The brand new 2008 Pontiac G8 is a lovely car with tons of power, respectively 361 BHP for the 6 liter V8 and 256 BHP for the 3.5 liter V6. To enjoy and control all this power the G8 is putting at your disposal all the modern features you would only expect in a German sedan: multi-link suspension, ventilated disk brakes and rear wheel drive propulsion.
Priced at $33k for the loaded V8 model, this new Pontiac G8 cannot be ignored, that’s why we went all the way to San Diego to test it for ourselves. (full road test after after the jump)
As soon as you get close to the G8 you know it’s a looker, with two large hood vents, clear headlamps, fog lamps, aerodynamic body kit all around and flare fenders, you know the G8 will attract the crowd.
Not that there is anything wrong looking all sporty, but as we’ll see later the G8 is more a GT than a super car, so the boy racer artifacts could have been saved for a sportier GXP version. The aluminum wheels 18 inch standard and 19 optional fit the car nicely and for once the ’smaller’ V6 version has nothing to be ashamed of as it looks exactly the same as its V8 brother. Differences will only be picked up by the Pontiac fanatics: additional chrome on the door handles, quad tail pipes, clear tail lights and unique wheel design for the V8 version.
When you get into the G8 cabin, you find a very roomy interior with quality materials that are pleasant to the eye and to the touch.
Some might think the interior design feels a bit old but we’ll say it is conservative and we love it just like that. Better clean and sober than funky and flashy, we are here to play with the V8, not the cabin gizmos.
The speedo and rev counter dials come standard black with white print, unless you ask for the red leather seat inserts, in which case the dials will receive a red finish as well. Personally I prefer it all black. The seats are very comfy and they perform their duty nicely when you start shaking the beast on the back roads, but we’ll come to that later.
One nice little detail about the seats is that they can be raised or lowered electrically both front (knees) and back, (bottom) compared to most cars that only offer you to control the back part, resulting in awkward driving position if you like to seat low, as we do. That is a great feature. Too bad that the seats do not take advantage of the big legroom of the passengers seats to better slide backward. For instance the passenger seat reached its limit sliding back, as there it as 15 inches away from rear passenger seats.
The central console bits and buttons are straight forward, old school thus well placed, and you should be able to control everything within a few minutes.
The steering wheel controls are ok, but...
When it comes to get a good grip on the steering wheel, that’s a no no.
There are no special ’palm rest’ located at ’10’ and ’2’ o’clock, and even worst at ’9’ and ’3’ o’clock you cannot grab the wheel with your thumbs properly, because that area is pushed forward and angled at 45 degree so only half an inch of your thumbs can really reach in. That’s the kind of detail that will put off the boy racers that we are, but GT buyer might like it...
One last word for the boy racers planning to take their G8 on twisty roads. The bulky A pillar located far from the driver seat creates a big blind spot when taking sharp left turns. You will hardly notice it while driving straight on the highway, but on twisty roads, be ready to stretch your head toward the center of the car if you want to see where you are going.
Both V8 and V6 have impressive chassis and suspensions which combined together offer a great deal of comfort on the highway and control on the twisty roads.
The chassis could easily deal with a stiffer suspension choice to bring even better driving pleasure, but the Pontiac engineer told us that this might be too painful for those who drive on poor pavements. So if you can tolerate the pain or are lucky enough to live in an area where the road are still in good condition, you should go for it.
Even with the standard mild suspension settings, you will only start thinking about the limit of this car when you are way over the legal speed limit... From today’s drive experience I would say a good 30mph to 40 mph over :). The V8 version will get you past 100MPH in no time and the V6 you will put you into trouble with the law quickly but you should be able to keep your license as it gets sluggish past 75mph and the screaming of the V6 is more a call for help, asking for a gear change than a roar of pleasure asking for more.
Speaking about the gearbox, it will do a smooth job on the highway or while commuting but for enthusiast, it’s really not quick enough.
If you use the manual mode, changing gears will only get you frustrated. Even though Pontiac was thoughtful and installed a gearbox that will hold gears when you hit the rev’ limiter, and blip the throttle on down shift to bring the engine up to ’rev’. We found the gear box so slow that we completely stopped playing with it after a few miles or simply stuck it into one gear in the fear of frustration. The down shift for example is so conservative that even thought the rev limiter is around 65000RPM on the V6, the gear box would not down shift before you go below 3500RPM...not enough to really stay in the power zone.
Too bad the gear box was not more cooperative the car handles very nicely and its ability to take corners at high speed is very impressive. The steering is doing a pretty good job, even though we sensed some kind of dead spot at 12 o’clock and poor feedback made it hard to find those apexes. No doubt that after a few days of ownership the driver will get used to this dead center and automatically deal with it, but when you just have a few miles to drive the car, it makes it a lot slower to predict the car behavior.
Thankfully the chassis and brakes are doing such a great job that we stayed confident and floored the G8 without any worries.
Pontiac was generous on the brakes, mounting ventilated disks on all four wheels of the V8 and V6 as well.
To resume the Pontiac G8 is a great bargain, especially when you think about the 361HP V8 engine. At a mere 30 grant you are driving a large 361hp 4 door GT. Note that I am saying GT and not sports car. If you are looking for real sports, you will certainly end up being deceived by the slow gear changes, almost too comfortable suspensions and poor steering feel. But if you are buying a GT to drive everyday, you will enjoy the smooth ride and sheer power of the V8.
I highly recommend the V8 as it brings so much fun in the picture, not to mention that changing the exhaust and air intake would certainly bring this baby in the 400BHP!
It is very strong at low RPM, it roars in the high revs and even fuel economy is not bad (15/24) thanks to cylinder deactivation technology. Nevertheless if you sold your soul or you are traumatized by your hybrid co-workers and tempted by the V6 option, be aware that it does the job but it feels flat in the high revs and could almost make you thing that you are driving a 4 cylinder. Note that I say ’feel’, as it will get you up to proper speed and performance, but believe me you do not want to hear it after you have experienced the V8... buy the V8!