2005 Pontiac Grand Prix
2005 Pontiac Grand Prix. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase

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Photo Gallery: 1997-2007 Pontiac Grand Prix

The Grand Prix joined the Pontiac line-up in 1962 as a variant of the Catalina and would remain a rear-wheel drive coupe until 1986. In 1988, the Grand Prix underwent a significant update, becoming a front-wheel drive model available as a coupe and a four-door sedan and based on General Motors’ W-Body platform.

The second-generation W-Body car – and the sixth-generation Grand Prix – arrived in 1997. It was initially available in SE, GT and GTP trims – the SE was powered by a 3.1-litre V6 (160 hp) while GT and GTP models got a 3.8-litre V6, normally aspirated in the GT (195 hp) and supercharged (240 hp) in the GTP. The only transmission offered was a four-speed automatic.

2003 Pontiac Grand Prix
2003 Pontiac Grand Prix. Click image to enlarge

The seventh-generation Grand Prix, introduced as a 2004 model, went on sale in 2003. The coupe was gone, and the remaining sedan was available in GT and GTP trims; the GT got the 3.8-litre engine as the base powerplant, while the GTP once again used the supercharged version of that motor. In 2005, the Grand Prix gained a GXP trim option, which included a 5.3-litre small-block V8 borrowed from the bigger Bonneville (and a couple of other front-wheel drive GM sedans); this was the first eight-cylinder Grand Prix since 1987. Once again, the only transmission was a four-speed automatic. In 2000, the 3.1-litre got a power boost to 175 horses.


Highs: Good performance with 3.8-litre engine, low prices
Lows: So-so reliability, polarizing looks

In early cars, fuel consumption ranges from about 12 to 13.5 L/100 km (city) and 7.3 to 8 L/100 km (hwy); ratings for six-cylinder models got slightly better as the Grand Prix aged, and V8 models were rated at about 13 L/100 km (city) and 8 L/100 km (hwy).

Reliability has been average at best, according to Consumer Reports. According to that publication, the most significant problem areas are the engine, climate control system and power equipment.

For details, I spent some time on Grand Prix Internet forums to see what issues owners were talking about. Aside from the issues identified by Consumer Reports, there are a number of threads on ClubGP.com detailing water leaks in the Grand Prix (and other W-Body cars). For a list of links to these threads, click here.

2007 Pontiac Grand Prix
2007 Pontiac Grand Prix. Click image to enlarge

In second-generation Grand Prixs (and other W-Body cars) with dual-zone climate control, many owners complain that they could only get one side of the system to blow cold/hot air; the problem, according to this thread at W-Body.com; this thread might be helpful, too.

Third-gen W-Body Grand Prixs (2004 and newer) seem to have a couple of HVAC-related issues too, a common one being frequent failures of the actuator that controls the fresh-recirculate function.

There are lots of ongoing discussions on ClubGP.com about Grand Prix transmissions; while many of the threads deal with performance upgrades, it appears a number of owners have transmission troubles. The good news is that installing an aftermarket transmission fluid cooler – a relative inexpensive job – appears to extend transmission life. A list of transmission-related threads can be found here, and more information about transmission fluid coolers can be found here.

2003 Pontiac Grand Prix
2003 Pontiac Grand Prix. Click image to enlarge

No doubt the engine problems noted by Consumer Reports have to do with the 3.1-litre V6 and the well-documented intake manifold gasket problems that affect this and other General Motors V6 engines. But the 3.8-litre engine seems to be largely unaffected by this, and is certainly the more reliable of the two V6 engines and would be my choice, particularly in naturally-aspirated form – the supercharged motor requires premium fuel.

Safety-wise, the 1997 Grand Prix sedan got four stars apiece for driver and front passenger protection in frontal crash tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They wouldn’t test another Grand Prix until 2001, when it got the same four star ratings for frontal crashes. Side impact results weren’t as good: the Grand Prix got two stars for front-seat protection and three for rear-seat occupant protection. The redesigned 2004 model got three and four stars in frontal impact tests, and three stars all around in side impact testing. Then in 2006, the Grand Prix’s frontal impact ratings improved to five and four stars for driver and front passenger.

