Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2004 Pontiac GTO Overview
The Grand Touring Automobile Returns to Pontiac
Few automobile names evoke such passion as the GTO. Pontiac's fast and furious muscle car of the 60's and 70's ignited a revolution in the industry that spawned the production of some of the most coveted cars on the market today. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and the big, fuel thirsty V8s of the day were doomed by the fuel crisis and emission regulations. The GTO lost its power and then its looks until finally the name was retired altogether. Now, nearly three decades after the last great GTO rolled off the assembly line, the GTO name is back in the Pontiac lineup.
Unlike the first GTO, this model has a bit of an international heritage. The GTO's chassis and interior are derived from the Australian Holden Monaro coupe. Though a bit old by Australian standards, the Monaro is still more sophisticated than many American coupes, including the dearly departed Firebird/Camaro twins. To this wonder from down under, GM adds the 350-horsepower Corvette LS1 engine and six-speed transmission and, voila; the new GTO is born.
From the minute you turn the key, there is no doubt what engine lies beneath the GTO's hood. The exhaust note is so beautifully tuned that it sent goose bumps up and down our forearms the first time we heard it: the spirit of the GTO is indeed alive and well. At idle, the GTO exhibits the loping cam shake that, to a muscle car enthusiast, is akin to being rocked like a baby in a cradle. Pop the shifter into first, let loose the clutch and the GTO launches from dead stop with enough thrust to pin everyone in their seats. The GM six-speed is equipped with a 1-4 shift function that automatically locks out gears 2 and 3 when you shift below 3000 rpm. The reason for this is both fuel economy and emissions controls related, but in our eyes its just one more reason to run the tach up to redline before shifting gears.
The GTO's power is managed by an excellent suspension setup that includes a semi-trailing arm independent rear, a limited-slip differential, traction control and beefy 17-inch performance rubber. On twisty back roads, we found the GTO's handling to be leaps and bounds over that of any solid-axle V8, with good directional stability and no sign of understeer. The steering feel is a bit on the soft side, but the car dutifully goes where you point it and sticks to the pavement like glue. We were pleasantly surprised at how well the GTO rode during everyday driving, where expansion joints and slight road blemishes were absorbed without fuss and not a rattle or squeak was heard inside the passenger compartment.
From a stylistic standpoint, there is not much to link this GTO to its predecessor, a point of some irritation for die-hard enthusiasts. But once you drive the GTO, all complaints simply melt away, while this car may not bear much of a family resemblance, its heart and soul are pure GTO. We actually like the styling of the GTO, though it could easily be improved upon with some more aggressive effects. No matter how you view the outside, you'll find few who can complain about the inside. Without question, the GTO is outfitted with the best set of sport seats ever to grace a Pontiac. The bolsters for the back and legs are large enough to hold a good-sized adult comfortably in place and the rear buckets can easily accommodate six-footers.
The dash design is simple yet attractive. The gauges are housed in a single hooded pod and set off nicely by painted faceplates that match the car's exterior color. All of the GTO's switches are easy to reach and in clear view of the driver. A set of rotary knobs control the heating and ventilation; though covered in soft-touch rubber, they felt a bit flimsy in operation. The standard Blaupunkt six-disc audio system is adequate, but not great. Unfortunately, there is no optional upgrade. In fact, the only options available on the GTO are body-colored leather seats and door inserts and an automatic transmission. That's it: no OnStar, no sunroof, nothing.
The rush to production has left a few other oddities in place as well, such as the volume knob on the right side of the stereo (Monaro's are right-hand drive vehicles) and the absence of a proper dead pedal on which to rest your left foot. You'll also find a rather diminutive trunk, as the fuel tank had to be moved up above the rear suspension to accommodate U.S. rear-end collision tests. But hey, no car is perfect, and to get the Corvette LS1 engine in a four-passenger coupe for less than $35K sounds like a bargain to us.