Four-door sedans form the most important component of every major automobile manufacturer's lineup in the world. The global market for practical transportation might be less glamorous than that for sexy coupes, sports cars or rugged sport-utility vehicles, but it is also the largest by a fair margin. The battle for the hearts and minds of basic sedan customers is fought tooth and nail, with the victors managing to sell hundreds of thousands of well-engineered but otherwise unremarkable vehicles that are valued for their reliability, their fuel efficiency and their overall build quality.
North American car companies spent most of the 1990's getting the short end of the stick when it came to everyday sedan sales. Extremely lackluster offerings during the 1980s combined with the blossoming of a viable alternative in the form of excellent four-door cars from Japanese automakers like Toyota and Honda meant that all of a sudden, America automakers were losing a sizable number of the core buyers that they had previously taken for granted. It takes quite a while to re-tool and redesign an entire fleet of automobiles, but in order for the Big Three to remain competitive that is exactly what they would have to do to re-engage their disappointed former customers.
Pontiac's fate was no different than any other brand at General Motors when it came to sales. The division needed a sharper image in order to give potential buyers something to latch on to when it came to attracting attention to their group of sedans. One of the first things the company did was introduce performance-oriented editions of their mid-size Grand Prix. The vehicle competed in NASCAR in two-door form, but the sedan was also given a higher horsepower engine and better suspension in order to draw in a larger audience.
With the relative success of the Grand Prix experiment, Pontiac approached the rest of its sedan lineup with a fairly clean slate. The Bonneville name was resurrected, only this time instead of a ponderously long-wheelbase vehicle, the badge was associated with a trimmed down, V-8-powered sedan. Further, realizing that the best days of the Grand Am mid-size were far behind it, the vehicle was nixed in favor of a brand new platform dubbed the G6. The G6's futuristic styling was just Pontiac-enough to not alienate past buyers while still managing to be much more competitive in its segment. This one-two punch vastly improved the overall Pontiac lineup and also enabled the company to distance itself from the likes of Buick, which was headed towards oblivion at the time, and Chevrolet which had more of a lower-market focus.
This article talks about these automobiles, the three best used sedans available from Pontiac, and examines their specifications and features in order to help buyers choose which to buy out of the many different four-door options available.
1998 - 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix
Styled in the 1990's, the 1998 - 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix was a design which held up well against the changing tides of the sedan market after the year 2000. Helped by its graceful and aerodynamic lines, it was a vast improvement over the triangular wedge of the vehicle's previous generation. This was the first of the new Grand Prix's to return to Pontiac's 'wide track' performance hype of the 1960's and 70's, and the vehicle did indeed embrace an aggressive aesthetic that would serve it well amongst style-conscious buyers.
The 1998 - 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix is offered with the choice of three distinct V-6 engines and performance levels. Base SE models make do with a 170 horsepower, 3.1-liter, while stepping up to GT trim added 25 horsepower, a number which would even out at 200 ponies from 1999-onwards. The real treat for lead-footed drivers is the 240 horsepower Grand Prix GTP. With 280 lb-ft of torque, this vehicle is very quick off the line, easily able to overpower the stability control program and light up the front tires. All editions of the Grand Prix are outfitted with the same 4-speed automatic transmission.
The Grand Prix's semi-wraparound dashboard allows the driver to have a better view of the vehicle's information screen, as well as easier access to the heating and stereo controls. The vehicle's seats are very comfortable and make it easy for a full load of 5 passengers to eat up roadtrip miles. The rear bench makes for more than adequate accommodations for full-grown adults, with no issues surrounding head or leg room. A heads-up display is available on later models of the car. This feature projects vehicle speed and other information onto the windshield so that drivers can keep track of the car's status without having to take their eyes off of the road.
The 1998 - 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix is an excellent performing used sedan that is equally at home as family transportation or a spirited four-door thrill ride.
2000 - 2005 Pontiac Bonneville
Front-wheel drive cars and V-8 engines were a rare combination throughout the 1990s. The only consistent exception to the rule was Cadillac, who relied on the heavy weight of their automobiles combined with an advanced traction control system to make sure that wheel-spin was not too exaggerated during a hard launch. The physics of a front-wheel drive platform work against a vehicle if it is loaded up with too much horsepower, as the weight transfers away from the drive wheels once the accelerator is mashed to the floor.
However, after the year 2000 technology had progressed to the point where Pontiac was comfortable offering 8-cylinders of torque in their full-size flagship sedan. The first few years of production saw the 2000 - 2005 Pontiac Bonneville limited to either a 205 horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 engine in the base model or a 240 horsepower supercharged edition of that same motor in the SSEi. Seeking a way to add a level of exclusivity to the sedan, Pontiac replaced the SSEi with the GXP trim and in doing so added a 4.6-liter Cadillac Northstar engine to the mix. With 275 horsepower, this edition of the Bonneville is much quicker than any that had ever come before it. All versions of the car use a 4-speed automatic transmission to handle the shifting duties.
The 2000 - 2005 Pontiac Bonneville offers a number of standard features right off the bat. Air conditioning and power everything can be found in even the lowliest of trims, while higher models have dual zone climate control, power seats and leather seats. A heads-up display similar to that found in the Grand Prix can be found in the supercharged models. The large platform makes for a spacious cabin with ample seating comfort to be had by all passengers. Despite its size, the Bonneville is positioned as somewhat of a driver's car, and as such gauges and dashboard presentation all have a sporty feel.
The 2000 - 2005 Pontiac Bonneville is an inexpensive used sedan perfect for buyers interested in something a little nicer than the standard full-size fare and with the option of either supercharged or V-8 power.
2005 - 2007 Pontiac G6
Looking to improve on the image of the Grand Am, Pontiac's older and decidedly low-tech small mid-size sedan, the 2005 - 2007 Pontiac G6 hits the ground running with electrifying looks and a new and pleasant chassis. The G6 pays much more than lip service to the idea of an affordable yet sporty sedan, as it matches its well-tuned platform with powerful engine options that are capable of hanging with some of the leaders in its class.
The only engine choice available for 2005 G6 sedans is a 200 horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 that also puts out 220 lb-ft of torque. In 2006, a 4-cylinder engine was offered, displacing 2.4-liters and producing 167 horsepower, along with a high-strung 240 horsepower 3.-liter V-6 in the sport-oriented GTP model. The latter power plant would be replaced in 2007 by a 3.6-liter, 252 horsepower V-6, with the remaining motors both seeing a power increase. While the constantly changing engine lineup might seem confusing, it represents Pontiac's commitment to keeping the G6 competitive against Japanese challengers from Mazda and Nissan. All models of the G6 have a 4-speed automatic transmission as standard equipment with the exception of the GTP, which offered a 6-speed manual until 2007 when this was replaced with a 6-speed automatic.
The inside of the 2005 - 2007 Pontiac G6 is decidedly different from the entry-level mid-size vehicles offered by the company in the past. Gone are the clunky plastic controls and in their place are nifty little buttons and switches that inspire more confidence in their build quality and function. An LCD information center lets drivers control several vehicle functions from the same place, and a panoramic opening roof option allows even rear seat passengers to gaze up at the stars during moonlight cruises.
The 2005 - 2007 Pontiac G6 is a sign of things to come from the domestic brand, and in its current incarnation it makes an excellent used sedan choice for young drivers who want to stand out from the boring four-door crowd.