1995 Pontiac Grand Am

By November 10, 1999
1999 Mercury Grand Marquis

Since this car’s inception, the Pontiac Grand Am’s sales performance has been nothing short of remarkable. As a close relation to both the Buick Skylark and the Oldsmobile Achieva, the Grand Am is Pontiac’s perennial chart topper, with sales that frequently surpass the 200,000-unit mark. In 1993, it outdrove all previous records with sales of 211,544.

What’s the big attraction? This sporty midsize car, available as a sedan or coupe, has appeal with a broad range of buyers, from singles to small families. The common thread among these customers is the desire to have a sassy-looking vehicle that has lively handling and respectable performance in an affordable package.

The big news for the 1995 Grand Am, Achieva and Sky-lark is a new powertrain lineup. The standard engine is now the newest version of General Motors’ 2.3-liter Quad 4 16-valve 4-cylinder engine. Refined for 1995, the Quad 4 is smoother and quieter than previous versions.

A 3.1-liter V6 is available as an upgrade option on all models. This engine was extensively redesigned for 1994 and provides better low-speed performance than the Quad 4, as well as smoother all-around operation.

Our test model was a Grand Am GT coupe, the sportiest car of a sporty bunch.


There’s no mistaking this car for anything but a Pontiac. The Grand Am has all of Pontiac’s signature styling cues, from the front spoiler to the racy-looking body cladding to the rear deck wing on the GT coupe.

The Grand Am offers the SE coupe and sedan as well as the GT coupe and sedan. The SE coupe competes with the likes of the Ford Probe, Honda Accord and the new Dodge Avenger/Chrysler Sebring.

Its sedan counterpart battles the Nissan Altima and Honda Accord as well as new entries to the segment: the Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique and Dodge Stratus/Chrysler Cirrus.

The Grand Am GT coupe and sedan have even more competition, with the arrival of the Avenger ES and Sebring, and Stratus ES and Contour SE.

Although this is a formidable situation, the Grand Am stands out as distinctly American. Its styling remains bold – almost flashy when outfitted in GT garb – compared with its more understated competitors.

Interior Features

The Grand Am is reasonably roomy inside for a vehicle of its class; by that we mean it has good front legroom and fairly tight quarters in the rear.

The coupe is really designed for singles or childless couples. Climbing into its rear seat is difficult and awkward, and there’s not enough room back there for an adult to feel comfortable during trips of more than a few miles.

The sedan is much better suited to small families. There isn’t much more leg-room, but rear doors obviously make getting in and out easier, and it’s also easier to maneuver a child seat into place.

Extra cargo capacity is optional on the Grand Am with a split folding rear seat, which we had on our test car.

Our biggest complaint with the Grand Am is a standard gripe we have with most Pontiac cars: poorly designed seats. All Grand Ams come with standard reclining bucket seats and headrests in the front. Despite the manual 4-way lumbar adjustment, the driver’s seat of our GT lacked support, and the bottom seat cushion was uncomfortably long for our short-legged test drivers.

On top of all that, the unoccupied front passenger seatback flopped forward during hard braking, which proved to be irritating and distracting to the driver.

The Grand Am interior is quite attractive, though the plastic used on switches is hard compared with the soft-touch materials used in the new Pontiac Sunfire. Gauges on the instrument panel are easy to read.

A front floor console features a storage compartment and coin holder. Additional storage is available in the dual glove boxes. The bottom box pulls out like a drawer rather than the traditional opening.

The Grand Am is equipped with an abundance of safety features, but still lacks a passenger airbag. Standard features include a driver’s airbag, anti-lock brakes and an automatic brake/transmission shift interlock, which prevents the vehicle from being shifted out of park unless the brake pedal is depressed. Sedans also include a power window lock-out switch and childproof rear door locks.

Illuminated entry and exit with theater dimming provides a sense of security. Interior lights are activated for 15 seconds when either the inside or outside door handles are pulled or when the key is pulled from the ignition. Instead of abruptly turning off, the lights dim slowly – hence the term theater dimming.

Our GT coupe came with the optional Sport Interior group. The package includes leather or uplevel Spectra cloth, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, passenger-assist grips, reading and courtesy lights, visor extensions and the split-folding rear seat.

Our test car also had options that included cruise control, rear-window defogger, AM/ FM stereo with cassette, re-mote keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, and variable-assist power steering. A valet lock-out feature prevents unauthorized people from opening the trunk.

Like all Pontiacs, the Grand Am is covered by a comprehensive customer-assistance plan called “Pontiac Cares.” This program features 24-hour emergency roadside assistance – including, among other things, gas delivery and flat-tire changes – and courtesy transportation during warranty repairs.

Driving Impressions

As we noted, the revised 2.3-liter engine coupled with a 5-speed manual transmission is the standard powertrain for all Grand Am models. It replaces the 2.3-liter OHC engine on the SE models, which has been dropped from the GM engine inventory and won’t be missed.

The revised Quad 4 delivers 150 hp at 6000 rpm and 145 lb.-ft. at 4800 rpm. Gas mileage is rated at 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.

For 1995, the Quad 4 features a balance shaft system designed to make the engine smoother in mid- to high-speed driving ranges. Despite this improvement, we nevertheless found the engine a little noisy for our liking.

The 4-speed overdrive automatic transmission is available on all models. A 3-speed automatic is optional on SE models.

Although the Quad 4 delivers peppy performance with a 5-speed manual transmission, it’s not so lively with an automatic. But if you prefer an automatic, we recommend the extra low-speed punch of the more potent 3.1-liter 3100 V6.

Our test model was equipped with the new power variable-effort steering, which is available only on the GT. The system is designed to provide steering effort to match driving conditions – firmer for highway cruising and softer for parking assists. To be frank, we didn’t notice much difference. We thought the steering was too heavy and it varied little.

For 1995, Pontiac has made improvements to the Grand Am’s suspension to smooth out ride quality. Still, we found the GT’s suspension harsh, although its handling responses were crisp. Unless your priority is for sporty behavior, the softer ride of the SE models would probably be preferable.


The Grand Am provides snappy styling and respectable performance for a wide range of customers in a class with a growing crop of competitors.

Arrivals such as the Contour/ Mystique and Avenger/Sebring will give the Grand Am a run for the money. But these emerging vehicles won’t detract from the Grand Am’s tempting combination of variety, performance and price.