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2008 Pontiac G8 GT – Click above for high-res image gallery

As a tyke I staged an all-out assault on my parents' better judgment for a G.I. Joe hovercraft. Not three months had passed following their surrender when I ransomed my mischievousness for the next toy my happiness hinged upon. Oh, that hovercraft? Forgotten. The auto industry works the same way. We often convince automakers that we'll buy every cool car they'd make if they would just grow a pair and build 'em. They do their part and then... we don't. The trust is broken and we're back to buying what automakers know will sell.

After much whining from performance enthusiasts, the rear-wheel-drive 2008 Pontiac G8 GT is finally here and at first glance is packing almost everything we wanted. Will GM be made to look like the pushover parent and left paying the bill for this Aussie import while customers shift their attention on to the next big thing, or will the G8 turn out to be the toy we never tire of? Read on to find out.



All photos © 2008 John Neff / Weblogs, Inc.

Unlike GM's newest all stars, the Cadillac CTS and Chevy Malibu, the Pontiac G8 is not a new product developed specifically for North America. It is technically an import from Australia; a rebadged version of the rear-wheel-drive Commodore VE sedan on loan from Holden, GM's Australian division. We've been down this road before with the Holden Monaro-based GTO sold from 2004 – 2006. Enthusiasts promised GM that the GTO would be a big hit, but we didn't buy them in big numbers. Apparently all is forgiven, as GM's back again with the G8.



Forgettable styling is not an issue with the G8 as it was with the GTO. Pontiac designers took the stately form of the Commodore VE and added their own corporate face with recessed twin grilles and a split lower air intake incorporating a pair of fog lamps. The hood features sporty nostrils that are semi-functional, meaning that while they don't redirect air directly into the engine, they do allow it to pass into the engine compartment to aid cooling.



The integrated chin spoiler, subtle side skirts, and tasteful wing placed atop the rear deck ensure that this Pontiac won't be mistaken for a Saturn, and the G8 wears its fender flares like a muscle shirt pulled tight over a set of standard 18-inch, five-spoke wheels. The Ignition Orange color of our tester was also a pleasant surprise, and those body-color door handles are like finger nail polish that matches the dress.



Open the G8's unusually light doors and you'll encounter this sedan's biggest target for criticism: its interior. Being sourced from Australia, the G8's switchgear is not from the familiar GM parts bin, though it feels fine to the touch. Our tester came equipped with the Premium Package that also adds padded leather to the center armrest, shift lever and door panels, which nicely offsets the two types of textured black plastic that dominate the dash.



The center console that cascades down from the windshield interrupts a lone strip of silver plastic bisecting the instrument panel, while ridiculously large digital gauges for the battery voltage and oil pressure top the center stack. Below that, you'll find a 6.5-inch LCD screen containing the user interface for the 11-speaker Blaupunkt stereo and HVAC system. At the bottom are the knobs and buttons that control those systems, and they don't require a peek at the owner's manual to use. The steering wheel has a large diameter that some performance enthusiasts might not like, but the redundant controls for the stereo are unobtrusive and work well. The turn signal stalk on the left side of the wheel, however, feels like it might break off in your hand.

The heated seats in our tester were wrapped in cowhide and featured 6-ways of power adjustment. Altering their incline, however, required twisting a knob on the side of the seat back that was hard to reach and difficult to turn. The driver and front passenger chairs are wide and have bolsters that aren't so extreme they interfere with a comfortable cruising position, but they're there for you when lateral G forces come calling.



Rear passengers, meanwhile, get a contoured bench with a bottom seat that's tilted sharply upwards. This allows taller folk to sit comfortably without scraping their heads, but shorter passengers might feel like they're being swallowed whole. The relatively low beltline on the G8 also allows for a large greenhouse that gives both the driver and his passengers an unimpeded view of the environment that's whizzing by, which in our eyes compares favorably to the claustrophobic cabins of the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger.



Our particular G8 didn't arrive with a navigation system or XM satellite radio, and when we visited the Pontiac G8 microsite to build our own, we discovered that that these in-car entertainment options are not available at all. This could exclude the G8 from some shopping lists, but there is an auxiliary jack in the dash for an iPod or MP3 player. Unfortunately, our attempt to plug in was greeted with an annoying buzzing sound.

We eventually switched off the tunes and gave our ears over to the aural entertainment of the L76 6.0L V8. This motor produces 361 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque. It is the heart and soul of the G8 GT. Our very well equipped tester rang up at just $31,245 but starts at $29,310, which means this is the most powerful passenger car for under $30,000 in the U.S. The Dodge Charger R/T starts above $30,000 and though its 5.7L HEMI V8 produces 5 pound-feet of torque more than the LZ6, it's down 21 horsepower and tasked with motivating a heavier car.



Like every V8 in the LS family of engines, this one generates a ton of torque so that it never feels labored pushing around all 3,995 lbs. of the G8 GT. It also features an Active Fuel Management System, otherwise known as cylinder deactivation technology. With the transmission in Drive, cylinders 1, 4, 6 and 7 switch off under light loads to save fuel. When this happened we felt the smooth operation of all eight cylinders give way to a slight vibration that could only be felt through the pedals, and passengers never perceived it.



