What's New for 1997
Pontiac redesigns the Grand Prix for 1997, giving buyers slick new styling, a longer and wider wheelbase and supercharged V6 power on GTP models. Traction control, antilock brakes, dual airbags and side-impact protection are standard. Optional is a built-in child safety seat.
Ford should worry about the new Grand Prix. Loaded with standard safety features, and available in a potent supercharged, 240-horsepower edition, Pontiac's new Grand Prix successfully blends form, function, and performance into one very appealing and affordable package.
Buyers can select from one of three available Grand Prix models: SE Sedan, GT Coupe or GT Sedan. The SE Sedan is powered by a 3.1-liter V6 engine good for 160 horsepower. Optional on SE Sedan and standard on GT Coupe and Sedan is GM's 3800 Series II 3.8-liter V6, which kicks out 195-horsepower while delivering 19 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, figures that nearly match the base powerplant. GT models can be equipped with the GTP package, which includes a supercharged 3800 V6 that makes 240 horsepower. The penalty for selecting a GTP? Traction control is not available with this powertrain. According to Pontiac, the engine generates too much power for the enhanced traction system to handle. A beefed-up version of ETS is due soon. All GT models also feature standard battery run-down protection.
Included with the GTP package is a new transmission that allows the driver to select "Normal" or "Performance" shift modes. A revised antilock brake system includes heavier brake rotors and improved brake calipers. Increased body stiffness and revisions to the front and rear suspensions provide better handling while filtering out harshness. Steering wheel vibration is reduced thanks to the addition of a cross-beam steering column support structure. All Grand Prix models benefit from long-life fluids and parts, such as coolant designed to last five years or 50,000 miles, and platinum-tipped spark plugs that last 100,000 miles under optimal conditions.
Interiors have been redesigned, and feature analog instrumentation and large, easy-to-use controls. The dashboard is busy looking in the Pontiac tradition, and is lit by a soothing red glow at night. An integrated child seat with a removable wash-out pad is optional on all models. Newly optional is the Eyecue head-up display, which projects data for speed, fuel, radio, and turn signals onto the windshield for easy viewing. Increased front seat track and track width improves comfort for passengers front and rear. The standard driver information center includes a tire-pressure monitoring system. Standard on GT Sedan and optional on GT Coupe is MagnaSteer variable effort steering, which uses magnetism to vary steering effort.
Dual airbags, antilock brakes, and traction control are standard on every Grand Prix, though ordering the GTP package on a GT model will knock traction control off the list. All 1997 Grand Prix models boast improved side-impact protection, and bumpers front and rear are designed to withstand a five-mph impact with no structural or lamp damage. Sedans feature child-safe rear door locks, and an integrated child safety seat is optional for all models.
Yes, Ford should be worried. Interest in the Taurus and aging Thunderbird has waned in recent years because buyers have been drawn to more attractive and often more affordable alternatives. With the introduction of the new Pontiac Grand Prix, we predict that the Ford battleship will take one more serious hit from the competition.