The Pontiac G8 is a modern muscle car, with rear-wheel drive and a snarly V8. Under full-throttle acceleration, the new GXP model reminds us of a Corvette, pasting us into the back of the seat as a guttural roar comes from under the hood. In fact, the high-performance GXP is powered by a Corvette engine.
Bigger than the Mustang and Camaro pony cars, the G8 is a four-door like the Dodge Charger. It's smaller than the Charger or Ford Taurus, however, with exterior dimensions close to those of the Cadillac CTS and BMW 5 Series.
The G8 is attractive, smooth and muscular with an unmistakably Pontiac nose. The interior is comfortable and tidy, with good instrumentation and nice materials. The back seat is reasonably roomy and the trunk is big. The standard cloth seats are excellent. Leather is optional, and the 11-speaker Blaupunkt audio upgrade sounds great. The G8 has a comprehensive list of passive and active safety features, including head-protection airbags, electronic stability control, and GM's OnStar telematics system. We found everything in the G8 melds together nicely.
The G8 comes with a 256-hp V6, the same engine found in the brilliant Cadillac CTS. There's adequate power from the V6 engine. The base model lacks the verve of the GT model, however, partly because its five-speed automatic is less responsive. Still, it costs $3,400 less than the GT, and it delivers better fuel economy, earning an EPA rating of 17/25 mpg City/Highway.
The G8 GT features a 361-horsepower V8 that's smooth and responsive at any speed, and it makes for the most powerful sedan in this price range. Step on the gas: The thrill starts at the hood scoops, passes through the seat of the pants and spills from the GT's four stainless-steel exhaust tips as the countryside disappears rapidly in the rearview mirror. The GT's six-speed automatic is one of the smoothest, quickest shifting transmissions anywhere. Its handling character is taut, and its ride is comfortably firm. Thanks to GM's Active Fuel Management cylinder-deactivation technology, mileage isn't bad either, for such a powerful car. The GT delivers up to 24 mpg highway.
For 2009, the high-performance G8 GXP joined the lineup, powered by the same engine as the standard Corvette sports car. GM's 6.2-liter LS3 V8 generates upwards of 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, and the GXP adds other performance upgrades, including an advanced Brembo brake system. It's hot. On a track it would be fantastic. Around town it feels like a muscle car. Order the GXP with the high-performance Tremec six-speed manual gearbox, and the clutch and strong torque conspire to make cruising around the neighborhood smoothly a bit of a challenge.
The G8 is Pontiac's first rear-wheel drive sedan in 20 years. It replaced the Grand Prix in the Pontiac line-up. We have Australia to thank for the Pontiac G8. It's built there by Holden, a division of General Motors, and is sold as the Commodore SS. It's been one Australia's favorites for years, and GM has had a long time to perfect it. North American shoppers seeking an engaging sports sedan with classic V8 thrust can now reap the benefits.
The G8 was launched as a 2008 model. For 2009, XM satellite radio hardware and Bluetooth connectivity come standard on all models.
The 2009 Pontiac G8 is available in three variants, distinguished primarily by engine size and horsepower.
The base G8 ($28,190) features a 3.6-liter, dual-overhead-cam V6, with 256 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, and a five-speed automatic transmission. It comes with cloth upholstery, a full complement of power features, including seats, a seven-speaker sound system with single CD and auxiliary input jack, and 18-inch aluminum wheels. For 2009, XM satellite radio and Bluetooth connectivity for mobile phones have been added to the standard-equipment list.
The G8 GT ($31,555) upgrades to a 6.0-liter V8, generating 361 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque, and a six-speed automatic. The cam-in-block V8 features GM's Active Fuel Management technology, which switches from eight-cylinder to four-cylinder operation during light-load driving conditions to improve fuel economy. The GT also adds dual-zone automatic climate control and upgraded Blaupunkt audio with 11 speakers and six-CD changer.
Options are few. The Comfort and Sound Package ($795) for the base model adds dual-zone climate control and the stereo upgrade, bringing interior features up to GT specification. The Premium Package for the G8 ($1,375) and GT ($1,250) includes leather upholstery and heated front seats with more adjustment. A Sport Package for the GT ($600) adds sport pedals and 19-inch wheels with summer performance tires. Stand alone options are limited to a power sunroof ($900) and all-season tires for the 19-inch wheel package ($150).
The G8 GXP ($37,610) is powered by a 402-hp, 6.2-liter LS3 V8 and comes with the six-speed automatic. The GXP adds other performance upgrades, including a more aggressively tuned suspension and Brembo brake system. A six-speed Tremec manual transmission is optional.
Safety features on all G8s includes frontal airbags and side-impact airbags for front passengers, with curtain-type head protection airbags front and rear. Active safety systems include full-feature ABS, traction control and electronic stability control. There's also a tire-pressure monitor. The standard OnStar package includes a one-year subscription to the Safe and Sound accident reporting service, which will direct emergency crews to your location should the airbags deploy.