9.09.2008

Pontiac G8 Review



My driver's ed car in high school was a big Pontiac sedan...a 1972 Catalina...with a 455-cubic inch V8 engine. Just perfect for three not-yet-licensed 15 and a half year olds and a teacher with what may have been narcolepsy. Mr. Walkup's snore (usually about 20 minutes into the 90-minute class) was the signal to my best friend and myself (the third student was an exceptionally timid girl) to bury our right feet to the floorboards on the wide-open stretches of U.S. 395 between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes, California.

That was probably the last big Pontiac you could do that in and have any fun. Emissions regulations, insurance surcharges and the Arab oil embargo of 1973 all conspired to end the horsepower party soon afterward. Later attempts to recapture a performance image usually involved red cockpit lighting and ill-advised amounts of plastic body cladding, but, as so many have pointed out over the years...there's no substitute for cubic inches.

Well, even Pontiac doesn't measure 'em in cubic inches anymore, but the 6-liter V8 (roughly 366 CID) under the hood of the Pontiac G8 will do just fine. It's 361 horsepower in a car that manages to keep its curb weight just five pounds shy of two tons. Plant your right foot in the G8 and it moves right now...with a solidity, assurance and handling capabilities GM couldn't have imagined in '72.

And while the Driver's Ed Car of Doom would have looked right at home in Grandma's driveway (white, with a blue vinyl interior), the G8 announces its high-performance intentions the second you see it. It's a taut, muscular look that some writers have compared favorably with BMW.

Like the not-quite-there GTO of a couple of years back, this Pontiac is actually an Australian Holden rebadged for U.S. consumption. The good news in that deal is that Australians never gave up building hot sedans, and that the G8 interior is way different from...and way better than...anything else GM sells stateside.

The really good news is price...the G8 GT starts at $29,995 and our tester, loaded with a premium package that includes leather, power and heated seats, topped out at $31,395...a bargain bottom line. It's ironic that the re-birth of the big American performance sedan comes from Australia, but after a 35-year drought, we're not asking questions. Go drive one.

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