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2008 Pontiac G8: What's It Like to Live With?

Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT as our editors live with this car for a year.

Pontiac G8 2008

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Here at Edmunds, we're a bit like puppy breeders. We get attached to our new babies while we have them, but then we can let them go easily when the time comes.

This time, however, things were different. When the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT came to us in 2008, we were hoping that it wouldn't be the last Detroit-built rear-wheel-drive sedan that we ever drove, and we also hoped that this car would bring back Pontiac from the brink of extinction, since it's a brand that we've always loved.

But as it turned out, the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT would be our last-ever Pontiac. And we hated to see it go.

Why We Got It
For us, the G8 GT was the Great Big Hope. Not only did it have a massive V8 matched with rear-wheel drive in a combination that we covet so, but also it had a high-quality interior, European-inspired handling, sharp looks and, all things considered, a bargain-basement price. We were aware of the car long before its debut at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show and even went to Australia to test the 2007 Holden Commodore SS from which it's derived.

This car appealed to old guys who remember the Chevy Caprice (especially the 1991-'96 Chevy Impala SS to which it led). It appealed to kids who have seen the test that Top Gear conducted of the G8's sister car, the Vauxhall VXR8. As for us, the Pontiac G8 helped us remember what we like about the traditional American sedan with a long hood, too much power, giant doors and room for six (eight if you double-buckle).

Plus, just look at the thing. How cool is that? Forget the reasonable reasons; we pretty much bought this one because it made us feel cool.

With a 361-horsepower overhead-valve 6.0-liter LS76 V8 that can trace its roots back to the beginning of automotive consciousness (i.e., the '55 Chevy), we expected nothing short of perfection from the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT's engine room. But we weren't sure if the Australian planners and assembly-line workers had executed the chassis package in the same spirit. So considering that, it's something to say that we were pleasantly surprised by what the G8 GT returned.

Not only did our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT provide just under 36,000 trouble-free miles, but it did so under sometimes stressful conditions — which resulted in a $684.67 bill for new rear tires.

But for all that, our G8 required only three oil changes. That's three, not the 12 oil changes that might have been required back in the days when you had to change your low-grade mineral oil every 3,000 miles. We just let the Pontiac's electronic sensors determine when the oil had to be changed. And since the cost of each oil change averaged $35, we saved a lot of cash, not to mention a lot of time, by listening to the sensors. Also we saved a lot of oil, using 27 quarts instead of 108.

"Edmunds," you're saying, "my daddy taught me to change the oil every 3,000 miles. He'd die and then roll over in his grave if I told him about a 13,000-mile interval between oil changes. Got any proof this works?"

Yes, we do! Just before the G8's final oil change, Senior Consumer Advice Editor Phillip Reed sent a sample of the G8's oil to Blackstone Labs for analysis. The sample came back good on all fronts, but just barely so. Turns out that the G8's sensor was correct, and so 13,000 miles proved to be the perfect mileage to ensure that the oil's goodness had been used to its fullest, since there wasn't much life left in it. But another lesson here is, when the service light turns on, get it done fast, because the oil is done.

These things were to be expected, though. What we didn't expect was a 14-day repair for a wheel-speed sensor/traction control failure, a broken key fob and a loose center trim panel (which Dan Edmunds fixed himself). New brakes were necessary at the end of the 2008 Pontiac G8's service life, but parts availability and time constraints meant that we sold the car at a slight discount after making full disclosure about the brakes.

There were some complaints about useless knobs and an overly bright light for the "Passenger Air Bag off" warning light in the rearview mirror that were silly details that Pontiac probably would have fixed for the G8 Version 2.0. Sigh.

Total Body Repair Costs: 0
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 17 months): $179.74
Additional Maintenance Costs: $684.67
Warranty Repairs: 2
Non-Warranty Repairs: 0
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 3
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Days Out of Service: 15
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: 0

Performance and Fuel Economy
During our initial testing of this 2008 Pontiac G8 GT at the beginning of its term with us, it returned some impressive numbers: 5.8 seconds to 60 mph from a standstill (5.5 seconds to 60 with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) and a quarter-mile pass in 13.95 seconds at 101.3 mph. Its performance in our handling evaluation was equally impressive, including a 113-foot stop from 60 mph, a 66.3-mph run through the slalom and a 0.86g result on the skid pad. When we conducted our testing at the end of its term, the G8 GT performed nearly identically on its new Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires.

In the real world we weren't so concerned with ultimate performance, but most of us drove the car in Sport mode all the time, thereby exchanging an annoying fuel-economy calibration for a usable driving experience. That considered, we still averaged 18 mpg over the course of 35,332 miles. This is exactly what the EPA says we should get and our best tank ties the EPA's estimate for highway mpg. (Though it must be said that our low of 12 mpg is a full 3 mpg below what the EPA guesses you should get in a city loop. Oh well, I doubt its loop left any evidence of the trip.)

Best Fuel Economy: 24.3 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 12 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 18 mpg

Retained Value
Turns out that trying to sell a used car from a brand that no longer exists isn't the way to quick and easy profit.

While few people balked at the idea of buying a used, full-size American sedan, there were hesitant questions about parts, service and warranty. A few were ultimately dissuaded and a few more were inspired to conduct aggressive price negotiations. But it didn't matter to us, as were happy to keep driving our First 888 G8 and wait for the right buyer. Eventually, he showed up, a Navy mechanic who owns six cars and does all the maintenance himself. He didn't ask about warranties or how the light worked for the service interval; he just wanted some cash off for the brakes and a little extra for the extra miles we'd piled on while waiting for a buyer. And then we took off an extra hundred bucks, our own military discount program.

For $21,000 even, Angel Acosta walked away with what, only 17 months previously, had cost us $31,845.

True Market Value at service end: $21,700
What it sold for: $21,000
Depreciation: $10,145 or 31% of original paid price
Final Odometer Reading: 35,332

And Then There Were None
We walked into this test assuming we were riding the front of a wave — a tsunami of sales of full-size American-made rear-wheel-drive sedans. The 2008 Pontiac G8, we hoped, would prove the viability and marketability of such hardware. Ford would follow suit, bringing over the Aussie Falcon. Chevy would rebadge the G8 as a Caprice or Impala. We'd get the Holden VE Utility as an El Camino, and maybe a wagon, too!

And then the economy went bust.

And GM declared bankruptcy.

And Pontiac shut its doors.

And our dream died.

We remember when our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT only had 7,028 miles on the odometer, yet Edmunds Editor in Chief Scott Oldham let go with an enthusiastic comment that ultimately summed up our year and a half: "This car just keeps surprising me. It's easily the best vehicle GM sells in America today.... When you look at the Pontiac's price, performance and package, it's easily the best of GM's best."

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Oi Oi Oi!

April 18, 2008

While no one was looking I snagged the keys to our Long Term G8 GT. First impression - NICE! I love the look, aggressive without being garish. I can't think of the last Pontiac I truly liked... The silly wings and ridiculous interiors killed the buzz for me - this car is very good. Great ride comfort/handling balance and it appears to be screwed together quite nicely too. Blaupunkt stereo seems a little average but it may be too soon to say for sure.

I think someone's expecting the G8 to be back at the office this morning - I'm going to San Diego instead. Anyone have a favorite or dream road trip car? No fair calling the G8, I've already got it.

Brian Moody, Road Test Editor @ 1,907 miles

Long Beach to San Diego

April 19, 2008

After spending the last two hours in our new G8, I can honestly say I like the car. It looks good and is fun to drive. Here's what I'd add to make it perfect - 1) More prominent exhaust note. 2) Thicker sidewalls for the tires. 3) Larger side mirrors... 4) A subwoofer. Before taking any of this to heart keep in mind that I like Buicks, have a fondness for station wagons and would rather have a Cadillac DTS than a BMW 3-series. Let the hating begin.

Pluses with the G8 GT - comfortable seats, nice steering feel, very little road noise, smooth and powerful V8 and suspension that makes short work of freeway on ramps.

All weekend the G8 has averaged 20.5 miles per gallon in mixed driving. For fun, I reset the trip computer just as I left San Diego - door to door the car averaged 23.0 miles per gallon with an average speed of 72.6 mph (that's 90% highway). Traffic was light most of the time with a few heavy spots and no, I could not resist frequent passing. The transmission was in sport mode most of the time.

Brian Moody, Road Test Editor @ 2,174 miles.

Seal the Deal

April 24, 2008

Order the GT version of the Pontiac G8 and this is what you'll get instead of an actual spare tire. It's a tire sealant kit/air compressor. Pontiac calls it a Tire Inflation Kit. Certainly this kit won't work if you have a serious blowout or tire gash but it should be fine for small holes and minor leaks... If it weren't for OnStar I'd be worried about not having a spare.

Brian Moody, Road Test Editor @ 2,277 miles.

Interior could use an upgrade

May 06, 2008

I’ve heard a lot of great things about our G8 GT. It’s fast, it’s roomy, well built even. There’s hasn’t been much said about the interior though and now I know why. It’s not a disaster, but for $30K it’s not pretty... The cheesy dashboard gauges are utterly pointless, and the rest of the center stack looks like it was pulled from another car. The switchgear isn’t exactly top quality either.

Then again, it does great burnouts. I kind of like it.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 2,981 miles


May 07, 2008

One reliable measure of a car's greatness is its ability to make you overlook the little things. Case in point: our long-term Pontiac G8 GT. When I commandeered the G8 for the first time, I immediately noticed the wonky relationship between the dead pedal (hey, at least it has one) and the accelerator. Not only is the dead pedal too far away, requiring my left leg to be virtually straight while driving, but it's also angled too far forward, so it doesn't prop up my left foot like it should.

Once I hit the open road, though, the dead pedal issue seemed, well, dead. That's because this car is flat-out awesome for $32k. You know that whole "bargain 5 Series" thing you've been reading about? It's no joke. The G8 is a legitimate canyon-carver, and it also provides good steering feel and feedback (much better than the new Challenger SRT-8, for example). Oh yeah — and it's fast. "Stonk fast," as we say in the trade.

Indeed, the G8's performance numbers compare favorably to those of the BMW 550i, which starts at nearly twice the price of our nicely optioned Pontiac. And don't think for a minute that the G8's powertrain is unrefined. This V8 sounds GR8 from idle to (unfortunately unlabeled) redline, and the transmission is quick, smooth and even blips the throttle for you on downshifts. I found myself cackling uncontrollably whenever I went WOT (which I naturally did at every opportunity).

Okay, so there are two things I'd change. First, the G8 bobs and rolls a bit more than I'd like during hard cornering — a "Sport Package" with the Australian-spec Holden Commodore SS suspension would presumably take care of this (Pontiac softened the G8 somewhat for American tastes). Second, I want a stickshift, and I don't want to have to ante up for the GXP version to get it.

But overall, this car rocks, period. It can be my wingman anytime.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, @ 3,042 miles

Performance Testing.

May 15, 2008

Looks good sideways at 70, don't it?

Interested to see what sort of numbers it managed when the tires stuck and the Pontiac didn't disappear in a cloud of tire smoke?

Got a guess at its 0-60? 1/4 mile? Braking? Think about it and then follow the link for results and some poorly filmed video! Acceleration:
0-30: 2.3
0-45: 3.9
0-60: 5.8
(0-60 with a 1-foot rollout — a la dragstrip: 5.5)
1/4 Mile ET/MPH: 13.95 @ 101.3

Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton says: Sadly, the G8's best accel run required little technique: disable traction control and whack the gas. Very little wheelspin is what the G8 wants. Upshifts occur at 6,000 (in sport shift) despite NO indicated redline.

Braking: 60-0: 113 feet
30-0: 28 feet.

Walton says:
Quite a lot of idle stroke in the brake pedal, but it firms up about half-way down. Tire howl/screech but no ABS flutter or buzz. Amazing fade resistance despite smoldering pads by 6th / 7th stop.

66.3mph (Note: 66.3 was a one-time deal. No manner of trickery could repeat that magic number. A more representative time for this test in this car was 63.4 mph. But, we can't disregard that it did it, even if it never managed the feat again.)

.86 G

Walton's Handling Comments:
"Squishy suspension and "greezy" tires (CW's definition: slickness attributed to heat build up) mask the G8's intentions/motions so it's a little difficult to predict at the limit of grip. It'd begin to understeer but lifting off the throttle did little to alter the behavior. When the nose finally tucked in and I'd roll back on the gas, the response was again delayed. Very similar story in the slalom: Things start predictably then go soggy. Rear end pendulums and gets worse down the track. Once it lets go, the response to driver input are largely ignored. The G8 rides like a luxury sedan — handles like one, too."

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 2,675 miles.

No Gold Diggers

May 15, 2008

Lately, it seems like I'm meeting a lot of people who appear to be car enthusiasts but once I start talking to them it quickly becomes obvious they're only interested in automobiles as bling or status symbols - sad. Sure, they know some numbers and have been to a few races but there's something missing - it all comes off more like a gold digger on the make rather than someone who's actually had the taste of gasoline in their mouth on several occasions.

In a way, the G8 is kinda plain. It will likely not appeal to gold diggers or bling blingers - one more reason I like it. OK, the interior won't fool any Audi owners but there's a refreshing authenticity to this sedan... Yes, the G8 is Australian in essence yet somehow American in spirit - and for that I love it. In a world obsessed with celebrity, TMZ and hey look at me, the G8 stands out as an anti-Hollywood, no bull kind of car. I just have one question - when can I get the keys again?

Brian Moody, Road Test Editor @ 3604 miles.

Hey, what's the redline on that thing?

May 19, 2008

Those who saw my last post on our long-term Pontiac will recall that I was hitting the G8 Kool-Aid pretty hard that day. After spending a weekend with the car, I still think it's a genuine performance bargain for $32k. It's definitely got some quirks though. One that particularly bugs me is the lack of a redline on the tachometer... Yeah, I know — it's an automatic, so a redline isn't really necessary. (Incidentally, Lotus seems to think it's not even necessary with a stick; the Elise SC, for example, is also redline-less). But still, aren't you curious? And when your gearhead friends say, "Hey, what's the redline on that thing?", don't you want to have an answer?

I did figure it out, but it took some work. After a number of tire-smoking acceleration runs (hey, it's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it), I confirmed our test team's conclusion that the G8 GT won't spin past 6,000 rpm. But still, it would have been a lot easier (and cooler) to have that information displayed on the tach. I feel like it's not unreasonable to expect a clearly labeled redline on a car like this.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, @ 3,842 miles

Feels the Potholes

May 21, 2008

The above photo is supposed to illustrate a suspension, but I wasn't prepared to remove the wheel. Because the suspension on our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT is a bit confounding to me. I drove it last night in Los Angeles' hateful, seething, evil, boiling cauldron of vile commuter traffic. The G8 was relatively comforting, nice stereo, all that...

But every time I hit a pothole, it felt as if the car had fallen INTO it. And every bump? WHAM! Imperfection? SMACK! Bump? BIFF! If I had dentures, they would have fallen out, and as it was, the glovebox actually popped open. What is up with that?

I assume this is either due to the sport suspension or maybe the combination of summer tires on 19-inch rims. Later in the evening, at higher speeds, the car was as pleasant as could be, and of course, as powerful as I needed it to be. I guess it just hates slow-moving commuter traffic as much as I do.

Doug Lloyd, Senior Copy Editor @ 3,927 miles

Fuel Mileage Update

June 09, 2008

Well, we've spun up over4,000 miles on our Pontiac G8 GT, so it's high time we gave y'all a fuel economy mileage update. Against an EPA figureof18 mpg combined (15 city / 24 highway):

Average: 15.9

High Tank: 21.1

Low Tank:12.0

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 4,420 miles.

Limited Options And Color

June 23, 2008

Our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT is fully equipped. But it's still not ritzy. And I like that. As detailed in the introduction, it has the two available option packages, Sport and Premium...

Want more? Well, there's an optional sunroof. And that's about it. Pontiacs should embody affordable performance, and the G8 GT fits this brand mission perfectly.

If I were actually shopping for a 2008 G8 GT, however, I'd be bummed about the limited choice of exterior color. There's white, black, gray, orange and red. I think we got the best of the bunch with black.

Thankfully, more colors are coming up for 2009, including a "Stryker Blue" metallic.

(Update: It's possible that there's a blue ("Stealth Blue") for 2008. It's shown on Edmunds' G8 color page. But that color is currently missing or not available on Pontiac's build site.)

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 5,104 miles

The Lotus Carlton Connection

June 26, 2008

The first time I drove our long-term G8 GT, I thought to myself, "This is like driving a reincarnated Lotus Carlton!"

Understandably, it was an odd thought to have. But I think our G8's black paint, boffo power and European connection is what did it for me.

The Lotus Carlton, you see, was a modified version of a Vauxhall Carlton, the British brand's otherwise plebian midsize sedan. (The related European version was the Opel Omega.) Produced from just 1990 to 1992, the LC had a 377-horsepower turbocharged inline-6 and was painted a very dark green that was often mistaken for black. In 1990, it caused quite a stir for a sedan to have this much power and a 177-mph top speed.

Of course, the car was never sold here, but General Motors owned both companies at the time (and still owns Opel/Vauxhall). And now, there's a connection between the Pontiac G8 GT and the current Vauxhall VXR8 as both are V8 versions of Australia's Holden Commodore.

As Americans, we missed out on the Lotus Carlton. But 18 years later, you can buy a car that follows in the same spirit for a base price of just $29,310.

I also tracked down a couple videos about the Lotus Carlton.

Video One

This is a recent episode of England's Fifth Gear TV show clipped on YouTube. Vicki Butler-Henderson drives the new Vauxhaull VXR8 back-to-back with the iconic Lotus Carlton.

Video Two

Also on YouTube. Tiff Needle (he's now on Fifth Gear) does a retrospective on the Lotus Carlton.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

The Dilemma

June 30, 2008

I've been fortunate enough to be driving our G8 GT for almost two weeks now. And I've been wondering: If I were in the market for a midsize or family sedan for about $30,000, would I buy a G8?

The car enthusiast part of me loves the G8's muscular styling, rear-drive and V8. Want to break the rear tires loose while doing a U-turn? Click off the stability control, manually select 1st and you're good to go... Or what about going from barely legal speeds on the highway to highly illegal speeds? As Han says to Chewie in The Empire Strikes Back, "Punch it!"

But the practical side of me isn't so sure. The interior, though respectable, still has some drawbacks. There's also fuel economy, insurance and reliability to think of. Would I end up with an Accord, Maxima or Passat instead?

I'll be putting another 600 total miles on the G8 later this week while taking my wife and daughter to visit family for the 4th of July. It should be a good test.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 5,214 miles

The Audi-Like Interior

July 02, 2008

In our Pontiac G8 road test, we noted the interior seems to have been inspired by Audi's design playbook. At night, the controls and gauges illuminate in Audi-like red and white.

However, there's something missing in this photo...the dopey gauge display.

The more I drive our G8, the more this display just irks me. OK, I know, I know, I have 13 batteries and almost three oils! Enough!

If this were my car, I'd have to figure out how to turn it off permanently or blank it off with plastic.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Family Sport Sedan

July 08, 2008

There's little question that our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT possesses solid sporting credentials. I've been curious to find out how well the G8 could serve as a family sedan, however. So over the holiday break, I packed up the G8 and made a trip to visit my in-laws. Overall, I was pretty impressed with the G8 in regards to family-carting duty. Some specific observations about fuel economy, comfort and utility follow.

