My next surprise came from the Pontiac G8's stereo, which was so bad that it prompted me to pull over and pen the following tirade in my notebook:
"Here are some audio components that have more power than the G8's door speakers: Hearing aids. Audio greeting cards. Teddy Ruxpin. A Speak & Spell. Two cans connected with string. Two cans connected with nothing . . . The last time a speaker sounded this tinny and artificial, it was producing the voice of Alexander Graham Bell saying 'Mr. Watson, come here!' This might fly in Australia, but not in the U.S.A. Here, stereos have names like Shaker 1000 and Monsoon. That's right, we need to appropriate the names of natural disasters to describe the power of our stereos. If the G8's stereo were named for a weather phenomenon, it'd be called Partly Cloudy. Or maybe Steady Drizzle. Actually, scratch that: steady drizzle might make a pleasant noise . . . This stereo has so little bass, it makes Barry White sound like Bindi Irwin. Bindi Irwin being chased by dingoes."
Then I fiddled with the settings and realized that someone had put the G8's stereo into baby-asleep-in-the-back-seat mode, i.e., the fader cranked all the way to the front. I adjusted the fader, discovered that the Blaupunkt's sound quality was actually fine, and capped my page of vitriol with a subdued, "Oops - never mind."
On the topic of the G8, actually, the surprising thing about it is the sheer normalcy of its all-around competence. Here's a General Motors sedan that starts at less than thirty grand and has a well-sorted rear-wheel-drive chassis and a good-looking interior that's screwed together well. The exterior looks nice, too, and there's an available detuned Corvette engine and two six-speed transmissions. The problem for the G8 is that it comes after the GTO, so we're already used to the idea of an Australian Pontiac. And it's easy to say, "Well, the GTO was a pretty good car except for its bland styling, and the G8 corrects that. So they just did what was expected." But if the G8 had preceded the GTO, we'd be raving about it instead of politely lauding its appeal.