Join Date: Feb 2007
Edmunds buys a G8 GT for long term test fleet
Night: Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood
The usual suspects are eyeing our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT as we cruise a free-flowing stretch of Sunset Boulevard. An aspiring starlet in a black smock that barely passes for a dress trips over a sidewalk grate, fixated on the triangular red badge of Pontiac that's sandwiched between the menacing honeycomb nostrils. Four Polo-clad rich kids in a new BMW 328 stare, chat among themselves and then rev their car's engine. The badge on our trunk says GT. In this case, it indicates a 6.0-liter V8, which means our authentic rear-wheel-drive, modern American muscle car doesn't have to indulge in such taunting to attract attention like the base-model Bavarian.
But it's not until a Rolls-Royce Phantom starts to pace us that we realize there's something really special here that everyone can recognize. White with white wheels, the massive Roller is the antithesis to our Panther Black Metallic 2008 Pontiac G8 GT. When the horn of the Rolls-Royce sounds, we think race. Instead, glaring from behind the massive wheel is a face we've seen before in television and music videos but can't put a name to. He's giving us the thumbs-up in an effortlessly cool way. We return the signal and look like dorks.
To save face we pin the gas. Take off. Our black beauty disappears into the cool darkness of the Los Angeles night like a ball bearing dropping into a barrel of 40-weight oil, reaffirming our judgment about the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT. The G8 is here, it's cool, and for the next 12 months, Edmunds Inside Line owns one.
Why We Bought It
Simply put, we bought this 2008 Pontiac G8 GT because a full-size, rear-wheel-drive, V8-powered American sedan is what we've been aching for. Because, now, finally, more than 10 years after the demise of the Chevy Caprice and its black-sheep brother the Impala SS, General Motors has something for us to buy. And it has Chrysler to thank for that.
Back at the 2003 New York Auto Show, Chrysler showed off something that grabbed the industry by the transverse engine: the Chrysler 300C. It was big, rear-wheel drive, powered by a V8 and as brash and American as a fastball to the small of the back. The public praise had a hint of doubt, however. Would it sell in the Snowbelt? Would customers warm to the throwback styling? Was this whole rear-wheel-drive, give-the-customers-what-they-want thing going to work? Would a rip-snorting pushrod V8 in a large sedan sell now that gas isn't 72 cents a gallon? GM, and the rest of the world, watched closely to find out.
Based on a previous-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class platform, the Chrysler 300C transcended our expectations. It was powerful, yet refined. And it sold. It spawned two more rear-wheel-drive cars, the Dodge Charger and the recently (and sadly) departed Dodge Magnum from the same architecture. The success of the 300C didn't get past the watchful eye of one Bob Lutz, and he understood the key to its success in a mainstream sedan. Namely, a big V8 builds the hype, and then a potent, fuel-efficient V6 fills the bank.
Clearly there was a market for this type of car, and GM's vice chairman of global product development wanted a slice of the pie. Lucky enough, our Bob was thinking globally and he had access to some very fine engineers Down Under.
The Australian Connection
Australia gets a bad rap. Sure, it was a penal colony for a time and, yes, every poisonous animal in the world lives there. And, yes, it soiled international tennis with Lleyton Hewitt, but all's not lost.
There's an opera house rivaled in nonsensical coolness only by Los Angeles' own Disney Concert Hall. There's Ayers Rock, the world's largest monolith. And then there's V8 Supercar Racing, a road-racing series with many similarities to the original NASCAR that's dominated by GM's Holden brand. Holden is known for big engines, big power and big fun. With a new rear-wheel-drive platform under development for the Holden Commodore, a few tweaks helped create a version for America.
With the world-class 6.0-liter GM V8 and the strong but fuel-efficient 256-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 already on the shelf in the States, the pieces of the puzzle fit together nicely. Unfortunately for the General, the guy who specializes in vehicle taxonomy had the week off; the cryptic, alphanumeric G8 would have to work. And that's how the Pontiac G8 came to America.
What We Bought
If you've been reading Inside Line for any period of time, you knew what trim level we bought before you clicked the link. There was a V8 available, and while it certainly won't be the volume seller, a big thumping V8 moves us in ways no radar gun can measure. The 361-hp 6.0-liter V8 is tucked into the GT package, which also includes a six-speed automatic transmission in place of the standard five-speed automatic. A six-speed manual will be available on the upcoming, high-performance 2009 Pontiac GXP version of this car. The GT specification also means we have an 11-speaker Blaupunkt stereo with an in-dash six-disc CD changer. Starting at $29,995, the GT is only $2,400 more than the V6 model, and even with gas near $4 per gallon, that's a deal.
Insofar as options go, the G8 is limited. We opted for the Premium Package ($1,250) which gives us heated, leather-upholstered, six-way adjustable front seats and a leather-trimmed shift knob. As for the Performance Package ($600), we selected it because it's in our DNA, like asking us if we want meat on our pizza or if we want to go to the bar and watch the game. The answer is always yes even if there are some sacrifices. The Performance Package here consists of 19-inch cast-aluminum wheels with extra-grippy, summer-only 245/40R19 Bridgestone Potenza RE050A performance tires.
Including the $685 destination fee, our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT cost us $31,845.
The Road Ahead
Now that the 2008 Pontiac G8 has finally brought Pontiac to its long-sought goal, it's ironic that the company has ditched its longtime slogan, "Driving excitement." Now the tagline is the grammatically challenged, "Pontiac is car."
We have a better suggestion: "Not your father's Pontiac (but it's close enough)."
With a limited audience and limited volume, the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT will not be the car that saves Pontiac (if it needs saving). No, this car is here to show America that GM is listening and really paying attention to the kind of cars we're asking for. It's a good indication about where GM is headed.
Follow along with our Long-Term Road Test blog to see if 20,000 miles and 12 months with Pontiac's reborn super-sedan lives up to the hype we've been all too eager to drum up.
Current Odometer: 1,206 miles
Best Fuel Economy: 18.0 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 12.4 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 15.2 mpg
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
"Let the rest of the world dream of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and dinky little British two-seaters. In this country speed doesn't look like that." Got SS?