The Trip and Mileage
We (my wife and 1-year-old) put about 700 miles on the G8, most of this coming in the form of highway driving (70 to 80 mph) from our home in central California down to southern California and back. For the trip, I averaged 19.8 mpg. (The EPA's highway is 24 mpg.) Using the in-car mpg gauge, I noticed city mileage (for me, anyway) sinks to about 11 or 12 mpg. I managed the G8's best tank so far on this trip, 22.6 mpg, as well as its furthest distance on a tank, 351 miles.

Seat Comfort
I found the front seat to be adequate in terms of comfort but nothing more. My wife sat in back for the trip (to be with our daughter) and commented favorably about the copious amount of rear legroom and comfortable seat bolstering. (Note: the front passenger seat was not occupied.) Specific comments: 1) Sitting in the middle of the rear seat sucks because of the high hump for the driveshaft. 2) The rear head restraints aren't adjustable, but they're high enough so that most adults should be OK.

Ride Quality/Noise
In this regard, our G8 GT isn't as comfortable as other midsize sedans. The ride is firm, though I'd say it's acceptable given the car's performance. Wind, tire and engine noise are also more noticeable than on other top sedans during highway driving.

Baby Seat

At first, I intended to install our daughter's car seat in one of the outward seating positions. However, our G8 is lacking LATCH anchors on both sides. I thoroughly dug into the bolstering to check, and couldn't locate them. It seems that the LATCH installer guy was out taking a whiz when our G8 rolled down the line. Fortunately, there are anchors for the middle position, and that's where I put the seat. Due to noticeable rake of the seat cushion, I had to place towels under the seat so that it would rest properly. Overall, the G8 isn't as car-seat friendly as other sedans I've driven.

Trunk Space
We had a lot of stuff to take on this trip. The G8's trunk, at 17.5 cubic feet of capacity, is a couple cubes more than most midsize family sedans'. The trunk doesn't seem as tall as other cars, but the extra length allowed us to fit a large suitcase, a medium cooler, a children's playpen, two duffel bags, a garment bag and a few other small items. The rear seats don't fold down, but there is a pass-through. The trunk lid is supported by struts.

Minor Complaints From the Trip
There's no exterior trunk lid release. The air vents don't adjust enough. The HVAC's recirculation didn't always seem to be doing its job properly. The window switches are sticky, making it hard to just crack open the windows from a close (they act as if you want express-down.)

I really liked having our 2008 G8 for this trip. If I had to drive a family sedan daily, I'd seriously consider it. And theoretically, the G8's fuel economy isn't that bad — its combined EPA is 18 mpg, and a Malibu with the 3.6-liter V6 is at 20 mpg — though I think we're finding that it's hard to meet EPA numbers with 361 horsepower on tap.

I'd say the G8 is a niche choice. If you're into performance, you'll love it. But because of the fuel economy and collection of annoyances, I'd say most people are going to be better off with more mainstream choices.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 6,291 miles

Traction (control) Trouble

July 11, 2008

Who doesn't love a good powerslide? I mean good, smoky, high-speed hooliganism. The type of slide where slip angle matches velocity and the road is coming at the driver through one of the side windows.

Problem is, they're not the most low-key form of driving excitement. The neighbors, and the local constabulary, may take notice if someone were to enter their neighborhood in this fashion. (Click picture above for larger image)

Our long-term Pontiac G8 cares not for neighbors or the police. We have, apparently, been too kind to our V8. On the way home the other night with Executive Editor Michael Jordan, the G8 decided to live on the wild side and turn the traction control off. By itself. On the highway. It wants us to be bad. It's daring us.

If it starts calling us Dave, though, I'm driving it into the ocean.

While some of our staffers thought this would be great fun, other more rational heads prevailed and I took it to the Martin Automotive Group in Los Angeles.

"Does it have aftermarket wheels?" our service advisor asked. Nope. "Is it lowered?" Nope. "Hmm, this is the first time I've seen this issue on a car without rims or a lowering kit. It's a common issue on the CTS and this car with big wheels or when lowered."

By 'this issue' he means a failed wheel-speed sensor. The issue he's talking about is a malfunctioning wheel-speed sensor that talks to the stability control system. He said that it was an easy fix and we'd have it back later this afternoon.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 6,626 miles

Six days waiting

July 16, 2008

Remember my blog last Friday? The one where I took our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT to Martin Pontiac in Los Angeles for a malfunctioning traction control light and the service advisor said it was an easy fix, and that it would be done by the end of the day? Ringing any bells?

Well, it's been six days now and the G8 is still in the dealer's possession. I had to call them on Tuesday to find out what was going on. They don't seem too keen on informing their customers. Or being nice to them. The service advisor we have doesn't understand the service, or advisor, aspects of his job.

After a few calls I got to the bottom of it: It was not, as they suspected, the wheel speed sensor. The cause of our traction woes was a brake sensor. A brake sensor that GM's parts dept. can't get because they don't have a part number for it.

So, it's been six days and there's no light visible at the end of the tunnel. We'll keep you posted.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 6,626 miles


July 25, 2008

Fourteen (14) days ago I dropped our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT at Martin Cadillac in Los Angeles to fix a malfunctioning traction control with the promise of a quick, easy fix and same day return. Wednesday night we picked up our Pontiac, fixed, from Hooman Pontiac in Culver City.

What follows is a tale of deceit, frustration, anger, a damn-fine commitment to service from Pontiac and international espionage, though that last bit can't be discussed...

The Fallout:

As I blogged last Wednesday, getting anything out of our service advisor was an altogether unpleasant experience. While I understand nobody likes being pestered, customers calling for information or updates every two days isn't unreasonable. I don't need to hear that he's very busy, or that he has a lot of cars to deal with. I only need to know about my car, and I generally like that information without being yelled at.

I took Wednesday to think things over and called back Thursday, he said the same thing he had before, that there's a lot going on, he can't check his email every few minutes, there's still no word on the parts.

I spend a lot of time at dealerships and I have personal relationships with some service advisors, I was getting a bad feeling from this guy and I had to get a second opinion. I called Hooman Pontiac, the dealership where we bought the vehicle. They were surprised at the problem, and at my treatment, then offered me the number to Pontiac's customer service line. So I made the call.

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease:

The complaint procedure was surprisingly easy. I was expecting a Byzantine array of menus never leading to a human employee. I was wrong, only one, maybe two, electronic filters before I was connected to a real-live GM employee. I spent about 8 minutes complaining and then she did the darndest thing, she asked if I could hold while she called Martin to get an answer. Wow! I wasn't getting a call back, she was having me hold while she made a priority call. When she got back on the line it was reported that the dealer had found the part, ordered it, and it would be in the following day. Knowing that they were still on the other line, I asked her to go back and get me the part number. She came back with a five-digit number that I knew from experience was not a GM part number.

I was mad at this point. Not only was he lying to me, but directly to Pontiac. I gave him one more chance, at Noon that day I called to check on the status of the part, when he said there was still no line on it — despite what he had said on the phone earlier — I lost my cool and said I'd be there in 10-minutes to get my car.

In retrospect I should have been calmer. I should have called the service manager (more on him later). But I didn't. Sorry.

The Mystery of the Phantom Part:

The car was dropped off at Hooman directly after being removed from the previous dealership. Our new service advisor said they were having a busy day but they'd put a rush on it and see what they could come up with. A few hours later they hit the same roadblock; The part isn't available yet but there is a SPAC case already opened for it. While I never had the acronym explained to me, a SPAC is a special parts order that will, if necessary, bypass traditional channels and arrive directly at the dealership as soon as possible. Often directly from the supplier.

Shortly after that call, my phone went off again. This time it was the regional service manager for Pontiac. He wanted a rundown of the situation that instigated the complaint which I gave in spectacular detail (I keep notes on all of my dealership visits). He ended the conversation saying that they would get in touch with Hooman to smooth out this issue. No more than five minutes passed before my phone started shaking again, this time it was the service manager of Martin Pontiac. He got the same rundown as the regional manager but his reactions were different. They were much more personal. There was an honest disappointment in his voice. He then said the darndest thing, "If they can't fix your G8 soon, I'll rip the unit out of one of my stock G8s and replace yours." I appreciated the offer, and would have gone for it five hours earlier, but declined. His call was appreciated, and given a different service advisor I wouldn't hesitate to go back to Martin. They've treated me well in the past.

By the following Tuesday there was still no part available. The car, still fairly new, has a limited repair stock. It's a problem we've experienced before and will surely experience again. Hooman called me Tuesday and said they were contacted by the regional bosses with a plan; rip a functioning part out of a brand-new car on the lot and send me on my way. Deal. We picked it up the following evening.

I don't have an exact count, but I don't think I received any less than 15 phone calls from GM after my complaint. While I wish it didn't have to happen in the first place, the response could not have been better.

The part? Turns out it was the brake pedal assembly (Part #: 92203688) causing all of the problems. We were also made aware at Hooman of two service updates to our G8. One to fix the chime and warning light for the passenger seatbelt, the other to reprogram the transmission. We'll let you know if the transmission feels any different. At this point though, we're just glad to have it back.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 6,630 miles.

Whadda Knob

July 25, 2008

After a late night photo shoot, I was heading home across downtown LA. This was the first night I had gotten to drive our G8.

I'm really liking this car. It shows a lot of promise that American cars are and can be great. The enigine is reverberating off the tunnel walls and I'm having great ol' time. Though I'm normally not a fan, I was in the mood for some George Thoroghgood and the Destroyers or Lynard Skynard as I blasted down the dark empty streets.

As I'm unfamiliar with the car and driving at night, I briefly looked down at the stereo as I'm driving. It has a nice volume knob, but it doesn't have a tuning knob. The dial opposite of the volume is a Menu control. It's a pet peeve of mine to not have a tuning knob. Instead you have to toggle the Track switch.

I find the lack of a tuning knob very irritating. Sure, if I was an owner I'd get used to it, but that doesn't mean I'd give a pass to a feature I think sucks.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

Sans Bling

August 04, 2008

I don't share all of the same reservations that my compatriot Ed has (see here) regarding our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8's interior. In the G8's refreshing lack of shiny accentry, GM shows a contemporary perspective on cabin design.

Save for the gear selector shaft and the badge on the steering wheel, everything that is silver in color in the G8's interior has a matte finish. Why is this important? Because an interior should never distract its driver, and chrome accents do exactly that — they shine reflections.

If I had my way, chrome would be outlawed from cabins. Penalties would be levied on automakers found applying chrome — their decision-makers would be forced to drive across Arizona at midday in said chrome-laden vehicle.

Matte silver accomplishes the designer's task of brightening up the cabin without the downsides of fake chrome (which also shows fingerprints and has a tendency to flake off).

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 6,941 miles

Love from the Beach Crowd

August 07, 2008

This morning, like many others, I dropped off my daughter at summer camp in Seal Beach, Calif. I've gone in and out of that school area hundreds of times driving a variety of cars, and never has anyone asked me why I rarely drive the same car, let alone commented on one in particular.

Today I parked our long-term Pontiac G8 GT on the street among the usual Benzes and Bimmers, and walked Emma across the ball field to her camp class. On the way back, a father stopped me and asked about the G8.

"Great car," he said.

For this crowd, that's high praise.

Kelly Toepke @ 7,125 miles

Tire Pressures and Bold Statements

August 08, 2008

Dig this. Sure such tire pressure readouts on instrument panels are commonplace today, but not really on a car costing about $30,000. And yet, there it is between the tachometer and speedometer of our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT. This car just keeps surprising me. It's easily the best vehicle GM sells in America today.

That's right, I said it. I think the G8 GT is better than the Cadillac CTS and the Buick Enclave. As good as those two vehicle are, when you look at the Pontiac's price, performance and package it's easily the best of the GM's best.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 7,028 miles

A Bit of Throttle Lag

August 18, 2008

This weekend was the most time I've ever spent in our 2008 Pontiac G8. And I have to say that yes, that car can go pretty fast. Really easy to move in and out of traffic, jump onto the freeway in front of fast-moving cars and hit those extra-legal speeds. In fact it seemed at its best when it was going fast.

Only a few things about it that I wasn't crazy about is that it seemed like the throttle had a bit of a lag like when I was trying to backup. If I carefully touched the throttle, like I usually do when going in reverse, nothing would happen. And so when I went to press down more, the car would suddenly lunge backward with the engine revving. One time I did that I felt obliged to apologize to my passenger. She had thought that I was trying to pull a 180 just to get to that parking spot behind us right quick. "Calm down, Caroline. We'll get that spot. Eesh," she said.

My other gripes are the radio controls which another editor had already blogged about and that huge battery/oil display that takes up space in the center of the dash. Do we really need that there? Every time I'd go to glance at the time I had to remember it's not up there, it's located in the radio display.

Oh, and our G8 received a number of compliments when it was out and about this weekend. One time I parked in front of a Toyota dealership and one of the Toyota guys pulling up in a stickered Highlander pulled alongside me, "Is that the G6?" "It's the G8," I replied. "That's a good-looking car!" he said but not in a surprised way. And in another instance my friend who was walking me back to my car said that it looked like a Mercedes. But then again, it was kinda dark outside.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 7,750 miles

V6 Family Sedans, Eat Your Hearts Out

August 25, 2008

Most family sedans these days are of the four-cylinder variety, and for good reason: modern four-bangers generally have decent pickup, they're more affordable, and their fuel economy is superior. So people who buy V6-powered family sedans are a special breed. They want something quicker, something sportier perhaps — and they're not afraid to pay for it, whether at the dealership or the gas pump.

After a tire-smoke-obscured weekend in our long-term G8 GT, I have this to say to would-be V6 family sedan buyers: Buy the G8 GT instead.

Don't get me wrong, the G8 isn't perfect. Check out the misaligned panel here — it's one of several on the G8's dash. Road noise is prominent (though probably not any worse than in our long-term Accord), and seat comfort on long trips is just okay. But as I said in an earlier post about this car, the G8 GT is so good that I don't really care.

Actually, "good" doesn't do this car justice. If you remember what was printed inside Jules' wallet in Pulp Fiction, well, that's the G8 GT in a nutshell. Want to go through an intersection (on our legendary closed course) sideways? Creep forward, turn wheel, plant right foot. Want to lay a patch the length of a city block? Stand on brake, depress throttle, release brake, watch for cops. Want to make rapid progress on a serpentine road? The G8 GT's got you covered — despite its prodigious length (which, laudably, you usually don't feel in tight corners), this sharp-steering beast has more "Zoom-Zoom" than the entire family sedan segment put together. Oh, and that big 'ol V8 will catapult you from 60 to 100 mph faster than you can say, "But officer, it sounded so mean!"

Beyond the performance realm, the G8's back seat puts any mainstream family sedan's to shame with its near limo-like legroom. The rear wheelwells intrude on trunk width, but there's plenty of room lengthwise. I personally think the console-mounted window and mirror switchgear is preferable to the door-mounted variety, and generally I have no problem with the vaguely Audi-inspired interior (well, okay, I'll jump on the bandwagon and say the Atari gauges must go). My only real complaint concerns the Blaupunkt stereo, which frankly stinks relative to competing systems.

The elephant in this room works for the EPA. At 15 mpg city and 24 highway, the G8 GT...well, surprisingly, it only trails the Mazda 6 s by two city and one highway mpg (17/25). Granted, the Mazda's about as inefficient as it gets in that segment, but you know, we've been having a pretty hard time getting close to the EPA's 29 mpg highway estimate for our Accord. Of course, our G8's lifetime mileage is a paltry 16.9 (versus the Accord's 21.1 mpg at last check), but that has a lot to do with our affinity for the abovementioned antisocial behaviors. I filled up after returning from Big Bear Lake yesterday, and I had consumed 5.3 gallons over 126 miles, which is right on the EPA's 24 mpg highway estimate.

The G8 GT starts at $30,675 for 2009, which is roughly what an optioned-out V6 Mazda 6, Altima or Accord will run you. I'd take the G8 in a heartbeat. Wouldn't you?

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, @ 8,309 miles

Fill It Up Regular

September 09, 2008

There's been plenty reported on the impressive or depressing mileage (depends on your point of view) of our V8-powered 362 hp 2008 Pontiac G8 GT. But one thing that has not been mentioned is that this sedan runs on regular gasoline. 87 octane. Yeah, the cheap stuff. Let's see a BMW do that.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 9,001 miles

Old School Luxury Car Brake Action

September 11, 2008

For all the things done right in the 2008 Pontiac G8, the "Buick-circa-1988" squooshy brake pedal is made that much more incongruous. The bite over the initial inch or so of pedal travel is largely nonexistent. It's like stepping on a Care Bear.

Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh @ 9,243 miles.

How it Should Be Done

September 16, 2008

A few weeks back I harped on the wonky speedometer in the Nissan GT-R. The only part anyone'd regularly use without being hauled to the slammer is mired in the soup at the bottom, and steadfastly equal spacing throughout the 220 mph sweep means the daily-use part comprises less than 90 degrees. I scrounged an old Audi photo to show how it should be done.

Add our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT to the "done correctly" list. It's an 180 mph speedo — faster than any of us will ever go, yet Pontiac's use of unequal spacing — 10 mph increments up to 100 mph, 20 mph increments thereafter — means that the usable portion is spread over 150 degrees. And the speeds at which we usually travel on the highway are right at the top, as they should be.

Here's another thing this Pontiac G8 GT currently does better than our GT-R: it runs.

Dan Edmunds, DIrector of Vehicle Testing @ 9333 miles


September 26, 2008

The more I drive the G8, the more I like it - and I just figured out why. I like the fact that the G8 GT's power comes from a place of abundance. I don't like cars that (no matter how fast or quick) deliver great acceleration but feel all wound up and maxed out doing so.

This is a good car, I'd own one and I can afford it - that's a great combination in my book.

Brian Moody, Road Test Editor @ 10,007 miles

Don't Look Back In Anger

September 26, 2008

I've got a debilitating issue thing for things being sharp and in focus. So, imagine my dismay when I found out that nothing in our Pontiac G8 GT's rear view mirror is sharp. Every time I used the mirror to check for cops (let's be honest, that's what you REALLY use it for) I did a double-take and blinked to make sure it wasn't my eyes just playing tricks on me. Upon closer inspection it looks like the mirror is made up of Mylar, but it does a good impersonation of used aluminum foil. It's cheap. And once you flick the day-night mirror into night mode, after having the light bounce off the headliner, the mirror becomes an ever-changing Rorschach test of headlights. By the time I got home I was convinced I was followed by two dragons, a flying saucer and King Arthur himself. It also vibrates pretty badly even though the connection to the windshield is solid.

Did I mention the very poorly placed "Passenger Air Bag" light? No? It sucks. It's distracting in broad daylight and does not dim when the headlights are turned on. If it were my car I'd take apart the mirror, rip that bulb out and step on it. Better yet, I'd just replace the mirror with one from another GM car. It really is one of the only mis-steps in an otherwise really cool car.

