When it comes to cars from General Motors, I’m always prepared for disappointment. No matter how promising the new vehicle is (Corvette!), GM finds a way to let me down (Corvette seats!) Take the Pontiac Solstice GXP. Flat gorgeous. More important, that sweet turbocharged engine with its (relatively) massive power and torque. Hell yeah, right? But the shift linkage is made from hamster bedding. The interior was designed for Gitmo inmates. And the brakes — when pushed — stink. I mention this because I was wholly ready to be let down by the new Pontiac G8 GT.
The French have seven types of love. Eskimos have 40 words for snow. Jews have 78 ways to call you the village idiot. As such, pistonheads need a few ways to explain “ugly.” There’s Deformed Mutant Awful Ugly (Aztek, BMW 1-Series, anything made in Malaysia), Dull Ugly (Toyota, BMW 3-Series), Bizarre, Avant-Gross Ugly (BMW 6-series, modern French cars) and Exciting Ugly (BMW X6, Nissan GT-R). The Pontiac G8’s face is without question Exciting Ugly. Whereas the side and rear views are just kinda an homage to Acura.
Inside, I love every inch. I love the font they chose for the gauges. I love the bolt-action clack-clack-clack-clack when the doors lock. I love the rubber bellows coverings on the column stalks. Hell, I love the column stalks. And after 100-years the General finally gives us world-class seats. Sure, the glove box isn’t made from the same top shelf petrochemicals as the rest of the G8’s dash, but do you really care? Really?
As nice as the G8’s innards are, that’s all just bunting. I’m here to crow about how damn well this Pontiac drives. Every review of the G8 has mentioned that the wunda from down unda is nearly identical to the BMW 5-series. Why be different? But here’s the thing — the Pontiac’s better. BMW has scientifically bested themselves out of the ultimate driving machine game with drowsy steering and rock hard run flats that necessitate softer springs. Meanwhile, the G8 is old-school and coarse enough to provide actual feedback. Which makes it not only a hoot and a holler, but easy to hoon.
The secret sauce is the G8’s completely neutral and compliant chassis. There’s no predilection towards under or oversteer. Thrown hard into a corner, the big boy’s content to just gently break grip before calmly (and quickly) regaining purchase. Kick the fun-pedal and the Pontiac simply heads off in whatever direction you’re pointing. While losing traction (for a moment) sounds frightening, in reality, it’s confidence inspiring. Meaning the G8’s predictable; the most you can ask for in a performance car.
Two little qualifications, if I may. First, my test car showed up with 18″ all-season tires. As Southern California doesn’t have seasons, slathering some larger wheels with USDA Choice meats would’ve provided more stick ‘em. The other caveat is when I say the G8 breaks grip, it only does so with the traction control disabled and the driver punching the snot out of it. Which I certainly did. In fact, let me paint you a picture.
My buddy’s been babysitting a replica 1973 Porsche RS 2.7. The Porsche’s owner finally demanded the RS back. So we set out over Mulholland Drive to return it. In case you’ve never been, it’s a fall-off-a-cliff curvy road. I was behind him in the G8 and the Porsche never got more than two car lengths ahead of me. How is a four-door, two-ton American sedan able to keep up with a race-ready, 2,000-pounds lighter German sports car? Because the G8 GT’s handling is totally awesome, dude.
Then there’s that hunk of an engine.
Under the Pontiac’s blistered hood resides a 6.0-liter V8 that’s good for 361 horses and 385 sweet lb-ft of torque. That works out to a 0 – 60 time of 5.3 seconds, even with the less-than-stellar six-speed slush-a-roo. But drag racing’s not this car’s prime directive. The G8 with the V8 is all about confidence. That weaving van? Of course you can get in front of it. Just dip your foot, prepare your ears for a snarling sonic treat and go! Easy like Sunday morning. And thanks to the torqued-out simplicity of pushrods, with the cruise control set at 80 mph, I was getting 27 mpg.
I suppose there are a few G8-related bugaboos you could fret over. That muscular motor makes triple-digit speeds far too easy. I constantly found myself over 95 mph when I wasn’t even in the mood. Conversely, without explaining that you’re actually driving a thuggish, high performance antipodean sports sedan, everyone will assume you spent $32k on a rental car. And you can’t have three pedals. But even with only two, the G8 GT is the best American car I’ve ever driven. Color me smitten.