How Pontiac Works

By: the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide

Pontiac G6

The compact Grand Am departed after 2005 and four final years of declining sales. Changes in this period were remedial. Body cladding, which Pontiac once thought oh-so European, began fading away for 2002, when a 140-bhp 2.2-liter Ecotec four took over as the base engine. For '03, ABS/traction control moved from standard to optional for SE models. The '04s were virtual reruns.

Grand Am bid a not-so-grand fare­well with a pair of V-6 coupes, which made a last gesture to sport­i­ness with an SC/T package comprising a twin-scoop hood, rear spoiler, chrome wheels, satellite radio, and special logos.


Grand Am's 2006 replacement began sale in mid-2005 with a pair of sedans called G6. The name change was meant to signal a complete break with Pontiac's compact-car past, and the G6 was precisely that, being large enough to qualify as a midsize.

Pontiac went its own way with GM's global front-drive Epsilon platform, putting G6s on the longer-wheelbase version recently introduced with Chevrolet's hatchback Malibu Maxx "extended sedan." Unhappily, the extra inches combined with abbreviated overhangs to make G6 styling a bit awkward from some angles. At least it was different.

G6 rolled in with base and uplevel GT sedans using a 200-bhp 3.5-liter pushrod V-6 and mandatory four-speed automatic trans­mission. A GT coupe was added for the formal '06 selling season. So were a "Base 4-Cylinder Sedan" (that's what they called it) and an even cheaper "1SV" version, both powered by a 2.4-liter engine. Completing the lineup were a sporty GTP coupe and sedan sharing a 240-bhp 3.9-liter V-6 and available six-speed manual gearbox.

GT and GTP convertibles had been announced with the latest thing in open-air motoring, a power-retractable hardtop, but were delayed many months by apparent teething troubles with the complex roof mechanism. Perhaps a simple old cloth canopy would have been wiser.

To build buzz for "the first-ever" G6, Pontiac arranged for Oprah Winfrey to give away 276 sedans on her top-rated TV talk show in September 2003 -- one for each person in the audience. Pontiac said the publicity was worth $20 million, at least four times the retail value of the cars, but some analysts thought the stunt did more to promote Oprah than it did the G6. And though the recipients must have been delighted to get a new car for nothing, road-testers mostly yawned.

The G6 might have debuted as a roomier, more attractive, and better built car than the Grand Am, but it was also another modest, mainstream GM offering. It was "…a car with many good pieces that don't quite realize their potential as a whole," as Road & Track said. Consumer Guide® put the matter more directly: "G6 lacks the well-toned feel of a Honda Accord, the isolating comfort of a Toyota Camry, or the ready-to-rock energy of a Nissan Altima. But it undercuts them all on price, especially with a V-6 engine. Frequent discounts and a wide selection of safety and convenience features add to its appeal." Which was a nice way of saying that despite its good points, this new Pontiac had a whiff of "rental car" about it. But let's not be too harsh or hasty.

The G6 was still new in town as this articles was prepared, so perhaps all it needs is seasoning to become an impressive class competitor.

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

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

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