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GM's recent renaissance continues with the 2008 Pontiac G8, which offers performance, practicality and surprising refinement at an attractive price.
Commendable ride and handling balance, muscle-car mojo with the optional V8, the best Pontiac interior in recent memory.
V8's overly muffled exhaust note, still a couple chintzy interior details.
Available G8 Sedan Models
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The 2008 Pontiac G8 is an all-new full-size sport sedan. It boasts available V8 power, rear-wheel drive and dramatic styling.
For most of the 1990s and early 2000s, General Motors' products were automatic also-rans in just about every comparison test that automotive publications conducted. Moreover, with manufacturers such as Honda and Toyota having American production facilities, not to mention increased outsourcing by the General, even the patriotic argument for buying GM products lost much of its luster. Somewhere around the turn of the century, however, the folks at GM apparently decided to get their collective act together and started setting their sights on the best offerings from Germany and Japan. The 2008 Pontiac G8 full-size sport sedan is the latest fruit borne by this paradigm shift -- and it also happens to be one of the tastiest.
The G8 is based on GM's global Zeta platform, which was developed by GM's Australian subsidiary, Holden, for that company's Commodore sedan, and will also underpin the 2009 Chevrolet Camaro. The Commodore and the G8 are mostly mechanical twins, although the Pontiac benefits from more cohesive exterior styling that thankfully manages to incorporate the brand's traditional performance-oriented cues without going over the top. As platform-mates go, the Commodore is good company, having developed a sterling reputation Down Under for its enviable combination of speed, handling and spaciousness at a reasonable price. After spending some time behind the G8's wheel, we're pleased to report that none of these attributes have been lost in translation.
The 2008 Pontiac G8 will win performance enthusiasts over because it's a car that finally makes good on the brand's age-old promise of "driving excitement." This car does it right, packing muscular engines underneath its taut sheet metal and routing its power to the rear wheels, as a proper American (or Australian) muscle car should. The G8's handling is equally impressive, yet its ride is never punishing, which is no surprise given its BMW-like MacPherson front strut layout and multilink rear suspension. At the same time, the G8's overall refinement puts past Pontiacs to shame, and also boasts an impressive Audi-inspired interior layout we hope future Pontiacs will emulate.
Considering the G8's bargain pricing, refined athleticism and relative lack of direct competitors -- the Dodge Charger/Chrysler 300 twins are the only other roomy rear-wheel-drive, full-size performance sedans available at the G8's price point -- we think it merits strong consideration. As a straight-up family sedan, though, the G8 isn't quite as lustrous -- one look at the wide center tunnel needed for the transmission and driveshaft will make you understand why front-drive is still the king in terms of interior packaging.
Still, with the accomplished and affordable G8 in its stable, Pontiac is back. Score another one for the home team as GM continues to restore its reputation in the automotive marketplace.
The 2008 Pontiac G8 is a performance-oriented large sedan available in base or GT trim. Base models come with 18-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, air-conditioning, four-way power front sport seats, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a seven-speaker CD sound system with an auxiliary audio jack. G8 GTs add summer performance tires, a limited-slip rear differential, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a premium 11-speaker Blaupunkt sound system with a six-CD/MP3 changer.
Much of the GT's equipment can be had on the base model via the Comfort and Sound Package. For both trims Pontiac offers a Premium Package featuring leather upholstery and six-way power heated front seats. A sunroof is available as a stand-alone option. A Sport Package available for the GT adds 19-inch alloy wheels with summer tires and a sport steering wheel.
The Pontiac G8 base model is equipped with a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 256 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. It sends its power to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. The GT has a 6.0-liter V8 packing 361 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic.
In track testing, we clocked the G8 GT to 60 mph in an impressive 5.3 seconds en route to a 13.7-second quarter-mile. And thanks to a cylinder deactivation feature, the V8's fuel economy is close to the V6's; the EPA gives the V6 a 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway rating and the V8 a 15/24 mpg rating.
All G8 models are equipped with front seat airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control and traction control. OnStar is also standard equipment.
Pontiac's interiors have not been known for their style or subtlety in recent years, but the 2008 Pontiac G8's interior is a huge step in the right direction. The center stack conveys a sense of quality construction, and it looks good with Pontiac's traditional red lighting. The G8's seats are supportive and nicely shaped, with ample leg- and shoulder room front and back. The rear seats don't fold down, though there is a ski pass-through. The trunk is amply proportioned at 17.5 cubic feet.
Notably absent from the G8's interior, however, is a navigation system -- it's not even available as an option. We also aren't big fans of the '80s-style digital readouts for battery life and oil pressure, the cryptic control icons and the lack of a redline indicator for the tachometer. All in all, however, the G8's interior is leaps and bounds ahead of its various Pontiac predecessors.
On paper, the 2008 Pontiac G8 has all the makings of a classic muscle car: powerful engines, rear-wheel drive and defeatable traction control. Suffice it to say that the G8 doesn't disappoint in this regard -- if you want to engage in some tire-smoking shenanigans, the G8 GT is always ready to play. What you might not expect is the car's European sport sedanlike ride and handling balance. We don't throw BMW analogies around lightly, but the G8's ability to make haste on twisting tarmac while coddling its passengers in commendable comfort is genuinely Bimmer-like, faltering only in the brake pedal's undue softness. This dual personality should give the G8 an unusually broad appeal, particularly given its commodious interior and sub-$30,000 price point. Think driving excitement with a sophisticated flair.
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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2008 Pontiac G8 in WA is: