2003 Pontiac Grand Am SE
(model, year) Click image to enlarge

For the 1999 model year, Pontiac made sweeping structural changes to its top-selling car, the Grand Am – including a wider and stiffer body platform with a longer wheelbase. The structural changes allowed more interior room, especially for rear passengers and improved its ride and handling characteristics. Used car shoppers can pick up this sporty looking car at bargain basement prices today.

A compact five-seater, the Grand Am is available as a two-door coupe or four-door sedan in either SE or GT trim levels. The two engines choices were a 150-horsepower, 2.4-litre, twin-cam four, or a 170-horsepower, 3.4-litre V-6. Initially a 4-speed automatic was the only transmission and a 5-speed Getrag manual was added with the SE trim in 2000.

Highway fuel economy with the V6-powered Grand Am is surprisingly good (and my engine preference), 7.8 L/100 km, and in the city it uses 11.8 L/100 km. The 2.4 litre 4-cylinder with a manual transmission is rated at 11.0 L/100 km in the city and 7.0 L/100 km on the highway.

Inside, the cabin is roomy and the sedan can seat four above-average height adults comfortably. A cockpit-style dash panel, fat steering wheel, hand-activated park-brake and an in-dash ignition switch add to its sporty-driver appeal. Five huge air ducts dominate the dashboard and air movement can reach gale force status, if you dare crank the fan to the high velocity position.

The GT version comes with extra performance features and a more powerful ram-air version of the V6. Its body side cladding is also less aggressive and cleaner looking than the SE and it has quad tail pipes. The GT’s mechanical goodie-pack includes a 3.29 final drive ratio; speed sensitive steering; four-wheel disc brakes; stiffer springs and bushings; a front and rear stabilizer bar and a tire pressure monitoring system.

The Grand Am’s extra large side mirrors are very handy and it comes with an excellent collection of standard features like anti-lock brakes, traction control, power door locks, tilt steering, air conditioning and even a security system.

2003 Pontiac Grand Am SE

2003 Pontiac Grand Am SE

2003 Pontiac Grand Am SE
(model, year)
Click image to enlarge

Although a new 2.2-litre “Ecotec” engine, which replaced the 2.4-litre for the 2002 model year, produces less horsepower, it’s a smoother, quieter, more fuel-efficient and a better motor. Twin balance shafts in the cylinder block smooth vibrations and a die-cast lower crankcase with a cast-aluminum oil pan reduces engine noise.

The four-door Grand Am out-performed the two-door in side impact crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and both versions of Grand Am did well in frontal impact tests. However, it got a “poor” rating in an off-set frontal impact test performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This test showed intrusion into the driver area that may cause a leg or head injuries. Yet, actual “on the road” accident injury statistics for the Grand Am put it in the “average” range for occupant protection, about the same as a Toyota Camry.

Brake and electrical repairs to the Grand Am appear to be the most common service items on consumer surveys. There were six safety-recalls (see the attached list) on this generation of the Grand Am, which a dealer will correct free of charge. And the good news for used car buyers is that replacement parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive.

The Pontiac Grand Am is a good-looking car and a fast car, with the V6 engine under the hood. The basic mechanical stuff, engine, transmission and driveline appear to be fairly dependable and used vehicle prices are affordable, even if you’re on a tight budget.


  • 1999 – The steering wheel may become loose and cause loss of steering control. Dealers will inspect the steering wheel retaining nut for correct torque and tighten if necessary.

  • 1999 – The anchor bolt in the child rear seat tether kit is too long and the spacer is too short. Dealers will replace any previously installed child seat tether bracket kits.
  • 1999/00 – The console cover may not remain closed in a collision. Dealers will replace the console latch mechanism.
  • 2000 – On vehicles with a manual transmission, the clutch pedal position switch plunger can get hung-up on the steering column boot. This will allow the vehicle to be started with the transaxle in gear (not in neutral) without the clutch pedal depressed. Dealers will install a shield to fix the problem by preventing contact.
  • 2000 – The “Generator Low Voltage” indicator light may not illuminate under low voltage conditions. Dealers will reflash the PCM with new calibration software.
  • 2000/2001 – If a driver attempts to shift from 5th gear to reverse, a shift inhibitor causes the transmission to be mechanically in 4th gear, even though the shift lever indicates reverse gear. Dealers will disable the 5th/Reverse Inhibitor by removing a retaining pin and replace the shifter assembly.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

Connect with Autos.ca