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2008 Pontiac G8: Style and Substance

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As you’ve no doubt heard, the Pontiac G8 is but one example of GM’s growing global strategy, built in Australia by GM’s Holden division. Only fully approved in November 2006, production began in November 2007 and the first cars landed on U.S. shores and were being shipped to dealers this week. After seeing the car’s introduction at the 2007 Chicago auto show, we were thrilled to get a chance behind the wheel.

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One of Pontiac’s successes with this project we heard before we even got behind the wheel: The base price is only $27,595; moving to the G8 GT and its V8 engine means you have to shell out $29,995. Fully optioned, the car is less than $33,000. These prices make the G8 an exceptional deal, coming in with a lower MSRP its closest competitor, the Dodge Charger SXT and R/T.
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Don’t let this lineup fool you, Pontiac does offer the G8 in colors other than black or red.

We started the driving day with base G8 and its 256HP 3.6L V6 and five-speed automatic transmission. The V6 gives you usable power, whether merging onto the highway or passing an aged pickup truck on some California two-lane. It is responsive and strong, though a heavy right foot was sometimes necessary to keep the pressure on. The five-speed holds gears to high rpm under heavy throttle, enabling access to all 256HP when you want it, even in Drive. But both versions offer a sport shift. Manumatics aren’t my cup of tea, but GM calibrated these to allow driver-controlled upshifts all the way to redline. Whether five gears of the G8 or six of the G8 GT, the transmissions allow you to pull all you can out of both very willing engines. Along with enough power for entertaining driving, the V6 delivers satisfying exhaust and engine notes.
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2009 Pontiac Vibe: A Vibe for Every Lifestyle

Pontiac‘s Vibe Slam event was webcast at www.pontiacunderground.com, introducing the 2009 Pontiac Vibe to the media and a Pontiac fan base all at the same time. Pontiac chose Detroit-area artists, vocalists, and poets to help, showcasing talent that they felt personified Pontiac energy and style. Before we heard from the marketing, design, engineering, and development guys, three vocalists dramatized the distinct personalities of three Vibe models (base, AWD, and GT). Each described their lifestyle in automotive terms tailored toward each Vibe model (Vibe, Vibe AWD, and Vibe GT).

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Despite talented performers with smart and clever lines, the event’s vibe didn’t drive the excitement Pontiac was looking for in the sparse live audience, most of whom might have been a little past the target age bracket. The point of these presentations is showing off the image, improvements, and benefits of a new car, but this one tried too hard.
Poets aside, Pontiac brings an evolutionary Vibe to its showrooms next spring. The Vibe is versatile, the right size for many, and has the attributes to fill the image Pontiac wants. The AWD model is set to evoke an SUV look while the GT addresses those looking for a speed-racer mindset with manual transmission, bodykit, and rear spoiler. The base car looks competent but not cheap. But buyers are always the ones who determine the cool factor, and we were fed adjectives over information. (Click to see the presentation yourself, or for a short YouTube interview with the three vocalists.)
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Pontiac Vibe


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Pontiac G5 Wins AutoPacific 2007 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Compact Car

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Pontiac G5 Wins AutoPacific 2007 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Compact Car:
“To win the Compact Car race, a vehicle has to deliver on a wide range of product attributes plus be economical to own and operate,” says AutoPacific president George Peterson. “The Pontiac G5, available only as a coupe, achieves class leading results in the AutoPacific VSA research. Pontiac G5 owners rated their vehicle highly for Exterior and Interior Appearance, Image, Ride, and Fuel Economy, all attributes important to Compact Car buyers”.


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GM Performance Parts – General Motors at Willow Springs Raceway

VehicleVoice being invited to Willow Springs International Motorsports Park by GM’s Performance Parts Division is almost like Cold War Soviets being invited to Area 51 by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect… but I made sure I brought my camera!