And who ordered the "Old Man Exhuast Package" on this car? This car has a 6.0 liter, 361 horsepower V8. I'd like to hear it. We need to do whatever this guy did.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 9,563 miles

Staff Consensus — The Backseat is Huge

September 26, 2008

At lunch today, several of your favorite editors piled into our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT. There was a sale at Fred Segal. (You can't live in LA if you're not shallow, so don't bother telling us we're shallow and extravagant. We already know.) I rode in the G8's backseat on the way there and couldn't believe how roomy and comfortable it was. On the way back, our copy editor Doug Lloyd (6'-1") took a turn in back and proclaimed it equally so.

I realize the Pontiac G8 is big and thus should be comfortable, but I'd honestly thought its Australian-market packaging would make it tight in back. On the contrary, this backseat is as comfy as a Toyota Avalon's.

Erin Riches, Edmunds Senior Editor

Is It Really Better Than the Accord?

October 01, 2008

Of course, the answer is yes. By a lot. As soon as I got into our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT, I was immediately reacquainted with all the reasons someone might want to own something more fun than a front-drive, midsize sedan. The G8 feels much quicker (because it is) and throttle response is much more aggressive. And you can tell the chassis is something special, even just driving around town.

But then I had two more thoughts.

1. The G8's steering wheel is way too big, and the shape of the rim makes for a slightly awkward grip at nine-and-three. The Accord's smaller steering wheel is actually much more natural to hold at this position.

2. The brake pedal travel is too long, and response is way too soft at the top of the travel. Even around town, I was annoyed. And remember, I'm coming out of the Accord, which doesn't exactly set the standard for brake pedal feel or braking performance.

Both of these complaints could and should be addressed in a mid-cycle update of the Pontiac G8.

Erin Riches, Edmunds Senior Editor @ 10,560 miles

Must Be This Strong To Drive

October 28, 2008

Normally I don't ask for help for things like unsticking a jar lid, carrying my own luggage or getting things down from the top shelf. If you ask me if I need help, I'll usually reply, "I got it."

But when I got in our 2008 Pontiac G8 last night and tried to release the hand brake I found myself in a helpless position. I had tried several times to release the brake, pressing that button down with both thumbs while pulling up at the same time. But whoever drove the G8 before me apparently yanked the handbrake up so hard that it didn't have any more ratchets left to unstick it. I wouldn't give up though and continued to press down with my thumbs so hard til they were throbbing and I was all sweaty from the effort.

Since it was the end of the day and most of editorial was gone I thought I was SOL. Guess I'll have to take the leftover Smart after all. But then I saw one of our editors walking into the garage. I explained my situation and how I tried several times to unstick the brake.

Much to my chagrin, he jumped in the car and with one easy one-handed press of the button released the brake. Bah!

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 11,675 miles

Crooked Steering Wheel

October 29, 2008

When I was driving our Pontiac G8 home last night and in to work this morning, I could swear that something weird was going on with the steering wheel. It certainly felt as if my right hand was closer to me than my left. Even looking at the wheel seemed to back this up. I've noticed this before in other cars (a Z4, a Cobalt SS), but it was the first time I noticed it in our G8, although I haven't driven it much.

To check for sure, I got out of the car and eye-balled the wheel from the side. As the picture shows, it looks like the wheel is angled slightly to port. But I knew that wasn't exactly proof since I could take a picture and make any steering wheel look like that. So I went for the tape measure. I taped the tip of it on the bottom edge of the spoke where the silver bit meats the leather bit, then pulled the tape to a spot on the metal driver seat head rest support. I then repeated on the opposite side, making sure I placed everything in equal spots. I discovered that the wheel's right side was about 0.5 inches closer to the seat than the left side. I measured again to double check and I confirmed the distance. I even had a witness to the proceedings.

So I'm not crazy and my arms are not different lengths. However, it's still pretty annoying.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 11,638 miles

Cheaper than the Smart...

November 06, 2008

...well, at least as far as a routine oil-change-and-glance-at-the-fluid-reservoirs service goes.

We had the G8 GT in for said service recently and the tab came to just $32.48. Keep in mind that's for a big V8. The smart just had a similar service as I'm sure you all saw, and it cost $211. So it cost over six times that for the smart which has an engine one-sixth the size.

So there's another advantage (other than not giving you whiplash upon gearchanges) that our G8 has over the fortwo. Yes, I know the G8 is really an Australian GM product, but it's sold and serviced as a Pontiac. These days, our country could use a little pride — USA! USA! USA!

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ ~ 11,800 miles.

Pavement Painter

November 14, 2008

40 feet.

Longer, but less rubber than the CTS' 38-foot shot.

Don't worry, Camry and Accord owners, your car will never do that. Aura 3.6 owners, maybe.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant

Flat-out, Belly to the Ground

November 18, 2008

If Smokey Yunick were still building NASCAR racing cars (or, you know, even alive), the 2008 Pontiac G8 would be his car. It's so American (yes, I know it's from Australia), lean and quick in a way that makes a BMW 5 Series seem as inert as a lump of depleted uranium.

Smokey Yunick was one of the great characters in American racing, enormously energetic, incredibly profane, and with the gift of thinking outside the box (some people call it cheating). He's remembered now for his '67 Chevy Chevelle racing car that had been built in 7/8's scale to make it more aerodynamic (NASCAR officials were not amused), a car so famous that Will Ferrell's Talledega Nights features a replica in Smokey's signature black-and-gold racing colors.

But it's also worth remembering that Smokey Yunick put Pontiac on the map in the 1960s. When GM's Bunkie Knudson was assigned to revive the Pontiac division's fortunes in the late 1950s, he quickly sent off a truckload of parts to Smokey's "Best Damn Garage in Town," in Daytona Beach, Florida. Yunick built the Pontiac Catalina into a powerhouse, and his car won the 1962 Daytona 500 with Daytona Beach's own legendary Fireball Roberts in the driver seat (pictured above). Roberts ran the race perfectly, Yunick famously said to the press, "He just drove her flat out, belly to the ground, as we had planned."

It was all a very long time ago, but it's a reminder of what Pontiac is meant to be about - fast, trimmed out, and a little smarter than the rest. Now that plenty of soulless accountants are calling for Pontiac to be relegated to the trash heap of history, Yunick's black-and-gold Catalina reminds us that Pontiac was once one of the strongest car brands in America, and it came from thinking outside the box.

That's what I like about the Pontiac G8. It thinks outside the box, combining parts and resources from GM in a unique and compelling way. In fact, it's the kind of car that you could build a brand around. Maybe we should fit our black 2008 Pontiac G8 GT with some gold wheels, you think? It would remind the accountants that there's still some magic left in Pontiac.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 13,200 miles

An American Car I Would Consider Buying

November 21, 2008

I hadn't really secured much seat time in the G8 lately, so I signed it out for a couple days of commuting to the LA Auto Show. And you know what? Jordan was right, this G8 is dialed in nicely. It doesn't really hit you right away, but after getting a taste of some heavy traffic, a few wide open blasts on the freeway and some basic errand running, I was really starting to like the way the G8 handles itself. The steering, the brakes, the suspension - it's all dead on. Not perfect, but pretty close to it for a $30K sedan of its size.

The engine is a bit of a sleeper too. Around town it just lays there without making much noise at all. Then you lay into it and it roars to life, twitching the tail and leaving marks on the street. The sound it makes could use some tweaking as it's more of a thrashy, V6 racket than a V8 rumble, but that's easily fixable. I didn't get a chance to try out the G8 GXP that stopped by recently, but if it's even a little better than our G8 GT, I would seriously consider buying it.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 13,361 miles

Stalking the Turn Signal Stalk

November 24, 2008

The Pontiac G8 nails most of the big things. Great price, tight handling, eager engine. This weekend marked my first time behind the wheel, and I was pretty taken. This Pontiac knows how to bring the funzies. I wish it came with a radar detector.

It nails some of the smaller things, as well. Though its center stack is a jumble and there are a few misaligned panels present, I like the overall look of the cabin. And I love the turn signal stalk, which feels supple and perfectly weighted. It's the kind of stalk that feels like it belongs in a more expensive sedan, and using it was a pleasure. L.A. drivers are notorious for their unwillingness to signal when making lane changes. Maybe the cure for this irritating habit lies with the G8, and its well-made stalk.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 13,413 miles

All the Pretty Horses Mock Me

December 01, 2008

After about a week with the Pontiac G8 GT, I've decided that it's not the kind of "family sedan" I would ever choose to own. Don't get me wrong, I can definitely see its appeal: plenty fast, looks great, roomy back seat.

But there are also a lot things that I don't like, and they outweigh the elements that I do like.

Here they are:

1. It feels too big and heavy.

2. Side view mirrors are too small.

3. Upshifts to second and third gear felt a little rough to me, even when I was really being consistently easy on the throttle.

4. Fuel economy during my personal commute scenario (usually 30-45 minutes of stop-and-go on city streets) is unacceptable for a sedan in my garage (I just updated our long-term fuel log for the G8; we're up to 17.2 mpg combined).

But the characteristic that most turns me off is this. While idling at stoplights, the whole car rumbles and jiggles ever so slightly as the 361 horses make me quite aware that they are impatiently tapping their hooves and rolling their eyes waiting for me to mash the throttle and get on with it already. It's just not the kind of feeling that I want in my everyday runaround car. But that's just me.

There's a lot of talk about the G8 GT being a great, fun-to-drive family car option. But IMHO, it's only a family car if the main driver of the car needs the fun of a performance-oriented sedan, has a higher speed highway commute and shuttles the family only occasionally. Maybe that's just perfect for your life, it doesn't work for mine. If I really had my heart set on a G8, I'd probably get the base model. The GT's just got too much power.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, @ 13,657 miles

Fun to Drive to the Dry Cleaners

December 02, 2008

I was picking up a bunch of stuff at the dry cleaners so I had a moment to stare out the window at our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT waiting on the street. It is by far the most attractive car General Motors makes and it only gets more attractive when I drive it. It's a shame it's going to end up having such a short lifespan in the U.S. — that is, unless a two-seat, plug-in hybrid G8 is in the works.

I've always liked our G8 from afar, but have never had more than a night in it, because it always seemed like more car than I needed. This week, though, I'm over that feeling, as I'm driving our big Pontiac to Napa for a business event. When the real work wraps up on Friday, the G8 and I will explore some of NorCal's back roads. I'm looking forward to it.

(Aside: Even I was surprised that two Priuses found their way into this photo. Lovely Santa Monica...)

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 13,670 miles

Feels Best at 92 MPH

December 04, 2008

I drove our long-term Pontiac G8 GT 420 miles to the Napa Valley yesterday — St. Helena to be exact — and I am quite happy with my choice. The G8 is an excellent high-speed cruiser. The cabin is quiet and the seats are wide and roomy, yet supportive enough for a half-day behind the wheel.

Though I know the suspension was softened somewhat from the Holden version, there's still an edge to it that I didn't quite expect from such a big car. Whenever I hit a rut or joint, I felt the exact shape, size and severity of the impact through the driver seat. It's fine, though. And far better than an isolating ride.

Every time my thoughts drifted slightly from the task at hand, I'd look down to see I was traveling at 92 mph. So I think this is the car's happy zone. Of course, I often added to this during passing maneuvers, and the 6.0-liter V8 showed few signs of strain. It reminded me of my inaugural road trip in the GT-R. I grew to like the small-block V8's low roar, too.

I'd neglected to check the oil before leaving, so I tended to this after fueling up in St. Helena. It was indeed low — oil registered on the dipstick but below the "low" mark. I bought a quart of 5W30 and added half of it. I drove a couple miles more to my hotel and checked it again. Still low. So I added the rest and will recheck before leaving town.

The car's fuel log indicates that Brian Moody also added a quart at 10,693 miles, so apparently, the G8 does like some oil between changes. (It was last serviced at 11,247 miles.) At least, it's the regular old stuff that you can buy at any gas station.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 14,104 miles

If the G8 Goes, I'm Moving to Australia

December 08, 2008

When I returned from my Napa Valley adventure in our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT, I'd logged over 1,000 miles. It's only 400 miles from LA to Napa, so chalk the extra 200 up to the fact that I have no sense of scale when I read a map. If a road looks cool and I'm driving a car that's fit for it, I'll go there even it takes me way off course.

The G8 is certainly fit. I really like the crisp turn-in and the way it feels balanced even through tight turns — I mean, this is a two-ton car. I like the way the back end will come around if you dip into the power when the stability control is off. I like the weighting of the steering on-center, off-center and at any speed.

Even the brake pedal feel is pretty good, though under moderate inputs on twisty descents, I noticed some light shuddering that suggests the brakes aren't new anymore. The only other thing I'll complain about is that while shifts are quicker and more positive in the transmission's sport and manual modes, there's still some delay. It's not an issue on the highway, but on back roads, you notice it. Wish we had a manual gearbox option as on the Holden and Vauxhall/Opel versions, or the GXP (edit after the fact).

But the only thing that really bothered me during Friday's drive was the traffic on Highway 29 near Calistoga. I just wanted some alone time with the G8, OK? So I drove through San Francisco so I could get some more time on lovely Skyline Blvd. That landed me on Highway 85 just in time for evening gridlock. I didn't get back to LA until 11 p.m.

Fortunately, the driving position in the G8 is excellent and helped ward off fatigue. The cowl is low, the funky steering wheel is actually comfortable to hold, and though the back cushion could stand some more firm support, the driver seat is pretty good, too. The only addition I'd like in here is a nav system, which would have remedied my cartographical challenges.

Best tank on trip was 20.9 mpg; worst was 17.6 mpg. And the quart of oil I added in St. Helena was exactly what the car needed — oil level is now exactly where it should be.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 14,706 miles

Fuel Economy Update

December 16, 2008

Too crappy outside to be driving. How about a fuel economy update instead?

Best tank: 24 mpg

Worst tank: 12 mpg

Average over the life of the test: 17.3 mpg

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 15,192 miles

A Quick Question

December 17, 2008

Why is buying this Pontiac G8 built in Australia better than buying a Hyundai Sonata built in Alabama?

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 15,230 miles


December 22, 2008

I had high hopes for the new Pontiac G8 GXP when I first heard about it. Corvette engine, FE3 suspension, optional manual shifter — what's not to like? But now that I've driven both GXP flavors (manual and auto), I really don't see the point. The G8 GT is nearly as capable and fun as the GXP, it looks the same, and it stickers for eight or nine grand less.

Check the track results. Our GT long-termer snaked through the slalom cones at 63.4 mph (leaving aside one anomalous 66.3-mph run), while the manual-shift GXP managed an essentially identical 63.6 mph (63.0 for the auto ). On the skidpad, the GT actually pulled a higher number than the stickshift GXP — 0.86g to 0.84 (the GXP auto registered 0.87). Our man Edmunds opines that, numbers notwithstanding, the GXP's FE3 setup provides "better turn-in response and precision along with a reduced tendency toward understeer." Fair enough, but that's hardly worth an extra $9,000.

So what do you really get for the extra coin? Well, that Corvette V8, for one thing. Trouble is, the GT already has a chest-thumping 360-horsepower V8. Drop the hammer at any speed, and the GT takes a deep breath and charges forward like a runaway locomotive — this is plenty of power, even by my warped enthusiast standards. The acceleration numbers reveal a distinct edge for the GXP — 5.2 seconds to 60 mph with the stick and 4.9 with the slushbox, while the GT clocks in at 5.8 — but in real-world driving, the GT's V8 is satisfying enough that you likely won't notice the extra ticks. Granted, it doesn't sound like a 'Vette, but that's nothing your local exhaust shop can't fix.

That leaves the availability of a six-speed manual as the GXP's trump card. It's a nice short-throw shifter, actually, with a great bolt-action feel through the gates. However, it comes paired with the lightest clutch this side of our not-so-dearly-departed Lancer GTS, and it's also an extra-cost option at $695. I'd definitely take the stick if it were available on the GT, but there's no way I'd pay an extra nine grand for the privilege of checking that option box.

If the GT didn't exist, the GXP would be an interesting proposition. I'd still prefer a stripper 335i — same acceleration, better handling, much nicer interior — but I wouldn't question the GXP's value. The $31,555 GT is so good, though, that I think the GXP would have to employ something like the Z06's 505-hp V8 to justify its price premium. Until that happens, I'll take a regular old GT, slap an aftermarket exhaust on it, and laugh all the way to the bank.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, @ 15,455 miles

2008 Pontiac G8 GT and the Inferiority Complex

December 29, 2008

What you see above is our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT and what my 4-year old daughter has come to call "the light house." Yep, it's that house in the neighborhood that made the local news and it draws enthusiasts from far and wide. You see, I have a neighbor who works for a lighting company, and even though I've been driving a red-blooded rear-drive V8 sedan for a few days, he's given me a bit of an inferiority complex. Here's my light display...

Pretty pathetic, huh? But wait, there's a cute story to go along with my lights. After visiting "the light house" on four consecutive nights (and being invited in for hot cocoa and cookies on one night), my daughter asked me if I could put lights on our house — she knows which XMAS box contains our lights. Oh jeez. I found the box which once accommodated a Tom & Jerry doll set in 1965 (and Christmas lights since 1966) and told her that if the lights worked, I'd put them up. Guess what, after about 30 years without electricity running through them, the old bulbs fired up to a triple-digit temperature that discourages punks from unscrewing them and throwing them at each other. I never did that. I went to get a ladder. She loves our lights. My dad would be so proud.

Here are a couple more pix of my neighbor's lights...

...and just out of frame is a giant candy cane that spews foamy "snow."

My holiday vacation wasn't all shame and nostalgia. We drove to Pismo Beach to visit in-laws and took a couple walks on the beach. That's my girl. Yes, she got wet, but that's what kids do.

On the 540-mile round trip from Fullerton, the G8 earned exactly 20.0 mpg running between 75 and 80 mph with the AC compressor on. As has been covered ad nauseum, there are numerous ergonomic and display issues with the G8's interior. The steering wheel is, indeed, contoured beyond what most people would consider a comfortable shape for human hands, and the steering system is "springy" rather than progressive. The throttle tip-in is a little steep — especially on a cold start — and the brake pedal has a good deal of idle stroke.

That said, the G8 swallows up highway miles like a good son-in-law does dinner. Nothing makes you feel more like a Dad than cruising down the highway with a V8 under your right foot and the subtle rumble that goes along with it. I didn't see any entries criticizing the G8's road noise, by the way, which is terrible on most of highway 101 except for the recently re-paved sections. Maybe the tires have grown harder and noisier with the miles that have piled up. Happy Holidays!

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 16,245 miles

Knuckle-dragger Approved

January 07, 2009

Hello, my name is Kurt and I like V8's, pushrods, breathing through my mouth and doing burnouts.

(photo by Mike Magrath)

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 16,315 miles

A Great Place for a Stick Up

January 12, 2009

The last two times I've signed up for the Pontiac G8 and settled myself into the driver seat, the mild but persistent stench of feet has wafted its way to my nostrils. At first I thought that it was the more well-rounded scent of locker room funk because it also had a slightly steamy, stuffy quality, but this time 'round the distinctly identifiable foot smell stood out (over the weekend, it eventually developed a slight cigarette aftertaste, er aftersmell, but that was once I had gotten used to the toeishness). Even though it's not overwhelming in strength, it still made me wish we had a supply of Airwick Stick Ups in our test car supply stash next to the waterless car wash sprays, dirty chamoix (what's the plural of chamois?) and jugs of wiper fluid. (Unfortunately, I couldn't find a YouTube clip with the jingle "Stick it to 'em - with Stick Ups!" If you grew up in the '70s and '80s like me, that'll be stuck in your head for the rest of the day now. You're welcome.)

