We have Australia to thank for the all-new 2008 Pontiac G8. It was designed and is built there by Holden, a division of General Motors, and is sold as the Commodore SS. They've had the time to perfect it.
The G8 is a rear-wheel-drive sedan, Pontiac's first full-size car since the Bonneville was discontinued in 2005. It becomes the Pontiac flagship, being bigger than the mid-size front-wheel-drive G6, and it takes that spot at the top of the line with pride, being a very good car, with no weaknesses. At least not with the V8-engined GT, which Pontiac accurately bills as the most powerful car on the market for under $30,000. But it's not just powerful; there's a wonderful six-speed manual automatic transmission, the ride is comfortable without being soft, and the handling is taut. It all works.
And it looks good: smooth and muscular, with an unmistakably Pontiac nose. The interior is comfortable and tidy, with good instrumentation and a reasonably roomy rear seat. The standard cloth seats are excellent, with good bolstering and lumbar support. Leather is optional. The GT features an 11-speaker Blaupunkt sound system.
Even with 361 horsepower, the G8 GT gets 15 city and 24 highway miles per gallon, on regular fuel. Premium is recommended but not required. When Pontiac measures the horsepower on the dynamometer, guaranteed, they use premium fuel.
It comes with a comprehensive list of safety features, including electronic stability control, curtain airbags, and Onstar.
The V6 G8 uses the same engine that's in the Cadillac CTS. It doesn't rate the same praise as the GT because it doesn't have the V8's power, six-speed transmission or taut suspension or steering. It costs $2400 less, and its highway mileage is only one more mile per gallon, at 17 city and 25 highway.
The GT is the hot setup. The 6.0-liter, 361-horsepower V8 engine, using a six-speed manual automatic transmission, totally changes the car. Starting with the hood scoops, passing through the seat of your pants with the tuned suspension, and ending at the four polished stainless exhaust tips. Inside, it adds dual-zone air conditioning, a leather wrap steering wheel with controls, color LCD display, and six-disc CD with Blaupunkt 11-speaker sound system.
The 2008 Pontiac G8 comes in two models, the G8 ($26,910) with a V6 engine, and the G8 GT ($29,310) with a V8.
The V6 engine in the G8 makes 256 horsepower and uses a five-speed automatic with driver shift control. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, cruise control, four-way power front seats, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, lighted visor mirrors, compass in rearview mirror, power windows and locks, AM/FM/CD seven-speaker sound system with auxilary input jack, 18-inch aluminum wheels, fog lights, and tinted glass.
Options include a Comfort and Sound Package ($795), an upgrade to dual-zone A/C and 6CD with MP3 and premium speakers.
The GT adds dual-zone air conditioning, a leather wrapped steering wheel with controls, color LCD, and 6CD with Blaupunkt 11-speaker sound system. That's in addition to the 6.0-liter V8, six-speed transmission, tuned suspension, and special trim. The Premium Package ($1250) includes leather upholstery and heated, six-way power front seats.
Safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes, stability control, traction control, remote vehicle start, driver info center with tire pressure monitor, battery run-down protection; front, side and curtain airbags, and one year of Onstar Safe and Sound, which does not include navigation guidance.