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Inside Line First Look: 2008 Pontiac G8 GT


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Dec 11, 2005
Seren?sima Rep?blica de California
1997 BMW 528i
Now that the Grand Prix has faded into front-wheel-drive oblivion, it's up to the 2008 Pontiac G8 to restore a little legitimacy to Pontiac's performance reputation. There's a good chance it will succeed, as the G8 is a real American muscle sedan with rear-wheel drive and the power of a V8.

The G8 started out life in Australia as the Holden Commodore, but Pontiac tells us that the G8 was part of the plan all along. The transformation has done some good, as the 2008 Pontiac G8 is a far more chiseled-looking sport sedan than its Australian cousin. It uses all the traditional Pontiac design cues, but this time they look purposeful instead of merely tacked on.

Proper Power Under the Hood
There wouldn't be much to talk about if the G8 was just another V6-powered family sedan, so Pontiac did itself a favor and made sure that a V8 is on the options list. If you order the big engine, it's called the G8 GT.

A 6.0-liter L76 V8 powers the G8 GT. It's an aluminum-block V8 shared with several of GM's full-size trucks and SUVs, although the G8 engine doesn't get variable valve timing like the trucks. This doesn't put a damper on its performance, as the G8's 6.0-liter still delivers 361 horsepower at 5,300 rpm and 385 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm.

It's hooked to GM's 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission, the same gearbox used in the Cadillac STS-V and Chevrolet Corvette. At this time there are no plans to offer a manual transmission for the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT.

Between the wide-ratio 6L80 transmission, the V8's Active Fuel Management system and the G8's tall, 2.92:1 rear-end gear, Pontiac says the GT will have EPA ratings of 15 mpg city/24 mpg highway. When you take into account its sizable 19-gallon fuel capacity, the GT will go more than 420 miles on a single tank.

Not bad, considering that Pontiac also says the G8 GT will do zero to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds and run the quarter-mile in 13.8 seconds at 101 mph. That's quicker than the last Dodge Charger SRT8 we tested from zero to 60. Needless to say, adding a shorter rear-end gear would probably get the 3,995-pound G8 GT to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds, especially with the car's standard limited-slip differential to put down the power.

If all-out performance isn't your priority, there's a V6-powered base model, too. It gets GM's 3.6-liter LY6 V6, an engine that's also used in the Cadillac CTS and Saturn Aura. It's rated at 256 hp at 6,300 rpm and 248 at 2,100 rpm and is matched with GM's 5L40 five-speed automatic.

It may not have the burly sound of the bigger V8, but the base G8 still delivers some decent numbers, according to Pontiac. A 7.0-second 0-60-mph time isn't bad and a 15.2-second run at 91 mph in the quarter-mile keeps it competitive with most other full-size sedans. Mileage is only slightly better than the V8, with EPA estimates of 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway.

18s for Everybody
In order to handle all that power, the 2008 Pontiac G8 features multilink independent rear suspension with progressive rate springs, while MacPherson struts are used up front. Pontiac says this is an FE2 calibration, GM-speak for a kind of midlevel, slightly sporty setup. All G8s will come with this setup as standard equipment. Pontiac says the G8 has a nearly 50 percent front/50 percent rear weight balance with a driver and two passengers in the car.

All G8s get 18-inch wheels that are 8-inches wide rims. The base model has split five-spoke cast-aluminum wheels wearing 245/45R18 all-season tires. GT's get solid five-spoke wheels with machined-aluminum faces and 245/45R18 summer performance tires. An optional Sport package for the GT adds 19-inch wheels and 245/40R19 summer performance tires.

The standard four-wheel disc brakes feature ABS, ventilated rotors and twin-piston calipers up front and single pistons in back. Oddly enough, the rear rotors are larger in diameter than the fronts. The base G8 has 11.9-inch rotors in back and 11.7-inch rotors in front. The GT gets 12.8-inch rotors in back and 12.6-inch discs in front. Traction and stability control are standard.

An American-Size Sedan
At 196.1 inches in overall length, the 2008 Pontiac G8 is about 4 inches longer than a Dodge Charger, but it rides on a 5-inch-shorter wheelbase of 114.8 inches. The two sedans are within an inch of each other in width and height.

