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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times staff

Pontiac G8 GXP is a hot parting shot for doomed GM division

Some might say: Why review a car from an automaker that soon will no longer exist? Well, if you consider the G8 GXP as Pontiac's curtain call, it's a good one. And over the next year, you probably can get a good deal on one of the three G8 models. (GM is reportedly debating whether to keep the G8 by rebadging it as a Chevrolet Caprice.)

Appearance: The G8's streamlined profile, accented by bugling wheel wells over its 19-inch alloy wheels, subtle spoiler and stainless steel exhaust tips, give it a stealthy look.

Performance: The GXP has a lot to offer under its faux hood scoops with a 6.2-liter, 415-horsepower V-8. The motor is the same as in the base Corvette and is mated to an optional six-speed Tremec manual. Lyra found the shifter choppy compared with other muscle cars — such as the new Camaro SS — and didn't think the car gave her enough feedback. But Peter found the cornering tight and controlled, and he loved the acceleration. The front Brembo brakes add plenty of bite. But with an engine this big, you can't expect fuel economy. The GXP gets hit with a $1,700 gas-guzzler tax for its estimated 13 city and 20 highway mpg.

Interior: It's roomy with a few nice touches — like a hidden cup holder that pulls out from the rear bench — but, overall, Lyra thought designers gave more consideration to power train than passengers. The six-way, power-assist driver's seat adjusted well even for a short driver, but both Lyra and Peter had to wedge their hands between the seat and the side door pockets to do it. That said, the leather seats are comfortable and supportive. Lyra thought the controls for the windows and mirrors were lumped together in the center console almost as an afterthought. Sorry, a navigation system isn't an option. Lyra also found the rear tabletop armrest, which gives access to the trunk when down, useful for her young son's books and toys. Still, she worried that the opening is large enough for a child to climb through. Some other gripes: The red-faced gauges are difficult to see — especially when wearing sunglasses — and why is there no red line on the tach? Lyra drove the GXP on an extremely hot day and the AC took 20 minutes to cool the car. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is overdesigned. Why more than one contour? Both Peter and Lyra found it to be uncomfortable.

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Peter Couture

Exhaust note: The pop and rumble when you downshift into second says one thing: power.

Styling: The hood scoops may be fake, but the front end and the split grille are authentic Pontiac.

Nostalgia: Sure, this car is produced in Australia by GM's Holden subsidiary, but it's still sad to see Pontiac go out when it finally has built some excitement.

Lyra Solochek

Sound system: The 230-watt Blaupunkt system has 11 speakers, including subwoofers.

Sunroof/moonroof: Enjoy the breeze with its three-stage opening.

Engine: Plenty of power. The clutch is firm, and the rumble you feel through it is simply exhilarating.

The bottom line: If you can overlook the interior flaws, this is a performance sedan that can compete with the more expensive imports on styling and speed. If you don't want the muscle of the GXP or the lesser V-8, the GT, there's a base V-6. Just don't wait too long.

2009 Pontiac G8 GXP

Price: $41,590

Powertrain: 6.2-liter V-8

Horsepower: 415 at 6,000 rpm

Torque: 415 pound-

feet at 4,400 rpm

Curb weight: 4,010 pounds

Dimensions in inches:

Wheelbase, 114.8 Length, 196.1

Width, 74.8

Fuel economy:

13 miles per gallon city, 20 mpg highway ($1,700 gas-guzzler tax)

Safety features: OnStar; 4-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake assist; traction control and stability control; tire-pressure monitoring system; front, side and curtain air bags.

Trim levels: Base (256-horsepower V-6), GT (361-horsepower V-8).

Options worth considering: Six-speed manual transmission; sunroof.

Web site: www.pontiac.com

Pontiac G8 GXP is a hot parting shot for doomed GM division 07/18/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 18, 2009 12:06am]
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