- Smooth, composed ride
- Spacious backseat
- Thrilling acceleration in the GXP
- Plasticky, dated interior design
- Torque steer hampers handling with the V-8
- Unimpressive safety
- Side airbags aren’t standard
The 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix is roomy, comfortable, and quite enjoyable to drive, but it feels dated and is lacking in the details.
The mid-size Grand Prix is one of the few “old” models in Pontiac’s almost all-new lineup and is basically a carryover for 2008. The Grand Prix shares its front-drive platform with the Buick LaCrosse, and its former coupe body style is no more, leaving only the sedan.
Two models of the 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix remain, with the former middle GT model now discontinued. In its standard form, the Grand Prix is powered by a 200-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 engine. A four-speed automatic transmission is the sole transmission. The GXP model comes with a potent 5.3-liter V-8 that generates 303 horsepower. This engine includes Active Fuel Management Technology, which enables it to sip up to 12 percent less fuel by deactivating half of the engine’s cylinders when they’re not needed, such as at cruising speeds. The four-speed automatic transmission used with the GXP is sport-calibrated and allows aggressive manual gear changes via Formula One racing-style “TAPShift” controls on the steering wheel. The GXP also has a firm-riding sport-tuned suspension, with stability control included. GM promises the GXP can run to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds.
The 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix was last substantially revised for the 2004 model year, with greatly improved handling and performance, along with a sleeker outside appearance that did away with the much-maligned ribbed body cladding along the lower portion of the doors. Though the Grand Prix’s sleek exterior still looks quite contemporary, its instrument panel in particular has a chunky appearance with lots of unappealing plastic surfaces and appears quite dated—though it’s angled usefully toward the driver.
Otherwise, the Grand Prix’s interior is very roomy and functional, with 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks and rear doors that open 82 degrees. The trunk opens wide, and a low loading height requires little lifting. The front passenger’s seatback also folds flat to accommodate especially long items. Some will find the driving position in the 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix a little too low and reclined, and though headroom is a little tight in back, few will complain about the generous backseat legroom.
The base model of the 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix comes with many popular conveniences, such as cruise control, power accessories, keyless entry, a driver’s power seat, and a six-speaker CD audio system. In addition to the performance gear, the GXP adds remote start, steering-wheel audio controls, heated seats, dual-zone climate control, a trip computer, and a Head-Up Display that projects gauge information onto the windshield. Noteworthy options include a nine-speaker Monsoon audio system and a sunroof.
Front side airbags and side curtain airbags, which are standard in most other vehicles of its type, are optional in the 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix. Anti-lock brakes are standard across the line, and GM’s Stabilitrak Sport electronic stability control is standard only on the GXP. Those especially concerned about occupant safety should steer away from the Grand Prix, though. Even if its accident avoidance ability is superior to that of many trucks and SUVs, it gets especially worrisome "marginal" ratings from the IIHS in side-impact protection and "poor" in rear impact, along with three out of five stars from the federal government in side impact.