2008 Pontiac G8 GT Review
By Kevin Miller
It’s not every day that a car with a 361 HP, 6.0 liter V8 is introduced in the US. Even less often is that vehicle a four-door sedan. Never in recent memory has such a vehicle been introduced by GM. Its price hovering around $30,000 makes it a rare vehicle indeed. But perhaps not for long. Because with that big V8 under the hood at that price, the Pontiac G8 GT is a performance bargain. And it’s a great car, too.
Besides being the most powerful sedan available under $30,000, the G8 is the best sedan Pontiac has sold in decades. Gone are the bulbous body cladding and horrid interior materials. In their place are discreet rocker panel extensions below the doors, shapely wheel arches, and yet another well-implemented GM interior featuring nice perforated leather seats.
The attention-getting Liquid Red G8 GT I tested is nice to look at from the outside. Pity, then, that the rear of the car with its clear tail-lamp housing which shows off odd-looking interior details is the least attractive part of the car, because that is what most other drivers will be seeing of the G8. The pedal on the right is connected to a motor that is fast, Fast, FAST. Besides having that powerful 6.0 liter V8 underhood, the G8 has nicely weighted steering with good steering feel, a well-balanced suspension, and a stability control system that lets the driver have a reasonable amount of fun before stepping in. Happily, the car is well-enough balanced that when the stability control is turned off, oversteer is easily controlled by modulation of steering and throttle inputs.
Having recently spent time in domestic GM vehicles including the Cadillac CTS, Chevrolet Malibu, and Buick Lucerne, the first thing that struck me about the G8 was the first part I touched: the key. Unlike domestic GMs, the G8 has a switchblade-style folding, laser-cut key with integrated remote. It reminded me of the keys Audi and Volkswagen use. It really felt upscale; the CTS would benefit from using such a device. Another feature of the G8 that is not common in “domestic” vehicles is the integrated roof rack mounting points, concealed in the black “gutter” under a piece of removable trim.
The interior theme of my G8 GT was black. Black leather seats, black dash, black carpets, black door panels, black headliner, black… um, you get the idea. It is all tastefully done, though. The materials look nice and most are soft touch, even if they don’t look like the highest quality materials in the world. They are certainly classier than most materials found in GMs of the recent past. Too, the G8’s interior is very spacious. The rear seat has LATCH anchors and tethers in all three seating positions.
My complaints about the G8’s interior are few: The Passenger Airbag Indicator in the rear-view mirror is too bright at night. The blocky LED charge system and oil pressure display at the top of the center stack is poorly implemented and pointless (this screen is used for climate-control and stereo display information in Australian models of the car). The nice-looking Blaupunkt stereo has a huge color display with tons of unused space (and no XM or navigation capabilities), while the climate control which shares the display screen has a tiny row at the display’s top which cannot simultaneously display exterior temperature and climate mode. There is a terrible glare on the gauge cluster around noon when the sun is directly overhead. And my wife complained about the lack of a passenger assist handle above the front door opening; she had nothing to hold on to when I took advantage of the G8 GT’s ample power and grip.
Down in Australia, where the G8 is manufactured and sold as the Holden Commodore VE, they put the steering wheel on the other side of the car. It’s easy to see how that is done, with the modular design of the dash, and with the window and mirror controls between the front seats. The right-hand-drive bias of the Australian designers is evident, with the audio system’s POWER button and the climate control’s AUTO button both on the right side of the instrument panel, a long reach for American drivers but just right for RHD markets.
The large trunk houses the battery on its left side behind an access panel. It has nice interior trim for a vehicle in its price class, and even includes a hook on the interior of the trunk lid to which a string on the trunk floor can be attached to access the storage well beneath the floor. The storage well does not contain a spare tire, instead it has a small compressor and sealant, and a lot of room for extra stuff.
On a summer-evening drive through hills outside of Portland, Oregon, the G8 GT’s balance impressed me, and so did its six-speed automatic transmission. Set in Sport Shift mode, the transmission would hold revs if I accelerated briskly. Even better, when I was braking hard approaching a corner, the transmission would do a rev-matched downshift to a lower gear, and would hold the gear until I had powered out of the corner and eased off of the throttle. In those instances the transmission seemed to be reading my mind. On very few occasions, however, the lower gear selected by the transmission would be held too long, requiring me to manually intervene.
The G8 GT has an EPA fuel economy of 15/24 city/highway. With the cruise control set at about 80 MPH, I achieved 26.1 MPG over a 170 mile trip. Running around town, 15 MPG is pretty accurate. Because the V8 sounds so great when it is working, I liked to roar away quickly from stops. Not great for mileage, but great fun.
Pontiac has priced the G8 GT at $29,310. The car I drove was equipped with the $1250 Premium Package, which includes leather seating, heated front seats, six-way power front seats (backrest rake adjustment is still manual), and leather wrapped shift lever. Including the $685 destination charge, the total price of my test vehicle was $31,245, which is an incredible deal for such a potent sedan.
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