By on October 18, 2021

The Pontiac Grand Prix was a long-term staple in Pontiac’s lineup, a Driving Excitement alternative to the Buick and Chevrolet cars with which it shared its various platforms. Though it faded from its initial personal luxury prominence, Grand Prix had one final V8 hurrah at the end of its life. It was a sort of return to form after many years with a maximum of six cylinders. Let’s check out some GXP goodness.

The Grand Prix started out in the early Sixties as a rear-drive two-door personal luxury car of the sporty variety and continued in that mode through the mid-Eighties. At its new fifth-generation, the Grand Prix switched over to front-drive (as so much of the American automotive landscape did), and grew a four-door sedan body style for the first time. It also lost a couple of cylinders, as its largest engine became a 3.4-liter V6. Grand Prix continued through its sixth generation before reinventing itself one last time: a final seventh-gen model that would see it through the Great Recession, and nearly to the end of Pontiac as a marque.

In 2004 the new Grand Prix debuted on an updated third-gen version of GM’s long-running W-body platform. For the first time ever, Grand Prix stepped away from its roots and was available only as a sedan. It grew to a long 198.3 inches overall and was either a small full-size or a large midsize, however, you’d like to classify it. On a platform with the Chevrolet Impala and Buick LaCrosse, it was a couple of inches shorter than Impala and marginally longer than LaCrosse. The new Grand Prix represented a welcome step away from the cladding era that Pontiac enjoyed for over a decade prior, and its styling was praised as fresh and distinctive.

In its first model year, all Grand Prix were powered by the blessed Buick 3800 Series III V6, in naturally aspirated L26 guise (200 HP) or as supercharged L32 (260 HP). The sportiest initial trim was the GTP, which was the only one to receive the supercharged engine. All Grand Prix used the same four-speed automatic, as manual transmissions were not of interest to the majority of the 2000s buying public.

During the latter portion of the 2005 model year, the GXP arrived in the Grand Prix lineup. GXP heralded the return of a V8 to the Grand Prix – a feature absent since 1988. The engine in question was the 5.3-liter LS4, an engine based on the Corvette LS1. Good for 303 horses, the 5.3 was shrunken and compacted in various ways to allow fitment into the front-drive W-body platform. The engine was not available in any other vehicle in 2005, but in 2006 made its way to the Impala SS and Monte Carlo SS. And for 2008-2009 it was also available in the LaCrosse Super.

GXP came standard with paddle shifters, a heads-up display, and a performance suspension complete with a .4-inch lower ride height over other Grand Prix trims. StabiliTrak ride control kept things in check on the move. Outside, the GXP was identified with sharper trim on all sides, a revised and more angular front clip, a faux fender vent, dual exhaust, and a different bumper. Chromed alcoa wheels were another GXP exclusive.

But much like the torque steer of a front-drive V8, by the mid-2000s General Motors was out of control financially. GM posted a loss of $10.5 billion in 2005. The upcoming recession sealed GM’s fate and took with it, Pontiac. Grand Prix was canceled after the 2008 model year; its successor technically the G8. But that rear-drive Australian lasted just two years. Pontiac closed out 2010 with three run-off offerings, only one of which was actually a Pontiac. On offer were the G2 (Daewoo Matiz), G6, and Vibe (Toyota Matrix).

The GXP is largely forgotten today, a remnant of General Motors from the moments before its bankruptcy and reorganization. It was the sort of car not many asked for: A torquey transverse V8 paired with front-drive and a fairly appalling interior. Its few customers paid quite a premium for the V8 – $29,335 – just over $42,000 adjusted for inflation. Today’s Rare Ride GXP asks much less at $10,995. It’s traveled just 66,900 miles and has a clean ownership history.

[Images: GM]

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51 Comments on “Rare Rides: Grand Prix’s V8 Finale, the GXP From 2005...”


  • avatar
    geo

    The Grand Prix is a good example of how GM rounded the corners of every interior bit so that the sloppy design and assembly wouldn’t be so obvious. When one panel doesn’t quite line up with the next, sharp corners make it stand out.

    Bob Lutz tried to put a stop to this practice, successfully I believe.

