- Spacious interior
- Well-balanced steering and ride
- Handsome profile
- Comfortable rear seat.
- Lack of Bluetooth and navigation system
- No available all-wheel drive
- Some minor controls placed in awkward spots.
Pontiac’s come from nowhere in the large-sedan segment to build a class-leading four-door, with only a few minor quibbles.
Pontiac’s G8 sedan is a completely new vehicle that shares its underpinnings with an Australian-market car sold by General Motors as the Holden Commodore. The G8 is rear-wheel drive, and sports powerful 256-horsepower V-6 and 361-hp V-8 engines coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission. (A 402-hp version arrives next year as the 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP, and comes with an available manual transmission.)
The G8 instantly returns Pontiac to the top tier of performance-oriented big sedans. Chrysler had the category all to itself among American makes--and the G8 matches the likes of the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 on all points, with a more sophisticated look and a more refined performance package. The G8 is exceptionally roomy in front and in its rear seat, and has a large trunk. Though there’s no all-wheel-drive option, its secure and stable handling is reassuring. And its look is distinctive, though not overly aggressive. Fuel economy isn’t exactly a letdown for this type of car, but it’s not stellar.
2008 Pontiac G8
Fine curves on the outside and a handsome cabin make the G8 the more refined alternative to the Charger.
Reviewers loved the G8’s mix of assertive and tasteful lines, inside and out.
From enthusiast Web sites to mainstream consumer guides, most reviewers approved of the 2008 Pontiac G8’s sleek and trim four-door shape. Jalopnik called it a “discreet and tasteful look. Not really a head-turner, but sharp and far more restrained than the [Dodge] Charger.” Cars.com agreed, and said the G8 “isn't going to snap necks with its looks like the Chrysler 300 did when it debuted, but the bulging hood can't be missed when seen in the rearview mirror.”
USAToday noted the more dramatic elements in the G8’s profile. “The look is assertively Pontiac,” they said, “Drooping snout, oversize grille, red dashboard lighting, gimmicky hood scoops.”
Inside, the G8 racked up a demerit or two. The interior’s styling is pleasing enough. ConsumerGuide liked the “understated cabin decor” and said, “most surfaces are finished with quality materials and tastefully textured plastics.” They also noted the plentiful interior storage, down to the “useful cubby in front of the shifter.” Popular Mechanics felt that though it was nice, the G8’s cabin “certainly won’t be mistaken for a luxury sedan.”
TheCarConnection.com’s editors think the G8’s interior could use a final round of refinement, but it looked fairly flawless when compared to some recent Pontiacs. The niggles come down to materials: GM’s made huge progress in choosing the right textures, but the Australian-sourced plastic surrounding the radio and climate controls isn’t the best piece ever installed in a $30,000 sedan. And some of the fonts and digital readouts look more 1980s than 2008. Still, it’s by far the best Pontiac available, and a big step up inside over the Dodge Charger--even if its exterior isn’t as sharp as the Dodge/Chrysler twins. (The 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP adds even more exterior trim.)
2008 Pontiac G8
The V-6 makes for a great bargain, but enthusiasts should save the extra $2,400 for the V-8.
All of the reviews TheCarConnection.com’s editors read appreciated the G8’s fine blend of European-influenced road manners and big, American-style V-8 power.
Even the less expensive, less powerful 3.6-liter V-6 version had its admirers. Kelley Blue Book called it “an energetic performer,” and cited Pontiac’s claim of a 0-60 mph run in 7.8 seconds. With a five-speed automatic, it rates 17/25 mpg.
But it was the G8 GT’s 6.0-liter V-8 that inspired reviewers to talk in sportscar terms. Jalopnik called out its “muscular” sound and said its hefty torque is a plaything for your passing pleasure. Edmunds.com said the V-8 version “can nail that acceleration benchmark in a scant 5.3 seconds--handily besting the more powerful and pricier HEMI-powered Dodge Charger SRT8,” while still getting 15/24 mpg with the help of a standard six-speed automatic.
Cars.com highly approved of the V-8 version, noting that it cost only $2,400 to move up to the more powerful engine. But they didn’t care as much for the lack of a manual transmission option. “The G8 isn't as smooth off the line as those cars,” they wrote. “You really have to use the manual-shift feature to get the most out of the engine in those important early moments.”
To go with its superb acceleration, the 2008 Pontiac G8 rides on a performance-tuned suspension with MacPherson front struts and multilink rear end. The resulting ride and handling earned some lofty comparisons. “We don't throw BMW analogies around lightly,” Edmunds.com wrote, “but the G8's ability to make haste on twisting tarmac while coddling its passengers in commendable comfort is genuinely Bimmer-like, faltering only in the brake pedal's undue softness.” Cars.com felt it’s the “best-performing sedan in the segment.” And Car and Driver said the G8 takes a lead foot in stride: “the G8 is happy being fast-pitched into corners....[it] stays cool and in control.”
