Pontiac's Grand Am is a major sales success. Although compact in size, it looks big and important; at a quick glance it could be easily mistaken for its bigger brother, the Pontiac Grand Prix. Inside, Grand Am's elaborate cockpit could make any Walter Mitty feel like an airline pilot.
That impression wouldn't evaporate the first time Wally opens the throttle because Grand Am backs up its racy looks with frisky performance and sport-coupe handling.
For 2002, Grand Am features a new base engine designed for smoother operation, better fuel economy and lower maintenance costs, with no significant loss in performance.
Two body styles are available, a two-door coupe and a coupe-like four-door sedan. Each comes in four trim levels, with the sedan priced $150 higher than the comparable coupe. The sedan offers slightly more rear headroom than the coupe (and two more doors), but otherwise they are functionally identical.
Base-level SE models begin at $16,800 for the coupe, and come with air conditioning, anti-lock brakes, traction control, aggressive P215/60R15 tires and many other standard features. SE1 ($18,240 for the coupe) adds cruise control, power windows and locks, four-way adjustable front seats, alloy wheels and six-speaker audio with compact disc and graphic equalizer.
Next up is the GT ($20,690), which has its own unique front and rear fascias, plus a stiffer suspension, wider (P225/50R16) tires, disc brakes at all four corners and a leather-wrapped steering wheel connected to speed-sensitive power steering. GT1 ($21,960) adds a power glass sunroof, six-way power driver's seat, and eight-speaker Monsoon audio with steering-wheel-mounted controls.
Last year's base-level, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is gone, replaced by the new EcoTec 2.2-liter four. Like its predecessor, EcoTec is a twin-cam unit with four valves per cylinder. It is rated only 140 horsepower, vs. 150 for the old engine; but Pontiac claims that those ten ponies will hardly be missed. In exchange, EcoTec offers a wealth of high-tech bragging rights. It is not only the lightest engine GM builds in its displacement class, but also one of the most compact four-bangers built in the world. All-aluminum construction contributes to its ultra-light weight of only 305 pounds, while twin balance shafts ensure smooth operation. Fuel economy is improved as well.
A 3.4-liter overhead-valve V6 producing 170 horsepower in standard tune is a $715 option for SE1. GT and GT1 models come standard with the V6, pumped up to 175 horsepower with cold-air induction (called ram air) and a less restrictive exhaust.
SE and SE1 buyers can choose a new five-speed manual transmission built by Getrag, a renowned German gearbox manufacturer; or (for $825) a four-speed automatic. The SE1 V6 and the sportier GT and GT1 are offered only with the automatic transmission.
GT and GT1 can be equipped with leather seats for $595. The power glass sunroof can be added to GT or SE1 for $700.