Pontiac G8 V8 Review

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I guess squeezing a big V8 in an affordable car has been an American and Australian specialty for decades. Which explains this car.
Although 99% of buyers will be perfectly satisfied with the “base” V6 and its 256hp, the availability of 361hp in a $30 000 car might be tempting to some.
just like the V6 version, the G8 GT is a really good looking sedan. If a bit anonymous.
Again, I think it looks really good in black. (But what car doesn’t…)

For the first few minutes of my drive around San Diego I was stuck behind a truck. Which forced me to drive in a pretty slow (or normal) and relaxed manner, in the wonderfully twisty roads.
And I was pretty amazed to find out I was doing 23mpg. Which does not really reflects city, or faster driving.
And that’s really the point. As soon as I could I floored it and passed the truck.
The engine sounds like a luxury car when you cruise, but once you push it, it reveals its huge power and sporty nature. But it always sounds very refined no matter what.

The thing that really bugged me was how slow the transmission was to downshift.
The engine has more power than anyone needs, but it takes a couple of seconds to feel it. That’s really annoying and seems to go against the car personality.
You know they did that to get the best mileage possible. But what’s the point of having that much power in the 1st place if it doesn’t come instantly???

And I also felt that the steering was not as good as the V6.
That is something I also noticed in the Malibu. The base 2.4 Liter car had a much nicer steering than the more “twitchy” one used in the upscale V6 version.
In the G8 GT, it really felt like a video game. Very artificial to me. And required constant adjusting in long straight lines.
Again, something I wouldn’t associate in a sports car.

Inside, you can get the option of red inserts on the leather seats.
Which included an armrest not available in the V6 cloth interior.
It also comes with red inserts on the instruments. Which adds to the otherwise very serious interior a bit of fun touches.

After the drive I was pretty puzzled about the car’s mission. It is basically marketed as a 4 door muscle car. With the most power you can get for the money.
But the slow transmission and sensitive steering kind of prevent it from being a true sports car.
And the comfortable suspension is great for the family and the horrible roads we get over here. But it might just be a bit soft when you want to corner really fast in a 361hp car.
And for those who want even more power, just wait for the GXP version next year. With over 400hp and a manual transmission.
They also claim the suspension is upgraded. Something that may be needed even on the GT.
And the Sport Truck “El Camino” style is coming too. So Pontiac really believe in the G8.

It’s just too bad we won’t get the really good looking wagon version available in Australia. You can blame the Dodge magnum poor sales for that one.

It is quite a lot of car for the money. Even a fully optioned model is $32 700.
As long as you don’t expect a BMW (at that price you shouldn’t, but some people still do…), don’t care about gas prices or what the resale of a V8 sedan might be in a few years, and can live with a few cheap interior bits, you should be happy with the G8 GT.

For my taste, even though the V8 can be intoxicating, I would still pick the cheaper V6 model…

Conversation 10 comments

  1. I guess GM thinks that the muscle heads want a softer ride and straight-line power rules. The V6 is lighter so that would make the front of the car more tossable. I would prefer a tighter BMW 3er handling but most customers want a softer ride I guess.

  2. I like this car a lot. A LOT, and I can’t wait to drive it. There are some things that I hope are taken care of rally soon. First, that gauge set looks very chintzy. This is the part of the car I look at the most often. So it’s very important to make it look good to reinforce why I’ve just spent $35k-plus on a Pontiac. And fake hood scoops? That kind of tackiness is something I’d expect on a WRX or a 1988 Trans Am. Fake go-fast stuff has no place on a car that’s supposed to rival the Germans. And is there going to be a nav option? Anyway, I’m glad that the reviews are good so far. But this is not going to blow everything else out of the water. People cross shopping this with a Maxima or entry level C-class, A4, 3-Series or IS Lexus will nitpick this stuff apart. Until there is a bit of tidying up of some shortcomings that are indicative of malaise era automotive engineering, I give this only a B-. There is only one opportunity for the G8 to make a first impression, so I hope that these things are addressed by the time this thing launches.

  3. GREAT review, as always, and I heartily agree on the V6.

    Reading other boards, people are largely only looking at and buying V8’s “just because” and also because, on paper, they say the expected fuel mileage is hardly different. From experience, the V6 will still be more economical and is an awesome engine, plus being lighter, etc., it’s a very sweet combo. The V8 can be fun, but overkill.

    From someone who just bought a 4-cyl ’08 Malibu and wouldn’t consider a V6, it’s clear why I too think this way.

    So, great Vince. Even more details and maybe video are the only things that could make it better. Unlike reading a typical magazine full of slalom, acceleration, etc. figures, and not “real world”.

  4. Good article Vince. I will add that I too am saddened that we won’t get that wonderful wagon. It is a shame that american’s lost their love for wagons. What with the current real estate crash and the coming economic meltdown (i.e. depression) a wagon has it’s advantage that one car sleep in it once the house is given back to the bank because of default, try living in a sedan. I am soo glad I have my XC70. I am kidding about the wagon but I am not kidding about the economic collapse.

  5. It wasn’t the Dodge Magnum that killed the G8 wagon, it was a material compatiblility issue with NA regulations that killed it. It was all go before that. I hope they tune the suspension and steering issues.

  6. there goes vince again, claiming he doesn’t focus on expensive cars and giving a huge article on another expensive, non mainstream,GM. Don’t you know that GM really has never built a good car in their history?

  7. Here in Australia, this car is NOT a competitor for BMW, etc… It is a cheap family sedan, like I guess you have the Impala for. You also get it a hell of a lot cheaper than we do so I wouldn’t complain if I were you. For this same version we are charged over AU$60,000. This car IS mainstream. Holden make and sell thousands a year, and the Commodore is Australias best selling car.

  8. Too expensive. Americans want SUVs not large sedans. And your Owners are going to put you in jail for 10 years for speeding violations…Like Florida is doing now.

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