2004 GTO New Car Test Drive
Resurrecting a legend is never easy. Sometimes it's not even a good idea. Especially when it involves a car with the legacy of the Pontiac GTO.
As much myth as reality surrounds the GTO, from the origin of its name, ripped off an even more legendary car of Italian heritage, to its genesis, a skunkworks-like project slipped under GM's corporate radar with nondescript parts names and downplayed performance numbers. By way of proof of the power of the car's name, counterfeit GTOs have been offered for sale in classified ads and reportedly have even been detected, and turned away, by reputable auctioneers. Against this history, Pontiac has elected to take the chance.
Say hello to the new GTO. Will it make the grade as a real GTO, true to the heritage? One thing is without doubt: The 2004 GTO is by all objective measures much, much better than the original. The jury is still out on the other, perhaps more important, question.
Pontiac has made ordering a GTO ($31,795) a paragon of simplicity. After picking from a palette of seven exterior paint colors and three, properly coordinated interior trims (none of which cost extra), a buyer has but one option: a six-speed manual transmission ($695). Ironically, ordering the manual actually saves a buyer money, as the four-speed automatic carries a gas guzzler tax of $1000 that the manual avoids. Otherwise, all GTOs are identical two-door coupes powered by a 350-horsepower 5.7-liter V8 driving the rear wheels.
Consistent with the GTO's promise to be more of a driver's car than a family transporter or utilitarian commuter, comfort and convenience features are minimal, at least by today's standards. Leather upholstery is standard. It comes with power mirrors, power front seats, and power locks. The AM/FM/CD stereo features a dash-mounted six-disc changer. The leather-wrapped steering wheel tilts and telescopes. In deference to memory lapses sometimes induced by daytime running lights, headlights have an auto-on setting. And cruise control gives the driver's right leg a break on long drives. But there's no navigation system available, and shoppers wanting set-it-and-forget-it climate control will be disappointed because the HVAC is manual. Nor are there memory settings for a driver's preferred seating and mirror positions, stereo station presets, suspension stiffness, and so on. About the only item possibly falling outside the category of modern necessaries are the standard front and rear floor mats.
Much the same holds for safety gear. For occupants, three-point seatbelts and dual frontal airbags are about it. There is an alarm system, and a keyless remote, but no side airbags or head curtains. Similarly, while antilock brakes, traction control and a limited-slip differential are standard, absent is any form of electronic stability control.