Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Pontiac Bonneville Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Pontiac Bonneville Overview

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A Bold Performer With a Modest Price Tag

The Bonneville name is a mainstay of the Pontiac line that traces its ancestry all the way back to the 1950s. If you are reading this review, you probably have the Bonneville in mind as a possible future purchase. If so, you know that the Bonneville is a substantial car, in both size and performance and that there are few rivals that can match its combination of style, power, accommodations and available equipment.

For 2003, the front-wheel-drive Bonneville gets a more streamlined look, with less exterior cladding and a bold new wheel design that helps draw your eye to the beauty of the cars lines. Available in SE, SLE and SSEi trim, there is a Bonneville to suit just about everyone's budget.

Though its performance abilities are but one of the Bonneville's strong suits, it is first and foremost a sedan. On SE and SLE models you'll find the big Pontiac has room for six adults, with ample rear-seat head and legroom. And the Bonneville's wide stance translates into more front and rear shoulder room than is offered by such heavy hitters as the Lexus ES300 and Nissan Maxima. Up front, a comfortable 55/45 split-bench is standard on both SE and SLE models; it features a six-way power driver's seat and a folding center armrest. Optional bucket seats with a dividing center storage console can be ordered as part of an upgrade package on both the SE and SLE. The performance-oriented SSEi gets an amazingly comfortable pair of leather bucket seats that are power adjustable 12-ways and are outfitted with power lumbar support and a memory function.

The Bonneville's dash is further proof of the car's sporting intent. Its large instruments display readouts for temperature, speed, engine rpm, oil pressure and volts and are backlit in a soothing orange glow. Radio and HVAC controls are located just to the driver's right and have been redesigned to minimize the number of small buttons and switches; compared to previous Bonnevilles, the new design is much more user friendly. You'll also appreciate that all the switch gear—including the power window buttons and optional steering-wheel mounted controls—are backlit in the same orange light, negating the need to switch on the overhead dome to locate controls.

And because we know that sedan buyers care about more than just passenger room, we are happy to report that the Bonneville's deep 18-cubic-foot trunk can easily fit two sets of golf clubs and that its clever wrap-over deck lid design minimizes the lift height required to place objects inside.

A 3800-V6 engine that produces 205 horsepower is standard on the SE and SLE models. When combined with the engine's 230 lbs-ft. of torque, the V6 makes easy work of moving a fully-loaded Bonneville. The excellent GM four-speed automatic kicks down quickly, making the most of the engine's strong low-end power—a fact you'll appreciate when pulling into traffic or passing slower moving vehicles. The SLE gets a beefed up differential that makes it a bit quicker off the line and its larger 17-inch wheels and tires help it outperform its SE cousin on twisting hairpin turns. The Bonneville delivers a compliant ride, devoid of shake or vibration and its interior sound levels are extremely low, even at highway speeds.

As good a road car as the SE and SLE models are, the real meat and potatoes can be found in the high-performance Bonneville SSEi. The SSEi receives a testosterone injection in the form of a supercharged V6 that bumps the Bonneville's power output to 240 horses. The SSEi also gets a much more aggressive suspension, larger front and rear brakes and an advanced magnetic power steering setup for improved road feel and handling. On the road, the SSEi corners better, accelerates faster and stops quicker than the SE and SLE; it also displays far less body roll and lean during aggressive driving. As good as the other two are, if you really want the most from your Bonneville, this is the model to get.

We'd be remiss if we didn't talk about some of the equipment the Bonneville offers. Base SE models come standard with air conditioning, power windows and door locks, front-side impact airbags, cruise control, rear defroster, illuminated entry, AM/FM stereo with CD and 7-band graphic equalizer, tilt-steering wheel and the PASSKEY theft-deterrent system. To this already impressive list, the SLE adds 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic dual-zone climate controls, a driver information center, electrochromatic rear-view mirror, one year OnStar service plan, leather-wrapped steering wheel with redundant audio controls and a high-performance axle ratio. Finally, the SSEi has all the best features of the SE and SLE plus such super-cool features as a Headsup visual display that projects your current speed, radio setting and instrument functions onto the lower portion of the windshield; a killer Monsoon 8-speaker audio system; heated front driver and passenger seats; the Stabilitrak traction-control system; a Magnasteer variable effort power steering box and of course, that marvelous supercharged V6 engine.

When you look at all the Bonneville has to offer and then consider its base price starts just over $26K, it is clear the Bonneville value story is one reason the name continues to be a best seller for GM's most visually vibrant division.

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