2007 Chicago Auto Show: 2008 Pontiac G8
Pontiac Joins the Rear-Wheel-Drive Revolution
In early 2008, Pontiac gets a new top-range entry with an aggressively styled, performance-oriented rear-drive large sedan. The G8 GT concept was introduced this week at the Chicago auto show to an eager crowd, and VehicleVoice contributors were on hand. Yeah, they called it a concept, but there is very little that will change between now and next year’s sales launch. As we walked the show after the introduction, the car was clearly a star. We heard people gushing, enthusiastic, and hungry for more information on the car. The car was continually surrounded.
So why is G8 causing so much a stir? Because under the go-fast, I’ll-take-on-the-world looks is a platform and powertrain that really can help you get there. Unlike the short-lived GTO revival that had the goods but not the looks, the G8 has both. The rear-drive setup includes an independent rear suspension, promising solid handling, and the powertrain lineup includes a base V6 with about 261HP and an 362HP small-block 6.0L V8.
The G8 will be Pontiac’s flagship, using the global RWD Architecture of the upcoming new-century Camaro. Initial production will be in Australia, where the car is sold as the Commodore SS. Eventually, GM would like to build it in the States, along with the Camaro. The G8 is a Holden Commodore with a Pontiac nose, effectively. Though the standard transmission is an automatic (five speeds for the V6 and six for the V8), a six-speed manual for the V8 will be added. (The concept held the manual, though that transmission will be a late launch.) And by using GM’s version of cylinder deactivation, Active Fuel Management, when the V8 takes the automatic, you’ll be able to get this V8 with as little fuel-cost hit as possible.
The 2007 show car is what you’ll see in dealers, excepting the twenty-inch wheels, a lowered ride height, and the interior and exterior colors. The Pontiac badge is only a test to gauge reaction. If it plays well, it will become the new Pontiac dart. We will see G8 and G8 GT models, with standard eighteen and optional nineteen-inch wheels. The nineteen-inch wheels will come with a Sport package available on both trim levels; that package will also include elements typical of such packages (rear spoiler, leather shift knob, alloy pedals, and leather-wrapped steering wheel). As you might expect, the G8 gets the V6 and the G8 GT the V8. Among the smart moves is making the Sport package available on either trim level; even if you opt for the V6 for price, insurance, or fuel economy reasons, it won’t prevent you from getting the cool looks.
In many ways, the G8 is a successor to the last GTO (2004 to 2006). It is the next-generation of the GTO’s platform, though in four-door form instead of coupe form. So why not call it GTO?
Well, along the four doors instead of two, the GTO name set the twenty-first century coupe up with a lot of baggage. Buyers expected something that looked as much a sporty car as the upcoming Camaro and Challenger will and the 2005 Mustang does, but GTO had a sedate exterior. GTO’s driving dynamics and platform were well up to the task of succeeding the legendary pony cars, but between its bland exterior and expensive price tag, buyers didn’t take to it.
G8 has a face that clearly says “Get out of my way,” a muscular stance, and nicely flared wheel wells. But going with name G8 will help ensure the sedan will be taken on its own terms, while GTO was saddled with a history it didn’t live up to.