overly large roof opening.

For safety, the G6 offers dual-stage front airbags and four height adjustable head restraints, but no centre rear head restraint. Side airbags in the front seats, and curtain head airbags are available as options.

2005 Pontiac G6
Click image to enlarge

The G6’s trunk is deep, fully-lined and has two separate storage areas on either side for smaller packages. Sturdy struts at either side hold the hood open and do not intrude into the trunk space. Release levers for the split, folding rear seatbacks are located at the rear of the trunk for easy reach – which means that the rear seats can only be unlocked from the trunk – a good security measure. Under the floor is a temporary spare tire.

A remote starter is standard equipment on the GT model, and for cold winter mornings, this is something that can prove very useful.

Competitors for the Pontiac G6 are many: the Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler Sebring, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, Mitsubishi Galant; Mazda6, and Volkswagen Jetta or Passat. The G6 doesn’t offer a five year powertrain warranty like many of its competitors, but it’s hard to beat the value of the V6-powered G6 for under $30,000.


Verdict

A roomier, more powerful and more comfortable sedan than the Grand Am, the new Pontiac G6 sedan offers good value for money in the mid-sized sedan class.


Technical Data: 2005 Pontiac G6 GT

Base price $24,670
Base price (GT) $27,685
Options $3,170 (Sunroof $2,175; OnStar Safe & Sound pkg $995)
Freight $930
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $31,885
Type 4-door, 5-passenger mid-size sedan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.5 litre V6, OHV, 12 valves
Horsepower 200 @ 5400 rpm
Torque 220 ft-lb @ 3800 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic w/manual mode
Tires P225/50R-17 performance all-season
Curb weight 1555 kg (3428 lb.)
Wheelbase 2852 mm (112.3 in.)
Length 4802 mm (189.0 in.)
Width 1749 mm (70.6 in.)
Height 1450 mm (57.0 in.)
Cargo area 396 litres (14.0 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 11.7 L/100 km (24 m.p.g.)
  Hwy: 7.7 L/100 km (37 m.p.g.)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Assembly location Orion, Michigan

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