2008 Pontiac G8 V6

Michael Karesh
by Michael Karesh
2008 pontiac g8 v6

Let’s not dismiss the Pontiac G8 V6 out of hand. Sure, you give up a Smart-and-a-half of ponies with the less powerful powerplant. But 256 horsepower would have seemed like plenty even five years ago. (And the way things are going, it might seem like plenty five years from now.) For enthusiasts who’ve advanced beyond the raw thrill of gut-sucking torque, it’s not the meat, it’s the motion. Yes, Virginia, it’s possible for a car to be fun to drive even if it can’t flatten you against the seatback off the line. Ah, but does this G8 V6 fit this bill?

In the G8 V6’s favor, even the GT variant is not a one-trick pony. It offers an attractive (if not distinctive) BMW E46-influenced exterior, a plenty roomy interior and a fine handling, even driftastic chassis. All of these strengths transfer to the V6. So the potential certainly exists for a fun-to-drive sedan that’s less expensive to buy and operate.

Unfortunately, the G8 V6 isn’t exactly what you'd call a bargain (mate) compared to the G8 V8. Base to base, you save $2400. That, my pistonhead pals, is a pittance for an extra 105 horsepower. But wait, there’s less! The GT comes complete with the V6’s Comfort and Sound Package as standard. It also boasts other extra standard kit, including a leather-wrapped steering wheel and limited-slip rear end.

Inside the V6 version, the hits keep not happening. The base model's oversized urethane wheel looks fleet and feels worse. The cloth seats are much grippier than the optional leather, but they do nothing to alleviate the interior’s downscale ambiance. So attired, the V6’s interior is so uniformly black, joyless and basic that it makes a Dodge Charger’s cabin look like a Lincoln. Were the panel fits this imprecise in the GT, or were they just less obvious in the premium interior?

The V6’s base interior isn’t the automotive poster child for the New Zealand rugby team. Red digital auxiliary instruments rest atop the center stack. The crude oversized graphics would have looked out of date a decade ago. Taken as a black hole, the spartan interior crosses the fine line between functional and cheap and heads straight for K-Mart.

Even the V6’s Premium Package’s red leather seats and instrument graphics are only a partial fix. Pop for the packs and make an allowance for the GT’s trick diff, and V6 buyers save just a touch over a grand. With a price difference this small, the V6 needs to bring something else to the party– even for those [four of us] who aren’t torque junkies.

Fuel economy! Nope. With EPA ratings of 17/25, the V6 goes two miles farther than the eight-pot on each gallon in the city, but only one mile farther on the highway. Sure, the G8 V6 is competitive with other gas-powered two-ton sedans. And? Anyone seeking fuel economy in a G8 best pray for a diesel variant.

With [perhaps] a hundred fewer pounds on the nose, the G8 V6 may be a better handling car than the GT. But if there is a difference, it isn’t large. With either engine, the G8 is a fine-handling, throttle-steerable sedan that’s too large to be tossable.

This year’s G8 comes with any gearbox you like provided it’s a manually-shiftable automatic. In the V6’ case, you get five cogs instead of six, which partially explains why its fuel economy advantage isn’t larger. The V6’ cog swapper is a bit more responsive. When used as a manual override, the shifter feels crude, as is the GM way of such things.

That leaves but one attribute in the “possible advantage” category: smooth revving. The V8 relies on pushrods to operate its two valves per cylinder. The V6, in contrast, has a pair of cams in each head and an extra set of valves. DOHC good, pushrods bad, right? The V6’s tach needle should head for the red zone more readily than the V8, and sound and feel more refined whilst doing it.

Only it doesn’t. For two decades, GM has been finding ways to make DOHC engines sound and feel absolutely ordinary– or worse. This Zeta iteration of GM’s DOHC 3.6 continues this oft-tragic tradition.

Up near the redline the six isn’t awful. But getting there is no fun; the engine lacks the urge to rev and the midrange is, well, unpleasant. There’s no whir of fine machinery, only the grunt and roar of a poorly tuned intake and exhaust. Go part-throttle, as in typical suburban driving, and the midrange sounds especially cobby. Right foot up or right foot down, there are no joys to be had from this powertrain.

There’s inexpensive, and then there’s cheap. The G8 V6 is cheap. It combines a slew of promising parts– clean well-proportioned exterior, driver-oriented interior, DOHC engine and all-independent rear-drive chassis– into something much less special than it could have, indeed, should have been.

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  • Lambroast Lambroast on Jun 10, 2008

    You guys who are criticising the G8+G8v6+G8-sport truck+GTO, will probably not like the new Camaro because it is also aussie designed ! Here is a links to some new Holden models http://www.holden.com.au/www-holden/action/conceptcar?modelid=20004

  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Dec 17, 2008

    Overall I find the silly named G8 a lackluster attempt at a flagship Pontiac sedan. Sure it has rear drive and a tire smoking gas swilling V8 option. Yes is rides and handles nice like most cars do today. The bland BMW 5 Series cloned exterior does nothing for me whatsoever as is the case with the GTO before it. The exterior is so stark and plain and goes totally in the opposite direction of any Pontiac in recent memory. The base V6 models interior with it's urethane wheel, cheap glovebox with no light, cheap cloth seat material and overdose of black lung are little better but a definate step in the right direction compared to the rental spec Grand Prix's interior. GM at least saw fit to include Bluetooth for 09 and nix the dubmly located battery and oil guages but little else. The V6 is a decent mill and certainly better than the ancient 3800 powerwise but gas mileage takes a step in the wrong direction and 3 MPG less highway than the old 3800 GP. The base price is also a jaw dropper for 2009. Can you say nearly 29K for a base cloth seat V6 model. I also wish Pontiac would offer an AWD setup with this car as so many car companies are doing today. On the bright side, I did find the interior pretty roomy and the back seat fixes one of the largest complaints of the old GP of no room and terrible seats. Overall my first choice in a mid sized rear drive sedan would be a Charger SXT with 3.5 liter V6 and leather seat/steering wheel package for about 2K less than the basic G8.

  • Cprescott Yawn.
  • 28-Cars-Later Wrangler people are crazy.
  • 28-Cars-Later "Transition" to layoffs, this guy is the Bob(s) from Office Space.
  • Vap65689119 As a release engineer I also worked in quality, if they are serious they should look at Toyotas business model which has their suppliers as genuine partners, thats how you get a quality product
  • Mike-NB2 I seem to have landed in an alternate universe. $12,000 for a Jeep that's going on a quarter-century old and with an automatic transmission? Wow.