2002 Pontiac Grand Prix
2007 Pontiac Grand Prix
2002 Pontiac Grand Prix (top) and 2007 Pontiac Grand Prix. Click image to enlarge

The 1997-2003 Grand Prix earned an “acceptable” rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s frontal offset crash test, while redesigned 2004 and newer models got a “good” rating. Only the newer car was subjected to side impact testing; it got a “marginal rating overall, thanks to poor front-seat occupant protection.

Side airbags became optional in 2003, in the redesigned, third-generation W-Body car.

Used Grand Prix values range from just over $3,000 for a 1997 model, to $28,350 for a 2007 V8-powered GXP model. A 2004 base model looks like a decent value at about $14,000, though you might want to spend a little more for a 2005 that might avoid potential first-year-for-the-new-model problems; 2005 values start at $16,175.

Among domestic sedans, the Grand Prix is one of the better ones, thanks to its strong relationship to the Buick Regal, which has proven relatively durable. The also-similar Chevrolet Impala comes a little cheaper on the used market, as does the Hyundai Sonata, though neither of these offers the Grand Prix’s aggressive looks and the added performance promised by the Pontiac badge.

1999 Pontiac Grand Prix
1999 Pontiac Grand Prix. Click image to enlarge

I’m personally not a huge fan of the Grand Prix, but this has more to do with the car’s looks than anything else (though the 2004 redesign helped). I would choose one of the more handsome W-Body cars – the Impala, Regal or Oldsmobile Intrigue, for example – instead of the Grand Prix. Thing is, if you can’t tolerate anything less than perfect reliability, look for a comparably-priced Accord or Camry instead. If you must have a Grand Prix, be prepared to either get your hands dirty or develop a good relationship with your mechanic in order to keep the Grand Prix’s common issues from ruining your enjoyment of the car.

Online resources

Start at ClubGP.com, where you’ll find plenty of useful discussions on the Grand Prix. The FAQ at W-Body.com is handy too, as is the General Discussion section there. You might want to try the Grand Prix sections at Edmunds.com and at Topix.net.

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Manufacturer’s Website


Transport Canada Recall Number: 1999083; Units affected: 3,107

1996-1997 (includes other models): On certain vehicles, the spark plug wires may be causing the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) to be illuminated, as well as causing rough idle and poor performance. These conditions may be due to a dielectric breakdown of the plastic extender piece at the boot joint of the spark plug wire. Correction: Dealers will replace all six spark plug wires with a new service spark plug wire assembly kit that is designed to be robust against dielectric breakdown failures.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2000002; Units affected: 12,032

1997 (includes other models): On certain vehicles, the windshield wipers may stop working, usually after operation under heavy load conditions such as accumulated snow or ice, because of separation between the drive pin and crescent in the crank arm assembly. If this were to occur during driving in adverse weather conditions, driver visibility could be reduced, which could result in a vehicle crash without prior warning. Correction: Dealers will inspect for the presence of a plastic water deflector and, if necessary, replace the wiper motor crank arm, install a park tab reinforcement and install a water deflector. Dealers will also apply additional sealing material to improve water deflection from the crank arm assembly and will install a reinforcement to improve the performance of the wiper park mechanism.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2002199; Units affected: 238,877

1997-1998 (includes other models): On certain vehicles, the lower pinion bearings retainer tabs were not crimped properly. These and some other retainers used in vehicles assembled between January 1, 1996 and October 31, 1997 may fail and permit the ball bearings to escape. If the problem were to occur, the driver would have to exert more effort to turn the steering wheel. Correction: Dealers are to inspect the condition of the lower bearing, and replace the lower pinion bearing or the rack and pinion steering gear assembly, if necessary.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2001187; Units affected: 170

