The Car Connection Pontiac GTO Overview
The Pontiac GTO is a high-performance sports coupe that was revived for the 2004 through 2006 model years by General Motors as it tried to remake the image of its mid-level Pontiac brand in a more sporting idiom.
Built in Australia, the revived GTO was heavily based on another GM model, the Holden Monaro full-size coupe--which itself dated back to a mid-1990s European Opel model that also spawned the unsuccessful Cadillac Catera. While the large V-8-engined, rear-wheel-drive coupe delivered on much of the performance promise, its bland styling and unremarkable interior did little to make it stand out, and it offered little street presence or recognition compared to the extroverted 1960s and 1970s muscle cars whose name it adopted. Hood scoops were made standard for its second year, as was a trunk spoiler, and 18-inch wheels were offered as an option, but the basic rounded coupe shape wasn't up to the task.
The GTO's high base price--well over $30,000--also hurt its chances, putting it into competition with German sports brands. Volume never really lived up to GM's hopes, and with new airbag regulations for 2007 requiring costly added design work, the revived GTO ended after just three model years, with not quite 41,000 built.
As introduced, the 2004 Pontiac GTO featured as its centerpiece an old-style V-8 engine powering the rear wheels through a choice of manual or automatic transmissions. The engineers carefully tuned the exhaust note to replicate the sound of the original Sixties GTO while complying with modern noise regulations.
The 2004 GTO was fitted with a 5.7-liter LS1 V-8, which developed 350 horsepower and was paired to a four-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual gearbox. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph was quoted at 5.3 seconds with the manual. For 2005 and 2006, this was replaced by a larger, 400-hp, 6.0-liter V-8 known as LS2, and the same two transmission options, with acceleration from 0 to 60 mph falling to 4.7 seconds. Gas mileage--which was hardly the point of this car--was 17 mpg with the automatic and 19 mpg for the stick-shift model in 2004, with the 5.7-liter engine. For 2005 and 2006, with the larger, more powerful 6.0-liter V-8, those ratings fell to 16 mpg and 18 mpg respectively.
While the suspension and steering were hardly state-of-the-art even in 2004, the GTO got good marks for being controllable and poised on the road. The brakes hauled the car down from the high speeds it delivered, and the ride was firm but composed.
Inside, the dashboard was serviceable but not particularly exciting--which, to be honest, applies to the exterior lines as well. Aluminum accents and red-lighted instruments provide the only real visual appeal. Reviewers called the front seats soft but supportive, and two adults could fit in the big coupe's back seat as well--once they got there through a relatively narrow slot behind the front seat, anyway. The real casualty of the car's U.S. persona was trunk space, with the gas tank relocated to a position behind the rear seat. That produced trunk volume just large enough for two roll-aboard suitcases or a couple of golf bags, but not a lot more.
For more details, news, and used-car listings, see our review of the 2004 Pontiac GTO.