Perhaps because of their wide-open spaces, America and Australia share an affinity for large rear-wheel-drive performance cars. This proved useful for General Motors in the mid-2000s when it was casting about for a hot new American full-size sedan. The company decided to tap Australian subsidiary Holden for its revered Commodore model. The result was the stylish and powerful Pontiac G8.
Alas, the G8 only lived one year past its production debut in 2008. When GM went through bankruptcy in 2009, Pontiac didn't survive the transition, and the G8 went down with the ship. That's a shame, because the G8 was an excellent full-size sport sedan, particularly in V8-powered GT or GXP trim. It also had a limolike backseat and a unique look. As a used model, the G8 holds unique appeal. Our only concern might be future repairs; GM has pledged to support Pontiac products through its existing service centers, but the G8's limited production run could lead to scarce part availability down the road.
Most Recent Pontiac G8
Produced from 2008-'09, the rear-wheel-drive Pontiac G8 full-size sedan was available in up to three trim levels distinguished by powertrain. The base G8 came with a 3.6-liter V6 that produced 256 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The midlevel GT had a 6.0-liter V8 packing 361 hp and 385 lb-ft. The top-performing GXP, which was only made for 2009, boasted a detuned version of the Corvette's 6.2-liter V8 with 402 hp and 402 lb-ft. The base G8 came with a five-speed automatic, while the GT got a six-speed automatic and the GXP had either a six-speed automatic or an optional six-speed manual.
The G8 came well-equipped. Standard features included 18-inch wheels, power front seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a seven-speaker CD sound system with an auxiliary audio jack and (for '09) satellite radio. The GT added the 6.0-liter V8 engine, a limited-slip differential, dual-zone automatic climate control and a premium sound system with a six-CD changer. The GXP boasted the larger V8 as well as a unique front fascia, an upgraded sport-tuned suspension (which didn't make much of a handling difference) and 19-inch wheels. Options included leather upholstery (available in two-tone colors), heated front seats, a sunroof and, for the GT, 19-inch wheels.
In reviews, we noted that there was a lot more to the Pontiac G8 than just its available V8 power. The ride tended to be on the firm side, yet road imperfections were soaked up nicely. Overall, the G8 struck an excellent balance between comfort and sport. While it was impossible to overlook the G8's significant size and weight, this Pontiac handled very well for a full-size car while still providing exceedingly pleasant transportation for its passengers. Of course, it was also a very fast car with either V8, and even the base V6 was solid.
The G8's cabin was clearly built by a GM division without access to the North American parts bin. Materials were reasonably high-quality and the overall layout was reminiscent of Audi's efforts, if not exactly their equivalent in build quality. The 2008 G8 had goofy-looking digital battery and oil gauges atop the center stack; these were thankfully removed for 2009. However, a navigation system remained unavailable.
Overall, this Pontiac performed like a muscle car but rode and handled like a sport sedan. For the used-car shopper who wants a roomy and affordable car with plenty of driving excitement, a pre-owned Pontiac G8 deserves a very close look.