Last week I had the opportunity to test drive* the all-new Pontiac G8 down in San Diego, California.
I’ll be honest. I’ve always been a fan of the brand since the days of the Pontiac Firebird aka "Screaming Chicken". The darty, almost arrowlike design, the swept-back four-door coupe looks (long before Mercedes was coining the phrase for its CLS), locked my taste for sleek designs to this day. I still turn my head when I see the G6 — heir to the Grand Am — flying by.
But I wasn’t blind to Pontiac’s faults. The ridiculous side-cladding, the "what were they thinking?" spoilers, and the busy dash and center console RGr made me cringe when I’d mentally compare it to the competition. Also, I’m one of the rare Pontiac fans who disliked the signature hood scoops.
Thus my feelings were mixed when I saw the first images of the G8 online and print. Based off the Holden Commodore from Australia, the G8 has a more contemporary design, reminding me of such vehicles from BMW and Infiniti. Like its smaller G6 sibling, there’s nary a side-cladding anywhere. And the standard lip-spoiler echos the Grand Prix and Bonneville of old.
Overall, not bad-looking but a little on the bland side. It was the hoodscoops that gave the G8 its distinctive character. They, like the spoiler, are standard and so tastefully integrated into the hood that I actually liked them. They added uniqueness to the car, something increasingly rare as more automakers emulate segment leaders’ designs.
Photos don’t do the G8 justice in describing its size. I pictured it much larger; imagine, then, to my surprise when I discovered it was actually shorter than its Grand Prix ancestor. And the long wheelbase not only gave it the short overhangs currently in vogue, but gave the G8 more interior space than the even larger Bonneville, which has been retired. I’m six feet tall and found plenty of room in the back row.
And speaking of seating, I found the G8 both spacious and cozy at the same time. The standard black interior and seating (red sporty inserts are optional), and the driving character of the car, made one think the G8 was smaller than the reality. I feel a similar effect every time I drive my 2006 Acura RL.
Interior material and fit and finish were standard for this class, and I saw none of what my colleagues call "visual noise" of mismatched panels or pieces. I did find the environment and entertainment controls a bit busy but I’m also more used to touchscreen systems.
Overall, I found the Pontiac G8 contemporary enough that folks won’t be reminded of the old "racer" boy of yesteryear, but distinctive enough that viewers won’t mistake it as another Honda. (I’m looking at you, Hyundai.)
Next up: The Drive
*Trip and hotel accommodations were provided courtesy of GM