  • avatar
    ronin

    I looked long and hard at these new. What ultimately turned me off was the two different tire sizes- 255/45R18 front tire and a 225/50R18 rear. Supposedly this was to enhance handling.

    An upshot though was that there was no spare tire available, just an inflator kit.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    It’s only the ugliest car in the history of the world. Please take it off the screen.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      That’s a lot of shade to throw!

      I mean, it’s no Ferrari 308, but it’s not a bad looking car…

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Name anything uglier. They gave it a super long bird beak and the front axle is too far back. Everything is just off, maybe to throw you off, so you don’t notice it’s really perhaps just a Grand Am stretched, push out and distorted just enough for it to work.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          2009 Acura TL.

          However, if I recall you are also a guy that likes how the CTS coupe looks with its simian a$$ in the air. So no accounting for taste.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            That Acura is horrible, but it has some redeeming qualities, like use of crisp straight lines, front to rear, just avoid looking at the nose or tail and black paint helps it out a lot.

            The coupe competitors to the CTS have the same high butts except they put cut lines specifically just to break up the huge span under the quarter glass. I just prefer clean and simple.

          • 0 avatar
            Dave M.

            Agree! How the TL could go from a steady, classic looking sedan to the monstrosity of 2009 is beyond me. The plenum beak designer was hopefully let go. There’s no excuse for that bad a design to escape the zoo. An Acura fanboy from the beginning, and with the exception of the early 2000’s TSX, Acura lost me. Haven’t really changed my opinion since.

            While I am no GM fan, the exterior of this Grand Prix wasn’t too shabby. There interior though…I can smell the GM from here.

        • 0 avatar
          Mike Beranek

          Any modern Lexus or BMW is a total dog compared to this, just based on grilles.
          Most CUVs, especially those with weird-ass taillights that look easy to break.
          The current Silverado.
          Honda Civic. Toyota C-HR. Subaru B9 Tribeca.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          @DenverMike:

          Well, tell us how you REALLY feel! I take your 2005 Grand Prix and raise you one 2005 Aztek.

          YMMV, of course…

        • 0 avatar
          Mr. Fletcher

          You have an hour to read my list.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      I’m with you. My mom had one for a 3 year lease. Coming from what I thought was a very handsome previous generation this thing was an atrocity. The GXP actually hides some of the normal trim models’ worst traits. The design is not cohesive, the looks bigger than it is – and it’s still too big. There’s no angle that the thing looks even passable.

      And then there’s the interior. All my life I’ve said that I am pretty oblivious to interior design and quality. I thought my 90 Sunbird interior was just fine. But the insides of this generation GP are nauseating to look at. It’s like the dash was put together with pieces that were left over from other cars and made to fit. The cloth seats were basically 1500 grit sand paper, and the other materials were made of freebased sadness.

      It’s obvious whoever designed it thought the Aztek was going to take the world by storm and they wanted a piece of that action.

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        Well said, Land Ark. This vehicle always looked “wrong” to me in real life. These press photos must be the absolute optimal angles possible, to make it even look passable. The front overhang and the upswept rear window beltline are the worst offenders in my eyes. The interior is a whole other can of worms. Pontiac interiors of the 1990s-2000s were generally poor to fair, but this just doubled down on it and made it worse somehow. It looks like a mockup for a test mule. Shudder.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I only drove the Impala SS platform-mate, never one of these. The regular old Impala was substantially worse than the regular Grand Prix, especially in suspension tuning, so I’m sure the SS was the same against the GXP. I’m sure the staggered tires were helpful here given the extreme demands on the front end.

    With that said this powertrain was a bad idea from the start. The transmission wasn’t up to the task and you can expect to rebuild or replace it sooner rather than later.

    • 0 avatar

      Feel like by 05+ it was not unreasonable to expect a five-speed auto, either.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        I’ve never driven this one but between the big motor and the wrong wheel drive I doubt that a first-and-a-half would add very much.