One can't judge the G8's almighty engine without taking into account its six-speed automatic transmission. We lament the lack of a manual gearbox in the first year of availability for the G8 GT and hope that will be corrected after G8 GXP arrives next year, but the six-speed auto ain't all that bad. At first, we hated it. In normal operation the six-speed is programmed to do whatever it can to conserve fuel. Throttle response is dialed way back, you're in sixth gear before you know it, and any opportunity to deactivate half the cylinders and save fuel is taken. In D, the G8 GT does not feel like a 361-hp sports sedan.

Flick the shifter over to Sport Shift mode, however, and you get a direct line to the V8 engine's office where it's been waiting to take your call. The number of synapses between the throttle and your right foot shrinks and the six-speed will stay in each gear until it is absolutely certain that you're done with it. The G8 GT does allow you to change gears manually but asks that you push the floor shifter forward against the forces of inertia to upshift, which is back asswards. A pair of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters would've been more intuitive to use and an attractive alternative to the impending manual. Rather than messing with the manumatic, we left the six-speed in Sport Shift mode and were rewarded with prodigious power on demand.



Unlike most rear-wheel-drive American iron, the G8 GT is more than just a drag strip queen. The Zeta platform on which it's based will be shared with the upcoming Chevy Camaro and is granite strong. This allows the FE2 suspension package to handle potholes without a quiver and hold a curve without complaint. There was a perceptible amount of body roll, as well as squat and dive when starting or stopping hard, but there's just something about being driven by the rear wheels that anyone who owns a front-wheel-drive family sedan needs to feel to appreciate. Those people who live with understeer on a daily basis will never want to go back after driving the G8.



Steering, however, is rather heavy at low speeds, which might turn off buyers who don't understand the exact definition of a sports sedan. We found it highly communicative, though the wheel does demand attention while cruising at highway speeds when the 18-inch wheels wearing P245/45R18 summer tires begin to wander off course. Arresting their rotation is a drama free affair thanks to the twin-piston calipers clamping on 12.64-inch discs up front and 11.73-inch discs in the rear.



We count the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT as another all star in GM's arsenal of new products, and like the CTS did for Cadillac, the Enclave did for Buick and the Malibu did for Chevy, it instantly embarrasses the other products in Pontiac's lineup and demands its competition come back with something more. We didn't notice the missing in-car entertainment options and navigation system one bit after the first smoky burnout, and the second, third and fourth time we lit up the rear rubber proves that the G8 GT is definitely not a toy of which we'll soon tire.



All photos © 2008 John Neff / Weblogs, Inc.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 84 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      GM IS THE PARENT THAT WAITS UNTILL YOUR 16 AND SAYS "I CANT GET YOU A CAR BUT DO YOU STILL WANT THAT GI JOE HOVERCRAFT?"
        • 6 Years Ago
        ALLCAPS IS NOT COOL
      • 6 Years Ago
      'Like every V8 in the LS family of engines, this one generates a ton of torque so that it never feels labored pushing around all 3,995 lbs. of the G8 GT.'

      But would a V6 feel labored? Would a V6 get worse mileage because of the weight?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Bearing in mind the V6 is still 250+ horsepower, it will have more than adequate passing/merging performance.
        • 6 Years Ago
        it would have to be a more extreme example of engine downsizing for mpg to suffer, a NA 1.8 in this car would be rediculously slow and get terrible mileage. the v6 should get a 10% bump
        • 6 Years Ago
        The V6 doesn't have a 6 speed auto.
        The V6 also has tall gearing.
        More than adequate-no, enough-yes.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Jared, that's all well and good but people buying the V6s aren't saving much money at the gas station.

      In the G8's case GM brought over mostly V6s for 2008 and those the models that sit on the lots. In response Holden will be building a much greater number of V8s for GM (70% of total volume) for 2009. People who want this kind of car want the V8 and can afford the fuel cost.

      The appeal of the V6 muscle car has always been getting the styling at a lower MSRP or avoiding high insurance rates. The fuel economy difference is neglible, especially in this case. Some people don't care about going fast but they love the looks and have fun driving a car that turns heads. Nothing wrong with that.

      The scoops on the hood are purely for style. They are baffled on the underside. I wish they were optional as well as the chrome trim GM tacked on around the greenhouse.

      • 6 Years Ago
      "No, they've earned it. Maybe they're turning things around but they've had some 'issues' in the past and so you should take any news of a turn around with a grain of salt. I'm willing to give anyone a second third or fourth shot but I see no reason to pretend the past never happened."

      Living in the past is just an excuse to not to admit that there is good out there now. Every car manufactor had crappy models in the 90s and early 00s but so what? GM has admitted that it screwed up and is a NEW company now. Change is good and change is happening RIGHT now.

