Pontiac G8, 2009: Bill Belew's Car Buzz

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The 2009 Pontiac G8 GT is an affordable full-size, rear-wheel-drive sedan with American muscle. It has standard XM satellite radio, and the high-performance G8 GXP makes its debut, featuring a detuned version of the Corvette’s V8 with a sportier suspension and an optional manual transmission.

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Pontiac is supposed to be GM’s “fun” division, but it’s largely been GM’s contribution to rental-car fleets. The 2009 Pontiac G8 is the core of Pontiac’s effort to reassert Pontiac’s high-performance image.

The Pontiac G8 is the mechanical twin of the Commodore in Australia, which has received high praise for providing affordable full-size functionality in a swift and agile package. The car looks muscular and purposeful from most angles.

The new 2009 GXP model raises the performance bar with a 402-horsepower version of the Corvette’s 6.2-liter V8.

The G8 is sharp inside, not plastic-looking like previous Pontiacs. But there are too many buttons; I stopped counting at 60. Just because I can do anything from the driver’s seat, doesn’t mean I want to do everything. Passenger room is plentiful, especially in the back. There was no problem getting the baby car seat in and out and fitting in the in-laws. Golf clubs fit longways in the trunk.

The G8 has lackluster fuel economy, but if you want a large sedan with American attitude, the 2009 Pontiac G8 is its own car.

The 2009 Pontiac G8 trim comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, four-way power front sport seats, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a seven-speaker CD sound system and an auxiliary audio jack. The G8 GTs add a 6.0-liter V8 engine, summer performance tires, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a premium 11-speaker Blaupunkt sound system with a six-CD/MP3 changer.

A navigation system is unavailable despite the G8’s navigation-sized LCD information screen. The dot-matrix digital readouts for battery life and oil pressure are also unfortunate, as is the lack of a redline indicator for the tachometer. There’s still room for improvement, but the G8’s interior is far superior to Pontiac’s previous offerings.

The G8 has muscle. It runs hard but not necessarily smooth. The car felt like it was capable of high performance but it had to work at achieving it. My 9-month old daughter commented, “Whee!!” whenever we took the car onto the highway. Don’t tell that I let her drive sometimes. My wife thought the car was a bit noisy. I felt like I was driving a frustrated vehicle. The speedometer extends to 180 mph, and it felt like it could do 140 or so. But where will anyone take the G8 to drive that fast?

Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Drivetrain, 5 years/100,000 miles; Roadside maintenance, 5 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 6 years/100,000 miles.

Safety Features — Antilock Brakes, stability control, traction control, driver and front passenger front, side and side curtain airbags.

Gas Mileage Estimates — 15 mpg (city), 24 mpg (hwy); Range, 323 miles (city), 475 miles (hwy).

Base Price — $28,190.

Price As Driven — $32,760.

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