First Drive: Pontiac G8

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We got our first opportunity to drive the all-new Pontiac G8 performance sedan recently. The automaker rolled out the red carpet for this regional press launch as well as for the new Vibe sport hatchback.

The Peachtree City Marriott served as our host facility with journalists paired up for the round-trip drive to Callaway Gardens. Despite my co-pilot not reading the directions right (which ultimately led to more seat time for me) we made good time getting to lunch in the new rear-drive Pontiac.

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G8 is not Pontiac’s first attempt at taking advantage of globalized platforms for new model releases. Remember the return of the GTO a few years back? Not a huge success but the automaker was able to quickly bring to market a new model in their performance portfolio.

Pontiac returned to the Australian automaker Holden for their newest inspiration, a global rear-wheel-drive performance sedan with U.S. power and styling. Voila – G8.
The G8 arrives with choice of 256hp 3.6-liter V-6 engine or the big 6.0-liter V-8 delivering 361 ponies and 385 lb. ft. of tire-smoking torque. The smaller engine is backed by five-speed automatic gearbox and the GT (with V-8) gets the new six-speed automatic complete with driver shift control and sport mode.

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Putting the power to the pavement effectively is a bit easier to do with the limited-slip rear differential (standard) but no manual gearbox is being offered at launch.

Keeping things under control is made easier thanks to four wheel disc brakes with ABS and standard traction control while Stabilitrak stability control rides along as well.

Key competition will be the Dodge Charger R/T (whose HEMI V-8 is rated at a mere 335hp) but the G8 boasts more cargo volume despite coming in more than five inches shorter in wheelbase.

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In our time behind the wheel, we enjoyed the newfound Pontiac excitement and while the new G8 is fun to blast off from a stop, it really sings when punching the pedal in the midrange. Passing was a blast although we would have been OK with a good bit more exhaust noise at all rpm ranges.

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The chassis is stable and very compliant but we did notice a bit of front end wobble and vibration (which we attributed to the sport tires as another tester did not exhibit the exact same symptoms) and we did notice a bit of wind noise at highway speeds.

The new G8 is not quite ready to take on a comparable BMW by any means, but Pontiac has certainly come a very long way to improve their performance lineup. And the G8 with V-8 starts under 30 grand. Take that Bavaria.

And they have already announced plans for a GXP version coming later this year with some 425hp under the hood, and by 2010 we should see a sport truck version as well.

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Inside was quite comfortable, something we did not always find with the GTO, with nearly every creature comfort available – save one. With Blaupunkt as the audio provider there is no navigation system offered in the first model year but PR folks seemed to hint that this was among a few things that would be addressed for subsequent model year G8s.

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About the Author

David Goodspeed
David was editor of AutoworldToday at Today Newspapers in the Dallas suburbs until its closing in 2009. He was also webmaster and photographer/videographer. He got started doing photography for the newspaper while working as a firefighter/paramedic in one of his towns, and began working for the newspaper group full-time in 1992. David entered automotive journalism in 1998 and became AutoworldToday editor in 2002. On the average, he drives some 100 new vehicles each year. He enjoys the great outdoors and as an avid fly fisherman, as is his spouse Tish. He especially enjoys nature photography and is inspired by the works of Ansel Adams.

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