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        I had a rental Impala SS V8 of this era for a week. You’d think with all of the HP and torque that this engine provided that the transmission would be in sync with the engine, but that wasn’t the case. It did need at least a 5-speed automatic, and wasn’t Ford kicking around a 6-speed automatic at that time? The upshifts and gear ratios didn’t lend itself to any kind of fun driving. It was meant for long, quiet cruising on straight interstates only, and that’s what I used it for. With cylinder deactivation, highway mileage wasn’t too bad and it didn’t have to shift. But around town or asking it for any semblance of sporty driving, forget it. But it did sound good with that V8 growl.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    A perfectly good V8 engine wondering why it is sideways. These are kind of handsome, and with a 3800 are really a heck of a good winter car.

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    No offense, but that interior design is just laughably bad. It looks uninspired and just lazy.

  • avatar
    ajla

    If the transmission didn’t turn itself to dust every other year I’d have some interest in an LS4 car. As it stands though, a N* car of this era might be a better (although slower) option.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      The 2005 Bonneville GXP with the N* is a far better vehicle than this Grand Prix. The body was de-clauded and smoothed out, the cockpit is nicer and the later era N* is far less prone to issues.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    The best thing about the LS4 existing is aftermarket swaps into mid engine cars.

    I’ve seen videos of an MR2 Spyder so equipped, and it’s pretty wild.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Forgot to mention these polished aluminum wheels. GM of this period *loved* to polish aluminum like this and clearcoat it. The good news: it lasted longer than cheap aftermarket chrome without pitting or corroding. The bad news: (a) it looked like cheap aftermarket chrome and (b) it was incredibly prone to hairline scratches that eventually turned into light haze.

  • avatar
    CoastieLenn

    Man I really loved these cars from a distance. Unfortunately every time I considered buying one once I had the financial means, I was interrupted by *4T65 has left the chat*.

  • avatar
    theonlydt

    The municipally supplied compost bin outside my home is made of better plastic than that interior.

    The pontiac G8 (Holden) was a masterful, underrated car. This isn’t worthy of being talked about in the same breath.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Oh my goodness that interior is awful. So much plastic! Makes the interior of my Veloster N look like a Porsche 911 with all those special leather and carbon fiber doo dads.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    I remember getting one of these as a rental, and just being awe struck how cheap the interior felt even in the mid-2000’s.

    I actually have a soft spot for Pontiacs, but that creaky, plastic interior on a somewhat “premium” sedan of their’s was insane.

    The cars drove great, nice styling, etc. But that interior really did feel like a kid’s plastic toy that was pretending to be a car interior.

  • avatar
    Michael S6

    My wife got a new green GrandPrix GT 2005 and it was a royal POS. This was a brand new model and Pontiac didn’t sort out the suspension yet, and every time you hit a small bump it protested with a crushing sound. The dealer advised us that GM was working on a fix for the problem which finally arrived six months later. The car had multiple issues including two front headlight lenses that fell off the car because “they were not glued well enough”. At 50,000 mile we had to replace an engine gasket for $1100 and years later we found that it was caused by defective coolant from GM.
    I don’t know why the 3800 is so revered. It did have good low end torque but it was coarse, moaned like a tug boat engine, and didn’t like revving up. Our 2008 Acura’s TL engine was about 2 decades ahead of the 3800.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      The problem with the intake gasket was widespread. The material was not compatible with the new OAT DexDeath coolant. So millions of GM cars experienced this failure. This was not a problem with the 3800 engine design which was excellent – it was a problem with GM not recognizing that the new coolant they switched to would degrade the gaskets that were fine with traditional coolant. Of course GM told everyone to go pound sand and refused to own up to their mistake. Another reason why they went bankrupt.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        2004-2009 Series III 3800’s ditched the plastic upper manifold and didn’t suffer the failures that the Series II engine did to my knowledge. I have seen loads of Series III motors with high mileage with no issues with the intake or coolant. The only thing I have heard of is a few drive by wire modules. The Series III also seemed smoother and more refined in any of the Lucerenes and LaCrosses I drove compared to previous generation LeSabres/Delta 88’s and Regals/GP etc.
        They are great long lived little motors

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Looks like we got ourselves a blasphemer. The LIM was an issue with the Series II and DexCool aka Orange Death™. The Series III of Our Lord 3800 was released in MY05 (it having been late for MY04) and it came with an aluminum LIM. Somehow your MY05 came with the Series II and its nylon/plastic LIM, I suppose it was an early one, and you suffered from Orange Death™… sucks to hear but it happened to nearly every 60V6 and some 3800s in the early 2000s.