Inside, the G8's interior is nearly as spacious as that of the Charger. There's more front legroom in the Pontiac and less than an inch of difference when it comes to rear legroom. Hip- and shoulder room are within an inch of each other, both front and rear. The G8 also features a monstrously large 17.5-cubic-foot trunk with a standard rear seat pass-through.

Bench Seat Is Not an Option
Pontiac is positioning the G8 as a premium sport sedan, so the interior is fitted with more features than you might expect. Every G8 gets power-adjustable bucket seats for the driver and front passenger, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, full instrumentation including an oil temperature gauge, and a trip computer.

On the entertainment side, the base G8 gets a seven-speaker Blaupunkt audio system with single-disc CD changer, 5-inch multifunctional visual display and an auxiliary music player input. The upgraded system that's standard on the GT adds a six-disc CD changer and a 230-watt amplifier for its 11 speakers. An optional comfort-and-sound package for the base model adds the enhanced Blaupunkt system along with dual-zone climate control that comes standard on the GT.

There's a premium package on both the base G8 and the GT that adds leather upholstery and six-way power adjustment for the driver and front passenger seats. Pontiac also manages to get heated seats added to the premium package ? an option doesn't exist on the Australian model. And in addition to the usual black-and-gray interior colors, the G8 GT offers gray with red inserts on both the cloth and leather interiors. There are six exterior colors: black, blue, gray, orange, red and white.

Is Pontiac Back?
Not quite. It'll be a long time before Pontiac is considered a serious player on the performance scene again, what with the Torrent in the lineup and all. Replacing the forgettable Grand Prix with the 2008 Pontiac G8 should help earn back a little respect, however, as it appears to offer a solid rear-wheel-drive package at an attainable price.

The base G8 starts at $27,595, while the GT scrapes the $30K barrier at $29,995. Not cheap, but name another V8 sedan that will run mid-13s in the quarter-mile, return 24 mpg on the highway and swallow five suitcases for $30 grand. Yeah, Pontiac may be back after all.

When it goes on sale this March, the G8 will be Pontiac's only rear-wheel-drive sedan. (Photo by Scott Jacobs)

Pontiac G8 GT will carry a base price of $29,995. (Photo by Scott Jacobs)

Pontiac says this G8 GT will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. (Photo by Scott Jacobs)

The G8 will compete with the Dodge Charger for rear-wheel-drive buyers. (Photo by Scott Jacobs)

Its 6.0-liter all-aluminum V8 is rated at 361 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque. (Photo by Scott Jacobs)

Hood scoops are standard on V6 and V8 models. (Photo by Scott Jacobs)

Despite the large screen on the center stack, a navigation system is not on the G8's options list. (Photo by Scott Jacobs)

Heated seats, however, are offered. The stability control system is standard and can be disabled by the button in the center. (Photo by Scott Jacobs)

The center stack is topped by these two digital gauges for volts and oil pressure. (Photo by Scott Jacobs)

There is no redline on the tachometer, but the V8's rev limiter is set at 6,000 rpm. (Photo by Scott Jacobs)

Small rear spoiler and four exhaust tips are standard on the G8 GT. V6 models get the spoiler and two pipes. (Photo by Scott Jacobs)

Eighteen-inch wheels and tires are standard. This car wears the optional 19-inch summer rubber. (Photo by Scott Jacobs)

Based on the Mileage numbers there seems no point in buying the v6 model. V8 only loses 1mpg on the highway.
Is this basically the same as the VXR8?
A bit more than 20.000? for the V8...that is so unfair :'(
no, this is just a VE Commodore SS-V.

What's the difference between the Holden and the Vauxhall VXR8? I was under the impression that they were the same car with different badges.
What's the difference between the Holden and the Vauxhall VXR8? I was under the impression that they were the same car with different badges.

the VXR8 is the equivalent of the HSV Clubsport R8 with the 400+hp LS2. the Holden VE Commodore SS-V has the same components as the G8 with the L76 V8.
To those of you who've eagerly awaited the launch of Pontiac's super-hot, Australia-sourced 2008 G8 sport sedan, we're pleased to announce the following: We have liftoff. The test numbers are in.

We were as eager as you to get behind the wheel of this bold new four-door Grand Prix replacement -- bred and built by GM's Holden division in Australia. And that's largely because, first and foremost, the G8 is rear-drive, which immediately gains it admission into a lofty arena occupied by the likes of BMW and Infiniti. The G8 is a genuine, kick-the-tail-out sport sedan, not a front-drive compromise. Let us all pause now and give GM a huge round of applause.

