Source: Car And Driver
Written By: Aaron Robinson
Written By: Aaron Robinson
Saying the Pontiac G8 GXP has poor timing might just earn us a Guinness world record for understatement.
On the eve of the GXP?s debut as the most powerful of the Australian-built, Holden Commodore?based Pontiac G8 lineup, the U.S. car market is slogging through its worst sales since 1983, and General Motors is believed to be mere months away from bankruptcy, even after a government bailout. If that happens, at least the $39,995 GXP will be remembered as the most powerful Pontiac ever.
The GXP?s Corvette-derived, 415-hp 6.2-liter LS3 V-8 is paired with either a Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed auto or a Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual, the only stick offered in any G8. Though the LS3 is designed to use Active Fuel Management (AFM), GM?s trade name for its cylinder-cutoff system, program planners decided not to offer fuel-saving technology on the GXP. AFM would have dropped engine output by about 20 horsepower, says GM, landing the GXP too close to the 361-hp G8 GT to merit the nearly $8000 (with gas-guzzler tax) price premium.
Instead, we get the hated first-to-fourth skip-shift system on the six-speed manual. Though it doesn?t prevent the GXP from getting nailed with a $1700 guzzler penalty, a fairly aggressive?meaning intrusive?program minimizes the tariff. Fuel economy is rated at 13 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. We saw 18 mpg on one tank but averaged 14.
In a nod to America?s generally lumpier roads, the FE3 suspension has retuned shocks and a rear stabilizer bar that is two millimeters thicker but is kept supple with ample wheel travel. Four-piston Brembo calipers take care of the stopping.
The bodywork and interior upgrades from the base G8 are subtle: a blockier front fascia with Pontiac?s trademark flaring snoots, a trunk-lip spoiler, seats and dash accented by GXP logos, and a thick, squared-off steering wheel. Polished 19-inch wheels wear somewhat conservative 245/40 W-rated Bridge?stone Potenza RE050As.
Options are few: a sunroof, all-season tires for colder climates, and a dealer-installed track package that includes upgraded transmission- and engine-oil coolers.
The net effect is a composed if slightly soft blacktop cruiser with the power to light ?em up during 4.7-second sprints to 60 mph. Tremec?s latest six-speed shifts with slick satisfaction and accepts downshifts willingly, the LS3 rumbling and roaring with just the right big-bent-eight swagger. Final chassis tuning was done at the N?rburgring, and the result is just the sort of four-door Corvette Americans have long prayed for.
The steering is lighter and less communicative than the best racks from, say, BMW, but it still manages to instill confidence in corners for a price that undercuts a comparable BMW by nearly $20,000. The compliant suspension soaks up bumps and pitching pavement without disturbing the body, which is well disciplined by the shocks not to lean or sway excessively. Grip from the conservatively sized tires is unexpectedly good, though the modest 0.85-g skidpad runs hint at understeer. Lurid tail wags are only summoned with a heavy right foot and are then easily controlled.
And the ride is so livable, the freeway hop reduced to just a tremor in most cases, though the settings are somewhat firmer and the tire rumble somewhat more pronounced than in the base G8. As in all G8s, exceptional comfort in the seats comes from good thigh support and thick bolsters.
GM is hoping to move 5000 to 7000 GXPs per year, but monthly sales of the G8 have been off by as much as 50 percent since its debut last March, owing to high fuel prices and America?s Twinkie-soft economy.
Prospects for the GXP may be dim, but as Rick Blaine might say, the problems of one little car don?t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
2009 Pontiac G8 GXP - Specs
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
ESTIMATED PRICE AS TESTED: $41,500 (base price: $39,995)
ENGINE TYPE: pushrod 16-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 376 cu in, 6162cc
Power (SAE net): 415 bhp @ 5900 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 415 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 114.8 in Length: 196.1 in Width: 74.8 in Height: 57.7 in
Curb weight: 3980 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 4.7 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 11.4 sec
Zero to 140 mph: 25.2 sec
Street start, 5?60 mph: 5.2 sec
Standing ?-mile: 13.3 sec @ 109 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 146 mph
Braking, 70?0 mph: 156 ft
Roadholding, 200-ft-dia skidpad: 0.85 g
EPA city/highway driving: 13/20 mpg
C/D observed: 14 mpg