What's New for 1996
Minor trim and powertrain improvements to the only car in GM's stable that still has those stupid door-mounted seatbelts. Do yourself a favor. Wait for the 1997 GP.
It took General Motors 10 years to bring the platform on which the Grand Prix is based to market, and since the 1988 debut of the Grand Prix and its corporate siblings, the Buick Regal and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, the cars have been major money losers for the company. Originally available only as coupes, sedans joined the lineup in 1990, but were too late and too lame to capitalize on a market dominated by the Ford Taurus and Honda Accord. To remain competitive, prices for these under-engineered vehicles have remained quite low, and GM loses money on every single one it sells.
The current Grand Prix may not look much different from the car we first saw in 1988, but under the skin it's very different. A new interior was added in 1994, more powerful engines power both the coupe and sedan, and low prices undercut the competition. Equipped with the optional DOHC 3.4-liter V6, the Grand Prix is transformed into a reasonably good performer with accommodations for five adults. Each year, the Grand Prix receives improvement.
This year, improvements are kept to a minimum as Pontiac prepares to launch an all-new Grand Prix for 1997. Newly standard on the SE coupe is the B4U option package, which includes five-spoke alloy wheels, sport moldings, fog lights and other performance cues. Horsepower is up to 215 for the 3.4-liter V6, and the base 3.1-liter V6 receives long life spark plugs. A new High-Polished Wheel Package includes chrome wheels, silver decal work and a decklid spoiler.
Despite its inherent value, we do not recommend the Grand Prix in sedan or coupe form. They feel heavy, look dated, and are generally underwhelming. Granted, the GTP coupe looks like a bad boy compared to Ford's Thunderbird and the new Monte Carlo, but those cars are far more sophisticated, better looking, and better engineered. Ditto the GT sedan, which goes up against the likes of the Volkswagen Jetta GLX and Nissan Maxima SE. With the availability of far better cars for slightly more money, the Grand Prix just doesn't make sense. However, the main reason for avoiding the 1996 Grand Prix is the imminent arrival of the 1997 model. It's hot, and we wouldn't want anyone to suffer severe buyer's remorse when it debuts.