1999 (includes other models): Certain passenger vehicles. The driver’s air bag inflator modules could produce excessive internal pressure. In the event of a crash that would trigger a driver’s air bag deployment, the increased internal pressure can cause the inflator module to explode. Metal and plastic debris could cause severe injury to vehicle occupants. Correction: Dealers will replace the driver side air bag module.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1998193; Units affected: 828

1999 (includes other models): Note: vehicles equipped with 3.1-litre V6 engines. These vehicles may be equipped with ignition coil/control module assemblies that were incorrectly manufactured and may result in setting the ses light and causing various driveability problems, including engine misfire. Correction: ignition coil/control module assembly will be inspected for suspect date codes and lot numbers and replaced if necessary.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1999209; Units affected: 5

2000: On certain vehicles, the passenger side air bag modules may have an undersized inflator orifice. In the event of a crash that would trigger a passenger side air bag deployment, an undersized inflator orifice could cause the inflator module to explode. If an air bag inflator module explodes, metal and/or plastic debris could cause severe injury to vehicle occupants. Correction: Dealers will replace the passenger side air bag modules in involved vehicles.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2000196; Units affected: 16,621

2000: Certain vehicles do not comply with the requirements of C.M.V.S.S. 209 – Seat Belt Assemblies. Vehicles may have seat belt assemblies that will not withstand the force requirements of the standard. In a crash, if the belt buckle fails, there is an increased risk of injury to the occupant. Correction: Suspect buckle assemblies will be replaced.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2002234; Units affected: 127

2001: On certain vehicles, the passenger air bag was manufactured without a check pin. An air bag without the check pin could produce increased pressure at the onset of the air bag deployment and reduced pressure afterward. This could increase the severity of injury to a person who was not properly restrained and who was close to the passenger air bag at the time of deployment. It could also reduce the ability of the air bag to protect a restrained front seat passenger. Correction: Dealers are to inspect, and if necessary, replace the passenger air bag.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003205; Units affected: 4,510

2004: On certain vehicles, the right rear brake hose fitting may not be tightened properly and a brake fluid leak could occur. If the brake fluid level in the master cylinder reservoir dropped to the indicator limit, the brake system warning light would be activated. If enough fluid leaks, the brake pedal will be lower than normal and stopping distances will be increased. Correction: Dealer will tighten the right rear brake hose fitting.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004198; Units affected: 3,238

2004 (includes other models): On certain vehicles, two bolts that attach the front brake caliper to the steering knuckle on the left and right front wheel assemblies were not tightened adequately. If too much movement occurs between the caliper bracket and knuckle, the bolt(s) may back out or fracture. Depending on whether one or both bolts back out or fracture, the result can be: 1) locking of the affected wheel during braking and an abrupt steering input in the direction of the locked wheel, 2) reduced braking and noise from the affected wheel, or 3) severing of a brake hose, increased brake pedal travel, and reduced steering control. If this were to occur, it could result in a vehicle crash without prior warning. Correction: Dealers will tighten both bolts to the specified torque.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004212; Units affected: 34

2004: Certain vehicles were built with right rear body mounts that contain cracks or voids. A crack could propagate during use of the vehicle, resulting in audible creaking, groaning, or clicking noises. If the driver ignores these warnings, both rear body mounts could eventually become detached from the frame structure. If this occurred, the steering intermediate shaft could become detached from the rack and pinion steering assembly, resulting in a total loss of steering control. Correction: Dealers will inspect the front frame assembly for specific Julian date stamps and replace the engine cradle assembly, if necessary.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2005034; Units affected: 1,611

2004 (includes other models): Certain vehicles do not comply with the requirements of CMVSS 124 – Accelerator Control Systems. The Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) accelerator pedal assembly may not return the engine to idle in three seconds or less at low ambient temperatures if either of the two throttle return springs is broken. Correction: Dealers will replace the ETC pedal assembly.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006287; Units affected: 145

2007 (includes other models): On certain vehicles, the fuel tank is missing an adhesive layer that bonds the barrier layer to the outer shell of the tank. With this condition, fuel and/or fuel vapours could seep out between the layers. A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source may result in a fire. Correction: Dealers will inspect and, if required, replace the fuel tank.

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.

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