CORNWALL, N.Y. - It pulled nicely up Mountain Brook Road in second gear, which was no small feat. Mountain Brook is steep. Its elevation has caused many transmissions to grind and whine, many engines to groan, as if they were designed only to complement this nation's massive investment in flat surfaces.
But the 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP - a high-performance, rear-wheel-drive sedan with a 425-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 engine and six-speed manual transmission - had guts. It moved smoothly, confidently uphill in second, never once evidencing strain or distemper.
It was a nice car. That's "nice" as in "bad" and "kick---," well, you get the idea.
The 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP is a full-size, high-performance car with four side doors and a traditional notch-back trunk. Its exterior and interior styling drew rave reviews everywhere, and its acceleration and handling are among the best in its class. Washington Post
The Pontiac Division of General Motors has got something here - part old-fashioned American muscle car, part sophisticated European performance ride.
That's good news. But here's hoping it doesn't come too late in the news cycle for GM.
You've read the headlines, heard and seen the news reports. The century-old GM, once a mainstay of American industrial might, is in trouble, at risk of no longer remaining a going concern. It messed up in the 1970s and 1980s, producing the motorized equivalent of schlock, including a bevy of Pontiacs that barely qualified as rental cars.
Pontiac, which had once truly lived up to the title "the excitement division," became GM's "whatever" shop.
2009 Pontiac G8 GXP
• Complaint: This is not a car for people seeking fuel economy. General Motors has 20 cars that get at least 30 miles per gallon. More such models are available from other manufacturers. The G8 GXP and rivals in its category are for people who value automotive power and handling above all else. Also, with its six-speed manual transmission, this one isn't fun to drive in congested city traffic.
• Ride, acceleration, handling: Ride is excellent, including over New York City's rutted and potholed streets. Acceleration and handling are among best in class.
• Body style/layout: The Pontiac G8 GXP is a full-size, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, high-performance car with four side doors and a traditional notch-back trunk equipped with pass-through access to the rear cabin for extra storage.
• Mileage: The G8 GXP gets 13 miles per gallon in the city and 20 miles per gallon on the highway. Like most performance cars, it is not designed to sip fuel.
• Safety: Standard equipment includes front and rear ventilated disc brakes with antilock protection, side and head air bags, and electronic stability and traction control.
• Price: The base price on the 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP is $37,610. Dealer's invoice price on that model is $35,918. Price as tested is $40,755, including $695 for the manual-transmission option, a $1,700 federal gas-guzzler tax and a $750 transportation charge. Dealer's price as tested is $38,988. Prices are sourced from GM/Pontiac, Edmunds.com and Cars.com, an affiliate of The Washington Post.
- Washington Post
It took time and money - tens of billions of dollars - to set all of that right. And just when it seemed that GM was getting things fixed, the bottom fell out of the national and global economies, scaring buyers out of new-car showrooms and almost putting GM out of business.
That's too bad. And here's hoping that GM can hold on, because the G8 GXP proves that GM can and does make darned good cars.
My wife, Mary Anne, and I drove this one 600 miles, including a one-way trip here from our home in Virginia and a couple of roundtrips between Cornwall and New York City. The car drew spectators and raves everywhere we went. And that includes highly favorable reviews for the G8 GXP's interior, which were noteworthy because Pontiac interiors for the longest time were less than praiseworthy.
But the G8 GXP cabin's high-quality materials, ergonomically sensible layout (with power-window buttons easily reachable on a central, floor-mounted console, for example), and perfect fit-and-finish were on a level comparable to something from Audi. And that's saying something, because Audi and its parent, Volkswagen, make some of the best interiors in the business.
But now for an inconvenient truth:
The G8 GXP, like most high-performance automobiles, is a gas-guzzler. It gets 13 miles per gallon in the city and 20 miles per gallon on the highway, requiring premium unleaded gasoline "for best performance," which means it is not likely to win any awards from the Sierra Club or from President Obama's auto task force.
People shopping for models such as the G8 GXP, comparatively smaller in number than those looking for economy cars or other mainstream automobiles, tend to be substantially less interested in fuel economy than they are in vehicle handling and power.
With the G8 GXP, they get healthy helpings of the latter, delivered with a richness that is competitive with the best in the business. People interested in fuel economy should choose another model.
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