In TheCarConnection.com’s highway test drive, the G8’s burbling V-8 had just the right amount of noise to remind you of its great passing power. But tooling east on San Diego’s Interstate 8, a Dodge Charger R/T roared by--and its sharp V-8 bark made the G8 seem more comfortable and maybe a little less edgy. TheCarConnection.com also sampled a V-6 version, which was completely quick enough in daily-commute driving to step smartly into traffic. The V-6 version, at around $25,000, will be a bargain gem. For power freaks, the new 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP edition with a 402-hp engine will be the ticket, available starting next year.
2008 Pontiac G8
Comfort & Quality
As USAToday says, “Buy it as a family car, enjoy it as a hot rod.”
A minor quibble or two didn’t keep reviewers from recommending the G8’s room, utility, and quality--and TheCarConnection.com’s editors agree.
Interior room is a strong point of the Pontiac G8--and so are most of the fits and finishes. Car and Driver noted the roomy front seats and the quality of the materials inside. “Obvious cheap-outs are absent,” they wrote. Edmunds.com agreed, noting “the G8's overall refinement puts past Pontiacs to shame.”
Jalopnik thinks “the back seat has ample room for any number of Kama Sutra positions”; being a family-friendly site, we can’t confirm that. Cars.com adds that the G8 “holds its own” on rear-seat comfort and roominess compared to the Charger and Ford Taurus. The lack of a pass-through to the trunk is an issue many publications including Car and Driver brought up.
In terms of cargo room, the G8’s 17.5-cubic-foot trunk sits midway between the 16.2-cubic-foot trunk in the Charger and the 21.2-cubic-foot trunk in the Taurus.
The few objections--other than some plastics on the inside--were in the placement of some controls. Because the 2008 Pontiac G8 is also sold as a Holden in Australia, some controls are located to make manufacturing the different versions easier. (Australian models are right-hand drive.) Cars.com glared at the placement of the window controls “dead center below the shifter on the center console.” They also griped that the knobs that adjust the front seats were “quite hard to rotate.” KBB also noted the controls issue, while Edmunds.com just didn’t like the “'80s-style digital readouts for battery life and oil pressure, the cryptic control icons, and the lack of a redline indicator for the tachometer.”
2008 Pontiac G8
It sports all the latest safety gear, but the 2008 Pontiac G8 could use one more headrest.
Because the 2008 Pontiac G8 is essentially an all-new car, it carries the latest safety equipment.
Edmunds.com notes that the standard equipment on the G8 includes dual front airbags, side and curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control. GM also offers OnStar, its in-car communication network, as standard equipment. However, unlike the Ford Taurus and the Dodge Charger/Chrysler 300, Pontiac does not offer all-wheel drive in the 2008 G8, which may make the sedan a better choice for warmer climates.
While the G8 has the “expected” array of seatbelts and airbags, USAToday criticizes the vehicle because “there's no safety head restraint in the middle. GM never seems able to explain that.” It might be an upgrade to consider for the 2009 Pontiac G8.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has yet to crash-test the G8, as is the case for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
2008 Pontiac G8
The 2008 Pontiac G8 is a little behind the curve on available features.
Pontiac’s new G8 is a well-equipped sedan, but in some instances, its Australian heritage means the very latest in tech features are left off the options list.
The standard features found on every G8 are extensive. Even base cars come with 18-inch wheels; power front seats; air conditioning; a rear spoiler; and an AM/FM/CD audio system with an auxiliary jack for iPods and other MP3 players. The V-8 versions add on standard performance tires, Edmunds.com notes, along with dual-zone climate control and a premium Blaupunkt audio system. KBB highlights the G8’s steering-wheel audio controls and trip computer. And Cars.com adds that options include a sunroof, leather seats, and other features in reasonably priced packages.
But since the G8's been designed for world markets, some U.S.-specific and U.S.-popular options are yet to be integrated. The big one is satellite radio; G8 fans might wait until a late fall availability if they want XM installed from the factory. And Bluetooth connectivity has yet to appear on the options list. Something exotic, like Ford’s entertainment-controlling SYNC system, isn’t even in the cards, but we do expect the first two to be available on the 2009 Pontiac G8.
The other big omission is in a navigation system. Even though the center console seems designed for a built-in nav, none is offered. Instead, GM sells its “Turn-By-Turn” navigation service as a part of its OnStar system. The system lets you press a button and talk to an operator who can send recorded directions to your destination to your car. Jalopnik says this “more than makes up” for the lack of a built-in nav, but Car and Driver says that the setup is “not for folks with privacy paranoia,” and recommends a trip to an aftermarket electronics shop. As users of a portable navigation system (a $300 bargain compared to the usual $2,000 navigation system prices charged by car companies), TheCarConnection.com’s editors agree wholeheartedly.