One of our top three significant Chicago debuts. These days, GM seems to draw all the answers to its problems from its overseas divisions (Saturn's Opel-derived revival being the most obvious). Pontiac's G8 comes from GM's Australian Holden division, a company known for hugely entertaining, old-school V-8-powered, rear-wheel drive sedans. The G8 rides on GM's new Zeta/Universal Rear Wheel Drive architecture--the same platform that will underpin the 2009 Camaro--and it's significant because it represents a Pontiac that an enthusiast might actually want to own. (Yes, we know the Holden-derived last-generation GTO was a good car, but it's also no longer here.) It's a modern, attractive, intriguing pile of haul-ass machine, topped off with a threateningly large V-8 and a storied American badge. In other words, it's exactly what Detroit should be building.
The base car gets GM's 3.6-liter DOHC V-6 (261 hp) with a five-speed automatic; the GT has a 6.0-liter OHV V-8 (362 hp, 391 lb-ft) with a six-speed automatic or, shortly after launch, a six-speed stick. The chassis features four disc brakes, an independent rear suspension, and standard stability control.
Despite its beefy, square-shouldered appearance, the G8 is not as large in person as the pictures you see here would indicate. In fact, the new G8 is actually smaller (but a bit heavier) than the outgoing Grand Prix, and substantially smaller than its main rear-drive competition: the Dodge Charger. The Pontiac gives up about 4 inches in overall body length and almost 6 inches in wheelbase to the Dodge--a difference that could have a detrimental effect on ride quality.
The twenty-one-inch wheels, lowered ride height, painted brake calipers, and leather-covered dash on the Chicago Show car are not production-spec, but otherwise, this G8 is what we'll see when the car goes on sale early next year.