Good Old-fashioned American motoring. That may be the most apt way to describe the '08 Pontiac G8, which, ironically, arrives in the U.S. this year from about as far away as possible.
Designed, engineered and built byCorp.'s Australian subsidiary, GM Holden Ltd., the all-new G8 upper-midsize sedan — derived from the Holden Commodore — injects some much-needed excitement into the Pontiac lineup.
To carry the requisite sports metaphor a step further, the G8 is to Pontiac's portfolio as Albert Pujols is to the St. Louis Cardinals' offense — a complete package boasting power and consistency.
But two things the G8 is not, say Pontiac officials — a replacement for the smaller Grand Prix sedan, which ceases production after the '08 model year, or a transient offering like the latest incarnation of the GTO, another Aussie-born, V-8-powered rear driver that lasted a scant three years in North America.
Instead, it fills a spot atop the Pontiac range left vacant by the Bonneville, which ended production in 2005. GM expects a long life stateside for the G8, which likely will include a more sensible manufacturing location alongside other future Zeta platform mates in Oshawa, ON, Canada. Once production ramps up, GM expects to sell 30,000 units annually.
The G8 also marks the first rear-wheel-drive application for a Pontiac sedan since the Reagan administration. The setup combines a near-50/50 weight distribution with a robust chassis and a performance-tuned, MacPherson-style front and multi-link rear suspension system to deliver the sort of nimble, sure-footed driving dynamics typically reserved for more expensive European sedans.
The solid underpinnings allow drivers to confidently throw the G8 in and out of corners, despite its girth. And it's a hefty beast, with V-8-powered GT models tipping the scales at 3,995 lbs. (1,812 kg) and stretching 196.1 ins. (498.1 cm).
G8 GT models equipped with GM's 6.0L L76 V-8 absolutely devour pavement. Even the steepest grades are no match for its 361-hp engine, which GM mates to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Pontiac drops a real hammer later this year with the '09 G8 GXP, which boasts a 402-hp, 6.2L LS3 small-block V-8 and 6-speed manual transmission.
The engine debuted on the '08 Chevy Corvette, and stuffing it inside the G8 seems logical. But the 6.0L in the GT version hardly lacks for power, and cylinder deactivation helps fuel economy.
But the G8's dual-exhaust system with chrome tips doesn't belt out quite the throaty call we'd expect from Holden, a division that covets its muscle cars as richly as its parent. Heck, the Cadillac CTS has more rumble.
Base models equipped with a 3.6L V-6 and 5-speed automatic transmission are pleasantly surprising, as well, and provide a 2-mpg (0.85-km/L) boost in fuel economy vs. the GT to 17 mpg (13.8 L/100 km) during the city cycle. Its highway number edges up 1 mpg (0.4 km/L) to 25 mpg (9.4 L/100 km), but don't expect much in the higher gears, where engineers sought that fuel-economy boost.
The G8's hydraulic steering is nicely balanced and spot-on, contributing to refined handling and a pleasurable ride.
The G8's RWD setup also lends wonderful proportions, and designers added big fender flares and a high beltline to convey pent-up power. A hood bulge with a pair of semi-functional air scoops hint at the car's performance bearing. Cat-like headlamps and a menacing intake beneath Pontiac's signature dual-port grille provide additional aggressiveness to the design.
The G8's modern, no-nonsense interior design ranks among the best at GM and certainly within Pontiac, although a dust catcher above the center stack that measures battery level and oil pressure is just silly.
So silly, in fact, GM axed it for '09 models, which due to a quirk in the production cycle arrive at dealers soon. The instrument panel is a welcome exercise in simplicity, with only the four most important gauges: fuel level, engine temperature, tachometer and speedometer.
The G8 receives new, larger head restraints that meet new U.S. safety regulations calling for better head protection for front-seat occupants. The restraints are awfully blocky and limit sightlines.
Seats in the base-model G8 are impressive. They're as snug and well-bolstered as GT seats, fashioned from high-quality woven cloth and comfortable enough for an entire day behind the wheel.
The headliner also receives a finely textured material, while generous legroom greets rear-seat passengers. The trunk is cavernous; although the rear seatbacks do not fold flat, a ski hole provides trunk access for long, slender objects.
It would be a stretch to mention the G8 in the same breath as some tonier German performance sedans. But few auto makers can match the G8's combination of V-8 power and refined driving dynamics for under $30,000.
In fact, a fully loaded GT won't eclipse $32,700. Now that's good old-fashioned American value.
'08 Pontiac G8 GT
Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, 5-passenger sedan
Engine: 6.0L OHV V-8
Power (SAE net): 361 hp @ 5,300 rpm
Torque: 385 lb.-ft. (520 Nm) @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 114.8 ins. (291.6 cm)
Overall length: 196.1 ins. (498.1 cm)
Curb weight: 3,995 lbs. (1,812 kg)
Base price: $27,995
Fuel economy: 15/24 (16/10 L/100 km)
Competition: Dodge Charger
|[+] PROS/CONS [-]|
|Performance styling||Blocky static headrests|
|Adjustable suspension||Silly center stack gauges|
|V-8 sedan under $30K!||Where's the rumble?|