Any seat time in a sports car registers high on the fun meter. A week behind the wheel of a 1996 Pontiac Trans Am with the WS6 ram-air performance and handling package is off the scale.

A twin port hood scoop that feeds air to the fire-breathing 305-hp 5.7L V8 gives this Trans Am a more aggressive look than other Firebirds. A sloping nose and contoured side panels spell Pontiac excitement in its most elemental form.

Inside, the uncluttered instrument panel with rally gauges displays only the most vital information. such as the tachometer and speedometer, while less-critical indicators are visible but out of the way. Steering-wheel sound-system controls keep your hands on the wheel where they belong.

Turn the key and the powerplant roars to life with amazing sound effects. The 305 horses make passing and merging a cinch, but controlling those horses with a not-so-easy-to-operate 6-speed manual gearbox (from the Corvette ZR-1) is not for the weak of heart or stomach.

An awkwardly placed cupholder and a fuel-saving transmission feature that automatically blocks second gear and deflects you into fourth when rpms are low are practically the only complaints about this otherwise fine performance coupe.