2009 Pontiac G8 Sedan

2009 Pontiac G8 Sedan
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Based on the current Australian Holden Commodore sedan, the Pontiac G8 is a new model for North America. The first time I saw one on in my area, I was drawn to its deeply sculpted fenders, arching waistline and aggressively-styled fascias. A rear under diffuser and dual polished exhaust outlets evoke a strong European style that's emphasized by the beefy, rip-snorting front end.

FAST FACTS

1. Base model comes with a 256hp V-6, but a more powerful 361hp V-8 GT model is offered as well as a 400-plus horsepower GXP model.

2. Rear wheel drive, great chassis and sporting suspension make for dynamic driving.

3. Exceptional interior design and quality.

Built on GM’s latest version of its global rear-wheel drive architecture that underpins the 2010 Camaro, the 2009 G8 lineup includes three sedans starting with the base model that comes with a 256-hp 3.6L V6 with VVT and five-speed automatic transmission.

The six-cylinder powerplant in my tester makes 248 ft-lbs of torque at 2100 rpm with an EPA rated fuel economy of 17/25 mpg. Further up-line, the GT and track-tuned GXP models both get V8s – the latter 6.2-liter LS3 options boasts well over 400 ponies – and six-speed automatics. A manual is optional on the GXP.

The first thing I noticed when I got my G8-tester home is that it's bigger than it looks. The G8 is, of course, a full-size four-door sedan but the amount of space its 196-inch long body took up in my single car garage was a bit surprising. As it were I tip-toed and squeezed around in there for a week.

At 115 inches, the wheelbase is also somewhat long, with the standard 18-inch alloys wheels set wide apart to help yield a balanced, responsive and yet compliant ride. Weight split is 50/50 with four-wheel ABS vented disc brakes standard on the base and GT along with all-speed traction control and electronic stability control. The GXP benefits from larger, more powerful Brembo units.

On the road, the transmission moves through the six gears without fuss. There's no “gear-hunting” on steep inclines and you can choose from full auto or manual sport modes.

Base G8s have been clocked doing zero-to-60 mph in about 7.5 seconds. Average braking distance is 131 feet to reach a halt from that speed – impressive for such a large sedan. The performance-tuned suspension does a good job soaking up average-size road bumps. Integrated sway bars help the car stay flat in corners.

I do have some gripes with this model though. First, the V6 feels sluggish. But, what is really irksome is the awful exhaust tuning. The tinny-murmur it produces is not at all befitting of a sports car. Worse is that it sounds exactly like several late j-bodies from the '80s. Second, I found the brakes a bit too spongy, though I like the breakaway pedal system and ride down steering column.

Inside, the G8 interior is not only spacious, it looks and feels steps above many previous GM offerings at this price point. Standard features include power windows, door locks and trunk, cruise control, tilt/telescoping steering with integrated audio and driver info controls, four-way adjustable front buckets and more. XM satellite radio and Bluetooth capability are offered on the base seven-speaker Blaupunkt AM/FM/CD system with five-inch multi-function display.

Base price for my tester was $28,120. Installed options include the $795 comfort and sound pack that brings dual zone automatic climate controls, an upgraded Blaupunkt system featuring a larger 6.5-inch display, six CD changer, MP3 playback and 11 speakers; plus, the $1,375 premium pack for leather seats, six-way power adjustable heated front seats (both), a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter as well as a rear seat armrest. Add another $900 for the power tilt-sliding sunroof and $685 for destination and the final tally is $31,995 as tested.

GT models start $32,240 with upcoming GXP expected to squeak in under $40K.

PLUS

Sporty elegant exterior
Great interior
Pleasant handling

MINUS

Thirsty underpowered V6
Steering wheel too big
Unproven fuel economy

A well-designed soft-touch dash and center stack add to an already lovely interior. And, I like the way the e-brake handle has been integrated into the column next to the mirror controls. Day or night, the instrumentation is easy-to-read while the black and silver trims are sporty and create good contrast.

Head, leg and shoulder room is plentiful for a pair of adult rear-seaters. There is, by the way, no split-folding rear seat, only a center pass-through for long cargo. Passenger volume is 125 cu.-ft. while that trunk offers 17.5 cu.-ft.

Safety is not forgotten on this sporty family sedan. Besides its sturdy, crash-absorbing unibody, the G8 gets multiple air bag sensors and six standard bags (dual-stage frontal, front seat side thorax as well as roof rail-mounted head curtain air bags for all occupants). Small children are also welcome to buckle in via the Latch anchors and tethers for their safety seats. OnStar with one-year safe and sound plan is included on all G8s.

My only problem with the interior is the gigantic steering wheel diameter. I do like the thumb shift tabs, but it's just too big for any serious performance driving.

The whole package is pretty stylish and buyers should appreciate the rear-wheel drive configuration. Most suitors will be male and most will pine for the more powerful six-speed GT and Corvette-engined GXP models, but even the base G8 does a good job of combining sophisticated looks with sporty performance at a fair price.

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