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Willow Springs is a historic track with the first race being held 54 years ago and now recognized by the State of California as an official Point of Historical Interest. The main track is a challenging 2.5-mile long road course with other adjacent facilities like the one rented for our GM event: The Horse Thief Mile.
The Horse Thief Mile is a tight, bare-knuckle course tucked up against the side of a mountain. Most of the track is either burning up the side of the mountain at a steep incline or snapping back on the descent. It offers hairpin turns, a short front straight away and a chance for GM to show us what they’re made of.


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Pontiac Gets Australian Holden Commodore as G8

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Three years ago, Jim Hall and I were in Adelaide, South Australia. We were actually on AutoPacific business and unfortunately it was in the middle of the American summer, which meant it was the middle of the Australian winter. Chilly. Anyway, that’s beside the point.
Good Iron Down Under – From Both General Motors/Holden and Ford
This brief trip down under confirmed what I knew academically from reading about Australian vehicles. They are really cool! Both Ford and General Motors have very competent rear wheel drive platforms in Australia that would do very well in the USA. A brief visit to the local Holden dealership had us both lusting after a Holden Commodore. And that was the previous generation Commodore. In July 2006, Holden launched the all new VE Commodore. More lust.

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GM tried to import the Holden Monaro as the Pontiac GTO. The car failed because it wasn’t flashy enough and didn’t have the necessary DNA to be a believable GTO. Great car to drive, not ugly, just not head-turning.
GM to Add Holden Commodore to Pontiac Lineup as G8
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Now, we may have chance to get the object of our desires. GM appears to be ready to announce that it will begin importing the Holden Commodore 4-door sedan as the Pontiac G8. This car would replace the front wheel drive Grand Prix and maybe reach upwards to fill the spot vacated by the front wheel drive Pontiac Bonneville. Rear wheel drive and powered by a V8 engine, the Commodore would cap a newly sporting Pontiac lineup. We can’t wait.
Ford to Use Australian Falcon as Basis for RWD V8 Sedans?
Across Detroit in Dearborn a similar strategy is hatching. Apparently, Ford is considering using the rear wheel drive V8-powered Australian Falcon as the basis for the “Mustang-based” Lincoln MKR. If Ford can find the resources, we may also see the Ford Interceptor concept car based on the Falcon platform.
Ah, those Australians!


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Blowing Off the Lot – the Hot Sellers

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Since we have identified the vehicles that have the longest days supply, we have been asked to show which vehicles have the shortest days supply. Which vehicles are so hot they just blow off the dealer’s lot? As with the slower moving vehicles where we arbitrarily cut off the days supply at 150 days, here we are using 50 days as the cut off point. The details are shown “below the fold”


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Stuck to the Dealer's Floor – Inventory Numbers Tell the Story

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Which cars and trucks are planted to the dealer’s floor? In other words, which vehicles take the longest to sell? Who cars? Why does it matter, anyway?
Well, while it may not seem that important to you, it’s critically important to the industry s a whole… from the manufacturese, component suppliers, dealers and quite a few financial institutions. First, if you know the time it takes to sell a vehicle, you know how much it is dragging on the dealer’s floorplanning costs. Floorplanning is the term for the amount it costs the dealer to finance the a vehicle in inventory waiting to be sold. If a vehicle has been hanging around for weeks, he’ll be more likely to deal aggressively to get rid of it. Also, vehicles that have high days supply may be less popular. From that perspective, they may be the ones you want to stay away from.


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Buick Announces LaCrosse Super

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Buick announced today that it will launch a V8-powered version of the LaCrosse mid-size sedan in mid-2007 as a 2008 model. Powered by a 5.3L small block General Motors V8, the LaCrosse promises to be an excellent performer.
Shown to analysts for the first time at General Motors North Hollywood Design Studio, Buick resurrects the Super name for the higher performance LaCrosse. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondants were on hand for the announcement as well as driving opportunities in Buick Lucerne V8s and the new Pontiac G6 Retractable Hardtop Convertible. Unfortunately, no photos of the LaCrosse Super were allowed at this event, but think of a tougher, beefier LaCrosse with all the bells and whistles.
With Pontiac having the Grand Prix GXP and Chevrolet having the Impala SS powered by the same engine, it was only a matter of time before Buick added a V8-powered Mid-Size model to its lineup.
Promising to be a relatively low-volume proposition, the Super will provide a halo for the LaCrosse and enhance Buick’s image for performance on demand.