After confirming that the odor wasn't self-generated and then checking for wayward sweatsocks left under the seat by one of my esteemed colleagues and finding none, I am left to wonder what it is that's causing the stink. A trip to the car wash today (pictured) helped a little bit. I'll be interested to hear a report from the next editor who gets seat time in it. Any G8 owners fightin' a funk in their cars out there?

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, @ 16,625 miles

Key Fob Follies

January 16, 2009

The main switchblade-style key for our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT is beginning to break up. The pivot point for the key blade is wonky. The case is coming apart and won't snap back together.

Worst of all, pressing the "unlock" button on the Remote Keyless Entry fob (RKE) to get into the car requires focused pressure and digging with your strongest thumbnail, along with the willingness to stand there through 10 or 15 attempts until it finally relents and lets you in.

Using the actual key to unlock our G8 (now there's a novel thought) isn't any good because this will set-off the alarm. It's such a reflex to lock a car nowadays with the RKE button, you know? And that part of the key fob still works 100% of the time.

Is the battery dead? Not likely. Only the "unlock" button is suspect. But I guess it's worth checking. Now, where's that owner's manual...

None of the symptoms called-out in the manual apply. Three years? Nope. Range trouble? Not really. Any DIC warnings? I have no idea what you're talking about.

Besides, it says that I must see a dealer to have the battery replaced. A dealer? Let me see that. It's practically falling apart as it is.

No dice. However you get the battery out, the split line along which this fob has chosen to fail doesn't help get at it. A special tool is needed that I don't have here at my desk.

Perhaps our key is spontaneously disintegrating, the result of a weak design. Or maybe it got dropped one too many times or went for a ride in someone's clothes dryer. Hard to say.

We must have received at least two keys when we took delivery of our G8. I'll go and see Mike for the spare.

And here it is. The second key isn't just like the first: It's got a fixed blade. I guess a husband and wife are meant to arm wrestle for the switchblade.

Encourage her to take the fixed key. Appeal to her sense of empathy. She'll carry it in her purse, anyway. Us guys must carry our keys in our pants pockets.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 17,020 miles

How Long is Your Commute?

January 19, 2009

I've never come across a car with a "Rest Reminder" before. Our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT apparently has one. It comes on after 2 hours of continuous driving.

How do I know this? Driving across the desert to Vegas this weekend would be a good guess. A good guess, but wrong.

No, the way I discovered this little gem was far more demoralizing: It came on during my Friday evening commute, an especially bad one this holiday weekend. That's right, it took me over 2 hours to get home.

Thanks a helluva lot for rubbing it in, G8.

According to the manual, the 2 hour trigger threshhold is not changeable. But you can press the DIC access button (GM's cheerful acronym for Driver Information Center) to override the above display when it appears. If you do that, however, the warning will come back again in 20 further minutes, with a chime this time. And every 20 minutes after that. It won't stop until you switch off the car. You know, rest.

At least I got home before the 2:20 chime.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 17,174 miles

So Cal Rain

January 22, 2009

There are few things about the Pontiac G8 that feel a little Audi-ish. The round but subtly aggressive style of the exterior (esp the rear) and the rubberized feel of some interior bits. I'll tell you what's NOT very Audi about the G8 - the windscreen wipers. In our A4 Avant, those suckers can clear off snow, ice, mud and rain like nobody's business. The G8's wipers leave a bit of a streak and I don't like it. Thankfully, it doesn't rain much here in So Cal - for the rest of you, better get those Rain X wipers or that cleaner stuff that makes the water bead up real nice. Is it just me or can some little things bug more than they should?

Brian Moody, Senior Automotive Editor

The No Kicking Express

January 26, 2009

Here are two reasons I'd spend my own money on a Pontiac G8. 1) The G8 GT made my morning commute feel so short, I kept driving past the office simply because I wanted to enjoy the car more. 2) After 5 days of mainly family use - park, mall, church, grandma's house - not one person blurted out "it's too bumpy." Let's just say a certain 35 year old woman and a certain 2 year old girl MAY have uttered that phrase a few times in recent months when riding in various, uh, EUROpean sedans.

Oh, wait I have a third reason - I never once felt the sadly familar kick of a toddler shoe against the back of my seat. In my book that's an American hat trick. Where do I sign?

Is there another sedan that does all that the G8 does (V8, rear-drive, roomy back seat, tons of power, decent handling, sharp looking) for around $32,000?

Brian Moody, Senior Automotive Editor@ 17,344 miles


February 02, 2009

I just ran out to take the Pontiac G8 to the car wash. I was in a hurry so didn't bring any entertainment with me, no iPod, no CDs. The radio DJ was getting on my nerves, so I pushed the volume button on the Blaupunkt audio system. This doesn't turn the system off, it just mutes it. I was driving and didn't have time to fiddle.

But then I realized I could still hear the radio very low. So, even though the screen displays "MUTE" in a huge font, it doesn't actually mute it, it sorta mutes it. I had to turn the volume down to zero to get rid of the DJ.

I used the CD player all weekend and it sounds pretty good when you feel like listening to it.

Sorry, no picture.

I made you a video. See after the jump:

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 17,881 miles

Unidentified Electronic Object

March 09, 2009

I opened the Pontiac G8's trunk yesterday to find this hanging down.

Not familiar to me, and haven't asked around the office yet.

Someone want to clue me in?

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 18,365 miles


March 16, 2009

Let me tell you what Melba Toast is packin' right here, all right. We got 4:11 Positrac out back, 750 double pumper, Edelbrock intake, bored 30 over, 11:1 pop-up pistons, turbo jet 390 horsepower. We're talkin' some....muscle.

Well, OK, none of that is true. But David Wooderson would be proud of the G8's (ahem), muscle, nonetheless.

What we really got here is 2.92:1 limited-slip, multi-port fuel injection, plastic intake manifold, stock 3.99-inch bore, 10.4:1 compression and a bulldozing 361 horsepower. And it's more than enough turn rubber to smoke, thank you very much.

This burnout is brought to you by Austin, Texas-based wedding and event photographer David Hill and is sponsored by Bridgestone.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 19,874

Hit 20K as GM Sealed Pontiac's Fate

April 28, 2009

Pontiac is dying, and unless it gets reincarnated as an Impala SS or Chevelle SS, the G8 is dying, too, at least in the U.S. But our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT is still very much alive. Late last week it hit the 20,000-mile mark and we're late in celebrating the milestone.

One of our editors reports that the front brake rotors may be slightly out of round, so we'll have them checked out soon. Other than that, our full-size Pontiac is still incredibly satisfying to drive. The 6.0-liter V8 still moves the 4,000-pound car around with authority — 385 pound-feet of torque will do that for you.

And I still like the chassis a lot. For a car with so much interior room, our G8 GT drives small. One other thing that hasn't changed: the G8's fussy, Aussie-market stereo controls. Couldn't I just have a tuning knob?

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 20,366 miles

Needs Another Quart

April 28, 2009

I checked the oil in our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT today, and it registered below the low mark. I've come to know that this means the car is down a quart . So I gave it a bottle of 5W30.

Believe it or not, we haven't been neglecting the car. Oil service intervals are computer-indicated on the G8; there's a shot of the owner's manual in the thumbs below. And since its last service at 11,800 miles, the maintenance light has yet to illuminate again.

A check of the Edmunds Maintenance Calculator suggests that 12,000 miles is the absolute longest you could expect to go between changes and the owner's manual notes that you shouldn't go longer than 10 months — we've reached neither threshold.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 20,386 miles

10 Things You Don't Know About The Last Great Pontiac

May 03, 2009

1) To improve weight distribution the G8's battery is in the trunk.

2) It has more comfortable seats and better ergonomics than the Cadillac CTS.

3) It's entire rearseat does not fold down, but its center section does, so long items that are not too wide can come along for the ride.

4) There are no cupholders for its rearseat passengers (The two in the center fold down section are so lame they don't count.) (Sorry cocarguydj.)

5) Only the G8's two front windows feature auto up and down. (thanks cocarguydj and carguy622)

6) It does not require premium gasoline, nor does it use expensive sythetic oil.

7) It'll out drag race a Dodge Challenger R/T 6-speed.

8) Its 6-speed automatic has a Sport mode that really works, and it matches revs perfectly when you downshift it manually.

9) It has more tire noise than it should.

10) When you use its 361 hp to burn its Bridgestones through first and second gear it really pisses off the hottie behind you in the SLK55 AMG.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 20,614 miles

Read This While You Can

May 03, 2009

Our long-term Pontiac G8 GT is well-liked by our staff. We appreciate its 6.0-liter 361-horsepower V8 engine and the way it boldly goes forth when you put your foot on it.

Sure, it has its quirks. But isn't it often the imperfections in people that make them more endearing?

It has a lot of features that I believe an American car should have: V8 engine, rear-wheel drive, roomy interior, a nice low rumble, good loud audio system, the ability to lay 40 feet of rubber — even if some of that comes by way of Oz.

But it hit the streets a little too late.

It's sad to think this will be the last Pontiac we ever own. Despite all the reasons why the brand failed, it had a good run and will always be a part of automotive history. I can't help feeling bad that Pontiac is going away.

Somewhere in car-guy heaven, Smokey Yunick is weeping.

This, our Pontiac G8, will also be leaving the fleet soon. Let's give it some love as car of the week.

Have you ever owned a Pontiac?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Correction on the Windows

May 04, 2009

This morning I posted that our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT did not have auto up or down windows. That was not correct, and as usual I got the barrage of RTFM comments.

Embarrassed by the error I walked out to the car and checked. Here's the deal. The G8 does not have auto up windows at all, but its two front windows are auto down, sorta.

Yeah, sorta. Here's the thing: You have to hold the button for a couple of seconds to activate the feature. It takes so long that the window is nearly halfway down before you get to let go of the button. This is different than most cars, which allow you to just push the button once quickly, and it fooled me into thinking the G8 did not have auto down windows at all.

While we're on the subject, I really like the G8's console mounted window switches. Ergonomic convention says they should be on the door, but I like them on the console like they are in our E46 M3. What do you think?

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 20,624 miles

20k Mile Tire Wear Update

May 05, 2009

Recently we talked about the sticky 18" tires on our new 2009 BMW M3. Well, our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT has sticky shoes, too, and they're fast-approaching the 21,000 mile mark.

And these Bridgestone Potenza RE 050A tires are Z-rated, as well — sort of. That's because the ill-defined Z rating ( >149mph) was split into two clearly-defined "W" and "Y" ratings a few years back. The G8's skins are of the W-rated sub-category, and that makes them good up to 168 mph (270 kph).

The G8's Bridgestones actually have a lower treadwear rating than the BMW M3 rubber. Here we see a 140 rating — much lower than the 220 rating found on our M3's Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires.

Here's how they've held up so far...

The fronts look good. Damn good, in fact. A significant amount of tread remains, and the wear is evenly distributed across the tires. The Aussies came up with a crackerjack suspension that treats tires kindly, and we've done OK with tire pressure maintenance. A shout out goes to the on-board tire pressure readout (a TPMS enhancement GM chose to include for no extra cost) for keeping us honest, too.

Treadwear across the rear tires is admirably even, too, indicating that the rear suspension guys did their homework.

But here the tread is almost done and gone. The wear-bars are tantilizingly close to making their entrance. If it ever rained here, we'd be looking for new ones TODAY.

Maybe we would have gotten a little more life out of them by doing an extra rotation or two. Maybe the rowdy V8 in this machine makes it easy to get behind on rotations. Maybe we have lead feet. Maybe all of the above.

Anyway, it looks like more-frequent rotations might have made gotten this set of tires to the 25,000 mile marker, or more. Not bad for a 140 treadwear rating.

What this means is this: treadwear ratings are of dubious merit. They don't really relate directly to mileage. As Cap'n Barbosa once said, "The Code? It's more like guidelines than actual rules."

Bottom line: I still think the M3 will have a hard time getting to 20k, or even 15k, despite what looks like a more favorable treadwear rating than these babies. Time will tell, of course.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 20,765 miles

Collector's Item?

May 05, 2009

This probably seemed like a good idea back in 2007. Pontiac figured it would single out the first 888 G8s that made it to the States with a little extra detailing. Those lucky enough to score a G8 from that first batch off the boat received a G8 with this special emblem on the dash and...well, that's about it really.

Now that Pontiac is gearing up for its farewell tour next year, we can't help but wonder if these G8s might someday hold a little extra value. Sound ridiculous? Well so did those stupid horns on Plymouth Road Runners, and look how geeked guys get about those today.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor

Open Thread

May 05, 2009

OK, let's stop bashing on the Sunfire and Aztek and concentrate on the Pontiac G8 GT.

Have you driven one? Write a review in the comments section.

Any questions you want us to answer? Anything you want us to talk about that we haven't already convered in this car?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Let Me Get This Straight...

May 05, 2009

You've noticed it. We've noticed it. Our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT has a cockeyed front license plate.

It wasn't always this way. Our G8 GT was delivered without the front license plate bracket installed. That's because something like 13 (or 14) of the 50 US states don't require a front plate. These enlightened states issue you one plate for the rear, and that's that.

I wish California were one of them. Front plates ruin the looks of a lot of cars — including this one. Look back at any blog post before July 2008 to see how much better our G8 looked without one.

Many Californians leave them off and never get hassled. But we represent a company and we won't risk it. And it's not advisable in Santa Monica and other beachside communities where you're likely to get a front plate ticket while legally parked at a meter or along a curb.

Front plate laws predate speed cameras by decades, and front plates are not strictly required for red light and speed cameras to function. Case in point: Arizona has no front plates, yet that state has become addicted to camera enforcement in the last year or two.

But I digress. This front plate has been on my nerves ever since it was installed by one of the two dealers we visited during a drawn-out service visit last July.

I've got tools and I've got the G8. I'll see what I can do. Maybe I can loosen a bolt and scoot it around, or something.

It's stuck on firmly; no car wash will have its way with this front plate. I have to remove the plate to see how the offending frame is attached. What I find is bad news.

The bracket is attached with large pop rivets, making this irreversable and unadjustable. Someone had to drill holes in the bumper before they installed these rivets, and they simply did a horrible job of lining things up. Here's how much they screwed up...

The distance from the top of the license plate frame to the grille is shown on the right-hand edge of the scale, and that edge has been positioned directly above each rivet.

1.15 inches on the left

1.5 inches on the right

That's a 3/8's-inch difference. I think I could do better blindfolded.

But all is not lost. The dealer screwed up in another way that could save us: they neglected to install the third lower rivet. Methinks I can drill out one of the two existing rivets and install a new one in a new third hole that I'll drill after everything is square.

That will leave one of the upper corners unsupported, but two rivets has so far proven to be enough. Maybe Meatloaf was right: two out of three ain't bad. Besides, a 3/8" error means I might find enough material to re-drill the frist hole, too.

I'm saying "I" because I don't trust the dealer to do it. If anyone's going to swiss-cheese the bumper at this point, it's gonna be me. Time for a DIY fix. All I need is a couple of large pop rivets.

This is all a royal pain in the butt, and I shouldn't have to write this post. Sure, it's a dealership problem, but perhaps Pontiac could have made this process idiot-proof by molding shallow dimples into the bumper cover so the tech knows exactly where to drill. We see that on cars all the time. Or do those of you in the lucky 13 (or 14) no-plate states think those dimples are ugly, too?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 20,702 miles

Let Me Get This Straight, Part Deux

May 06, 2009

Yesss! The front license plate of our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT is square and true to the world.

And it only took 5 minutes...

...after I made a trip to Pep Boys...

...where I spent only $2.16 on a pack of 3/16" pop rivets...

...because I already had the required tools (3/16" drill, pop rivet insertion tool).

And it turns out that Pontiac (or Holden, or GM — all are correct answers) did attempt to make this process idiot-proof. But their approach obviously wasn't idiot-proof enough. Dimples might still be a good idea.

You see, the plate holder has these notches in it; one on each side and one in the bottom-middle. They nest neatly up against the contours of the bumper. Only an idiot could fail to see it and line them up properly. Ahh.

Our idiot must have seen the error of his ways at one point. The ill-placed right-hand rivet shows evidence that he thought about drilling it out and trying again. Why he stopped, we can only speculate. Maybe he had no spare rivet. Perhaps his boss chided him for spending too much time on the car. Maybe he went to lunch and didn't get back to it. We'll never know.

 All I had to do to remove his rivet was grab a 3/16" drill bit and drill it out. I was then free to pivot the plate holder on the remaining "good" rivet until it nested up against the body contours. I then verified the dimensions and squareness before drilling the new hole. Together, both operations took less than a minute. 

You can see how far off our friend really was with the plate holder swung down again. Would you believe a full 1/2-inch? (green arrow = new hole.) That much clearance gives us plenty of meat for a soild connection.

Aside: The ragged third hole came from the screw that holds the plate to the plate holder — it's a bit too long.

Inserting a new pop rivet is a cinch if you have a pop rivet insertion tool. I do. They cost less than $20 at Home Depot, Harbor Freight or others. They have "a thousand and one uses" — as long as those uses involve pop rivets, that is.

Since my trip to Pep Boys yielded a 5-pack of rivets, I added another to the lower middle hole.

Done and Done.

Seriously, this is not rocket science. Anyone with a pulse and a few tools should be able to do it correctly.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 20,735 miles

Call Fritz, I See Seat Padding

May 07, 2009

After more than 20,000 miles the interior of our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT is holding up wonderfully. The seats, steering wheel, shifter and dash would all look new after a good scrubbing. But there is one spot showing some age.

The above photo is of the top of the rear seat. It's the top of the seat's center section that folds down to create a trunk pass through and that button is how you release it from the rear bulkhead. Notice how the upholstery has pulled away from the button's plastic trim exposing the padding underneath.

Disappointing, but the top of the rear seat does get a lot of sun. Obviously it's having an effect.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

The Great Rear Cupholders Debate Rages On

May 07, 2009

Earlier this week I posted negatively about the G8's rear cupholders. Basically I said there are none. Obviously that is technically incorrect, but I stand behind the claim simply based on the fact that the cupholders that are there are useless.

Hold on, hear me out.

In most cars the rear cupholders are part of the center armrest that folds down when needed. This is how it is in my wife's Passat. Good system. Works well. But the G8's cupholders are not in the center armrest, they're on the back of the center section of seat that folds down to create a pass through to the trunk. Therefore when in use the rear passengers are not only exposed to this gaping hole to the trunk, they're essentially forced to rest their arms on that unpadded hard piece of plastic you can clearly see in the photo.

Dumbest thing I've ever seen. Somebody at Holden really screwed the pooch on this one.

What do you think? Does the G8 have rear cupholders or not?

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

The Words Between The Numbers

May 07, 2009

If nothing else, Pontiac's departure from this earthly coil reminds us of the variety available to the car-buying public.

By nearly any measure on paper, our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 and 2008 Mitsubishi Evo MR are doppelgangers. Acceleration is dead heat between the two, both are four-doors, have six-speed transmissions, heck, even the detailing down to the grille trim is similar. Furthermore, both haven proven robust.

We always put words between the numbers, though, and those words (hopefully) have spoken of a vast difference in driving character between these rides. Our comparison test of the Evo MR vs the G8 GXP last year demonstrated just how different two high-performance sedans at the same price point can be.

