2009 Pontiac G8
2009 Pontiac G8. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site
General Motors Canada

Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

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2009 Pontiac G8

Second opinion, by Haney Louka

Saint John, New Brunswick – Say goodbye to the legendary Pontiac Grand Prix and hello to the Pontiac G8: Pontiac has a new sport sedan. And like the Grand Prix from 1962 to 1986, it is rear-wheel-drive.

The 2009 Pontiac G8 is the first car to be built on GM’s global rear-wheel-drive architecture. Intended to be sold in markets world-wide, it is truly global, being built in Melbourne, Australia (the Holden Commodore in the home market) with an Australian V6 and Austrian-built five-speed automatic transmission in the base model. The sporty GT model uses a 6.0-litre V8 manufactured in Mexico coupled to an American-built six-speed automatic. Such is our ever-shrinking world today that the most efficient way to build a car for North America is to ship parts to the southern hemisphere and ship cars back to the north. (And just to keep the planet from spinning out of control, the soon-to-arrive Chevrolet Camaro will be built on the same platform but will emerge from a Canadian factory – GM Oshawa – later this year.)

2009 Pontiac G8
2009 Pontiac G8. Click image to enlarge

While the G8 is the largest car in the Pontiac line-up, it is not as large as the Grand Prix that debuted in 1962. That car was essentially a stripped-down version of the Catalina with minimal trim and a sporty interior. This G8 is more like the mid-sized versions that came to market in 1969 and ruled short-track stock car racing for the next 20 years and beyond until replaced by the front-wheel-drive ‘W-body’ Grand Prix in 1988.

Like the original Grand Prix, the G8 projects a sporty but minimalist image. A rising beltline, wide fender flares, twin hood scoops, vented front fenders and five twin spoke 18-inch wheels provide the right cues, while a thin strip of chrome around the inset dual port grille and dual exhaust with chrome tips are the only external brightwork. G8 GT models also receive crystal-clear rear lamp elements, chromed quad exhaust tips and optional 19-inch five-spoke aluminum alloy wheels. To my mind, it is the best looking Pontiac to emerge in years.

2009 Pontiac G8
2009 Pontiac G8
2009 Pontiac G8
2009 Pontiac G8. Click image to enlarge

The minimalist approach continues inside. Interior trim is monotone black offset with brushed aluminum pieces. It is a bit plain (too much minimalism?) despite efforts to brighten up the steering wheel and controls with aluminum-coloured surrounds. There is an optional two-tone interior package available for the GT (that we didn’t see) that pairs black with red inserts and colour-matched instrument faces on certain exterior colour combinations.

Although cloth upholstery is standard, all of our test vehicles were equipped with optional black onyx leather. These comfortable heated seats have manual seatback recline and lumbar support, but the seat position and cushions are power-operated, with both front and rear moving up and down independently. They have an enormous range of settings that will suit any driver.

This is a large car and back seat room reflects it. Move the front seats back completely and there is still plenty of leg room for three adults. The 496 litre (17.5 cu. ft.) trunk is also plenty big.

Though easy to read, the gauge package is simple and like the rest of the interior, a bit bland – two white lettered gauges on black backgrounds separated by a rectangular, 16-function driver information display with red lettering. This latter function is operated with a toggle and wheel switch on the left side of the steering wheel – seems simple, but it takes a bit of trial and error to get used to it.

Like many European cars, power window switches and outside mirror controls are located on the centre console. Ventilation and audio controls are the usual buttons and knobs but in our well-optioned test vehicles, information is displayed on a large console-mounted screen. It is large enough to hold a navigation display, but a navigation system is not offered. A help button displays how-to info for the audio and AC systems – very neat, right where you need it.

The base Pontiac G8 is equipped with manual climate controls, tilt and telescopic steering and remote vehicle start (the value of which is debatable). A comfort and sound package adds a 230-watt Blaupunkt, 11-speaker sound system with six-CD changer and two subwoofers. Dual zone climate control and the 6.5-inch display screen are also included with this package. An additional Premium package adds six-way power adjustable, heated leather seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and a rear seat armrest. This is how our test vehicles were equipped. Surprisingly there is no auto up or down on any of the power windows.