      I’m not sure if “lenses” literally mean the lenses on the assembly or the whole headlight assembly, but the headlight assembly is held in place by two bolts and is separate from the body and fascia save those bolts and three wires. I’ve never encountered lenses becoming unattached from the assembly, but I would believe a batch either had poorly formulated adhesive or was somehow improperly applied. In midsummer of 2005 there was a rumor circulating the auto auction I frequented that GM was declaring bankruptcy the following week. I speculate in a desperate bid to stave it off GM at some point around 2005 may have have changed specs on the suppliers to cheapen the parts.

      The GT is essentially the base model in MY04 and MY05 but when the GTP was dropped for 2006, GT became the GTP w/supercharger, and GT became literally “base” (confusing and stupid, I know). I bring this up because your example would not have had any sort of special suspension, so I am not sure what the issue was but it was typical GM of the period (my guess something to do with the lower control arms assemblies).

      Now I will tell you why we fear and revere our great lord 3800. Few domestic motors outside of V8s could endure the abuse but still deliver the performance of 3800. The motor had a decades long lineage of improvements, is easily serviced by the owner or shadetree mechanic, offered 30mpg highway mileage with 19 city, was certified SULEV in 2005, and most importantly delivered low end torque (max 4500rpm) with *usable* horsepower (max 5200rpm). The L37 Northstar V8 (DOHC) delivered 275 bhp at 5600 rpm, when is someone driving at 5600 rpm? Never. 5200? At times, so enjoy your 260 vs 250ish the Northstar does at that rpm. Reliable, fuel efficient, fun to drive and no fancy tech for N/A? 3800 is the deity for you.

      What you must understand is this mill in the hands of a real company could have been so much more. But in the hands of circus clowns, you get this excellent power plant in a GM “wrapper” which means a number of cheap’d out components, designs, and an inferior platform. That is the price one pays and I doubt you and your wife understood that at the time. But a car that will start and drive nearly every time though 200K? Tough to beat a 3800 powered model for the money, just watch out for all the other clown moves on it.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        The 3800 is so easy to work on. I was sprucing up a friend’s Impala LT a few months ago and it’s such a great design.

        I know one man’s (albeit educated) opinions aren’t the only thoughts out there but this is why so many people like the 3800:
        youtu.be/rK9Y-a1-6JU

        • 0 avatar
          ToolGuy

          “Now I will tell you why we fear and revere our great lord 3800. Few domestic motors outside of V8s could endure the abuse but still deliver the performance of 3800. The motor had a decades long lineage of improvements, is easily serviced by the owner or shadetree mechanic, offered 30mpg highway mileage with 19 city, was certified SULEV in 2005, and most importantly delivered low end torque (max 4500rpm) with *usable* horsepower (max 5200rpm). The L37 Northstar V8 (DOHC) delivered 275 bhp at 5600 rpm, when is someone driving at 5600 rpm? Never. 5200? At times, so enjoy your 260 vs 250ish the Northstar does at that rpm. Reliable, fuel efficient, fun to drive and no fancy tech for N/A? 3800 is the deity for you.”

          @28 speaks the truth (and @ajla, thank you for that video). Partial source: I now have an LD8 Northstar titled in my name (which was a partial backpedal by GM from the L37 toward the torque they had before with pushrods). [Still making friends with it, but think I might strongly prefer a ‘traditional’ GM V8.]

          For years at GM the saying was “People buy horsepower, but they drive torque.” (Pushrod engines are generally good at usable torque.)

          The automotive press ripped on GM and ripped on GM and finally they gave in and tried to build a ‘European’ high-revving dual overhead cam engine and here we are.

          Hypothesis: 51.8% of the dumb moves GM has made in history can be traced to following the ‘advice’ of automotive journalists.

