How Pontiac Works

By: the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide

2000s Pontiac Bonneville

More flamboyant styling marked the Bonneville in the 2000s.The 2004 Pontiac Bonneville GXP is shown here.

A new Bonneville arrived for 2000 on an improved version of the GM G-car platform that made the Oldsmobile Aurora such a roadable big four-door. Like the latest GP and Grand Am, Bonneville grew a bit longer in wheelbase, plus a little taller and heavier.

Styling turned toward the flamboyant with a more steeply canted windshield, newly downsloped hood, and wheels pushed further toward the corners on slightly wider tracks. Plastics factories worked overtime to supply more flashy body cladding, and Grand Am-type "speed streaks" popped up everywhere.


Y2K Bonnevilles numbered three: volume-selling SE, semisporty SLE, and a revived supercharged SSEi. Powertrains stayed broadly the same, but more internal refinements made the trusty V-6 a tad smoother and quieter still. The updated G-platform, GM's stiffest ever, contributed to a solid, satisfying down-the-road feel.

Predictably, the hot-shot SSEi was the subject of most "buff book" reviews, which were generally positive. Car and Driver clocked 0-60 in 7.8 seconds, which beat Chrysler's Euro-inspired 300M, and judged the ride/handling compromise about right for a sporty big domestic. The dashboard was something else. "Whoever designed it," C/D complained, "seemed to have an obsession with gray plastic buttons and knobs -- from the driver's seat, we counted 70 of them." For passengers, though, the interior was a spacious, comfortable, pleasant place to be.

If overdone in some respects, the 2000 was clearly a better Bonneville. Buyers initially agreed, lifting model-year sales by some 13 percent from '99.

Changes for 2001 included the return of GM OnStar as standard for SLE and SSEi, standard antiskid/traction control for the top-liner (the Cadillac-pioneered "Stabilitrak" system that also applied brakes to minimize fishtailing), and optional heated front seats for all models, not just SSEi. As Pontiac expected, the value-priced SE accounted for more than half of Bonneville sales. What Pontiac didn't expect was the steep 27-percent drop in '01 model-year volume to less than 45,500 units, marginal even for a high-profit full-size.

By 2002, Detroit's rumor mill was predicting that Bonneville would not see another redesign, having become too costly to continue and out of step with long-range product plans.

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For more on the amazing Pontiac, old and new, see:

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