2009 Pontiac G8
2009 Pontiac G8
2009 Pontiac G8. Click image to enlarge

The G8 GT includes the upgraded audio system, display screen, dual zone climate control and leather wrapped steering wheel as standard equipment. A Sport package on the GT adds 19-inch alloy wheels, summer tires, low-wing spoiler, machine faced sport alloy wheels, sport leather steering wheel and power sunroof. Our test GTs were equipped with this package.

Standard safety equipment includes StabiliTrack electronic stability control, all-speed traction control, four-wheel vented disc brakes with ABS, six standard air bags, including dual-stage frontal air bags, side thorax air bags for front-seat passengers and roof rail-mounted head curtain air bags for both seating rows, ride-down steering column and break-away foot pedals, tire pressure monitoring system and OnStar.

The base engine is an Australian-built double overhead cam 3.6-litre V6 with variable valve timing rated at 256 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. The G8 is a large car, weighing 1762 kg (3885 lb.), but does not suffer with the smaller power plant. On our travels through southern New Brunswick, we found the engine provided plenty of power, although plenty of noise too under hard acceleration. The rated fuel economy is very reasonable as well, considering the mass that is being moved – 8.0 L/100 km on the highway and 12.2 L/100 km in city driving. The V6 is coupled with a five-speed automatic transmission.

The V8 gives up little in fuel economy on the highway. Rated at 8.4 L/100 km, the 361-hp, 6.0-litre V8 has active fuel management technology, shutting down as many as four cylinders when demands are light. But with 385 ft.-lb. of torque, standard limited slip differential and six-speed automatic transmission, the 6.0-litre will push the G8 to 100 km/h in 5.3 seconds. Just say goodbye to economical driving – the 6.0-litre has an Energuide rating of 14.4 L/100 km in city driving – and goodbye to your driver’s license if you don’t keep an eye on the speedometer.

Both six-speed and five-speed automatic transmissions have driver shift control, allowing manual shifting. The transmissions will shift themselves, even in manual mode, but the shift points change quite dramatically, providing higher rpm shift points. The six-speed has a steep first gear, giving the G8 strong off-the-line power, but two overdrive gears to save fuel and reduce noise at speed.

The suspension is the same for both the V6 and V8 G8 – a multi-link, MacPherson strut design in the front that incorporates a direct-acting stabilizer bar, while the rear suspension uses a four-link independent design, with progressive-rate coil springs over shocks and a decoupled stabilizer bar.

2009 Pontiac G8
2009 Pontiac G8
2009 Pontiac G8. Click image to enlarge

With its long 2,915 mm (114.8 in.) wheelbase, wide track (1592 mm/62.7 in. front and 1608 mm/63.3 in. rear), and nearly 50/50 front to rear weight distribution, both V6 and V8 G8s demonstrated surprisingly good handling on New Brunswick’s often rough secondary roads. Yet they gave up nothing in ride comfort, seemingly impervious to patchwork asphalt, pot holes and frost heaves.

We noticed excessive tire noise from the P245/45R18 all-season radials that are standard on the base G8, possibly due to insufficient insulation in the wheel wells, but the optional P245/40R19 summer tires on our test GT models were considerably quieter.

At higher speeds on New Brunswick’s Highway 2 and its 110 km/h speed limit, the G8 felt very solid and planted. Insulating the driver from a sense of increasing speed, it was easy, particularly with the GT, to let the speed creep up well beyond legal limits.

GM has priced the G8 to compete favourably with the Canadian price of other large sedans like the the Dodge Charger and Nissan Maxima. The V6 G8 starts at $31,995, while the GT will have an introductory price, before options, of $36,995. However, list prices in the United States start at $27,595 for the base G8 and $29,995 for the GT. GM feels they are competitive with similar vehicles sold in Canada, but the fact that GM – and other manufacturers – continue to maintain pricing that is out of line with US prices is, in my opinion, shameful.

The Pontiac G8 and G8 GT are on sale now. Scheduled for late arrival is a high performance GXP that will be powered by a 6.2-litre LS3 V8, and will add a Brembo braking system, track tuned FE3 suspension and an optional six-speed Tremec manual transmission. The GXP will also feature two-tone black and red leather upholstery, with GXP logo embroidery, and alloy sport pedals.

Manufacturer’s web site
General Motors Canada

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