That test was with the GXP, though, and our long-term G8 is a GT. Still, aside from the GXP's faster numbers, they're very obviously cut from the same cloth. They're fraternal twins — one simply ended up more athletic than the other.

By contrast, the Evo is an entirely different animal from the Lancer upon which it is based. It's a Lancer in the way that the Six Million Dollar Man is a human male.

There's one thing that really separates the G8 GT and the Evo MR, and that's the fact that the MSRP of the GT undercuts the MR by ten grand. That's such a big difference that it might make you reevaluate how much you're willing to spend for the Evo's sharper character.

For me, the transmission clinches it. The Evo's all wheel-drive traction and twin-clutch gearbox puts it in another galaxy compared to the G8 GT's autobox. Sure, the GT has a shift-it-yourself mode, but it's sluggish, lacks paddles and the console shifter is logic-reversed.

What say you, fine IL LT blog reader — among the G8 GT, G8 GXP and Evo MR, which ride hits your sweet spot and why?

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 20,771 miles.

Things I Don't Like

May 07, 2009

If you've been following our long-term test of the G8 GT, you've probably noticed that I really like this car. The definitive post was this one, where I argued that anyone in the market for a V6-powered family sedan should buy a G8 GT instead. In the open thread, reader gregnv asked how the G8 GT compares to the Camry V6, VW CC 2.0T, Accord V6, and Maxima. Answer: I'd much rather have the G8 GT than any of the above. V8 power + RWD + badass looks + enormous backseat = no-brainer for the pragmatic enthusiast.

But there are a few things I could do without. Here's three.

1. Crude shifts. Maybe our transmission just needs to be serviced, but I've noticed some increasing roughness in the G8's upshifts, particularly the 1-2 and 2-3, and not just when it's cold. Similarly, downshifts have always been a little unrefined in this car, but on the way to work this morning I floored it for no apparent reason and the transmission did this weird cough-lurch-hesitation thing between gears before finally engaging and hurtling me forward. I don't like that this is happening with barely 20,000 miles on the clock.

2. Intake shriek . At least I think it's the intake. I always notice it when I'm full-bore accelerating with buildings or walls around me (on our closed course, naturally). It's a weird high-pitched whistle that's totally out of sync with the barrel-chested roar of the V8. I'd try swapping in an aftermarket intake if I owned this car.

3. Garbage stereo. The G8 GT's Blaupunkt system would be an adequate base stereo in a $20k family sedan, but this is an oversized sport sedan with a thumping V8. It cries out for a thumping stereo to match, and the Blaupunkt just doesn't deliver the goods, as more than one owner pointed out in the open thread. It's another G8 foible that would have me running into the open arms of the aftermarket.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor @ 20,770 miles


May 08, 2009

I've heard from so many places all during my life that American culture expanded over the globe like a shock wave. While a lot of folks have embraced elements of Americanism, others feel it's infringed on their own traditions.

The G8 coming to our shores is an echo of that shock wave in my opinion. The growling American styled meaty V8 packed under the G8's hood is a modern version of those great Motown muscle cars of years gone by.

Our G8 isn't as American as apple pie, however. Being an Aussie product, they've mixed Euro styling with the raw American muscle. In the end, it's really a convergence of cultural ripples from the US and Europe.

I had the chance to take this echo out on the streets last night. After a few full throttle blasts getting onto the freeways and casual around the town driving, I really like what I'm hearing.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

Suspension Walkaround

May 08, 2009

I know I've done a lot of these lately, but the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT is this week's COW, so I couldn't possibly let it slip by. Besides, these wheelwells actually contain a few interesting tidbits to talk about.

But that's not apparent from this overall view of the front suspension. It looks like a garden-variety front strut setup from here.

First and foremost, the G8 has a dual-pivot setup, just like the BMW 135i we saw last month. The difference here is the use of steel instead of aluminum, a less-costly choice that contributes to the G8's lower price.

This snail's-eye view shows the two lower ball joints (yellow), the forward-mounted steering arm (green) and the bottom of the strut (white). Such a dual pivot arrangement moves the virtual steering pivot out to the intersection of the projected links, which allows for a zero (or even negative) scrub radius.

Here's how it looks when you turn the wheel from lock-to-lock. Don't mind the squeaking — it's not present when the car is on the ground with the suspension properly loaded.

Yes, the virtual pivot point moves around a little as the angle of the links changes. Try not to think about it too much.


Dual pivot setups tend to look like a bowl of spaghetti, with tortured links required to keep all the bits from hitting each other as the suspension turns and moves up and down. Here the forward link (yellow) loops up to miss the steering tie rod (black) at full lock, and the stabilizer bar (blue) needs a massive bend to keep it away from the tie rod when the suspension is compressed in turns.

We can also see that the strut (white) connects to the knuckle (green) with two large bolts — a very common arrangement.


But the G8's struts have something not often seen: a set-screw that allows front camber adjustments. The uppermost large bolt hides a slotted hole or a reduced-shank upper bolt (I didn't disassemble it to see which — no alignment rack at my house). Simply loosen the big bolts, tweak the set screw as needed and tighten things back up. But this job is only conceivable as a DIY by those who have a camber gauge and experience. And toe-in must always be reset after doing this. For the rest of you: Don't try this at home.

Here is another view of the aluminum 2-piston sliding brake calipers. The black arrow points to some cooling fins. There are more on the other side. We can also see that the lug studs (white) have a few threads removed and a tapered nose to reduce the chance of cross-threading, just like the Cadillac CTS. Neat.

The G8's rear suspension is a multilink with an upper arm (white) and three links. The upper arm is L-shaped, with the "L" curving off behind the spring, in the dark shadows beneath the body. The green and black links (the black one is beneath and behind the spring) approximate a lower arm, while the yellow link handles toe control. The G8 has a coil-over spring/shock assembly.

Like the front, everthing is steel to keep the price of the car in reasonable territory. Also like the front, the rear brake caliper, a single-piston slider, is made of aluminum and the rotors are vented.

Here's another view of the toe link (yellow). Toe-in is reportedly adjustable, but we can't quite see if there is an eccentric on the inner mount. Black indicates the forwardmost lower link.

I've talked about arm ratios and efficiency, and here's what it all means. Don't worry about the math: I'll do it for you.

The length of the lower arm is AB. Point A is the pivot point, and it has an eccentric for camber adjustment. Point B moves in lock-step with the wheel. The spring and shock mount to point D and the stabilizer connects at point C. Therefore, the stabilizer bar motion ratio is AC/AB and the spring/shock motion ratio is AD/AB.

The stabilizer bar motion ratio is around 0.4:1. That is to say, 1 inch of wheel motion results in 0.4 inches of stabilizer bar movement. Less motion means the bar won't twist very much, so it has to be thicker to get the job done. But less twist also means lower internal stress, so the engineers can select a less-costly grade of spring steel. It's a classic trade-off.

The spring and shock share the same motion ratio in this coil-over design, and it's 0.77:1 if you go strictly by the arm lengths. But the spring and shock lean inward (I'm guessing 25 degrees when the car is on the ground) and the ratio is worsened by this angle. The math boils down to an overall motion ratio of about 0.7:1. In other words, 1 inch of wheel travel produces around 0.7 inches of spring and shock movement.

A 1:1 ratio is preferable for shocks because they're more precise and less affected by internal friction when they move a greater distance, especially over very small road imperfections. But there isn't always room for everything, and the G8's setup is by no means unusual, especially for a coil-over.

The rear coil spring in the G8 GT is a progressive-rate spring. The coils are closer together at the top and more widely-spaced at the bottom. It's relatively soft initially, but it stiffens progressively as the close-set upper coils begin to bottom out. The white arrow shows a witness mark from such coil contact. Plastic sheaths (yellow) prevent that contact from being metal-to-metal in a bid to minimize noise and reduce the chances of paint scratches that can lead to rust and, in extreme rust environments, spring failure.

Some conservative carmakers refuse to use progressive springs for these very reasons, plastic sheathing or not. The aftermarket uses them extensively because lowering kits would be harsh indeed without them. But aftermarket companies don't have the same long-term warranty exposure as the original carmaker, and the aftermarket doesn't always employ countermeasures like these sheaths.


The G8's L-shaped upper arm has two pivot points on the chassis side. The one we can't see at the end of the "L" (back and to the left) is a rubber bushing, but the one at the crook in the "L" (white) sits directly inboard of the rear tire, and it takes the brunt of the lateral cornering forces. In our FE2-suspended car this one is a ball joint instead of a rubber bushing for increased lateral precision.

All of this works quite well. They've done a good job spending their available money and development time in the right palces. Almost everyone here appreciates the way our Pontiac G8 GT steers, rides and handles. And you saw how evenly the tires have worn a few posts ago.

It's really too bad this thing has to die.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 20,802 miles

Man Weekend, Joshua Tree Edition

May 11, 2009

"I read an interesting article recently about walnuts and hazelnuts," my barely vegan college roommate Mumbles told me when I picked him up at the airport on Friday.

With that, the Joshua Tree edition of our illustrious Man Weekend series was officially underway.

The Professor was also in the mix, of course, as was Big Sleep, another old roommate who actually wasn't known as Big Sleep until he set an unofficial Man Weekend record by taking 13 naps between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon.

Our destination was a cabin a few miles from the west entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.

Our gear included three guitars, two bags of organic pesto pumpkin seeds, 48 bottles of reverse-osmosis-purified water (Mumbles' personal reserve), one U2 mix CD, and one long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT.

It was going to be a hell of a trip.

First up on the itinerary was the obligatory re-creation of that picture (above; click to enlarge) from The Joshua Tree. A park ranger informed us that it was actually shot in Death Valley (fast-forward to 3:43), and anyway, the tree had died in the '90s. Undeterred, we found ourselves a vaguely similar vista, and I (Bono) hauled over a decaying stump to serve as a makeshift tripod while The Professor (Larry Mullen), Mumbles (Adam Clayton), and Big Sleep (Edge) got into character. We have a long history of achieving greatness on Man Weekends, but folks, this picture is a whole new ballgame

Other than that, we basically just did as the sand people do. We communed with nature. We didn't often drink beer, but when we did, we preferred Dos Equis. The carnivores grilled up some brats on Saturday night while Mumbles ate kale. The Professor overcame his aversion to sitting in warm water so that I'd have company in the outdoor hot tub while Mumbles took cover in a chair 20 feet away ("Chlorine's giving me a headache") and Big Sleep did his thing inside on the couch.

I also floored it a lot, as you might expect. The roads in the park are smooth and sinuous, and I took full advantage of the G8's nifty suspension and brawny V8 until Mr. Sleep informed me that performance driving and naptime don't mix. I still managed 20 mpg for the trip, which isn't half bad, especially considering that there were four blokes in the car at all times. I will say that I expected the G8 to feel less encumbered by the added weight — when I dropped everyone off last night and drove back to my place, it felt like I had an extra hundred horses under the hood.

Long live Man Weekend. Stay thirsty, my friends.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor @ 21,332 miles

Hey Look, There's Another One

May 12, 2009

Should I wave? Thumbs up? Do everything in my power to avoid eye contact? What if I wave and he doesn't wave back? I hate that. What if I don't wave out of fear and he misinterprets my lack of waving as a slight? Then he won't wave. Maybe I should just give him a nod, but we're going 75 mph so the nod has to be a little extra animated for him to see it. What if he thinks I'm having a seizure? A thumbs up is always appropriate. I'll do that. Okay, he's looking, here goes.

Oh no, he's not thumbing up back. I feel like such an ass. I should have went with the nod. Wait, there he goes. Thumb is up. Nice car dude.

What do you do when you're driving in a car and come upon somebody in the same exact ride?

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

Still Cool the Second Time Around

May 26, 2009

Our Pontiac G8 GT's term is almost complete, but I managed to squeeze in another rotation before it's gone. Coincidentally, it was almost one year ago that I first drove our G8. Much of the experience this time around has been familiar. The sedan is still silly fast, especially when already rolling; it takes great restraint to obey the speed limit when driving on lightly trafficked freeways.

The G8 is noisier on the freeway than I recall it being 11 months ago, though. In particular, there's notable wind noise from the passenger-side mirror or door area that I don't remember. And assuming my memory is correct about such things, the suspension damping also seems a little softer, leading to a bit more body roll during initial turn-in for cornering.

Even so, I gained renewed fondness for the G8. It's not perfect by any means, and it won't likely be around much longer. But any car enthusiast needing a family sedan would be remiss if he or she didn't add the G8 GT to their comparison list.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 22,209 miles

The Car for the "Transporter"

May 29, 2009

A few weeks ago, I was flipping through channels on TV and stopped on The Transporter. It was a 2002 film starring Jason Statham; his ex-military character earns a living by driving potentially illegal packages or cargo around Europe using a manual-shift BMW 730i and not asking any questions.

I was actually driving our long-term 750i at the time, and The Transporter also made me think of BMW's series of The Hire short films from 2001 and 2002 starring Clive Owen. After a bit of contemplation, I decided that neither the "transporter" nor the "hire" would drive a 2009 750i. As capable as it is, there's just too much technology in it. It's not a true driver's car.

I could see them driving a Pontiac G8, though. Like a 7 Series, it's big, roomy and an exceptionally handling car for its size. But it's not overly pretentious like a new 7 can seem. Not too many other motorists notice our black G8, either, so one can dip into the V8's extensive power reserves without drawing much attention. Plus, you can get a manual transmission in the GXP version, something BMW no longer bothers with for the new 750i. If there any real "tranporters" or "hires" out there, this is the car for you.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Double-Wide Pass-Thru

June 02, 2009

In this age of Internet shopping, I'm not the only one here who has my very important Web purchases shipped to the office instead of my house. Fear of having packages stolen from my front porch wins out over the possibility of the Edmunds' receptionist making a crabby face at my personal junk. (Although honestly, she's way too cheerful and nice to chastise annoying staffers).

So when UPS delivered my new 5'x8' Pottery Barn rug to Santa Monica, I needed a car that could easily carry it 33 miles south to my Long Beach home. And our 2008 Pontiac G8, with its double-wide pass-thru connecting the trunk to the backseat, stepped up with enthusiasm.

Now about that armoire I ordered yesterday...

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 22,650 miles

Answer Time

June 04, 2009

You guessed it right away.

2008 Pontiac G8 GT

I'm really making these too easy.

Would you have gotten it if I posted this photo...?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

It's Finally Time for the Second Oil Change

June 05, 2009

Last night, I started our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT, and the car flashed the above message (at 22,788 miles). Finally. It has been 11,540 miles since our first oil change seven months ago.

I like the warning system in this car. In addition to the 30-second flashing warning at startup, there's another reminder right after you shut the engine off. So even if you've managed to forget your car needs an oil change in the course of a commute, you get that extra nudge to call up the dealer as soon as you stop.

We'll be making a service appointment for the G8, but for good measure, I checked the oil after returning home from dinner last night (and, yes, letting the car sit in my carport on a level surface for 25 minutes). The oil level registered right at the low mark on the acceptable range, and because the G8 and I have this whole car-human telepathy thing going, we both knew a half quart of 5W30 was in order.

If you're keeping track, we've added two-and-a-half quarts of oil to our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT over the last 11,540 miles.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 22,842 miles

The Look

June 12, 2009

There are lots of other reasons to like the G8, but this morning, for my wife, it was this simple rear-three-quarter view. She sees, and often drives, every car I bring home — a different one every few days so her perspective is just as jaded as mine. But this morning she walked out on the porch and said this: "The G8 sure is a nice looking car."

Wow. That's saying something.

This is my favorite angle. Check out the size of that front fender flare. Nice.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 23,104 miles

Always in "S"

June 15, 2009

Unless I'm going backwards, this is how I drive the G8. I'd bet the fuel economy is marginally worse, but otherwise there seems to be no down side. The calibration difference between "Normal" and "Sport" is a subtle but effective change which perks up the car's response to small throttle openings. When accelerating from most corners using aggressive (but not wide-open) throttle, Sport mode gives me the perfect gear nearly every time. And it does so without unnecessarily hanging onto gears and generating awful engine noise. Nor does it lock out sixth gear.

I rarely want a huge kickdown, but I also don't want gear selection mandated by a fuel economy drive cycle, which is too common these days. Sport is the perfect solution. And if I want the kickdown, it's still available.

Five years ago I would have gone on a tangent here about how stupid the automatic transmission is. Put your foot to the floor and what's the first thing it does? Slow down. While it finds the right gear. Seems like the wrong answer when the driver is asking for maximum acceleration. But I'm not going on that tangent again. I must be getting old. At least I'm not the only one.

Also, and this I'll never figure out, why is it every time I get into one of our long-term cars some previous driver has jacked up either the balance or the fader or both on the car's audio system? Sound is always biased to one side or the other or to the front or the back. And not just a little bit, either. Oh no, it's full honk from the front left speaker. I swear it's making me even less balanced. The G8's system was set full front when I got into it last week. I bet it's the same guy who sets all nav systems to "avoid freeways."


Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor

Middle Eastern Cousin

June 15, 2009

Last week, Josh put up a simple post about how much his wife likes the looks of our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT.

A respondent or two took issue with the G8's bifurcated Pontiac grille. Others bemoaned the loss of a great car as GM attempts to reorganize itself.

Here's a photo of a Chevorlet version of the very same car that is on-sale today — in the Middle East. It carries a name we thought was dead, too. It's the 2009 Chevy Lumina SS.

So what do you think of this nose? How about the stand-up wing in the next picture? It's the same one used on the Holden Commodore SS.

Point is, the only thing standing between a Chevy version of the G8 GT in North America is probably a few certification tests and crash tests.

And the will to do it, of course.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 23,144 miles

2008 Pontiac G8 GT vs. 2010 Ford Taurus SHO

June 17, 2009

Yesterday we put a new 2010 Ford Taurus SHO through our battery of track tests, and guess what, it's no giant killer.

Despite all the hype surrounding Ford's new twin-turbo, all-wheel drive sport sedan, our long-term Pontiac G8 GT would put it on the trailer. The Pancho is quicker, it handles better and it has better brakes. Oh, and it's much, much, much, much cheaper. In fact, for the price of the SHO you could step up to a G8 GXP. And then it's really no contest, the SHO's doors would be officially blown off.

Tell me which one you'd rather have. I've driven all three and I'll tell you that the Ford isn't even a close second.

Edmunds' First Drive of the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

I Never Noticed This Before

June 23, 2009

As I was driving home last night in the Pontiac G8 GT, the A/C was pumping out pretty strong. I even had the fan on the lowest setting. This is something that is common in American cars. We Americans sure like our A/C cranking.

When I got home and opened the door, I realized the driver-side air conditioning vent is actually on the door. Underneath, there is a vent in the dash that gets covered by the door vent when it is closed. You would think this double vent would cut down the amount of air that flows through but it doesn't.

I don't know why I never noticed this design before.

Can you think of any other cars that have this setup?

Here's how it looks when the door is closed.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Wheels Done Right

June 25, 2009

Here's an example of wheels done right: a chunky five-spoke design with a "machine-faced" aluminum finish. Unlike most alloy wheels, these appear to be unpainted and made from actual metal. You can see the brushed-like surface texture.

