2008 Pontiac G8 V6
2008 Pontiac G8 V6. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Pontiac G8, by Grant Yoxon

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2009 Pontiac G8

Surrey, British Columbia – Pontiac’s sedan line-up receives a performance and image boost with the introduction of the G8, a big rear-drive sedan that drives like a sports car.

“True blue” from “Down Under”, the G8 was designed by Holden, an Australian General Motors division, and is built in Adelaide, South Australia. (In recognition of its Australian roots, I’ve included some Aussie slang, mate).

Not since the Bonneville, last produced in 2005, has Pontiac had a full-sized sedan in its lineup; and it comes in a price point that should attract a lot of attention. Considering its size, ace styling, features and performance, the G8’s just-under $32,000 starting price is a bonzer buy. (Since this review was written in October, the base price has kangarooed to $32,450, minus GM rebate programs – ed.)

2008 Pontiac G8 V6
2008 Pontiac G8 V6. Click image to enlarge

Anti-lock brakes, traction control and electronic stability-control systems have all helped revive the appeal of rear-wheel drive, as driving dynamics are generally better when power goes to the rear rather than the front wheels. Adding to that appeal are the G8’s stiff body structure and sophisticated four-wheel independent suspension system.

Currently, there are two versions of the G8: a base model with a 256-horsepower V6, and a GT with a 361-h.p. V8. Later in the model year, a GXP edition powered by a 6.2-litre LS3 V8 with over 400 horsepower will really pack a wallop. The GXP is expected to deliver zero-to-100 km/h performance in 4.7 seconds. Other GXP goodies include Brembo (sounds like, but not Aussie slang) braking system, with vented front discs and quad-piston calipers, and special 19-inch polished aluminum wheels.

The GT is powered by a 6.0-litre small-block V8, which can produce 385 lb.-ft. of torque. This donk features GM’s active fuel-management technology which allows it to switch from eight- to four-cylinder operation during light-load driving conditions and make fewer stops at the pump. A six-speed automatic transmission with a generous 6.04:1 overall ratio allows the engine to run at lower engine r.p.m.s for better fuel economy at highway speeds. A limited-slip rear differential is also standard with both GT and GXP models.

2008 Pontiac G8 V6
2008 Pontiac G8 V6; photo by Grant Yoxon. Click image to enlarge

My test G8 was the base model with a 3.6-litre V6 with variable valve timing which can produce 248 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s paired with a five-speed automatic transmission with driver shift control, which offers a performance-oriented Sport Mode and a manual-mode. Its fuel economy rating is 12.8 L/100 km (22 mpg Imp.) in the city and 8.0 L/100 km (35 mpg Imp) on the highway.

The G8 features a steering rack mounted ahead of the front axle, a low and rearward mounted engine in its chassis cradle and a trunk-mounted battery which all contribute to the G8’s near 50/50 front-to-rear weight balance ratio. And it can do a U-ee inside 11.4 metres (37.4 ft.) despite riding on a 2915-mm (114.8 in.) wheelbase.

As fit as a Mallee bull, more than 80 per cent of the G8’s body structure uses advanced-strength steel. A gander underneath reveals a multi-link MacPherson strut design front suspension and a four-link independent system with progressive-rate coil springs over shocks in the rear.

The G8 has an athletic wheels-at-the-corners stance. Distinctive elements include twin-hood scoops, front fender side vents and projector-beam headlights housed in a clear-lens assembly. Burly yet smooth, the G8’s design is more likely to appeal to a bloke than a sheila. Its aggressive front is softened by a swooping coupe-like roof line and a subtle trunk lid spoiler. Overall it’s a well-balanced design that looks the bee’s knees.

Interior impressions

2008 Pontiac G8 V6
2008 Pontiac G8 V6. Click image to enlarge

Although a base model, my test G8 wasn’t bog standard. It came with a $4,465 “preferred equipment group” that included leather upholstery, a power sun roof, dual-zone climate control, and an 11-speaker Blaupunkt audio system. This is a good package to have because the interior, although nice, is certainly basic in its raw state.

The instrument cluster has easy-to-read gauges with electronic driver information between large tachometer and speedometer dials.
The power windows, mirrors and door lock buttons are all located on the console between the front seats, which fits with its minimalist interior-design approach. The emergency brake handle is a unique design with a release button on the side. The trunk is a decent size and it has outside hinges that won’t crush your didgeridoo.

The G8’s stiff structure enhances safety by absorbing crash energy through a multiple load path strategy that includes both front-end and rear-end deformation zones. Its comprehensive list of safety features includes electronic stability control, curtain airbags, and the Onstar system. OnStar can not only provide emergency services, in case you get in a bingle, but also Turn-by-Turn navigation.

2008 Pontiac G8 V6
2008 Pontiac G8 V6. Click image to enlarge
Driving impressions

It didn’t take long behind the wheel of the G8 to realize that this was a very different kind of Pontiac sedan. Even though my test car had the least powerful of the three engines offered it wasn’t a plodder. The G8’s well-planted feel on the road, rigid body structure, taut suspension and precise handling were a revelation and a very pleasant surprise. A real sports sedan, the dinky-di G8 could challenge elite higher-priced Euro and Japanese competitors.

The V6 engine is also used in the Cadillac CTS. While it sounds a little raspier in the G8 when you put some weight on the gas pedal, it’s very quiet at highway cruising speeds. Power and acceleration are good, yet not in the same realm as either V8 option, which I look forward to taking for a spin someday.

The V6 comes with a five-speed automatic transmission instead of the newer six-speed that comes with both V8 models. The driver can choose to use it in full manual or a sport automatic as well as the normal D mode. By the way, a manual transmission will be available in the GXP.

Verdict

The new rear-wheel-drive Pontiac G8 looks great, it’s a hoot to drive and is the most powerful sedan you can buy for less than $40,000. For the sedan buyer who wants a little excitement, the G8 is the duck’s nuts!

Pricing: 2009 Pontiac G8 V6

Base price: $32,450
Options: $4,465 (Preferred equipment group: Blaupunkt 11-speaker stereo with 230-watt amplifier and subwoofers, six-CD changer, 6.5-in. display, auxiliary jack, dual zone automatic climate control, power sunroof, leather seats, heated front seats, leather shift knob, six-way power driver and front passenger seats, rear centre armrest)

A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,300
Price as tested: $38,315
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2009 Pontiac G8

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