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The Pontiac Grand Prix started out as a personal luxury car in the early 1960s. Back then, personal luxury meant a big coupe with a big V8 and a stylish interior, usually featuring plush bucket seats and a floor shifter. Exterior design bordered on flamboyant at times, but the Grand Prix made no apologies for its unabashed sense of American style and performance.
In more recent times, the Pontiac Grand Prix offered consumers a sensibly sized family coupe or sedan, with plenty of performance on tap thanks to the availability of peppy V6 engines or even a powerful V8. Styling continued to be a draw, with a sweeping roof line and the signature twin-grille nose. Unfortunately, another hallmark of the Grand Prix was an overly plasticky interior, with various switches and knobs typically rendered in gray plastic that looked more Fisher-Price than General Motors. Pontiac improved the interior toward the end of the Grand Prix's run, but it still couldn't hold a candle to the high-quality interiors of its import-brand rivals.
Would the Grand Prix be a good choice for a family vehicle? That depends on what dad (or mom) wants. If performance is paramount and a smallish backseat is not a problem, then a used GP deserves a look. On the other hand, if high-quality fit and finish and roomy rear quarters are more important, then the import competition will be a better match.
Most Recent Pontiac Grand Prix
The last-generation Pontiac Grand Prix debuted in 2004 and was terminated after 2008. It benefited from a refined engine lineup, fine-tuned ride and handling characteristics and a more driver-friendly cockpit with large gauges and, for the most part, simple controls. The coupe was dropped, leaving the sedan as the lone body style.
There were two trim levels for the Grand Prix's last year of production in 2008 -- base and GXP. The base model came with a 200-horsepower V6 as well as 16-inch wheels, OnStar, a CD player, cruise control, air-conditioning, keyless entry, and power windows and mirrors. The GXP included a 303-hp V8, firmer suspension tuning, performance tires, a head-up display, unique trim and 18-inch alloys. Leather seating and automatic dual-zone climate control were optional.
Performance, even in the base model, was satisfying, and got quite a bit stronger from there. Although the V8-powered GXP provided a thrilling rush of power, torque steer was a problem with this front-drive chassis. Sadly, the abundant power infusion wasn't enough to keep the Grand Prix wholly competitive. Compared to the top sport-oriented sedans, the Pontiac felt unrefined in terms of handling dynamics and cabin fitments.
Prior to the 2008 model year, the last-generation Grand Prix was available in a GT trim level that featured a supercharged 260-hp V6, 17-inch wheels and some features that were options on the base model. For buyers interested in a used Grand Prix, we would recommend the GT over the other trims because of its balance of power, fuel economy and handling.
Past Pontiac Grand Prix Models
The previous-generation Pontiac Grand Prix was built from 1997-2003. Available as either a sleek coupe or a handsome four-door sedan, this Grand Prix offered brisk acceleration and a tight suspension for a relatively affordable price. The supercharged 3800 V6 debuted with this generation (in the GTP trim) and offers a great combination of power and fuel efficiency. Downsides include a somewhat raucous power delivery, a harsh ride over rough surfaces (in GT and GTP models), cheap interior materials and needlessly complex controls. Still, consumers have given this generation high marks in terms of performance, handling, fuel economy and style. It should be noted that this generation's base model had slightly different (and less sporty) front and rear styling from the GT and GTP models.
Prior to that, there was the 1988-'96 generation, available in both coupe and sedan body styles. This car was a bit smaller and its styling went overboard in the body-cladding area. Typical of many GM products, this Grand Prix's strengths lay in its powertrains and performance, while weak points included cheap interior materials, overly busy controls and mediocre rear seat comfort.
From 1978-'87, the Pontiac Grand Prix was offered solely as a personal luxury coupe, which had been downsized from the excessively large cruisers of the '60s and '70s. But like those earlier GPs, this era's priorities were flashy styling and plush interiors. From a collector's standpoint, the 1962-'72 Grand Prix are most worthy of consideration, as powerful engines (such as the 421 V8 with tri-power carburetion) and eye-catching styling make them cruise-night favorites.