2008 Pontiac G8 -- 2007 Chicago Auto Show Preview: Pontiac: Designed for Action. No known antidote. Street cred. Starstruck. Performance. Passion. Those are the keywords and phrases Pontiac’s marketing machine uses to describe its lineup. Problem is, this amounts to a promise largely unfulfilled. Or is it? If the all-new G8 sedan, based on Australia’s Holden Commodore, impresses from behind the wheel as much as it does when being gazed upon, Pontiac’s marketing hype might actually prove credible. At least in this one isolated case. When it goes on sale during the first quarter of 2008, the rear-wheel-drive G8 will come in attractive yet subdued base trim, and tire-squealing, drift-friendly, 362-horsepower GT guise. Yeah, baby.
As General Motors’ self-described performance brand, Pontiac’s mandate is to offer modern day American muscle. To accomplish that objective, the brand’s lineup has grown with the addition of models like the Solstice and an expanding slew of GXP-badged sedans, coupes, convertibles, and crossovers. Word is, Pontiac will have a version of the upcoming Chevrolet Camaro, an offering that would certainly help solidify the marriage of Pontiac with Performance. Currently, the best performance car in the lineup is the Solstice GXP, with the mediocre G6 and Torrent variants coming up relatively short. But the new G8 is different – with its aggressive style, rear-wheel-drive architecture, and optional V8 muscle, this may just be what Pontiac needs to become the brand it aspires to be.
Pontiac will offer the rear-wheel-drive 2008 G8 with two engine choices, including a V6 and a V8. The smaller of the two is an aluminum 3.6-liter, 24-valve, dual overhead cam V6 with variable-valve timing and is paired with the G8 base model. Running on regular gas, the V6 puts out 261 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 250 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,200 rpm, delivering its power with the help of a manually-interactive five-speed automatic transmission. GT versions of the G8 are home to an aluminum 6.0-liter, 16-valve, small-block V8 cranking out 362 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 391 lb.-ft. at 4,400 with regular-grade gas. A manually-interactive six-speed automatic is standard, while a six-speed manual is optional.
Technically, the G8 is meant to be the eventual replacement for the Grand Prix, but in actuality it will be filling the larger performance void created by the departure of the GTO. As such, and given Pontiac’s reinvigorated focus on power and performance, designers knew that the G8 needed a certain in-your-face presence. And that’s just what they’ve delivered. The show car pictured here is a strong representation of what we’ll see for the production model, including the flared wheel wells, the aggressive front end, and the attractive interior, but what hits the lots early next year will sit about a half inch higher and will lose the leather dash, custom wheels, unique exterior color, and painted calipers.
Pontiac will offer the 2008 G8 sedan in two trims: Base and GT. All models will be outfitted with six airbags, OnStar, XM satellite radio, and power front seats. In addition, the G8 is purported to offer a more upscale interior, one accented with bits fashioned in satin and chrome, consistent grain patterns from improved materials, and a sporty gauge cluster. Opt for the Sport Package, and in addition to exterior treats including unique alloy wheels and a tweaked rear spoiler, enjoy interior enhancements such as alloy pedals, and leather on the steering wheel and shift knob. Speaking of leather, it’s an optional upholstery on all versions, though the GT is eligible for unique two-tone colors.
“With the balance of rear-wheel drive and the availability of V8 power, the G8 represents another step in Pontiac’s commitment to its performance DNA,” says Pontiac’s General Manager, John Larson. “Added to the Solstice and the recently announced additions of the G6 and Torrent to the GXP series, the G8 demonstrates that Pontiac has never been more serious about the business of performance – and we expect this vehicle to be very competitive in the segment, even against cars that cost far more.”
Good looks, a Corvette-sourced V8, rear-wheel drive, an optional manual transmission, and everyday usability. It’s about freakin’ time the domestics produced a car like this (in the 21st century), and it’s especially satisfying to see it come from a brand that prides itself in being all about performance. With its V6, the G8 will be offer average car buyers a family sedan with a different take on styling, but more importantly for Pontiac, enthusiasts will likely be clamoring for a test drive in a GT with a clutch and six cogs. Count us among them.