          Related (from 2014):
          https://www.wardsauto.com/technology/new-gm-v-8-proves-pushrods-still-rock

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @28Cars is correct. When GM went into bankruptcy somebody should have bought the design and production rights and the dies for the 3800. Produced that engine and sold it to other auto manufacturers. Imagine all of the vehicles old around the world that would be far superior if they had the 3800 Series III in their engine bay.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    There was no need for this motor. The featherlight supercharged 3800 had locomotive-grade torque and was sneaky fast in this platform without even breaking a sweat.
    The V8 was nice for bragging rights, but did not really make it a better car overall.
    I’d take this engine in the LaCrosse Super, though- total highway Q-ship.

  • avatar
    wjtinfwb

    I’d never drop my own cash on one, but these and The Impala SS of this generation were epic rental cars. National had a bunch in their fleet, I really perfected my tire-smoking J-turn in a Grand Prix rented out of Memphis. The Pontiac version also came with the Monsoon stereo which was decent for OEM and tons better than the Bose on the Chevy. Fun times and I’m glad GM offered them to fleets at what had to be insanely low prices to move the iron.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      There might (or might not) have been epic FWD V8 burnouts in a rental Impala SS through the streets of downtown Cincinnati late one night. My memory might be a little hazy… ;-)

  • avatar

    I kind of like these, never struck me as ugly. I also kind of think FWD v8’s are funny, and over the years a few guys have actually gotten the transmissions to hold up better then stock.
    When these were new I had a coworker who was a Pontiac girl thru and thru. Not sure why. When I met her she had a semi beat mid 90’s grand AM,then she bought one of these brand new and it was a her pride and joy kept it in the garage and drove the grand am in the winter. She got into Kayaks one summer and decided the grand Am was too short in roof area for her two touring kayaks, and bought a couple grand worth of Thule rack for the Grand Prix, still remember seeing it in the corner of the parking lot every Friday with two brightly colored kayaks hanging off, it was the same color as the car up top in the post. Around when I left that job in 2007 she was looking at getting a GTO, I noticed when I came back there one day years later there was a GTO in that spot so good on her for living the Pontiac dream. Wonder what she drives now that GM killed her favorite brand?

  • avatar
    Edsel Maserati

    I have a bit of sentiment for these babies. My first “adult” car, after years of driving converted coffee percolators down the road, was a 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix. I’d rented one and really liked it. The 3.1-liter engine cranked only something like 140 hp, but the vehicle was relatively light and it handled very well in the twisties. By the time I traded it at 130,000 miles, the trans needed a rebuild and the cloth interior was shredding fast. But I really liked that car.

    In subsequent years, though, the Grand Prix’s relatively svelte lines began to thicken and look cheap. It made me wonder if Detroit car designs were handed off to the class clowns for later model years. The same thing happened with various Fords in that era. The handsome Thunderbird devolved into the ghastly Thunderbird. The Euro-swank Taurus became the bloated jellybean Taurus. It’s kind of a familiar storyline.

  • avatar
    PSX 5k Ultra Platinum Triple Black

    I used to travel all the time for work, and National always seemed to have a gp gxp, monte carlo ss, or an impala ss in the emerald isle for the price of an intermediate. I liked driving these, they were somewhat fun to drive and while I think this generation of grand prix was lazy redesign of the 97-03 models, the v8 made up for it. It ran pretty decent and when I took it on a 1000 mile round trip I got 25 mpg, and I abused the vehicle at every opportunity I had, ’cause nothing drives better than a rental. I had a 06 gto at the time, so I did like Pontiac and I was familiar with a reasonably fast car. The main thing I remember about this gen of gp is that it felt smaller inside (especially the legroom in the backseat) than a similar model year Malibu or g6.

  • avatar
    BSttac

    Still wish GM was never bailed out. Just awful, awful product and management. The Igition Switch deaths should have killed GM.

  • avatar

    This was probably the best of the W-Body cars. It still looks good today. To be honest wouldn’t you rather own this than funky looking Sierra pickups GM sells today?

    GM – What a disgrace!

  • avatar
    tmvette454

    I special ordered one of these in 2006, loved the way it drove but the seats were unbearable. Can’t beat the sound of the V-8 though

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