1997 Pontiac Grand Am Review


Pros & Cons

  • Cheap thrills, sporty image, fun Twin Cam engine
  • Aging platform, poor handling, uncomfortable seats
List Price Estimate
$760 - $1,954

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Edmunds' Expert Review

Vehicle overview

Last year, Pontiac gave the Grand Am a fresh exterior look and an all-new interior. This year, changes are limited to the addition of air conditioning to the standard equipment list for the SE, and the addition of three new colors. Despite the Grand Am's six-year-old design, and decade old chassis, it is one of the hottest sellers in the GM stable. We doubt the dearth of updates will cause sales to nosedive in 1997.

Under the hood, a twin-cam 2.4-liter engine is standard on all models. A 3.1-liter V6 is optional, but requires an automatic shifter. Traction control is included with the automatic transmission. Antilock brakes are standard equipment. Daytime running lights were added to the Grand Am last year, and they remain for 1997. You can defeat them by pulling up the hand brake handle one notch, though when we did this during a recent test of a Saturn SL2, the brake engaged ever so slightly. Be sure you aren't damaging your parking brake using this method. PASSlock theft deterrent is standard on all Grand Ams. Variable effort steering is available on both trim levels.

We drove a Grand Am SE sedan last year, and weren't impressed. Nose-heavy handling, uncomfortable seats, and a generally displeasing interior were to blame for our malaise. The twin-cam engine, though boomy at higher revs, was a fun engine, even when connected to an automatic transmission. We came away from our test drive non-plussed, unable to understand what makes this car so popular, aside from its low price.

In its sixth year on the market, the Grand Am is sure to remain Pontiac's best-selling model. It offers stylish good looks and reasonable performance, yet remains a decent value. These attributes combined can be the only explanation for the Grand Am's continued popularity. The SE model is our pick, because it can be equipped to GT specs without the false performance pretensions and higher price of that premium trim level. Budget minded shoppers may want to investigate the twin-cam Sunfire, which offers more equipment and better performance for less money.

1997 Highlights

Very minimal changes this year as Pontiac concentrates on Grand Prix and Trans Sport launches. Air conditioning is now standard. Also, three new colors are added.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1997 Pontiac Grand Am.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

I'll Miss Her
Brittany Henceroth,02/17/2009
I absolutely loved this car, it was my baby, my pride and joy. Mother bought it back in '02 and gave it to me in '07 as a graduation gift. We did spend X amount of dollars fixing the water pump, alternator, and the heater coil. Other than that, the car was everything I could have asked for. It finally broke 120k miles in the beginning of Feb, but on the 14th I lost control of it, barrel rolled it, and it was totaled. She was a very good reliable car throughout her 12 years she gave to me and the elderly couple that owned it before me.
Best car so far I have ever owned
1997 Pontiac grand am is the first brand new car I have ever owned. I loved it and really miss it just had to get rid of it couple months ago. Only minor repairs, alternator. This car was bought for me but was a company car and at one time had to be used as a service vehicle to get to service calls. My brother drove it probably about a year and believe me my brother is absolutely hell on vehicles but this car really really held up. Like I said before best car I have ever owned.
I bought this car used from a friend who had bought it used. I have no idea how well it was taken care of before I bought it, but I assume not very well. I have owned it for three years and have yet to have a problem with it. There are interior/cosmetic issues from previous use but it has never been a problem for me. I've driven two hour trips across Michigan several times and never had a problem. This is one tough car. Perfect for a student/young driver who just drives in town and who is on a budget.
Great looking car, however, my 4 Cyl manual engine seems to have no power at all. Acceleration is the worst I've seen. I don't know if it's because of some problem, but it's discouraging. Engine can sputter shortly after starting leaving you trapped in an intersection without any power. Good looking car though. No rust, however, Fog lights appear to be burned out and seem next to impossible to get to. Some underbody flaps near the engine are hanging down. I like the car, but I hate having to rev over 3.5 rpm to get any decent horsepower.

Features & Specs

See all Used 1997 Pontiac Grand Am features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver1 / 5
    Passenger3 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1997 Pontiac Grand Am

Used 1997 Pontiac Grand Am Overview

The Used 1997 Pontiac Grand Am is offered in the following submodels: Grand Am Sedan, Grand Am Coupe. Available styles include GT 4dr Sedan, GT 2dr Coupe, SE 4dr Sedan, and SE 2dr Coupe.

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Should I lease or buy a 1997 Pontiac Grand Am?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Pontiac lease specials
Check out Pontiac Grand Am lease specials