G8: Definitely Not Lost in Translation

January 25, 2008

We're still waiting for some seat time in the much-anticipated, rear-wheel-drive Pontiac G8 sport sedan, but the details continue to trickle in regarding exactly how the G8 differs from Australia's home-grown muscle car, the Holden Commodore SS, which the G8 will be assembled alongside.

Fortunately, it's sounding like what's soon arriving to Pontiac dealerships is remarkably similar mechanically to what's sold on the other side of the world.

According to Pontiac's marketing director, Craig Bierly, there are relatively few chassis differences between the Commodore SS and the sporty G8 GT model. Bierly verified that the so-called FE2 suspension, standard on the G8 GT and optional on the G8 V6, is identical to that used in the Aussie Commodore SS. On the other hand, the FE1 suspension, standard on the V6 model, is a U.S.-exclusive tune.

Prices and equipment for the G8 were announced last year. The G8 V6, with a 256-hp, 3.6-liter V-6, will start at $27,595, while the G8 GT, with a 361-hp, 6.0-liter V-8, teases at $29,995 — both significantly lower than the Commodore's translated sticker price.

One thing that the U.S.-market Commodore..ehem, G8 GT...will have on the big 6.0-liter V-8 that the Down Under car doesn't is Active Fuel Management, which brings the V-8's EPA highway estimate up to 24 mpg. The 25-mpg figure for the V-6 model isn't much better, and is significantly lower than that of the Grand Prix, which the G8 is replacing. Performance is a strength though for both models; the V-8 can get to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, and the car has a near-ideal weight distribution.

GM's Australian division, Holden, also built the GTO coupe, which was sold in the U.S. through the 2006 model year. It was closely related to the Australian-market Holden Monaro and was eventually discontinued due to slow sales. GM had been hoping to sell 20,000 GTOs per year, but sales struggled to reach that rate in any of its model years; the company is hoping to move about 50 percent more than the original GTO target, according to Bierly, or about 30,000 G8s annually.

Bierly said that some important lessons were learned with the GTO in sales and marketing channels. For instance, relative to the GTO the G8 will be offered in a reduced number of color and trim variations — one of several factors that contributes to faster dealership delivery and less time at port. Bierly also said that the current car was developed with the U.S. market as part of the plan, while the GTO was brought over on very short notice, mid-product cycle.

The first 888 G8s to be sold in the U.S. will be brought over as a group and given a special instrument-panel plaque featuring a VIN-related number sequence from 001 to 888. There are well over twice that number of Pontiac dealerships in the U.S.

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