2003 Grand Am New Car Test Drive
The Pontiac Grand Am's flashy styling is toned down for 2003. Pontiac calls the Grand Am 'sports car excitement with room for everyday life.' It is practical, particularly in sedan form. Obviously, this combination appeals to a lot of people because the Grand Am is one of the 10 best-selling vehicles in the U.S.
The Grand Am has long relied on overstated styling to make a strong first impression. It shouts Pontiac excitement with its road-hugging lines and extroverted styling cues. There's no confusing this car with other compact cars and, at a quick glance, it could be mistaken for the bigger Pontiac Grand Prix.
For 2003, however, Pontiac has stripped the aggressive body cladding from the sides of the Grand Am along with the ribbed bumpers. The new look is lighter, cleaner, and more appealing in our view. We still wouldn't call the Grand Am understated.
Also, Pontiac this year is focusing more on the four-door Grand Am sedan, less on the two-door coupe. A loaded SE2 sedan has been added this year that should appeal to buyers who want a little more luxury in their lives. All Grand Am coupes this year are GT models (SE coupes are history).
Hot rodders should not despair, however, as GT models come with aggressive body cladding, a ribbed bumper with large intakes and integrated fog lamps. More important, the GT models come with a cold-air induction setup (more horsepower) and a sports suspension. An optional composite ram-air hood and spoiler ($1100) indicate the GT's intent in no uncertain terms.
As mentioned, the Pontiac Grand Am is available in two body styles. The four-door sedan, characterized by its swoopy, coupe-like roofline, is offered in five trim levels: SE, SE1, SE2, GT, and GT1. Two-door coupes come in GT or GT1 trim. Grand Am sedans provide slightly more rear headroom than the coupes, and two more doors, but otherwise they are functionally identical.
SE ($17,030) comes with air conditioning, power door locks, six-speaker audio with compact disc and graphic equalizer, aggressive P215/60R15 tires and many other standard features. Power is provided by a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 140 horsepower at 5600 rpm, and 150 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. A five-speed manual transmission, built in Germany by Getrag, is standard. A four-speed automatic ($825) is optional.
SE1 ($18,470) adds cruise control, power windows and mirrors, remote keyless entry, four-way adjustable front seats with power height adjustment for the driver, and five-spoke cast aluminum wheels shod with P225/50R16 touring tires. Standard power is still the 2.2-liter inline-4, but a 3.4-liter V6 is optional ($715) that generates 170 horsepower. The V6 comes with a choice of the Getrag five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission.
SE2 ($20,790), new for 2003, comes standard with the V6 and automatic transmission, anti-lock brakes, traction control, programmable door locks, full instrumentation, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, interior lighting with theater-style dimming, upgraded bucket seats and reading and courtesy lamps.
GT coupes and sedans ($21,030) ride on a stiffer suspension and are fitted with four-wheel disc brakes, in place of the SE models' rear drum brakes. A leather-wrapped steering wheel connects to speed-sensitive power steering. Improved interior amenities include adjustable lumbar support for the driver, and eight-speaker Monsoon audio with steering-wheel-mounted controls. Under the hood you'll find the 3.4-liter V6, but pumped up to 175 horsepower with Ram Air cold-air induction and dual exhausts. GTs also come standard with 16-inch wheels and tires. Manual transmission is standard, automatic is optional ($825).
GT1 coupes and sedans ($22,325) come standard with the automatic transmission and add a power glass sunroof, six-way power driver's seat.
Options are available, including the SE2 Solid Value Package ($1345), which dresses up the interior with leather-trimmed seating, steering wheel and handbrake handle, six-way power driver's seat, a power glass sunroof, Monsoon audio, and 16-inch wheels. GT and GT1 can be equipped with leather seats for $595. The power glass sunroof can be added to GT or SE1/SE2 for $700.
A new option for 2003 is XM Satellite Radio, offering 100 coast-to-coast digital channels, including 71 music channels (more than 30 of them commercial-free) and 29 channels of sports, talk, 24-hour news, and children's entertainment. Pontiac claims XM's sound quality is close to that of a compact disc.
OnStar, GM's satellite-based customer-service system, is standard on all Grand AM's except the base SE. Among other functions, OnStar allows customers to call for directions or emergency road service. OnStar dispatches emergency vehicles to the scene if the air bags deploy and you do not respond to the operator's calls.