What's New for 2001
For 2001, V8-equipped Formula and Trans Am receive five more horsepower and five more pound-feet of torque, new exterior and interior colors join the palette and the Ram Air Formula is dropped from the lineup.
The Pontiac Firebird is a car meant to convey sex appeal. Its blend of angular greenhouse lines and softly bulging sheetmetal creates the automotive equivalent of a supermodel in a silk nightgown. Unfortunately, the bespoilered Trans Am (with its aero skirting, decklid "batwing" and louvered side scoops) ruins the effect. Not to worry; the midlevel Formula provides all of the T/A's hardware and go-fast goodies in a more restrained-looking, lighter, less costly package. The Firebird's cockpit is a futuristic blend of style and function, and is better executed than that of its corporate twin, the Chevrolet Camaro. Dual airbags and antilock brakes are standard, and the optional traction-control system can be ordered on all models. Additionally, convertible versions of Firebird and Trans Am are available (but not Formula), for a corresponding boost in price. Performance from the Corvette-derived LS1 V8 is nothing short of astounding, providing enough grunt to get the Firebird to 60 mph faster than your 10-year-old can get to 40 yards. The pushrod 5.7-liter that comes standard on Formula and Trans Am now makes 310 horsepower (up five from last year), and a more-important 340 foot-pounds (five more than last year) of tire-blistering torque. Want even more? A Ram Air WS6 performance and handling package for the T/A is available (the Formula version has been dropped for 2001), featuring twin hood scoops that force cool air into the engine, resulting in 15 extra ponies. WS6 suspension tuning and 275/40ZR-17 rubber keep the Ram Air Firebird planted to the ground, while a dual-outlet exhaust system is the last thing most poor souls trying to catch you will see. All V8 models come standard with a four-speed automatic transmission; a six-speed manual is a no-cost option. Base Firebirds are powered by a 3800 Series II V6 that makes a peppy 200 horsepower, and can be optioned with a performance package of their own. This "insurance special" includes bigger tires, a limited-slip differential, dual exhaust and uplevel steering. A slick-shifting, five-speed manual transmission is standard on the V6.
With world-class powertrains and hot-looking sheetmetal at a low base price, the Firebird fries Ford's Mustang, not only at the stoplight but also at the racetrack. Problem is, Ford's beloved pony car is pummeling Pontiac's performance flagship in dealer showrooms, outselling this GM F-body at better than a 3-to-1 clip. While Mustang's packaging and refinement may have earned it a wider audience, Firebird wears its modern-day muscle-car crown well. If this powerful pony car legend has been on your wish list for a while, the time to act is now. The current F-body's days are numbered, with 2002 as the last model year. If the Camaro/Firebird nameplates live on into the new millennium, look for them to be reborn in a vastly different form on an all-new platform.