Full 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix Review
What's New for 2008
The GT model and its supercharged V6 are no longer available. There are no other significant changes to the Grand Prix for 2008.
A lame duck is an aging or otherwise impaired water fowl that has trouble keeping up with the flock and is an easy target for predators. It's also a politician who's biding his time in office until his elected successor takes over. As far as metaphors go, the 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix nails both lame duck criteria, as an aging midsize sedan out of step with its formidable competition that's about to be replaced by an all-new model. While the two vehicles will overlap for at least one year, the new Australian-made Pontiac G8 is for all intents and purposes the Grand Prix's eventual replacement. For now though, the Grand Prix limps on with even less feathers on its wings for 2008.
The supercharged 260-horsepower V6 that used to reside in the Grand Prix GT is no longer available, leaving the underpowered 200-hp V6 and torque-steer-happy 303-hp V8 as the only choices. It's like Goldilocks discovering that Baby Bear's "just right" chair is out for refinishing. Against midsize family sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, the base model falls short in refinement, build quality and interior space. Against V8-powered sedans like the rear-drive Dodge Charger and Pontiac's own G8, the Grand Prix GXP also fails to keep up with the flock.
We suspect that Pontiac dealers will be keen to deal on the Grand Prix. As such, it might make for a decent choice for someone just wanting an inexpensive daily commuter with enough sportiness to entertain on weekends. But given its many shortcomings, however, it's probably evident that the Grand Prix isn't at the top of our "must buy" list. We suggest checking out its many competitors or its spiritual replacement, the G8.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix is a four-door sedan available in two trim levels: base and GXP. The base model comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control, OnStar and a CD player. The GXP features a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels with performance tires, an upgraded stereo system, heated front seats, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control and a head-up display. Most of these features are options on the base model, while both trim levels are available with a Sun and Sound package that adds a sunroof and a nine-speaker Monsoon stereo with in-dash six-disc CD player. Other individual options include a navigation system and satellite radio.
Powertrains and Performance
There are now only two engines available on the Grand Prix. The base model features a 3.8-liter V6 that produces 200 horsepower and 230 pound-feet of torque. Revised EPA ratings for 2008 indicate it gets 18 mpg city and 28 highway. The Grand Prix GXP represents a huge upgrade, with a 5.3-liter V8 that pumps out 303 hp and 323 lb-ft of torque. Both models are front-drive and come with a four-speed automatic, with the GXP featuring a manual-shift mode. Pontiac claims the GXP will run from zero to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, but in our testing we measured 6.7 seconds.
Antilock brakes and traction control are optional on the base model and come standard on the GXP. A tire-pressure monitor is standard on both trims. The GXP also has a stability control system. Full-length side curtain airbags are optional on both models. In NHTSA crash testing, the 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix earned five stars (out of five) for its protection of the driver in head-on collisions. The front passenger position earned a four-star rating. In NHTSA's side-impact tests, the Grand Prix scored three out of five stars (for front and rear occupants), but the car tested did not have the side curtain airbags. In IIHS frontal offset testing, the Grand Prix earned a "Good" rating, the highest out of four, while that agency's side-impact testing (with side curtain airbags) resulted in a "Marginal" rating, the second lowest.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Grand Prix features the last generation of GM build quality and materials, which not only puts it a few steps behind the competition, but behind GM's newer vehicles as well. The stereo panel is particularly out of date, while the surrounding pebbled plastics look and feel cheap.
A quick inspection of interior dimensions may seemingly reveal that the Grand Prix has comparable accommodations to other midsize sedans, but as Stephen Colbert might say, "facts can be deceiving." The rear bench is hard and situated low on the floor, causing a splayed, knees-to-the-ears seating position. This design is to counteract the sloping roofline, which still manages to chew into headroom. At least the back doors open up to 90 degrees, making access to the backseat more pleasant than actually sitting in it. The trunk does have a respectable 16 cubic feet of luggage-swallowing space, plus the rear seat and front passenger seat fold flat to allow a 10-foot Persian rug to ride shotgun.
On twistier thoroughfares, the 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix feels larger than most of its competitors, which is perhaps not much of a surprise when you consider that it's almost 10 inches longer than the Toyota Camry. In its favor, though, the Grand Prix is still fairly tight and tossable for a front-wheel-drive car. The base V6 is noisier than those in more refined competitors and fuel economy is less than average. The GXP is also not very composed, as the heavy V8 in its nose blunts the ability of the car to turn in crisply and make quick transitions. It's also rather thirsty and is prone to torque steer (the tendency of a powerful front-driver to pull to one side under hard acceleration). We used to recommend the supercharged V6 model, but alas, it is no longer available.