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Pontiac Solstice: Its Style Gets in the Way

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Driven at Home and On the Road
At AutoPacific‘s Detroit office, we recently had the opportunity to drive the Pontiac Solstice, though the rainy Michigan weather precluded any top-down stick time. This Michigan experience supplemented an opportunity to drive the Solstice in Oregon last August, in ideal conditions far from the daily grind. The 300 miles or so spent driving in Oregon (on roads chosen in part for their ability to help the car shine) included wonderful, sweeping roads and perfect top-down weather. Sunny skies and warm temperatures meant the top only came up for about 50 of the Oregon miles, and then only out of obligation to test it that way.
You can also check out a VehicleVoice video podcast of initial reaction to the Solstice by VehicleVoice contributor George Peterson at the LA Auto Show. Jim Hopson, Pontiac-GMC Communications Manager gives us a walkaround introduction of the upcoming Solstice GXP.

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My Disappointment
As the co-owner of a 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata and a 2002 Audi TT coupe, my automotive purchases seem to always prioritize fun and styling over practicality and interior space. Our household tends to choose style and fun over practicality and function. With no kids, two-seaters are just the right size for my husband and myself. Two-seat convertibles prioritize fun and style over function and space, and we fully embrace the idea. On paper, I’m the type of buyer who should have already put down a deposit for either Pontiac Solstice or Saturn Sky. And I wanted to like the Solstice and Sky enough to recommend them over the Mazda, to be genuinely excited about a homegrown product. But I find myself disappointed instead.
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Suzuki Reinvents the XL7 and Shows New Entry AWD SX4

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XL7 Was the Star, But SX4 Made U.S. Debut in New York
Suzuki‘s show stand at the New York auto show introduced two new entries for their 2007 model year lineup, one at the entry level and one to sit at the top of the range. The SX4 was officially introduced at Geneva in March and its small size means it will be a lower-volume vehicle for Suzuki, so the XL7 had top billing in New York. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific were there in the audience and got to take our first look at the new entries.
Has Suzuki Finally Solved the Equation for Success?
Point, Counterpoint… more Point: With these two new entries it appears that Suzuki may finally hit stride in the United States. Well styled and well priced, the concept for each of these new SUVs seems to be on target. No longer does Suzuki have to apologize for weirdly styled and packaged SUVs. These are mainstream and competitive – at least from a styling and package perspective. In the final analysis, it may be how well they drive.
SX4: AWD for $15,000
The SX4 is based on a European Suzuki product called the Swift, which is a small front-drive car. Suzuki is targeting the $15,000 to $18,000 price ladder for this entry product, though pricing will be finalized closer to launch. The powertrain is a 2.0L DOHC four-cylinder, standard with a five-speed manual or optional with a four-speed automatic. The SX4 slots in below the Grand Vitara and functionally takes the place of the Aerio all-wheel-drive wagon, which is being dropped. We covered the SX4 in a previous VehicleVoice blog entry.

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Suzuki’s First Mid-Size SUV Offers Real Room for Seven
The real news for Suzuki in New York was the XL7, which the company reinvented with help from GM, losing the small, truck-based package and gaining a product that seems just right for the market today. The XL7 takes advantage of Suzuki’s involvement in the joint GM-Suzuki CAMI plant in Ontario, Canada. The previous Grand Vitara was kicked out when GM started building the Theta-based Chevrolet Equinox at the facility. In the form of the XL7, Suzuki adds a variant of the Chevrolet Equinox, though the XL7 takes the package further and offers more seats and more power.
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With a new platform also comes a minor change to the name: The old, truck-based version was spelled XL-7. With the 2007MY, Suzuki dropped the dash and the model is now just XL7.
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