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Bonneville is the name of the famous salt flats in Utah where battles for land speed records have been fought since the 1930s. It is also the name of Pontiac’s largest sedan, and it’s one of GM’s oldest nameplates.
The first Bonneville of 1958 was a limited-production hot-rod version of Pontiac’s two-door sedan, with a fuel-injected 6.0-liter V-8 (370 cid) that made 315 horsepower. Bonnevilles after that weren’t always that wild. But since 1993, Pontiac has offered a supercharged version of the Bonneville with wide tires, a stiff suspension, and flashy styling that captures much of the original Bonneville’s excitement. It’s called the SSEi, and it’s just been redesigned, along with base-level Bonnevilles, for 2000.
The new Bonneville shares GM’s "G" chassis, which was first seen on the Oldsmobile Aurora and is currently the chassis for the Cadillac Seville and Buick LeSabre. With the platform, the new Bonneville is 62-percent improved in torsional stiffness, and 27-percent better in bending stiffness compared with last year’s model. Last year’s model wasn’t very stiff, though, so those numbers don’t tell us much. Over a bumpy road, the new Bonneville doesn’t feel as tight as a BMW 7-Series. But when compared to cars more in the Bonneville’s price range, such as the Chrysler 300M, the Bonneville’s structure feels stiff enough.
Suspensionwise, the Bonneville SSEi has the same struts up front and control arms in the rear as the LeSabre and Seville. Its bushings and anti-roll bars, though, are the stiffest yet seen on this platform, and its tires are the widest, and lowest in profile, too. The result is the best ride-handling compromise we’ve experienced in any "G" car. While we would like a bit more roll control, the suspension does a good job of controlling body motions most of the time. Yet its ride is smooth. Surprisingly, the SSEi is almost as quiet inside at speed as many expensive luxury cars.