Amidst GM’s “˜surgical bankruptcy’ process after which GM plans to discontinue the Pontiac brand, we were privileged enough to spend a week test-driving the 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP. Initially, we were expecting the likes of the Charger/300C SRT8; a soft ride with an automatic transmission just barely powerful enough for highway pulls and loud drive bys. Instead what we encountered was a vehicle that could not have been more properly built, striking a perfect balance between finesse and power; a fitting and proper farewell from a brand that that once made the Pontiac GTO that was the epitome of American Muscle.
The fastest of the rear-wheel-drive G8 lineup (GM’s captive import of the Australian made Holden VE Commodore), the GXP sports a 415 horsepower V8 Corvette engine, a Tremec TR-6060 six-speed manual transmission, ventilated Brembo disc brakes, and a Nurburgring – tuned FE3 suspension package; all traits sought by any enthusiast in a high-performance sedan.
Reviewed: 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP:
It is evident that Pontiac put much into the aesthetics of this car, the company’s first full-size vehicle since they ceased production on the GTO after 2006, and the first full-size sedan since production ceased on the Bonneville in 2005. The base G8 model sports crisp, clear-cut creases and an aggressive hood, while the GXP adds to those traits with its unique front fascia with a lower slung grille and a distinctive rear fascia diffuser, contributing to an overall sportier appearance. Subtler features such as; the dual-port grille, fog lamp, and the cars sharp “˜wheels-at-the-corners stance’ also turn many heads. The car sits on a set of 19-inch wheels wrapped in 245/40R19 Bridgestone Potenza RE050A’s.
The GXP sports seats comfortable enough for everyday driving yet supportive enough to handle the G-force generated by even the most spirited driver, a backseat with enough room to comfortably hold 3 adults (including our 6′ 3″ intern), and a steering wheel that while may pose as a nuisance to some due to its odd shape, much like an Audi steering wheel, had a comfortable and sport feel, thanks to its leather trim.
Though the car is very comfortable on the whole, there are a few things concerning the interior that detracted from our overall experience. For starters, the vehicle information display, navigation, and stereo controls are too cluttered and inefficient to operate, given the small nature of the LCD screen that they share. The HVAC controls are also in a position inconveniently accessed by the driver, as they sit nearer the passenger side of the dash. Having those controls located in the upper dash “pocket”, would provide much more convenient and efficient access for the driver in our opinion. The voice command feature is also disappointing, as the software’s language recognition capabilities are poor at best. It kept telling us our commands sounded too much like “exit” and “connect” after which we decided to give up using the feature. The window controls suffer a two second delay before going down automatically, and lack the ability to go back up automatically. The rear-view mirror also vibrated aggressively from the bass of the 230-watt Blaupunkt audio system.
However, all of those flaws seem so petty once your foot hits the gas pedal. The 415-hp Corvette LS3 V8 engine gets up to 415 lb-ft of torque, the Tremec transmission shifts flawlessly from gear to gear, and the “1-4” gear shift animation in the center of the speedometer made driving this car in a civilized manner less of a chore. Nonetheless, driving in a civilized manner is one option that many enthusiasts will choose to ignore due to the sudden boost of acceleration that comes when from this Aussie beast. Once you hear the rumbling roar from the 415-hp LS3 V8, you are instantly reminded why you dropped 40 grand on this Pontiac Though the car is available with a Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission, we feel that on this vehicle, such a transmission would detract from the overall driving experience that the 2009 G8 GXP provides.
The G8 GXP departs from your typical “˜all power and no handling’ high-performance American vehicle, embodying both power and precision. The Nurburgring tuned suspension, with its front end MacPherson strut design, and rear end “˜coil-over-shock’ design, allows the GXP to handle even the tightest turns with ease and precision. A direct-acting front stabilizer bar, decoupled rear stabilizer bar, and lateral ball joints on the rear suspension provide increased lateral stiffness for faster, and more responsive handling. In keeping with the trend of superior performance not generally expected from an American muscle car, the GXP is able to come to a complete stop from 60mph in only 110 feet, due to the fantastic braking abilities of the Brembo 4 piston brakes.
The 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP is not just another American muscle car with nothing more than a loud naturally aspirated V8 engine. It is a high-performance car that demonstrates a balance between power and handling that is usually reserved for its German counterparts.
We were completely blown away by the Pontiac G8 GXP, but it was a bittersweet experience given the fate of Pontiac. The G8 had been shortlisted for the 2009 North American Car of the Year award, with the Hyundai Genesis eventually taking the honor. After an initial planned cutback in production of by 97% announced in February, GM eventually decided to drop Pontiac all together to focus on their four core brands. Yes folks, the first and only affordable high-performance sedan from GM that many compared to BMWs and Mercedes-Benz is no more.
The 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP comes with a base price of $38,360. However, with a $1,500 cash-back offer being offered by many Pontiac dealers, one could obtain one for $36,860. At that price, the 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP becomes an outstanding deal. Priced so moderately for such a high-performing car, the G8 GXP makes a great car for the enthusiast effected by today’s economy. We can only hope that GM finds a place for this Aussie behemoth elsewhere in their stable.
Reviewed: 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP:
– By: Mo Eladawy and Stephen Calogera.
– All Photos Copyright ©2009 Omar Rana – egmCarTech.