Pontiac G8: the blunder from Down Under?

Buying used: Surprisingly, this potent but unreliable road warrior has held its value over the last decade

Pontiac G8-GT 650
The G8 equipment level was right up there. Cruise control, satellite radio, steering wheel controls for the stereo system and various other functions

Ted LaturnusDesigned and built by Holden Australia and debuting in North America in 2008 for the 2009 model year, the Pontiac G8 lasted two seasons.

Manufactured in Melbourne and sold Down Under as the Commodore, it was a decent-looking car with above-average handling and performance, and a definite European flavour.

It could be had with either a V6 or V8 engine and was rear-wheel-drive, which gave it a leg up over some of its competitors, if you were an enthusiast.

The base V6 model came with a five-speed automatic transmission. The V8 could be had with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic and came in two performance levels.

The V6 version featured lively performance but couldn’t hold a candle to the V8. The V8 limited-production GXP could rocket from zero to 100 km/h in under five seconds. This made it a true high-performance sedan.

Pity it wasn’t around long enough to prove itself, as Pontiac ceased to exist by 2010. (When GM declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, company vice-chairman Bob Lutz announced that the G8 would return as a Chevy Caprice. It never happened.)

The G8 equipment level was right up there. Cruise control, satellite radio, steering wheel controls for the stereo system and various other functions, tilt/telescoping steering, power outside mirrors, and a rather outdated driver information centre located above the radio all came standard.

One little idiosyncrasy: the power window and door lock controls were on the floor console behind the shift lever, rather than on the doors, which took a little getting used to.

Safety equipment included four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, a traction control system, GM’s stability control system, and front, side and roof-mounted airbags.

Trunk space was a fairly generous 496 litres, slightly roomier than the 450 litres of the Hyundai Genesis, for example. The Toyota Avalon, another direct rival, provided 407 litres.

You could also order the “preferred equipment group,” which included a power sunroof, dual zone climate control, upgraded stereo, leather upholstery and heated front seats.

There were two safety recalls from Transport Canada. One concerned an airbag sensor that could fail to activate with the passenger front seat in the full forward position. The other involved a brake light switch that could malfunction and leave the lights permanently on.

To this we can add a fairly minor recall from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States for a possibly flawed tire monitor warning system. This is tied into the brake light glitch and is easily handled by dealers.

However, at least 50 technical service bulletins are on file with NHTSA and there isn’t much they don’t cover. For example:

  • possible “slipping” issues in reverse and third gear with the automatic transmission;
  • intermittent engine “fluttering;”
  • a wonky heating and ventilation system that may get stuck in one mode or another;
  • a “boom or moan” noise at highway speeds;
  • various electrical gremlins.

In other words, lots of issues to deal with here.

Consumer Reports was on the fence with this one. While they appreciated the G8’s European flavour, performance capabilities and interior accommodations, they had issues with things like the fuel system, suspension and V8 engine.

All Consumer Reports can come up with is an “average” used car prediction. Some comments from owners:

  • “Runs like a bullet from a gun.”
  • “This is the best handling car I have owned since my Mini.”
  • “GM’s best car in 25 years, by far.”
  • “This is a true M5/E-Class killer.”

Surprisingly, this potent but unreliable road warrior has held its value, going from about $8,000 up to $12,000, depending on mileage.

It may just be a future collectible.

2009-2010 Pontiac G8
Original base price: $31,995
Engine: 3.6 litre V6 and 6.0 litre V8
Transmission: Five- and six-speed automatic; six-speed manual
Fuel economy: 12.2 litres/100 km city and 8.0 highway (V6), with regular or premium gas

Some alternatives: Hyundai Genesis V6, Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima, Dodge Charger SXT, Mazda6, Honda Accord V6.

Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat Associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).

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© Driver Seat


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