If you follow the site regularly, you may have noticed that there aren’t usually many Quick Views about American cars on the site. Well, actually, if you’re really astute, you’ll have noticed there aren’t any Quick Views for the Big Three’s products. There’s a reason for that – Ford, Chrysler and GM haven’t exactly been trying to compete heavily in the Generation Y market recently. Their business plans, for the most part, have been more along the lines of Tony Bennett’s – hang onto the people you hooked in thirty years ago.
But, like the crooners of old, the American automakers are catching onto the problem of their model – sooner or later, your target audience gets too old to dance. In that case, aging brands have two choices – retire gracefully, or reinvent yourself. For aging musicians, the former is infinitely preferable – please, Mr. Bennett, no one wants to see you freestyle – but for legendary brands, rebooting the image is often just what the doctor ordered.
In the case of car companies, there’s only one way to really reinvent one’s self, and that’s with hot, new vehicles. A flashy ad campaign alone won’t cut it – you gotta have cars that people want. Detroit, to their credit, is finally starting to understand that, and the last few years have seen an influx of sweet rides that can match up to cars from pretty much anywhere on the planet.
Among that list comes today’s contestant – the Pontiac G8. Now, before you unroll that four-foot American flag Fathead for the car’s roof, there’s a dirty little secret you should know – it’s not really American. It’s Australian. The G8 is, for the most part, identical to the Holden Commodore sedan, assembled Down Under and sent over here. While this might seem like cause for concern, fear not: this Aussie not only speaks with a convincing American accent, it kicks some serious ass – just like Hugh Jackman.
However, the G8 offers three different flavors, unlike Mr. Jackman, who only has two (ruggedly hairy and dramatically flamboyant). Your choice of trim level determines your engine, but don’t expect anything with less than six cylinders. Don’t look for any nancy-boy front-wheel-drive here, either; this is real Auss…er, American iron, and it only comes in rear-wheel-drive, just like Dad did it.
As you might imagine, this old-school four-door has some serious guts. Base models, packing a 265-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6, runs from 0 to 60 in 7.0 seconds, according to Car and Driver. GT trim levels haul down the blacktop courtesy of a 6.0-liter V8 that funnels 361 horses to the rear wheels – enough to reach mile-a-minute velocity in 5.3 seconds from a dead stop. Top-of-the-line GXP models cut more than half a second off that, going from naught to 60 in 4.7 seconds while completely erasing memories of that shitty Grand Am your grandmother used to drive. All G8s come with an automatic with manual control (five gears in the base, six gears in GT and GXP); a six-speed stick (yeeeeeeaaah!!) is optional on the GXP.
But with great power comes great responsibility – in this case, a responsibility to ExxonMobil. (God, Stan Lee’s gonna shoot me for butchering that phrase.) Base G8s are EPA rated at 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway. The significantly ballsier GT, surprisingly, pulls down 15 mpg in town and 24 on the open road, very close to its wimpier brother. But physics (or Uncle Ben) finally catches up once one steps up to the GXP, which sucks gas at a rate of 13/20 city/highway.
The lineup starts with the basic model, simply called G8, presumably to encourage Who’s-on-First-like confusion at Pontiac dealerships. Standard features include 18-inch wheels, electronic stability control, keyless entry and remote starter, and a 7-speaker Blaupunkt CD stereo with audio jack and control screen that looks like it should show some kind of a map but doesn’t, because apparently everyone Down Under is so badass they always know where they’re going. ABS, front-side-and-head airbags, and loads of other safety features come gratis, but you will have to pay to tan – sunroof is optional on all G8s. The base G8 starts at $28,250; check all the boxes, and that’ll go over 30 grand, but not much.
Mid-level G8 GTs are equipped pretty much like base models, with the exception of their bigger engines, a few trim pieces, and an upgraded 11-speaker Blaupunkt stereo. A Sport package is offered, unique to this model, as well. While they were first introduced a year ago, Pontiac gave into pre-inflationary nostalgia and based the GT a paper Lincoln under 30 large; today, they start at $31,775, but fear not – GM’s ever-present rebates knock a few percent of the price. (As I write this, Pontiac’s website says it’s taking $3,000 off G8s, but feel free to tack onto that all sorts of other offers, like college/graduate discounts.)
The hairy-chested G8 GXP offers even fewer differences beyond its engine – the choice of six-speed stick and standard heated leather seats are about it. Tires get bumped up to 19″, as well (both the bigger wheels and leather are options on lower models). GXPs start at $37,610 before rebates.
So when the time comes to sign on the line, which one of these G8s is a Gr8 buy? (Jesus…that’s pathetic.) Well, there’s no real bad choice here. The base model is certainly tempting for some very sage reasons – other than the bigger engine, you give up little to the more expensive models, and you’ll have the satisfaction of saving money both at the pump and on the payment. The GXP, on the other hand, is just so goddamn cool it’s hard not to just suck it up and pay extra for what amounts to a four-door Corvette capable of holding its own with a manual BMW M5 (costing twice as much) in the quarter-mile. But ultimately, the Goldilocks solution is best here. The G8 GT gives up little in real-world performance to its big bro for a price that, with a few rebates, dips under $30,000. It’s a throwback to a better time – when a dollar was worth something, a family could survive in comfort on one person’s income, and America made the best damn cars in the world.
Grades: G8 base: B+, G8 GT: A, G8 GXP: A