Contrast this with the ridiculous chrome-clad finishes American automakers somehow see as an upgrade on so many of its other cars. The Chevy Malibu we had in recently, the new Chevy Equinox, the Ford Edge or the G8 GXP are just some of the culprits/victims. Or how about Erin's 2010 Taurus? It looks like she stopped into the Big O Tire in Beloxi and found the cheapest chromed wheel she could find.

Even if it's real chrome rather than chrome-clad, I'll go for the G8 GT's aluminum finish and design any day. It strikes an appropriate balance between flash and class.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 23,655 miles

Dipstick? What Dipstick?

June 26, 2009

Our excitable Scottish tie-wearing mechanic friend implores folks to "Think with your dipstick!" He's so fanatically passionate about the benefits of regular lubracatory monitoring practices that he'll even resort to physical violence to force people to submit to his agenda.

None of us around here wants that, least of all me.

And while our favorite demented Scot is primarily focused on engine oil, it pays to keep tabs on your transmission fluid level, too.

I thought of this while driving the Pontiac G8 GT the other day, as the shifting action didn't seem to be as crisp or regular is it did when it was new, especially in the "normal" shift mode. (Sport mode seems fine.) And I'm not the only one who has experienced this.

The slight shifting delay I noticed once or twice while starting from rest reminded me of what low automatic transmission fluid feels like, so I popped the hood for a quick check.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I couldn't. Why? No dipstick.


That's right, there's nothing but an engine oil dipstick (yellow). Meanwhile, there's nothing back against the firewall where automatic transmission dipsticks are usally found.

I didn't believe it at first, but a quick Google search revealed that I'm not crazy. Check out what they're saying about it on one of the bigger G8 fan sites. And I find it ironic that the Scottish dipstick guy appears in the banner ad on this very page.

The owner's manual in our G8's glovebox has this to say:

What a load. It will never-ever need a cup or so of fluid? Do you promise? Cross you heart and hope to die? Maybe for the first 3 years or 36,000 miles, but what if I keep this for a decade, or buy one used in 2014? Maybe I'll want to look at the fluid on the dipstick myself to see if it looks burned someday. Or maybe I'll want to see if I can surmise why the shifting doesn't seem as smart as it once did; Is something really wrong, or is it my imagination?

I'm sorry, but I don't abide by the "Don't worry, be happy!" method of car maintenance, and I certainly don't appreciate being forced to seek-out a mechanic for simple jobs like this. I'm with the Scot on this one. Looking for a puddle on the garage floor is a bad way to check the transmission fluid level.

Someone needs to be slapped with a dipstick over this one, and I know just the guy to do it.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 23,712 miles

Textcast — How To Fix GM, Part I

June 30, 2009

Sadlier: So, continuing its pattern of hiring random people to do important things, GM taps us to be the guys who make sure that the new GM is devoid of the stupid stuff that plagued old GM. Where do we start?
Magrath: I suppose we start from the outside in. It's how I pick my books and women; why not evaluate companies likewise?
Sadlier: Good, let's focus on outer beauty. It's the LA way.

Magrath : GM has never really had a problem selling to GM fans, so the trick, it would seem, is to get non-GM folks to take the cars seriously. This means that Chevrolet, the largest and most important brand, needs to ditch the bowtie.
Sadlier : The bowtie is obviously tainted, but I think it's potentially salvageable. Hire a design firm with money they don't have and sex it up.
Magrath : Salvageable? Except for Colonel Sanders and Tucker Carlson, who wears a bowtie? And as you may recall from Jon Stewart's pummeling of Tucker , the bowtie was a key part of Stewart's argument that what Tucker did on Crossfire is theater and not real news. Bowties are gags.
Magrath : They could try to sex it up, but that would end with the thing being a bolo tie like you see at rodeos or in Arizona. There'd be turquoise and a cow skull...not good.
Magrath : Besides James Bond, whom I don't think GM wants to evoke unless the new Camaro is a submersible, name something positive associated with a bowtie.
Sadlier : Ummm...the tuxedo? 17th-century Croatian mercenaries ? Balzac ? Hell, the Playboy bunny wears a bowtie. This is too easy.
Sadlier : The bowtie can rise again. Just not in its current form.
Magrath : Fine, then if GM is sticking with a bowtie, Lexus should switch from a stylized "L" to a mawashi .
Sadlier : Deal.
Magrath : And GM cars should be available only in black and white, or in Croatia.
Sadlier : ...with your choice of a complimentary Playboy playmate or French novel.
Magrath : I'm in.

Sadlier: Moving along. Here's an uncontroversial one: ditch the dorky dot-matrix readouts for the trip computer and audio/climate controls and every other damn display in sight
Sadlier: Toyota went LCD in the early '90s. Maybe earlier. Time for GM to follow suit
Magrath: Hey, how 'bout that, Michael Jackson's dead.
Sadlier: Whoa. Really?
Sadlier: Well, I'm sure it's a headline on
Magrath: It is. Though I had to confirm with TMZ; they have stricter standards than CNN.
Sadlier: Ha
Magrath: Anyway...yes. The amber dot-matrix displays are the worst. They wash out in the sun and in the shade.
Sadlier: Everything dot matrix must go. Done and done. Next?
Magrath: Badge engineering.
Sadlier: Let's have it
Magrath: I am, surprisingly, for it.
Sadlier: I'm listening

Magrath : Mull this over. Softly sprung, under-damped G8 in Buick clothes (call it the Regal), complete with speed holes, powered by the 3.6 DI motor for normal folks who just want a solid car. Then throw some Impala SS badges on that bad boy, firm up the ride a la the GXP, sharpen the looks, and you've got a desirable Chevy. Win-win. Both cars need navigation though. The current display is ridiculous.
Sadlier : You know, the G8 platform is versatile enough (see Camaro) that I could get behind that. I think the flavors could be different enough that it wouldn't be completely stupid, a la Cobalt/G5.
Sadlier : That should be the badge-engineering litmus test: is it completely stupid like the G5? If so, kill it. If not, we can talk about it.
Sadlier : For example, GMC. Kill it. Because the entire lineup consists of completely stupid badge-jobs.
Magrath : And not only would killing GMC save them dozens of dollars a year in GMC stickers, but cancelling the GMC variants of the pickups would almost instantly put all of those sales into the coffers of Chevy, which would then, rightly, gain the top-selling pickup truck. Win-win.
Sadlier : There you go. So, okay, let's flesh out this "completely stupid badge-job" test. Any badge-engineered car would have to have both unique interior and exterior treatments and unique dynamics. That's the test.
Sadlier : ...which would have the pleasant side-effect of making GM think hard about each badge-engineering project before green-lighting it, since doing badge-jobs that way actually costs money.
Sadlier : That's why Acura gets away with the Accord/TL connection, or Lexus with the Camry/ES connection: they actually put time and money into making sure that the premium product is sufficiently differentiated rather than an ill-disguised cheaper car. (Example #1 of how not to do it is of course the Taurus/MKS, but we're not talking Ford today.)
Magrath : I'm trying to think of a GM badge job that's been done correctly A-B. I don't think there is one. Nothing's really different.
Sadlier : You know, the Corvette/XLR had potential. I think the XLR passes our test. It just wasn't nice enough to compete at that price point
Magrath : Does the XLR use the transverse leaf? XLR-V, by the way, is still one of the worst cars for the money I can think of. Too bad, killer looks.
Sadlier : That I don't know. The XLR had its own suspension details, so perhaps no leaf.
Magrath : So that's more platform sharing than badge engineering.
Sadlier : Well, yes. Actually, I think that's what we're getting at here. Badge engineering is out. Platform sharing? Absolutely. That's smart.
Magrath : Yes. Lexus has proved that platform sharing, done correctly, is a goldmine...but like you said before, it's because an ES doesn't feel or look like a Camry.
Sadlier : Right! And it's not just's nicer. Obviously nicer. Like, anyone-who-sits-in-it-will-notice nicer

Magrath : "Anyone-who-sits-in-it-will-notice nicer." Good point. Maybe that should be the test. Get some people off the streets and put them in both variants. If they notice, at any point, that the cars are uncomfortably similar, the project doesn't get the green light.
Sadlier : This brings me to a crucial point, and it's twofold. Obviously, any plaform-sharing project must differentiate clearly between price points (i.e., must not replicate the Taurus/MKS charade). But, because GM has, thanks to decades of subpar products, absolutely obliterated any benefit of the doubt it ever had with the non-GM faithful...
Sadlier : ...forthcoming products need to be BETTER than the other guy's. Not just competitive. Better. Like, "Wow I want that" better. That's how disgraced companies start winning people over again.
Magrath : Stylistically, they've got that with the CTS. But, yes, they need to lead, it's too late for them to be merely competitive.
Sadlier : Yeah. You don't just say, "You want soft-touch materials? Here, here's a soft-touch dash, now shut up." You make a compelling overall product that causes even diehard GM skeptics to sit up and take notice.
Sadlier : The CTS is about the closest they've come, yes, and it's damn close. But it's not a volume seller. They need to do that with their volume sellers. Malibu needs to be a "wow" car relative to the pack. Cruze. Equinox. Etc.
Sadlier : "Wow, these jokers have finally got their acts together." That's what the new GM's products should get people saying. Offer people a lot more than they'd expect from the brand, and you'll start to get their money. Good cars have a way of making people forget whatever came before.
Magrath : The new motto should be "Good cars. Really."
Sadlier : That is marketing gold. Let's tell Barry .

(Note: Stay tuned for Part II later this week, in which Magrath's secret life as a fairy-tale author will be laid bare.)

Fuel Economy Update Two

July 02, 2009

You may have noticed that the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT was absent from this week's monthly fuel economy summary. There's no sinister hidden meaning here. I'd simply used it as my airport car for a trip overseas and was unable to cough up the data.

So here it is, your Pontaic G8 GT lifetime fuel economy summary through June, 2009.

Best tank: 24.0 mpg
Best Range: 351 miles
Worst tank: 12.0 mpg

Lifetime average: 17.6 mpg

For comparison, the official EPA combined fuel economy rating for this car is 18 mpg, so we've pretty much nailed it.

The average mpg figure represents 23,783 miles of driving. In that time our G8GT burned 1,354 gallons of fuel. That represents about $3,000 to $3,500 at current prices.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 23,933 miles

Dealer Differences

July 03, 2009

So I get asked all the time, "Hey, what's the difference between dealerships?" "What happens when a dealership has both premium and non-premium brands under the same service roof?" Well, here's a good visual representation for the only difference in service when you bring a premium (Cadillac CTS — Top) and a non-premium (Pontiac G8 GT — Bottom) to the same dealer (Martin Cadillac in LA). Notice the difference? That's the only one.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant

Textcast — How To Fix GM, Part II

July 03, 2009

Magrath: Okay, by training you're a scholar of religion, and I'm a journalist. So let's dive headfirst into a heated, highly sensitive, incredibly difficult business topic: Detroit.
Magrath: You cannot be relevant with a headquarters in the midwest. You can't be impartial and forward-thinking when 8/10ths of the people in your area depend upon you and buy your products.

Sadlier: See, I disagree with this argument. Hear it a lot, don't like it.
Sadlier: Look at Dell Computers. Granted, Austin's not like the rest of Texas, but still.
Magrath: Austin might as well be Berkeley. It's nothing like Detroit. And computers aren't cars. Also, computer people aren't as isolated as GM execs seem to be (with the apparent exception of the jerks who made Office 2007 and Vista). GM should endeavor to be Apple and think ahead, innovate with style.
Magrath: And anyway, maybe the midwest is bad for Dell too. It just pumps out cheap computers at maximum profit designed to last till the warranty runs out, and it inflates its numbers with massive "fleet" sales to corporations and government institutions. In other words, it's the old GM.

Sadlier : Okay, here's the problem with GM's location: it has led to a situation where GM employees are largely from the midwest. That means there's not the range of perspectives and worldly experience you'd ideally like to have in a leading company. No disputing that.
Sadlier : But I think that's a hiring issue, not a regional issue. Get someone in charge of hiring who targets talent regardless of regional affiliation, and you're good.
Magrath : I'm certainly not going to take a job in the midwest, are you?
Sadlier : If GM reinvented itself as a cool company to work for, and paid well? Absolutely. If Google were in Detroit, it'd still be Google. And people would still want to work there.
Magrath : No, absolutely not. I've never lived more than 12 miles from an ocean and I never will. (Of course, if GM really is offering us executive titles and salaries, I could be convinced that one of those lakes is an ocean.)
Sadlier : Ha. Well, that's a personal preference. Mine too, as it happens — but negotiably so. I could be persuaded by a cool new GM.
Magrath : So your contention is that the midwest has a lack of talent? Or that the good talent goes east and west?
Sadlier : I don't care who's got a lack of what. GM should hire the best people, period, without giving preferential treatment to midwesterners, as has long been the case. That's all I'm saying.
Sadlier : Sure, all else being equal, good talent goes east or west. But if GM reinvents itself as a cool company with products that make people say "Wow," I think that would attract good talent.
Magrath : Talent is an interesting one. I know guys who've gone to Michigan to become automotive engineers because they want to be in the car biz. They want to work in Detroit and shape the domestic car business. I also know other engineers who went to better schools (sorry, Michigan) with no clear idea of where they wanted to go. One's in aerospace now and the other is working on solar panels. They were top of their class in everything and got scooped up by some very high-end employers. Would GM really be able to attract those guys from the top schools (which, by the way, takes serious cash)? I worry that even a cool new GM might be stuck taking people out of automotive engineering programs who love cars but aren't necessarily the sharpest tools in the shed.
Sadlier : Yeah, maybe. But first things first: build a cool new GM. I say the talent will follow.
Magrath : Build it in Detroit though? Let's take a step back to my argument about Detroit being bad for GM. Say you live in a culturally and geographically isolated region that's ruled by a benevolent king. Gold flows as freely as the mead. Life is good and harvest season is rich. But then you hear that other regions have begun to switch from rye (which you've been producing since anyone can remember) to barley. Well, you know all about rye. And everyone you know likes rye. And you're all getting fat on the profits from rye. You assume the barley producers are being silly, and you keep on producing rye. Eventually demand for your rye dries up, and nobody's quite sure what's wrong with their grain.

Magrath : Now imagine instead that the king ruled you from a thousand miles away, where people ate rye, barley, rice, quoina and corn. He'd see the writing on the wall ahead of time and organize a shift in production to keep pace with changing consumer preferences.
Sadlier : Have you considered a second career as a fairy-tale writer?
Sadlier : Also, as it happens, GM is in fact ruled from a thousand miles away at the moment.
Sadlier : Question though. Suppose GM really did hire us and relocate us to Detroit.
Would we inevitably fall into that insular mindset you're describing? Is it the midwestern culture and isolation that breeds that way of thinking? Or is it rather that the people in charge at GM have long been close-minded by nature, and like has hired like?
Sadlier : I'm going with the latter. I still say it's a talent issue more than a regional one
Magrath : Interesting. It could be another one of those issues where seniority and political posturing trumps merit, so that nothing changes but the name on the big door. Eventually people get set in their ways and, if we're being honest, afraid for their jobs, so they're not willing to take risks or fall out of line. Herd behavior.
Magrath : And no, I don't think you and I would fall into that trap, but that's probably why we're not being recruited by the General new or old.
Magrath : They really should be looking at things from a fresh perspective. Not that I don't dig Bob Lutz, but he was hardly cutting edge.
Magrath : Here's another issue, and Katy Perry touched upon it re: her career. She said in an interview that she will never be as big as Madonna, that nobody will ever be that big again; the industry has changed and can't support that. The auto industry is the same way I think. GM will never be as big as they were. No company ever will be. The landscape has changed. So if GM's slice of the pie is inevitably going to be smaller, then how can it afford to invest the money it must in order to produce the "Wow" cars you're talking about? Also, all of this revolves around the ever-fickle, quarterly-profit-loving American stockholder. A private company can take a loss for a sustained period of time to come out leaner; GM had to go into bankruptcy. Going forward, how are they going to explain to shareholders that big investments in quality products are advisable? And that consequent short-term losses are acceptable?
Sadlier : On the investment question, hey, GM can whine till the cows come come about how the market has changed, but at the end of the day, it's the quality of its products that will determine its success. You can't compromise on the investment required for that. As for stockholders, yeah, that's another issue. But plenty of American corporations have succeeded in this climate, against international competition no less.
Magrath : Name one that faces the kind of comparative disadvantages in raw materials costs and labor costs that GM does relative to its international foes.
Sadlier : Whatever. Can you imagine the Germans or the Japanese, to take the two most prominent examples, whining about domestic conditions and how they're standing in the way of competitiveness?

Sadlier : No. They'd just make it happen.
Magrath : But how do Germany and Japan deal with health care?
Sadlier : Taxpayer money. Universal state-provided coverage. Which is good for employers. Which is why you've seen this unlikely alliance recently between automakers and those who are advocating for universal healthcare in the US.
Magrath : I never found that alliance unlikely at all.
Sadlier : Well, unlikely in that on most other issues the two camps don't see eye-to-eye.
Magrath : But seriously, is a competitive, profitable, high-volume domestic automaker still a possibility in this day and age, assuming we don't levy punitive import tariffs (which may be a blog for a different day)? Or roll back the minimum wage and child labor laws I suppose.
Sadlier : Well, right, import tariffs are a huge advantage that Japanese automakers enjoy.
Sadlier : Did I ever tell you about the teacher at my Japanese high school who had the OJ Simpson-model Bronco? Paid $20,000 just to bring it into the country?
Magrath : That's the most money anyone's ever spent on a second-hand Bronco.
Sadlier : Yeah. That's what you have to do if you want a non-Japanese car in Japan.
Sadlier : To your question, I don't know if it's a possibility. Honestly there's a lot of factors pointing toward "no."
Sadlier : Notably, (1) German cars — increasingly the world standard, I think — have few obvious signs of cost-cutting, so it's going to be awfully tough for a cash-strapped GM to compete with them in the short run, and (2) Japanese automakers will always enjoy a comparative edge due to those punitive tariffs and the consequent lack of domestic competition.
Sadlier : Back on your question about the cost of labor and materials...even if those costs are equal across the board, (1) and (2) put the US at a distinct disadvantage
Magrath : Cadillac can get away with (1). If GM pulls out all the stops, I think they can build a highly competitive car deserving of a high price tag. The CTS proves that. They just need to stop pandering to us with "The biggest car for the least money!" edict. Just build a good car and charge people more money for it. They can out-cheap BMW and Mercedes, but they can't out-cheap the Japanese or Koreans without just looking like cheapskates.
Sadlier : GM as the American Volkswagen, eh? I dunno. But it's better than a lot of ideas floating around out there.

Oil Change and Brake Check

July 03, 2009

Just about a week-or-so ago, we brought our 2008 Pontiac G8 over to The Martin Automotive Group in LA for its second called-for oil change. While we were there, we wanted them to check out a vibration we were getting through the brake pedal, and to replace the flip-style key that had long ago stopped flipping.

When we arrived we waited a solid 15 minutes before someone spoke to us, and even then it was only the lot attendant asking us to back up so they could get that limo around. Another 10 minutes passed and a service advisor beckoned. They said, contrary to what they'd said earlier that morning, that they were quite busy ( good for them I suppose) and if we wanted the brakes inspected we'd have to leave the car with them overnight.

Early the following morning I got a call saying that the car was done. The key fob was out of stock and would take a week or so to come in, but thankfully it was covered under warranty as a new unit runs upwards of $130. The oil service was completed for $39.95 — $15.95 in parts and $20.00 in labor.

