Full 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix Review
What's New for 2006
New for 2006 is a Special Edition package, which features ground effects, body-color grille, bright exhaust tips and new 17-inch alloys. Inside this Pontiac car, the center console and various trim pieces have been revised. Last year's GTP is now the GT.
Although the Accord and Camry are the obvious choices when it's time to buy a midpriced sedan, not every shopper wants one with an import label. Until recently, choosing a domestic sedan often meant giving up the high levels of refinement and overall quality upon which the Japanese brands have built their reputation. But recent success stories like the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Ford Fusion have proven that American manufacturers can step up to the plate in this regard. Pontiac targets would-be import buyers with its Grand Prix as well, and indeed the current generation of this midsize sedan provides a great deal more refinement than ever before. Redesigned for '04, the front-wheel-drive Pontiac Grand Prix benefited from stronger, more refined engines; fine-tuned ride and handling characteristics; and a friendlier cockpit design with large gauges and, for the most part, simple controls. Unfortunately, the quality of the materials and craftsmanship still leaves room for improvement.
A pair of powerful V6s and one V8 engine are offered in the Pontiac Grand Prix, offering 200 (base), 260 horsepower (GT) or 303 hp (GXP). Certainly the Grand Prix GT and GXP have enough power to make everyday driving entertaining but only so long as you limit your bursts of speed to straight-line acceleration. With a V8 weighing down its front end, the GXP model is anything but nimble around turns and exhibits torque steer when accelerating heavily from a standstill.. The GT is better balanced, but compared to competitors its steering is numb. To add insult to injury, the 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix isn't especially well suited for family use, either. It has a smooth highway ride, but its backseat is cramped and there's just no place to put family-oriented detritus like juice boxes or toys. While the Grand Prix's aggressive styling may appeal to buyers looking for an edgier alternative to the mild-mannered Accord, we think most people will find the similarly priced, rear-drive Charger much more satisfying. If front-wheel drive is a must, then the Altima SE-R is worth a look.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Pontiac Grand Prix is available as a four-door sedan in one of three trim levels -- Base, GT and GXP. The base model comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, OnStar, a CD player, cruise control, air conditioning, keyless entry and power windows and mirrors. The GT adds 17-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, a remote vehicle starter and a trip computer. A Special Edition package, which features ground effects, body color grille, bright exhaust tips and unique 17-inch alloys, is optional. The GXP includes firmer suspension tuning, performance tires, an enthusiast-oriented stability control system, upgraded steering, a head-up display, unique trim and 18-inch alloys. A Premium Package, with leather seating and automatic dual-zone climate control, is also available on the Pontiac car.
Powertrains and Performance
A pair of 3.8-liter V6s and a 5.3-liter V8 serves duty in the front-wheel-drive Grand Prix. In the base model, the standard 3800 Series III V6 makes 200 horsepower and 230 pound-feet of torque. The GT has a supercharged version rated for 260 ponies and 280 lb-ft of torque. Finally, the 5.3-liter V8 in the GXP makes a healthy 303 hp and 323 lb-ft of torque. All engines come with a four-speed automatic transmission; the GXP's has an automanual mode.
Antilock brakes and traction control are optional on the base and standard on the GT and GXP. Stability control, dubbed StabiliTrak Sport, is standard on the GXP. Front and rear side curtain airbags are optional on all models. In government crash tests, the Pontiac Grand Prix earned three out of five stars for side impacts (front and rear), but the car tested did not have side curtain airbags. Frontal crash tests resulted in a three-star rating for driver protection and four stars for the passenger. In IIHS frontal-offset testing, the Grand Prix was named a "Best Pick."
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside the Grand Prix, there's a definite cockpit theme, as the center stack curves to meet the driver and the gauges and displays are all in red. Control layouts are simple and intuitive, even the trip computer. The front seats are broad and comfortable, though taller adults may find headroom limited. The backseat is cramped, with a low bench and tight foot room making it a last resort for adults. At least there's plenty of cargo space, thanks to a 16-cubic-foot trunk.
Even the base engine furnishes brisk response at low- and midrange speeds, while the supercharged GT keeps up with V6 versions of the Accord and Altima. Although we certainly enjoy the rush of the stout V8 in the GXP, the front wheels have a hard time of handling its power. Torque steer is noticeable and the car feels nose-heavy during spirited cornering. Daily driving in the 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix is just fine but it's not really that much fun to drive in a sporting manner due to its plain-Jane four-speed automatic and numb steering feel.