Designed and built by Holden Australia, the Pontiac G8 made its debut in Canada in 2008 as a 2009 model, but only lasted two seasons.
Manufactured in Melbourne, and sold Down Under as the Commodore, it was a decent-looking car with above-average handling and performance and a European flavour. It could be had with either a V-6 or V-8 engine and was rear-wheel-drive, which gave it a leg up over some of its competitors, if you were an enthusiast.
The base V-6 model came with a five-speed automatic transmission only while the V-8 could be had with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic and came in two performance levels. The V-6 version featured lively performance, but couldn’t hold a candle to the V-8, which, in the limited-production GXP model, could rocket from 0 to 100 km/h in less than five seconds. This made it a true high-performance sedan – pity it wasn’t around long enough to prove itself, as Pontiac ceased to exist by 2010. One interesting side-note: when GM declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy, company vice-chairman Bob Lutz announced that the G8 might return as a Chevy Caprice. It didn’t.
Equipment level was right up there. Cruise control, XM satellite radio, steering-wheel controls for the stereo system and various other functions, tilt/telescoping steering, power outside mirrors and an outdated driver information centre located above the radio were all standard. One little idiosyncrasy: the power window and door lock controls were located on the floor console behind the shift lever, rather than on the doors, which took a little getting used to.
Safety equipment included four wheel disc brakes with ABS, a traction control system, GM’s Stabilitrak stability control system, and front, side, and roof-mounted airbags. Trunk space was a generous 496 litres, which was slightly roomier than the 450 litres of the Hyundai Genesis. The Toyota Avalon, another direct rival, provided 407 litres.
You could also order the Preferred Equipment Group, which included a power sunroof, dual zone climate control, upgraded stereo, leather upholstery and heated front seats.
Two safety recalls from Transport Canada to report. One concerns a possibly flawed airbag sensor that could fail to activate with the passenger front seat in the full forward position. The other involves a potentially glitchy brake light switch that could malfunction and leave the brake lights permanently on. Both of these recalls affect all editions of the G8.
To this we can add a minor recall from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a possibly flawed tire monitor warning system. This is tied into the brake light glitch and is easily handled by dealers.
An unhealthy 50 technical service bulletins are on file with NHTSA, and there isn’t much they don’t cover. For example: possible “slipping” issues in Reverse and Third gear with the automatic transmission, intermittent engine “fluttering,” a wonky HVAC system that may get stuck in one mode or another, a “boom or moan” noise at highway speeds, and various electrical gremlins. In other words, there are plenty of issues to deal with here.
Consumer Reports was on the fence with this one. While it appreciated the G8’s European flavour, performance capabilities and interior accommodations, it had issues with the fuel system, suspension and V-8 engine. The best it can come up with is an “average” used car prediction. Some comments from owners: “Runs like a bullet from a gun,” “This is the best-handling car I have owned since my Mini,” “GM’s best car in 25 years, by far” and “This is a true M5/E-Class killer.”
Market research firm J.D. Power, while it loved the performance of the G8, was clearly unhappy with everything else. It received a failing grade for overall quality when it was new, and fell short in terms of powertrain quality, mechanical quality, and features and accessories quality.
These days, you can get one of these potent but unreliable road warriors for anywhere from the low to high teens. The V-8 GT model is priced $3,000-$4,000 higher than the base V-6 2009 Pontiac G8.
2009 Pontiac G8
Original Base Price: $31,995 Black Book: $18,225-$22,425; Red Book: $14,000-$17,075
Engine: 3.6-litre V-6 and 6.0-litre V-8
Horsepower/Torque: 265 hp/248 lb-ft for V-6; 355 hp/385 lb-ft for V-8 GT; 415 hp/415 lb-ft for V-8 GXP
Transmission: Five- and six-speed automatic; six-speed manual
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 12.2 city/8.0 highway (V-6); regular and premium gas
Alternatives:Hyundai Genesis V-6, Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima, Dodge Charger SXT, Mazda6, Honda Accord V-6