The good stuff isn't limited to the layout. When the G8 goes on sale in a few weeks (target is early March), Pontiac will offer two versions. The base car is powered by a DOHC, 3.6-liter V-6 with variable valve timing that kicks out 256 horses at 6300 rpm and 248 pound-feet of torque at 2100. The engine mates to a five-speed automatic transmission. Eighteen-inch, silver-painted alloy wheels are standard, as are projector-beam headlights, a tilt-telescoping wheel, polished stainless-steel exhaust tips, remote start, and a seven-speaker Blaupunkt audio system with CD player and iPod jack.

Seen here is the up-level G8 GT, which ripples with a 6.0-liter OHV V-8 that booms out 361 horses at 5300 rpm and 385 pound-feet at 4400. The engine features computer-managed cylinder deactivation for enhanced economy. The big mill's output flows through a standard six-speed automatic with Sport mode. No manual is available yet, but when we pressed Pontiac execs, they hinted one may be coming later this year -- perhaps in concert with a higher-tuned engine.

Added GT goodies include quad stainless-steel exhaust tips, a limited-slip diff, dual-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped wheel, a more potent audio system, and machine-faced 18-inch wheels wearing summer performance tires. Leather seats and a power sunroof are available in both G8 models. The GT also offers an optional Sport package (seen on our test car), which adds 19-inch alloys, sport metallic pedals, and a meatier steering wheel. Pricing is aggressive. The base G8 starts at $27,595, while the mighty GT lists at just $29,995-making it, Pontiac points out, the most powerful automobile available in the U.S. for under 30 grand.

And now for the big news: the sound and the fury, the rubber dust and the tire smoke. At the track, the G8 GT nailed the sprint to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds and charged through the quarter mile in 13.8 seconds at 102.8 mph. Those numbers are on par with the twin-turbo BMW 335i and the Infiniti G37, but the Pontiac's sticker undercuts both by thousands (more than $10 grand in the case of the Bimmer). The G8's engine note is quite reserved at cruise-almost too quiet given the high-flash bodywork-but at WOT it comes alive with a delicious bawl. And once the car is up to speed it really hits its stride, the V-8 pulling particularly hard as the speedo sweeps past the century mark. For relatively modest bucks you get mega straight-line performance.

The 19-inch summer tires and well-tuned suspension combine to wring out 0.88 g of grip-far more than either the 335i or the G37. More important, the GT responds to handling inputs with impressive balance (weight distribution is 51/49 percent front/rear). Braking from 60 mph, aided by vented rotors fore and aft and twin-piston calipers up front, takes just 112 feet (the BMW and Infiniti each do it in 110 feet). While StabiliTrak with all-speed traction control is standard on both G8 models, you can switch it entirely off. So configured, the GT will happily kick out its tail wide under throttle-useful for balancing the car on the track, though for most road driving StabiliTrak is the smarter choice, keeping the torque nicely under rein.

Ride quality is quite good given the G8's athletic abilities; the GT makes an excellent executive's express. The cabin is nicely tailored with a "tech-grain" dash, comfortable and enveloping seats, and simple controls. What's more, though it might not look it, the car is huge inside-particularly in back, which also features what at first sight appears to be the world's largest pass-through. Four adults could happily travel all day in the G8. The trunk serves up a generous 17.5 cubic feet.

Judging by our first drives, the G8 GT is good indeed. Good enough, in fact, to merit BMW, Infiniti, and Lexus intenders dropping by the Pontiac store for a serious look. As for how Pontiac's new Aussie expat compares to perhaps its single biggest American rival...stay tuned to this channel. We've prepared a head-to-head match-up you won't want to miss.


I'm really hoping this thing sells.

I'm really hoping for an aftermarket Holden front end. Judging from the Chrysler 300C sales, I wouldn't have my hopes up (at least in the long term anyways).
Edmunds compares it to a 2007 Charger Super Bee

The conversation went something like this: "Hey, Steve, come by with the Bee. Let's see how it stacks up against this 2008 Pontiac G8 GT."

Motorhead Steve lives up the street. His dad was a Dodge dealer back in the 1960s. The guy knows option codes from the muscle car era like they're his kids' names and has a tattoo on his left forearm that reads "Mopar is Mom." More important, he just bought himself a screaming yellow 2007 Dodge Charger SRT8 Super Bee. We knew he wouldn't hesitate.