They also inspected the brakes...and charged us $65 to do it. Their conclusion is the same one we could have figured out in Dan Edmunds' driveway: we need new pads. Not surprising. We drive this big car pretty hard and it's already got 23,000 miles on the clock. Brake rotors were also on their way out. Following this was bad news and more bad news. (1) They wanted some completely unreasonable fee for a brake job. (2) Martin Cadillac considers the G8 a "very new" car and as such, they don't have brake pads or rotos, they'd have to be ordered which would take 4-weeks. (3) Every other Pontiac dealer also thinks 2008 is really new and will make you wait two weeks, AND you have to pre-pay IN PERSON. No over-the-phone high-tech credit card payments for them.

Screw that.

We're going to save time, money and hassle by buying these parts online. (If you've got a good recommendation for where to go, love to hear it. We've got our standard places, but who doesn't love a better deal?) Look for more on buying the parts, and then Dan and I installing them, a little ways down the road.

Yesterday they called to let me know that the replacement key fob was in, we've just got to get the car over there to pick it up.

Total cost: 107.64

Days out of service: 1

Irritation level: Very High

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 23,049 miles

Fourth of July at San Diego's Petco Park

July 06, 2009

Nothing's more American than baseball, right? So two friends and I drove to San Diego's Petco Park in our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT on Saturday to watch the Padres and Dodgers. Two of us are Dodger fans. The third friend bought our tickets in Field section 125, just left of the right-field foul pole, where he hoped Adrian Gonzalez would homer. It didn't happen. But the Padres did of course win 7-4.

One thing we all agreed on was that the G8 was a very comfortable and likable car for the nearly 300-mile trip. The only 6-footer in our group sat in back the whole time and said he had plenty of room. He also liked the adjustable rear air-conditioning vents.

I've always liked the G8's front seats (the driver seat kept me content on a 7-hour drive from the Napa Valley), and on this trip, my front passenger offered a similar review. But he criticized the G8's brittle dash plastic, which seems out of character with the otherwise decent cabin materials. The harsh afternoon light was unforgiving, highlighting all the scuff marks in a test car that has been driven by 20-odd editors. (Go ahead, scold us again.)

We reached consensus on ride quality: It's good. The G8 is compliant enough that both friends fell asleep on the ride back, yet it's controlled over most bumps and joints. I wish the steering had a little more weight to it on-center, though.

The cabin is fairly quiet on the highway. Well, at least it is until you execute a full-throttle passing maneuver and the big Pontiac finally develops an exhaust note. I averaged 22 mpg.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 24,454 miles

Unreliable Compass

July 07, 2009

We've already written about how the autodimming rearview mirror in our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT vibrates at highway speeds and has that distracting passenger airbag light (a consequence of it being an Australian car hastily retrofitted for the U.S. market). But I'll bring up one more issue: The compass is unreliable.

On several occasions over the holiday weekend, the compass would get "stuck" in one particular direction and cease to be of any use for 5 minutes at a time.

For example, after a decade in Los Angeles, I still get befuddled at the National/Overland exit off the eastbound 10 freeway. After exiting, I consulted the mirror as I began making a series of turns that I thought would take me to my destination. Soon realizing I'd just driven in a circle, it dawned on me that maybe "NW" wasn't really northwest. In other instances, the error was more blatant — I'd be driving due west as the compass insisted the car was pointed "E."

Thank goodness I just installed the Google Maps app on my phone.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 24,518 miles

Get 'em while they last

July 13, 2009

Here's some irony for you. There's a rumor that Pontiac vehicles are selling so well...

GM may terminate the brand sooner than expected. One thing's for sure, they're not building any more Pontiacs. That's too bad because the G8 GT is a great car.

While visiting a local Pontiac/Buick/GMC dealer, we could see the only remaining Pontiacs were a few G6s, G5 coupes and one G8 GXP in the showroom with a "Not for sale" sign in the window - is it collectible already?

Some GM dealers are hoping the G8 turns into a Buick. Sound crazy, remember the GSX, T-Type Regal and the GNX? What do think, is Buick ready to recapture the glory days with a car like the G8?

Brian Moody, Automotive Editor @ 24,700 miles

Yeah, what this guy says.

July 17, 2009

The Pontiac G8 is one of the best American cars sold today, and GM killed it. They've also shelved the platform, presumably so they can bring it back in 7 years after it's outdated.


*Note: The guy pictured above is not The Mechanic.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 24,796 miles

Fresh Meats

July 20, 2009

As Dan Edmunds said back when the 2008 Pontiac G8 was our Car of the Week, the rear tires were dead and gone and needed immediate replacement. And by immediate, we meant right after we had some more fun with worthless rubber.

Anyway, a new set 245/40R19 Bridgestone Potenza REO50As ran us, including installation and tax, $684.67 and took just about an hour from the time we called until we drove off with new shoes.

I can't figure out why the fronts were fine and the rears were so worn down.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 25,112 miles

Tell Me Why I'm Wrong

July 20, 2009

GM now says they have no plans to move the G8 to another brand once Pontiac is done (earlier rumor said it would be re-named a Chevy Caprice). I say good. The truth is we just don't need a car that essentially carries four passengers and uses a 6-liter V8 to do it. The future of American automobiles will not include cars like the G8 GT. Hope everyone likes hybrids.

Brian Moody, Automotive Editor

10 Things I Like About You

July 28, 2009

With more than 25,000 miles on the Pontiac G8 GT, here is my list of likes:

1 - big V8 power
2 - rear-wheel drive
3 - roominess
4 - suspension holds up in corners
5 - nice-looking butt
6 - subtle yet strong wheel design
7 - sticky Bridgestones
8 - strong, cold A/C
9 - low maintenance costs
10 - six-speed automatic transmission in Sport mode

Have anything to add to this list?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 25,500 miles

Sad Legacy

August 04, 2009

Sadly, this is what the average person will remember about Pontiac. I prefer to remember Pontiac like this

or even like this

I used to subscribe to a magazine simply named Buick Olds Pontiac so perhaps my frame of reference is off - anybody else still think highly of Pontiac or did the Grand Am and Aztek ruin it for everyone?

Brian Moody, Automotive Editor

Range On The Blink

August 06, 2009

The range readout on our beloved long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT has gotten glitchy. When I jumped in the car to drive it home it read 130 miles to empty. Half a mile down the road it read 85. A mile or so later 110. When I got home (a 9 mile drive) it said 98.

I didn't think much of it, but when I fired up the G8 this morning it rear 258. And with less than half a tank. No way.

Whatever, I started driving. But by the time I hit the office I had seen 137 (pictured), 188, 112, 156, 124 (pictured), 118, 217 (pictured), 76, 202 and plenty more. By the way, the three pictures above were all taken while I sat at a redlight.

Obviously something is up. I've signed the car out for the weekend, so I'll fill it up and on Monday I'll let you know if the problem continued.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

Kick That Engine Cover To The Curb

August 10, 2009

I've had enough of plastic engine covers. Especially on a car like our long-term Pontiac G8 GT. I opened the G8's hood this morning to check its oil (yes it has an old fashioned dipstick) and was disappointed to find a big ugly cover completely shielding the Pontiac's all-aluminum V8 from my sight. Why?

If I owned this car that engine cover would spend all of its time on my garage shelf.

What do you think?

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 26,108 miles

Low Fuel For Fun

August 10, 2009

This weekend I played chicken with the fuel level in our long-term Pontiac G8 GT. What can I say, I'm an adrenaline junkie.

After a couple of days of the car telling me its fuel level is low I grew to appreciate its video game-like low fuel graphic. Check it out in the video. But be careful. Some say it can have a hypnotizing affect on the weak-minded.

In fact, my wife says it has stopped my snoring.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 26,097

Not That Great, Actually

August 17, 2009

I know we compliment the Pontiac G8 GT a lot and we're sad to see it go the way of the dinosaurs. But I think we are all so happy to have a GM car that is better than its recent offerings that we cut it way too much slack.

Now, before you jump on me as a domestic basher, keep in mind that I recently wrote a post about all the things I like in the Pontiac G8 GT. Now it's time for counterpoint.

- at stop lights, the car shakes and idles
- when braking, the car shudders. Yes, I know it needs new brake pads and rotors. But why is that OK? Brake pads I can see; rotors already? Not so OK.
- the stereo drives me crazy. Why is there a mute button that doesn't actually mute the audio?
- As Erin mentioned before, the compass is off.
- As Scott wrote, the fuel range is all wonky.

The good outweighs the bad in this 2008 Pontiac G8. But let's not act like it was the second coming of Chief Pontiac.

There were rumors for a while that the G8 was going to become the new Caprice. Well, I learned to drive on a Chevy Caprice and I can tell you it was 200 times better than this car.

OK, have at me.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Grip Here

August 19, 2009

I'm surprised no one else has noted this in the blog yet (at least not that I can tell by scanning 119 entries), but the steering wheel of our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT feels pretty nice to hold.

At the 9 and 3 position the steering wheel has these indentations that make it possible to comfortably snug that juncture between your index finger and thumb against the wheel. And on the backside of the wheel is a nice little bump that you can wrap your fingers around in a curve that feels natural to your hand.

Anyway, it's nice for gripping when you're doing rocket launches from a stop. Heh.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 26,520 miles

All Rainbows and Lightning Strikes

August 26, 2009

A few days ago I was about 200 miles northeast of our Santa Monica office cruising our long-term Pontiac G8 GT through Baker, California. Baker is home of the world's tallest thermometer, which is a don't miss attraction should you be in the Mojave, and it's considered the Gateway to Death Valley. While I was there, I ate, I gassed and I managed to grab a few choice shots of the car just as a storm was rolling in.

These three pics are the best and I promise you that no Photoshop was used in the creation of these images, just good luck, Mom Nature and my trusty Canon.

By the way, the G8 is awsome on the highway. Great road trip ride.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

Wow, Look At All Those Miles

September 15, 2009

Our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT has passed the 30,000-mile mark.

We sure have had a lot of fun in this car.

What's your favorite thing about the Pontiac G8 GT?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

...and the winner is

September 18, 2009

deagle13 doesn't seem to take those notifications very seriously, but by doing so, he's managed to win the top spot this week. There were some good ones here, well done everyone.

Other notable entries follow.

"We ticket excitement"

-stpawyfrmdonut (So close to being the winner today.)

"Again, the gov't pushes the Pontiacs out of their native territory."


"Rebadges? We don't need no stinking rebadges!"


"Do you know how fast you were going, meow?"


"Holden on a sec officer. Don't be a Monaro. I wasn't Vauxhalling."


"Fishtails and Chips"


Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant and Temporary Donna DeRosa

Brakelight Fix-it Ticket

September 18, 2009

"There is an auto parts store in town. Should be easy to just stop in there and get a new bulb." That was the advice given to us by the CHP officer writing a citation for the burnt out driver-side brakelight on our 2008 Pontiac G8.

We couldn't remember the last time we were issued a fix-it ticket. But the voice in our head was reassuring, "Spend a couple of bucks on a new bulb, replace it and have the next cop we see sign it off. Then mail it in. Done." Well, it wasn't quite as simple as our internal advisor remembered.

A new bulb set us back $5 and we replaced it in 10 minutes. Easy. We searched out our nearest certification station to approve the work, and found it closed. With some effort we found the next closest station. We pulled up and the inspector said, "Yep, it works. That will be $40. There is a correction fee of $25 and inspection fee of $15."

Disgusted, we handed over our debit card to pay the charges and were greeted with, "Cash only, sir." In our pocket sat exactly $27.26 worth of not enough. We left to find an ATM, withdrew the cash and returned to pay the fees. This wasn't what we expected.

We'll have to remind our inner voice that these fix-it tickets aren't so easy after all.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 30,833 miles

You Write the Caption

September 18, 2009

Uh oh. Busted.

Our Pontiac G8 GT got into a little situation with the man.

We suggest: Cited for Burning Donuts

What have you got?

We'll post our favorite this afternoon.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Suspension Thwack

September 21, 2009

I've enjoyed my time with our long-term Pontiac G8 GT, particularly when I drove it to Napa Valley last fall. But there are some things Pontiac might have handled better (not that this is of great consequence anymore). Over the weekend, I was conscious of how much noise there is as the suspension extends over particularly nasty bumps and ruts. Maybe I wouldn't notice this as much if the cabin wasn't so serene otherwise. I don't think it's a fatal flaw on a $32K car.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 31,252 miles

Eulogy Thoughts

September 29, 2009

I've lamented previously that the G8 won't be living on as a Chevy Caprice, Buick Park Avenue, Saturn G8 or Geely Gwokdong or whatever. All that was important was that this interesting car didn't die. However, I now see why GM's death panel decided to pull the plug on Grandpa G8.

The G8 was clearly the type of car that Pontiac should've been making for years — a rear-drive, discount BMW with primal American flavor that actually delivered excitement. Unfortunately, it should've been introduced before the 50th minute of the 11th hour.

Yet even if Pontiac had caught on earlier and prevented this from happening, I seriously doubt tthe G8 could ever have been a volume seller. Gear heads like us love the idea of a discount BMW with a primal V8, but large sedan buyers would frankly end up looking elsewhere. Within GM itself, the Buick LaCrosse offers a more comfortable ride and an exponentially nicer interior with an equally large back seat that features moveable head rests and a center armrest. You also don't have to speak Australian to figure out how to use the stereo or find a button in the climate controls. Ditto the Ford Taurus and probably any number of midsize sedans.

While neither the LaCrosse or Taurus offer the sort of heart-racing performance as the G8, most Americans would gladly sacrifice 0-60 for comfort and luxury. So even if the G8 could've survived, it would have been a niche car for people who couldn't afford a 5 Series, people who need to replace their Trans Am or people who speak Australian. It would've been a fun niche, but such a niche simply couldn't survive in the New GM.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 32,569 miles

The Anti-Camaro SS

September 30, 2009

With more than 30,000 miles on the odometer, our Pontiac G8 has led a hard life. The transmission lurches from gear to gear when it's cold and there's an annoying flutter from the back of the car (subframe, body panel?) that registers over stutter bumps. It's as if the car has spent a little time flat-out on the dirt roads of the Australian outback. Or maybe our Josh Jacquot has driven it more than a little.

And yet the G8 still drives great, a real American-style car in the dramatic way it does things and European in its ability to deliver the requisite finesse when the circumstances calls for it. In fact the Pontiac G8 is everything that the Chevrolet Camaro SS is not.

Maybe it's the more deliberate action of the steering and throttle. Maybe it's the ability of the chassis to glide over the rough patches in the road without losing its grip in the corners. Maybe it's the good visibility from the driver seat.

The Camaro SS has much the same hardware as the Pontiac G8, but it feels as it's been screwed down a little too tightly, like the GM engineers have set it up to achieve great test numbers but not necessarily great driving. The Pontiac Solstice sports car always drove the same way, like it had been calibrated as GM engineer John Heinricy's ride in the SCCA run-offs.

Every time I walk away from the 2008 Pontiac G8, I think about what a great drive it is. Whenever I walk away from the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS, I never look back.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 32,650 miles

Wiggle Wheel & Saggy Buttons

October 05, 2009

Before our 2008 Pontiac G8 heads out to pasture, I thought I check in one more time to see how the old car was "Holden" up. Pretty well, actually and it's such a shame this car will disappear from U.S. showrooms. Each time I drive it, the G8 reminds me how the good American Sedan could have been had the domestic automakers not been so distracted by the decade-long SUV craze. So, besides some typical wear and accidental encounters with curbs, it seems the front brakes might need some attention. Slowing from freeway speeds makes the steering wheel wiggle slightly which could mean warped rotors or the really tired front tires need replacing or both. We'll put our chassis guru, Dan Edmunds on the case to determine what's going on there. I also discovered the window switches had been by used by somebody as a fulcrum. A photo wouldn't show it well so here's a video.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 32,813 miles

Simple Fix

October 08, 2009

In our last episode, the centrally-mounted window switches in our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT had fallen into the void. No doubt some overenthusiastic staffer and a friend had recently reenacted scenes from Sylvester Stallone's tour-de-force arm-wrestling movie, Over the Top.

Netflix can be a very dangerous thing, indeed.

By the G8 GT turned out to be much easier to fix than Lincoln Hawk's busted relationship with his son. In fact, it was so easy that I got it mostly fixed DURING my commute home while sitting stopped at a series of signals in horrible traffic. One particular signal cycled five times before I got through.

I had no instructions and no tools. I was merely bored and curious while I waited...and waited.

The interior parts of a car go on in layers and a lot of parts are held on with simple clips, so I started poking and tugging around the center console. Eventually, I discovered that the cutout for ther parking brake handle revealed an edge that moved when I tugged on it, and with care a strong plastic clip came loose. A-ha!

In less than two minutes of careful but firm tugging here and there, I found and unfastened six clips around the perimeter of this part.

The good part about not having any tools was this: I didn't mar the plastic like I might have if I'd used a screwdriver.

It became obvious that the switch assembly had been forced out of its own set of snap-clips at the back edge by some strong downward force. I could have snapped it back together and been done at this point, but I wanted to see if any of thes clips had been broken in the process.

Traffic cleared and the pace picked up (it had been a drug bust) so I waited until I got home to inspect everything and take pictures.

It turned out that all of the clips were fine. And they looked well-designed and robust, too. These parts were going to go back together just as before, with no trouble.

Assembly, as they say, is the reverse of removal. The last clip is back in place. I'm done.

The point is this: you don't have to go running to the dealer every time something goes wrong. There are a lot of simple fixes you can do yourself with patience and a cautious approach.

And no more arm wrestling in the car, people.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 33,033 miles

My Favorite Wipers

October 12, 2009

Living in Southern California where it rarely rains, our windshields get pretty dusty.

I live at the beach and I notice a lot of salty buildup on the glass. So, I use the windshield fluid often.

My favorite system is the one in the Pontiac G8. The washer fluid comes out of the wiper arms and really coats the whole area of the window, instead of shooting up two jets and making the blades disperse it.

Here is a video because I wasn't able to capture this with my still camera.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 33,093 miles

Default Low

October 14, 2009

It was a dark and stormy morning here is Los Angeles, so I quickly reached for the seat heater button in the Pontiac G8 GT.

It didn't get very hot, then I realized it defaulted to the lowest of its three settings. Most cars usually default to the highest and its up to you to knock it back. Or they default to the highest and gradually dial themselves back over time.

Not our Pontiac. It politely lets you warm up gradually.

Do you have seat heaters in your car? What is the default setting, high or low?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Secret Trunk Release Button

October 19, 2009

It was nice having the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT as my weekend ride. I could comfortably transport my friends to bbq parties, safely stow away beer in the trunk thanks to the cargo net, so very easily pass slo-mo drivers on the freeway and handle my favorite 30-mph on-ramp at fun speeds.

The only thing I wasn't too crazy about — and it's not a big deal by any means since I'm sure owners of this car will adapt accordingly — was that there isn't an exterior trunk release button. There's the remote trunk release on the key and a button in the car, but if someone is helping you load your luggage, they'll have to wait for you to open the trunk for them.

