Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2002 Pontiac Grand Am Overview
Pontiac's Hottest Selling Sports Sedan and Coupe
The Grand Am was first introduced to the American car-buying public back in 1973. It was a sporty, high performance machine designed to take on the rising tide of European imports such as BMW. The Grand Am came equipped with louvered rear windows, a unique polyurethane beak-like front end and the last of the big block 455 SD engines to be offered by GM in a passenger car. Though its reign lasted only 3 yearsdone in by the fuel crisis, rising emission regulations and lowered horsepower ratingsGM had not completely given up on the Grand Am name. It was brought back to the market in 1979 and then again permanently in 1985 where it has remained a stellar seller in the Pontiac line-up ever since.
Today's Grand Am has become a popular choice for many Americans who want the sporty look and feel of a performance car, but also must live with the day to day requirements of hauling around family, friends and business clients. The Grand Am manages to fill all these requirements with its flexible designit comes as a coupe or sedanand a long list of standard and optional equipment.
When you look at the Grand Am, even the base SE model, you can't help but think that this car is going to cost you more than you intended to spend. That assumption would be incorrect, for though all Grand Ams, from the SE to the GT, share the same sporty look and feel, they are value-priced thousands less than most of their competition. A sampling of the standard equipment list reveals what makes the Grand Am such a great buy. All Grand Am models include four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, programmable power locks, tilt steering wheel, air conditioning, illuminated entry and the PASSLock II theft-deterrent system. The Grand Am is available in SE, SE1 and top-of-the-line GT trim.
New to the SE models this year is GM's Ecotech inline four-cylinder engine. The Ecotech uses advanced engine design techniques, such as twin counter-rotating balance shafts that quell engine vibration, and all-aluminum construction help reduce weight. The result is a smooth-running four-cylinder engine that can produce 140 horsepower and return an EPA highway fuel rating of 33 miles per gallon (with the 5-speed manual). For those who prefer more power and a longer list of standard equipment, Pontiac offers the SE1 and GT versions. The SE1 gets a normally aspirated 3.4-liter V6 engine that produces 170 horsepower while the GT uses a Ram Air induction system that adds an additional 5 horsepower. Oddly, you can get a 5-speed manual on the SE and SE1, but not in the performance-oriented GT model.
The Grand Am interior gets a slight make-over this year with a revised center console and the addition of two integrated cup holders. The interior itself is a mixed bag. Though functional, some may find the bulbous-shaped dash, numerous tiny plastic buttons and bright orange backlighting to be a bit over the top; still others love this look, so any comment we make about the look of the Grand Am's interior is purely subjective. The Grand Am's front bucket seats are comfortable, but could use more side bolstering, especially on the sporty GT.
On the road, the Grand Am provides a comfortable, smooth ride. The four-cylinder SE model proved surprisingly strong and even delivered adequate passing power at high speed, a trait not usually found in more frugal engines. A move up to the V6 adds the mechanical punch to the visual statement of the SE1 and racy GT. You may want to take note that for a performance model, the GT's options list offers more flash than dash. For whatever reason, Pontiac has chosen to give the GT model the same suspension parts as the base Grand Am and as a result, the GT performance is not all that much different than that of a V6 SE.
The Grand Am's overall performance gets passing marks, but not straight As. Though you'll find the car has good road feel and spot-on steering, it does exhibit some body roll when tossed hard into the curves and exhibits a tendency to understeer, a common problem in front-wheel-drive cars. Understeer occurs when the car's front wheels are carving a larger arc than the rear tires. In most cases, letting up on the throttle will allow the vehicle's suspension to regain its composure and restore control of the vehicle to the driver.
Overall, the Pontiac Grand Am offers a great value for a mid-sized sports sedan/coupe priced under $20K. For the money, we think the SE1 offers the best combination of luxury, power and price. The GT, with its revised front end, rear deck-lid spoiler and Ram Air inductions looks and sounds terrific, but until it gets a significant boost in power, a better suspension and tire package and a 5-speed manual gearbox, its more show than go.