      GMs lineup is MUCH more exciting then Ford and Dodge at the current time. Whats Fords full size sedan and when was the last time you saw it getting headlines. Same goes for Dodge. Yea they have the Charger but its at a high premium compared to the G8 and the G8 is a much better designed car all around especially when the G8 can basically out track a SRT8 that costs almost 7-8k more.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'm not living in the past, I'm just not dismissing it as easily as you are. It'll take some time before we know if GM is building better cars or if they hired a better PR firm.
        • 6 Years Ago
        i dont think it outracks the SRT8 Josh, but the R/T i would reckon its about even (if not a bit faster and a bit more nimble).

        Now a special version above the GT? yeah that would be a match for the SRT8,especially if it came in a couple grand under it like the G8 GT does over the Charger R/T
      • 6 Years Ago
      They are supposedly going to have a 6 speed manual.IF it becomes available,I am buying one.
      • 6 Years Ago
      If this fails, it's not our fault that Pontiac uglied up the front end in translation .

      http://tinyurl.com/3sdt25
        • 6 Years Ago
        yes the lower front facia is the sorriest part of the car...But my neighbor just got a black one, and the lower front facia looks good, because of the minimal contrast....being black on black. It looks awesome..!
        • 6 Years Ago
        I hate the front fascia they put on the car. I'd much prefer the Aussie front-clip.
        • 6 Years Ago
        yeah but the austrailian front looks just like last gens Nissan Altima. nice but not too exciting.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I love everything about this car except the front. I can overlook the grille, since it's Pontiac's signature styling but for the life of me I can't get those two hood scoops. It makes the car look like it's got four nostrils.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I recently got to spend a little bit of time with a black Pontiac G8 and it looks MUCH better in black.

        I love this car, it's a no non-sense fun machine.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Franz - I agree has a sorta Aztec look to it. Regular hood please, but you know the dudes that think the Trans Am was bitchin will appreciate such touches.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Gas mileage, Lazlo.. err.. John?
      • 6 Years Ago
      The hood scoops to me are definitely an eye sore, but I also hate side vents on things that shouldn't have side vents, like Foci and Pick-up trucks. If the V6 came with a flat hood, it might set up a lot of people to swap amongst themselves. DI on the V6 would be nice. Does anyone know what the projected sales split is between the two?
        • 6 Years Ago
        The Aussie version has the non-scooped hood. I don't think it will be too long before an aftermarket company starts importing those for buyers to swap. No need to wait for GM to build them with the flat hood, they already do.

        http://www.autozine.org/0_News/Archive/2006_07/Commodore_family.jpg

        It might require the replacement of the whole front facsia, otherwise the center column on the grille wouldn't match up to the hood since the Holden one doesn't have the centerpiece. But it would be worth it IMO, looks 120% better. I'm also one who thought the last-gen GTO looked better w/o the hood scoops as well.
        • 6 Years Ago
        If you want a guess on the sales split -- I would say for the first shipments, 90% V-8s, later on still mostly V-8s, unless there are a lot of folks just needing to trade in their old Grand Prix. and wanting another Pontiac.
      • 6 Years Ago
      AB and your mixed metaphors. Fender flares are like a muscle shirt, but the door handles are like nail polish that matches the dress?

      The G8 doesn't strike me as the cross-dressing type.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Too many people are too critical of GM these days. Im thinking its just because its the cool thing to do.

      If they didnt offer the hood scoops people would be screaming at them to put them on the car exactly like the GTO.

      The G8 provides a much needed break in the full size sedan segment. Its rather cheap, has GREAT V8 power, its underpinned by one of the best suspensions to date, has better MPG then any other V8 car in its class and offers a TON of room on the inside all for under 35k for a fully loaded car.

      Another thing I want to commend GM on is the advertising. The spyhunter commercial is just fantastic and the internet G8 vs BMW commercial is comical as well. It is showing that GM is learning from its mistakes and actually getting people excited about a car.
      • 6 Years Ago
      funny how pontiac and GM as a whole is late to the horsepower wars with decent quality cars. Now with the current trend in gas prices I wonder how much sales they lost taking too long to get to market?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Sorry, but I have to point out some fallacies:

        Do you think that European and Australian vehicle-owners drive as much as American vehicle-owners on average?

        Do you think it's as shocking to Europeans and Australians (who have been dealing with much more expensive gas prices than us for a long time) as it is to Americans (who have been recently faced with high gas prices.)

        Because product x sells well in one continent (with certain cultures, demographics, laws, family values), does that mean product x should sell well in another continent (with different cultures, demographics, laws, family values)?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Where have you been? GM has been getting very good power out of their engines for some time. Ls1, Ls2, Vortec Northstar, maybe these aren't really GM engines after all?
        • 6 Years Ago
        These cars sell in Europe and Australia where gas prices are even higher.
      • 6 Years Ago
      As a huge BMW fan and owner, I would never think I could look at a GM (or Ford) with much real respect. I tip my hat to the G8 and I would love to drive one and see how it compares!
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