"Now?" he asked.


"Be there in five."

Ten minutes later we were lined up.

Declining Numbers at an Even Rate
Honestly, we didn't think we had a chance. The 2008 Pontiac G8 GT is powered by a 6.0-liter V8 rated at 361 horsepower at 5,300 rpm and 385 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. Steve's Mopar, a virtual twin to the one we tested a few months ago, is packing a 6.1-liter V8 pumping 425 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.

We clicked off the Pontiac's traction control with the clearly marked button ahead of its shifter and brake-torqued the big V8 to 2,000 rpm. To our right we could hear Steve do the same. On the count of three we went for it.

Both cars left clean, with just a turn or two of tire slip. Then Steve pulled a fender on us. No surprise considering his Bee's torque advantage. But that's all he had. Past 60 mph the Mopar was still just a fender ahead. The Pontiac's six-speed automatic clicked off clean, crisp gearchanges just before its 6,000-rpm rev limiter, and kept pace with that Charger well past 100 mph.

We raced again. And again. And again. It was like a scene out of Woodward Avenue circa 1969, only we were in sedans, with sunroofs and heated seats, on a deserted, burned-out industrial section of downtown Los Angeles. Every race was a carbon copy of the first.

We lost. But not by much.

Steve wasn't happy. His Mopar had more power, louder paint and many more stickers than the G8 GT. It also costs more than the Pontiac, which carries a base price of $29,995 and tops out at $32,745 with our red car's sunroof, leather and big wheel and tire option. No, Steve wasn't happy at all.

Let's Do the Math
Doug Houlihan, GM's global vehicle chief engineer based in Melbourne, Australia, told us his car should run from zero to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds and cover the quarter-mile in 13.8 seconds at 101 mph.

Seemed about right. The Super Bee we tested ran to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds and the quarter-mile in 13.6 seconds at 106 mph. We hadn't tested this red 2008 Pontiac G8 GT yet, but Steve's Bee had us by a fender at 60 mph and 105 mph.

The next morning at our test track, the G8 GT ran as expected, perfectly splitting Houlihan's numbers and the Bee's previous performance. The Pontiac launches to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and covers the quarter-mile in 13.7 seconds at 104 mph.

"How's that?" you ask. "The Mopar packs so much more muscle under its hood. Why doesn't it smoke the Pontiac?"

Honestly, we're not really sure. At first we figured the Pontiac was just lighter. It sure feels that way from behind the wheel. But it isn't. At 4,106 pounds, the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT weighs only 56 pounds fewer than that Bee we tested. Transmission? Maybe. The Pontiac's six-speed automatic is an absolute performance advantage over the Bee's sluggish five-speed. We also have to consider the Mopar's heavy 20-inch rims and rubber, which don't do it any favors on the dragstrip. The Pontiac's optional 19-inch wheels and summer tires are certainly lighter, which makes it easier for the car to accelerate. These things matter, but don't fully explain how the G8 keeps up. Or why the Bee isn't quicker.

Plus the Pontiac has more gear in it. The rear-wheel-drive G8 GT manages this miracle with a 2.92:1 rear axle ratio. At 80 mph in top gear, its tach reads a lazy 2,000 rpm. Put some shorter gears in this sedan and Steve would've been looking up the G8's four exhaust pipes.

Think down the road, and the G8 GT should run with the Challenger SRT8, which shares its drivetrain and platform with the Super Bee SRT8. And the Camaro SS, which is based on the G8's underpinnings, should have no problem keeping up with the Challenger.

More Than Just Thrust
And when the road turns, things get even better. All G8s, V6- or V8-powered, get the same suspension tuning. GM calls the setup FE2, and it delivers a ride and handling compromise that falls just short of perfect.

With our test car's optional 245/40R19 Bridgestone RE050A tires providing the grip, this big, heavy sedan is fast on a mountain road. Very fast. But it also rides right, with proper compliance, buttoned-down body motions and a tight overall feel. The one misstep is a rear suspension that can feel a tick underdamped over some surfaces, especially when the G8's huge 19.2-gallon fuel tank is full.

