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The “GR8” G8
Posted by Kyle Quesnoy on Apr 27, 2008 - 11:53:44 PM

Courtesy of Pontiac

For those of you math whizzes out there, here’s a question: What do you get when you take a BMW 550 and subtract a whopping $30,000 from the asking price? The 2008 Pontiac G8 GT! At the risk of sounding like an overzealous car salesman, you can, indeed put yourself behind the wheel of a Pontiac sports sedan with performance statistics matching or in some cases, bettering, those of a BMW 550 for around $30,000. Well, it may all appear that way on the spec sheets, but, you may ask yourself, are the BMW intangibles really there? The agility afforded by a near perfect front to rear weight distribution? The supple, yet firm ride? For the most part, the answer is still, yes.

In fact, the development of the G8 was not a task taken lightly. Based on the GM global platform developed by Holden, GM’s Australian subsidiary, the G8 (badged the Holden Commodore in Australia) has been over six years in the making at a rumored development cost of around $1 billion. Being Holden’s first project of this magnitude, it was a do or die proposition that, so far, appears to be a success.



Functional Dual Hood Scoops.

Visually, the G8 takes on an athletic stance. The front wheels are pushed to the forward corners of this American sports sedan, giving the Pontiac the semblance of a crouching track star before the pistol is fired. As for BMW intangibles, well, it appears someone in Holden’s garage must have reverse engineered a 5 series down to the nuts and bolts because the same weight distributing icing-on-the-cake touch BMW uses to lighten the front end of its vehicles is now being incorporated in the layout of the G8. This touch, of course, is the relocation of the battery from the right front corner of the engine bay to the trunk. It turns out the BMW balancing act is not intangible. The G8 achieves a near 50/50 weight distribution and that’s with an engine more than a liter larger than a 550’s engine.

On the road, the aforementioned engineering strategies translate into a surprisingly supple ride at cruising speeds along PCH and cat-like reflexes in the twists and turns of Malibu Canyon. Thanks to a fully up-to-date independent four-link rear suspension, the G8 remains composed over quick pockmarked switchbacks that would likely unsettle the solid rear axles of the Australian-born sedan’s muscle-car ancestors.

Thankfully, GM was careful not go modern for the sake of being modern. Good old-fashioned hydraulic power steering remains and provides a level of feedback not felt on the electrically assisted steering racks of most ultra-modern sport sedans on the market, including the mighty 5 series. The Pontiac also features variable ratio steering, which came in handy through the many decreasing-radius turns found in the canyons of Malibu.

Upon exiting one of these treacherous turns, the fun really begins. Plant a foot on the accelerator, and the surge of power felt from the GT's 6.0 liter, 361 hp V8 is unrivaled by any $30,000 four-door in the Ford garage. And although the six-speed manumatic transmission could benefit from quicker manually enacted downshifts, in automatic mode it reacts to throttle inputs very aggressively and without hesitation. Before you realize it, you’ll be enjoying the healthy V8 growl at unlawful speeds. Once you remember you’ve just completed traffic school for the umpteenth time, there are four vented disc brakes to bring you back down to reality with the snap of a finger.

Courtesy of Pontiac

Now that you’ve come to a stop it’s time to take a look around at what the interior has to offer. The positive aspects of the cabin are abundant. Our GT tester came with heated two-tone leather seats and a sporty leather steering wheel. Peering through the steering wheel you’ll find an “audiesque” driver information display. This one, however, possesses a feature not found in an Audi: A large and legible digital speedometer. Those of us, who learned how to race playing Gran Turismo on the Sony Playstation, will appreciate not having to take our eyes of the road during a grueling race to make out the small markings on an analog speedometer. The digital readout can be easily deciphered through your peripherals. The same Gran Turismo fans might be slightly disappointed by the lack of a map-displaying navigation system. During a race, it is always nice to know how sharp an approaching turn is ahead of time so the proper entrance speed can be dialed in and frantic braking can be avoided in those unforeseen decreasing-radius turns.

Digital Speedometer

When a leisurely Sunday drive is preferred over mountain road racing, rest assured knowing the G8 can deliver. The dual zone automatic climate control will have no problem cooling you down in even the most blistering heat. Its powerful 20-speed fan provides cabin airflow superior to most vehicles in its size class, including the expensive 550 Beemer. There was even some icing on this sweet interior, which included push button instrument lighting adjusters, which are normally found in cars costing twice as much. The only sour bite is tasted when you find yourself accidentally flipping on the turn signal when trying to adjust the cruise control without taking your hands off the wheel. A dedicated cruise lever would be nice. Thumb controls on the steering wheel spokes are preferred.

All in all, though, there aren’t many cars that can slam your head back against the headrest one minute and coddle you back into tranquility the next the way the G8 GT can. The big spending has paid off. And if there are a few minute details still to be ironed out, there is little else in the 30 grand price range that’ll come as close to the BMW bull’s-eye as the 2009 Pontiac G8.



Cliffside Malibu




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