And did I mention that the trunk release button in the car is not located on the driver side, but rather within the confines of the glovebox? H'yeah, a little inconvenient. I assume this has something to do with valet and securing your valuables in the trunk when they take it away.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 33,413 miles

Relaxed in a Good Way

October 26, 2009

I flew back from Japan on Saturday, and our long-term 2008 Pontiac G8 GT was waiting for me in the garage. I've driven this car a lot, so I know it pretty well and I like the way I feel when I drive it: Relaxed.*

Aside from the Australian idiosyncrasies to some its controls, this is a very straightforward car to drive. The driving position is good, with a relatively low cowl and a conventional, sedan-style, low-but-too-low driver seat. Said seat is comfortable and the steering wheel fits well in my hands at 9-and-3. The all-black decor and the materials used in the cabin are pretty unassuming, but the quality is solid. You're aren't going to find luxury trimmings here, but the G8 never feels like it's trying too hard.

Same goes for the way it actually drives. Sure, I wish the transmission was quicker in un-Sport mode (and I wish our front brake rotors were newer), but this car accelerates, steers and corners with an ease and predictability that's missing in far too many cars in this price range.

It's not just that the G8 is rear-drive and equipped with a V8, though I certainly don't mind those attributes. It's that it really feels like the drivetrain and chassis were tuned with a driver's eye toward how the total package would feel — rather than a product planner's eye toward checking off specific boxes. This is exactly the approach New GM should take with all its future product.

*The above photo was taken before the license bracket repair, but I decided to use it anyway.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 33,721 miles

Eeeew, Window Grime

November 05, 2009

Every time I roll any of the G8's windows down, I see this strip of grimy film across the top. I bugs me. Why? Because even after a good cleaning, the top inch or so of the windows is always obscured by the thick window frame. You need to roll the windows down a bit to clean the top edge, the roll them up to clean the bottom edge.

This, from a guy who carries his own mini bottle of window cleaner and a rag in his briefcase. Why? because when the photographers (who hate to see freshly wiped arcs across an otherwise clean windshield) want me to drive into the setting sun and the Editor-in-Chief reprimands me for flipped down sun visors in photos, I need a very clean windshield. Just sayin'

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 34,150 miles

Cabin Comfort

November 10, 2009

The G8's cabin reminds me of my older brother's basement. Descend those stairs and you'll find that the room is a bit messy, and some of the furniture looks like it belongs in a time capsule. But the couches are comfy and the vibe is mellow — all in all, it just feels right.

So it is with the Pontiac. The car's cabin looks dated in some respects, but the seats offer just enough support and I love the way the steering wheel feels in my hands. Now if only it had pay-per-view and a Wii...

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 34,170 miles

Center Stack

November 11, 2009

I'd mentioned in a previous post that though I love the comfort of the G8's cabin, some aspects of its overall presentation strike me as being a bit dated. I think the biggest offender on this front is the center stack. That digital display at the very top reminds me of an Atari video game from the '80s, and the rest of the stack looks cluttered to my eyes.

While we're on the topic of the center stack, the control layout on that panel isn't that intuitive. For example, there are two audio knobs; one controls volume as you'd expect, but the other isn't a tuning knob — it's used to govern menu setup choices. And pressing the volume knob doesn't turn the stereo on and off as you'd likely expect; instead, it serves to mute the volume.

Am I being too harsh? What are your thoughts on the G8's center stack?

Anyway, these are relatively minor nits on an otherwise superlative car. R.I.P., G8.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

Tinker Bell's Shuttle

November 11, 2009

This entry is a little tardy, but the G8 GT served as a shuttle for Tinker Bell on Halloween. Attaching the child seat was, as it is with most LATCH-equipped vehicles, a snap. Getting Tweaker Bell to bed after candy? Well, no so easy.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 34,130 miles

The Best Car GM Makes. Er, Made.

November 16, 2009

There's so much that GM fundamentally got right with the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT — steering, ride/handling, thrust, space, looks (especially its rear three-quarter angle) — that polishing it up for a second-generation would have been a snap.

Just rejigger some of the interior controls, slap in the six-speed manual and/or liven up the sluggish autobox, an external trunk release, larger side-view mirrors, sexier wheels, and... hmm. I think that would cover the major issues.

Not very major, are they?

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 34,480 miles.

Strong Money for a Muscular Car

December 01, 2009

It hurts to sell a great car like our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT at this time of year. You can almost sense that the shoppers have their minds on other things. We even had one guy email us several times saying he wanted to buy it when it came up for sale. I contacted him but, alas, his employment situation had changed. That was probably code for "layoff."

Still, I'm sure a buyer is out there for this car which has been a big hit with our staff (in fact, we had so much fun with it we ran up 35,000 miles). The only question is what price the G8 will go for. Right now, we are at almost the full TMV price of $21,900. Check out our ad for our Pontiac G8 GT on And make an offer.

Decisions Decisions

December 10, 2009

(Photos by Kurt Niebuhr. Sweet illustration by me!)

This comparison was thrown at me while I was back East for Thanksgiving. I was thrown for a bit of a loop as I thought, for the first five minutes of the conversation, we were talking Genesis Coupe.

Here's some background:

Let's say your'e a young guy, whose current car is on the way out. You just graduated college and are currently in a Master's program at a school 20-30 miles from your house.

Let's also say you live in the Northeast and have, for some reason, been brainwashed by your dad that the ONLY acceptable car has four-doors , rear-wheel-drive and a tankeresque curb weight.

It's also not a Mercedes-Benz. BMW or Lexus.

Ideally, it's a Chevy Caprice or its evil twin, the Impala SS. Acceptable, too, are the wagon variants of the B-body.

So you'd think the G8 would be ideal, right? I mean, it doesn't get more perfect than that, right?

Uhm, not quite; There are some sticking points:

1) It's a Pontiac, not a Chevy.

2) Parts. Right now G8 parts are hard to find. In 5 years they'll be REALLY hard to find. Unless you're in AU.

3) Availability. Again, no more Pontiac means no more cars.

4) The Hyundai Genesis exists and offers Nav, iPod compatibility, heated AND cooled seats and a giant warranty.

Yep, as the title photo indicates, someone a Hyundai Genesis is on his short list of cars to replace the Impala.

IL readers, what say you?

This is what he's replacing (well, one of them):

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant

Little Things Make a Big Difference

December 18, 2009

How can we even dream about selling our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT when there is a huge scratch under the driver's door handle? It's the first thing a buyer would see on a test drive.

Some folks from Turtle Wax came by and showed me this product so I thought I'd give it a try. Michael Deddo, Turtle's senior research chemist, said the scratch was probably just in the clear coat. He was right as you will see in the before and after pictures on the next page.

The pen applicator made it easy to apply although it dribbled down the side of the door. The kit comes with various polishing pads, paint clarifying compound and spray lubricant. I didn't do any sanding because the sratch is basically gone.

There are a lot of products like this on the market. What we really liked was how easily the pen can be used to repair individual scratches quickly.

13,000 Mile Oil Change Interval

December 26, 2009

The oil sensor in our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT finally told us it was time for an oil change. We checked records and the last time we got new oil was 13,000 miles ago! We wanted to send an oil sample off to Blackstone Laboratories to see what they could tell us about the condition of the oil. We wanted to know if the oil was truly done, as the sensor indicated, or whether there was any life left in the slippery stuff.

Our first stop was to look in the owner's manual to see what Pontiac had to say about oil changes.

"When the system has calculated that oil life has been diminished, it will indicate that an oil change is necessary. ... It is possible that, if you are driving under the best conditions, the oil life system might not indicate that an oil change is necessary for over a year. However, the engine oil and filter must be changed at least once a year."

Still, we were curious about the condition of the oil and why the sensor finally went off. We tried to use the "vampire gun" that Blackstone gave us to suck out a sample by inserting a long tube down the dipstick opening into the oil pan. However, we came up dry. We took the G8 to Boulevard Buick Pontaic GMC, in Signal Hill, CA, where the service advisor said the baffle over the oil pan prevented anything but the dipstick from being inserted. We asked him to keep a sample for us while doing the oil change.

By the way, the oil change, inspections and tire rotation was only $39.95. It took them two hours to do the service and clear two recalls. We'll report back on the condition of the oil after we hear from Blackstone labs.

Smooth Sale to a Worthy New Owner

January 05, 2010

The new owner of our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT, Angel Acosta, will service the car himself.

We weren't in a hurry to sell the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT so we listed it for our True Market Value price and just relaxed. At first we got no calls at all but then we got a few nibbles. One caller was a scrap metal dealer who often traveled to Australia and knew the G8 as the Holden Commadore. But he couldn't buy until the end of the year when his current lease expired.

A short time later, a gentleman who identified himself as Angel Acosta called and scheduled a test drive. Since he was coming all the way to Long Beach from San Diego I knew he must be serious. He asked about my price and I said I would be willing to "adjust" it since it now had more miles.

I covered the blow-by-blow negotiation in my Savvy Shopper column on Edmunds Daily. But just to recap, I lowered the asking price from $21,700 to $21,000 due to additional miles, the need for a brake job, and a $100 military discount for a serviceman.

Angel returned a few days later with a cashier's check and his wife to drive his other car home (he owns a total of six cars). I was happy to tell him that the oil change indicator took 13,000 miles to recommend a change. Angel smiled patiently but said he would change the oil every 5,000 miles regardless since, "this is a policy which has served me well in the past." He is a mechanic in the Navy so he has a technical background to draw on when making auto-related decisions. He said he was looking forward to working on the car himself (brakes and oil changes).

Cleaning up the G8 before Angel came I thought about what a great car this has been for Edmunds. We drove it over 36,000 miles and had very few problems with it. Besides that it offered outstanding comfort and practicality for a performance car. Big trunk, roomy back seat and a 6-liter V8. You can't beat that.

Lab Results on 13,000-Mile Oil

January 07, 2010

Just before we sold our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT the oil change indicator came on. We had driven an amazing 13,000 miles without changing the oil. We were curious to know whether this was too long between changes or whether we could have kept rolling. We sent a sample of the oil off to Blackstone Laboratories to have them check the quality.

Here's what the lab had to say. And we also have some thoughts from our Edmunds engineering editor.

First, the report from Blackstone, which was emailed to us as a pdf. It lists all the trace metal levels and other technical data. But it also summarizes the report:

"13,000 miles on the oil seems to have worked pretty well for you. Copper, from brass/bronze
parts, was a bit high but with everything else looking good we just can't bring ourselves to get too upset about it. The average oil run for the GM 6.0L is just ~4,500 miles so your engine wears far better than most. You could try going a little longer but the excess wear metals make the oil abrasive and may limit how long you can go. Try 14,000 miles next time. The TBN read 1.5 so you still had some active additive left, though not much. 1.0 is too low."

We forwarded the report to Jason Kavanagh, Edmunds Engineering Editor and he had a few comments and explanations.

"TBN is Total Base Number, AKA detergency," Kavanagh reported. "Basically, new oil is inherently 'basic' in order to neutralize the acidity that is produced in an engine over time (that would be represented by TAN, or Total Acid Number).

"New oil has high TBN. Once an oil's TBN gets low, even if all else in the analysis is 'good,' the oil is essentially used up. It can no longer neutralize the acidity which, left unchecked, will damage internal engine components.

"It looks like 13k miles was fine for the G8," Kavanagh said. He went on to explain, "The copper and other wear metals are basically tiny bits of the engine suspended in the oil. Copper is from the bearings. Aluminum is the block/heads. And so on. Things like phosporus and manganese are part of the oil's additive pack. Basically, in UOA, you want these to be high, and the wear metals low."

So the verdict seems to be that the GM sensor accurately measured the effectiveness of the engine oil. Most of the oil was used up but not all of it. If we still owned the car, I don't think we would push the interval any higher. Going this long seemed almost like driving on borrowed time. Especially since many of our other vehicles seem to need new oil after only 7,500 miles.

I'm surprised that GM dealers aren't up in arms about this cutting into their revenue stream. A steady parade of driver's asking for oil changes is a nice chance to upsell them other services and boost dealership profits.

Nationwide Inventory is 111 — and Dropping

January 07, 2010

If you've been wanting a Pontiac G8 with a V8, either a GT like ours or a more desirable GXP, the pickings are getting slim.

A quick search on AutoTrader reveals only 111 V8-equipped G8s still exist in dealership new-car inventory nationwide. By the time, this blog entry publishes, it likely will have shrunk further. Will this near-term scarcity translate to long-term collectibility?

Oh, and if you're content to drive around in a ho-hum V6-equipped G8, well, there are apparently still 145 of those for the taking.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

A Reader's Long-Term Car

March 10, 2010

These pictures were sent in by reader Andy Lee. His long-term car is a 2009 Pontiac G8 GT. Just like ours but a model year newer.

Here's what he had to say:

"I was driving in my 2009 Pontiac G8 GT (that I bought because of Edmunds reviews BTW) when I passed this small town in North Dakota. I couldn't resist the pictures as I thought of you guys."

Thanks for thinking of us, Andy. Nice car. We love getting pictures from our readers.

I miss our Pontiac G8. What about you, guys?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor


Here at, we're a bit like puppy breeders. We get attached to our new babies while we have them, but then we can let them go easily when the time comes.

This time, however, things were different. When the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT came to us in 2008, we were hoping that it wouldn't be the last Detroit-built rear-wheel-drive sedan that we ever drove, and we also hoped that this car would bring back Pontiac from the brink of extinction, since it's a brand that we've always loved.

But as it turned out, the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT would be our last-ever Pontiac. And we hated to see it go.

Why We Got It
For us, the G8 GT was the Great Big Hope. Not only did it have a massive V8 matched with rear-wheel drive in a combination that we covet so, but also it had a high-quality interior, European-inspired handling, sharp looks and, all things considered, a bargain-basement price. We were aware of the car long before its debut at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show and even went to Australia to test the 2007 Holden Commodore SS from which it's derived.

This car appealed to old guys who remember the Chevy Caprice (especially the 1991-'96 Chevy Impala SS to which it led). It appealed to kids who have seen the test that Top Gear conducted of the G8's sister car, the Vauxhall VXR8. As for us, the Pontiac G8 helped us remember what we like about the traditional American sedan with a long hood, too much power, giant doors and room for six (eight if you double-buckle).

Plus, just look at the thing. How cool is that? Forget the reasonable reasons; we pretty much bought this one because it made us feel cool.

With a 361-horsepower overhead-valve 6.0-liter LS76 V8 that can trace its roots back to the beginning of automotive consciousness (i.e., the '55 Chevy), we expected nothing short of perfection from the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT's engine room. But we weren't sure if the Australian planners and assembly-line workers had executed the chassis package in the same spirit. So considering that, it's something to say that we were pleasantly surprised by what the G8 GT returned.

Not only did our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT provide just under 36,000 trouble-free miles, but it did so under sometimes stressful conditions — which resulted in a $684.67 bill for new rear tires.

But for all that, our G8 required only three oil changes. That's three, not the 12 oil changes that might have been required back in the days when you had to change your low-grade mineral oil every 3,000 miles. We just let the Pontiac's electronic sensors determine when the oil had to be changed. And since the cost of each oil change averaged $35, we saved a lot of cash, not to mention a lot of time, by listening to the sensors. Also we saved a lot of oil, using 27 quarts instead of 108.

"," you're saying, "my daddy taught me to change the oil every 3,000 miles. He'd die and then roll over in his grave if I told him about a 13,000-mile interval between oil changes. Got any proof this works?"

Yes, we do! Just before the G8's final oil change, Senior Consumer Advice Editor Phillip Reed sent a sample of the G8's oil to Blackstone Labs for analysis. The sample came back good on all fronts, but just barely so. Turns out that the G8's sensor was correct, and so 13,000 miles proved to be the perfect mileage to ensure that the oil's goodness had been used to its fullest, since there wasn't much life left in it. But another lesson here is, when the service light turns on, get it done fast, because the oil is done.

These things were to be expected, though. What we didn't expect was a 14-day repair for a wheel-speed sensor/traction control failure, a broken key fob and a loose center trim panel (which Dan Edmunds fixed himself). New brakes were necessary at the end of the 2008 Pontiac G8's service life, but parts availability and time constraints meant that we sold the car at a slight discount after making full disclosure about the brakes.

There were some complaints about useless knobs and an overly bright light for the "Passenger Air Bag off" warning light in the rearview mirror that were silly details that Pontiac probably would have fixed for the G8 Version 2.0. Sigh.

Total Body Repair Costs: 0
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 17 months): $179.74
Additional Maintenance Costs: $684.67
Warranty Repairs: 2
Non-Warranty Repairs: 0
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 3
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Days Out of Service: 15
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: 0

Performance and Fuel Economy
During our initial testing of this 2008 Pontiac G8 GT at the beginning of its term with us, it returned some impressive numbers: 5.8 seconds to 60 mph from a standstill (5.5 seconds to 60 with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) and a quarter-mile pass in 13.95 seconds at 101.3 mph. Its performance in our handling evaluation was equally impressive, including a 113-foot stop from 60 mph, a 66.3-mph run through the slalom and a 0.86g result on the skid pad. When we conducted our testing at the end of its term, the G8 GT performed nearly identically on its new Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires.

In the real world we weren't so concerned with ultimate performance, but most of us drove the car in Sport mode all the time, thereby exchanging an annoying fuel-economy calibration for a usable driving experience. That considered, we still averaged 18 mpg over the course of 35,332 miles. This is exactly what the EPA says we should get and our best tank ties the EPA's estimate for highway mpg. (Though it must be said that our low of 12 mpg is a full 3 mpg below what the EPA guesses you should get in a city loop. Oh well, I doubt its loop left any evidence of the trip.)

Best Fuel Economy: 24.3 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 12 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 18 mpg

Retained Value
Turns out that trying to sell a used car from a brand that no longer exists isn't the way to quick and easy profit.

While few people balked at the idea of buying a used, full-size American sedan, there were hesitant questions about parts, service and warranty. A few were ultimately dissuaded and a few more were inspired to conduct aggressive price negotiations. But it didn't matter to us, as were happy to keep driving our First 888 G8 and wait for the right buyer. Eventually, he showed up, a Navy mechanic who owns six cars and does all the maintenance himself. He didn't ask about warranties or how the light worked for the service interval; he just wanted some cash off for the brakes and a little extra for the extra miles we'd piled on while waiting for a buyer. And then we took off an extra hundred bucks, our own military discount program.

For $21,000 even, Angel Acosta walked away with what, only 17 months previously, had cost us $31,845.

True Market Value at service end: $21,700
What it sold for: $21,000
Depreciation: $10,145 or 31% of original paid price
Final Odometer Reading: 35,332

And Then There Were None
We walked into this test assuming we were riding the front of a wave — a tsunami of sales of full-size American-made rear-wheel-drive sedans. The 2008 Pontiac G8, we hoped, would prove the viability and marketability of such hardware. Ford would follow suit, bringing over the Aussie Falcon. Chevy would rebadge the G8 as a Caprice or Impala. We'd get the Holden VE Utility as an El Camino, and maybe a wagon, too!

And then the economy went bust.

And GM declared bankruptcy.

And Pontiac shut its doors.

And our dream died.

We remember when our 2008 Pontiac G8 GT only had 7,028 miles on the odometer, yet Editor in Chief Scott Oldham let go with an enthusiastic comment that ultimately summed up our year and a half: "This car just keeps surprising me. It's easily the best vehicle GM sells in America today.... When you look at the Pontiac's price, performance and package, it's easily the best of GM's best."

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.