With that tank topped off with premium (GM recommends regular but says premium maximizes performance), our scales say 51.4 percent of the G8's weight is carried by its front tires. Pontiac says that evens out to a 50/50 split when there's a driver and a passenger aboard. We flogged it with an empty right seat and found the G8's balance to be ideal. There's good turn-in, slight understeer at the limit and power oversteer when you want it.

Even with its standard stability control off, the G8 GT is fast, stable and just plain fun to toss around. So there may be a bit more body roll than there should be, and the steering wheel feels a bit large at first, but neither gets in the way of the fun or the pace. We also have to thank Pontiac for the G8's soft rev limiter and the rev-matching downshifts of the six-speed automatic. Together they add to the G8's lick on a mountain road but not necessarily in our handling tests.

At the test track, the G8 GT circles our skid pad at 0.85g and zips through our slalom course at over 65 mph. These numbers are behind smaller cars like the BMW 335i and the Infiniti G35 S, however, all but match the performance of the Dodge Charger SRT8 and the last BMW 535i we tested.

The G8 GT's four-wheel disc brakes are also worthy. They help produce a stopping distance from 60 mph of just 109 feet with excellent fade resistance, and they can hang with the best from Germany. But they're also activated by a soft pedal that provides little feel. It's the one real dynamic flaw in an otherwise impressive package.

No Sunfire Required
Unlike the most recent GTO, the Solstice or the laughable Grand Prix GXP, the G8 GT feels like a fully finished automobile. This is a car that's actually ready for public consumption. The entire public. No double-wide trailer or Sunfire ownership required.

This time Pontiac's engineers cared how their car felt, not just how it performed. For the first time in a long time, they decided to sweat the details. And the result is a Pontiac without any goofy missteps, colossal blunders or overtones of trailer-park style. They even resisted the temptation to put a big silly wing on it, leaving the G8's two hood scoops and four real exhaust pipes to state its case.

Restraint also found its way to the G8's interior. When you consider its well-shaped seats, simple white-on-black gauges and two-knob climate controls, it's clear that Pontiac's designers didn't take any unnecessary risks. Instead they built an honest, interesting interior that doesn't try too hard. Even our test car's optional red-on-black interior fails to feel overdone.

Pontiac obviously looked to Audi for the overall look and layout of the interior, and the results are a real argument for such acceptable plagiarism. Tactile feel is high and the interior's simple layout works. The driving position is also spot-on thanks to a tilt and telescoping steering wheel and a height-adjustable driver seat.

No, it's not perfect. There's no redline on the tach, in manual mode the shifter is still pushed to upshift and pulled to downshift (only BMW and Mazda get this right), and those digital gauges on the center stack must have been borrowed from a 1982 Datsun Z. The exhaust is also just too damn quiet. Yet forgivable all. These are just misdemeanors from a car company with a long list of felony offenses.

Rear seat room is also worth mentioning. You can play volleyball back there. And the trunk? Huge: 17.5 cubic feet.

Better Than the 6000 STE
And so we're smitten. Won over. The Australian-built 2008 Pontiac G8 GT is the best Pontiac since John Z. invented the GTO. No, not that GTO. The first GTO in 1964. You know, the one Ronny and the Daytonas immortalized in song. The one that started the whole muscle car thing. The Tiger.

No, we're not kidding.

The G8 GT is better than the 6000 STE, the Bonneville SSEi, the Grand Prix GTP, the G6 GXP and the Aztek UGLY. It even makes the Solstice feel like a half-ass effort. When it hits dealers in early March, the 40,000 examples of the G8 being shipped in from Down Under will reinvent Pontiac along the way.

Pontiac needs a win and the G8 is it. Just ask Motorhead Steve.

I'm really hoping for an aftermarket Holden front end. Judging from the Chrysler 300C sales, I wouldn't have my hopes up (at least in the long term anyways).

Why an aftermarket unit? I'm sure someone will publish on a web page somewhere how to do the conversion, and where to pick-up the factory Holden body panels.
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I'm really hoping for an aftermarket Holden front end.

That's really a waste of money.
Why oh why did they add those holes to the hood? And why oh why can't GM find a designer who isn't a fu*ktard? Just take the holes off the hood!
Why oh why did they add those holes to the hood? And why oh why can't GM find a designer who isn't a fu*ktard? Just take the holes off the hood!

Be thankful thats all the Holden stylist thought the Pontiac division wanted. Go take a look at the Grand Am/Grand Prix's and their excessive body lines and tell me thats what you want on a car?