Although it's too soon to mourn the Aztek's passing, Pontiac has at least replaced the hoary Grand Am with a more lively sedan called the G6. Leaping one class into the small end of the mid-size segment, the new G6 shares Epsilon front-wheel-drive architecture with the Chevrolet Malibu and the Saab 9-3. Coupe and convertible editions will follow, but four-cylinder engines are hors de combat. Thrust comes from GM's venerable 60-degree, 3.5-liter pushrod V-6. Sometime next year, a 3.9-liter edition arrives with a larger bore, a wilder cam, variable valve timing, and a dual-mode intake manifold. That engine and a six-speed manual transmission will energize the GTP version of the G6 with an estimated 240 hp at 5900 rpm and 245 lb-ft of torque at 2800 rpm. Eighteen-inch wheels and tires are also part of the deal for the package. The extra power will come in handy, because the G6 plants substantially deeper dents in the pavement than its predecessor. A five-inch-longer wheelbase, improved body structure, and added air bags increase base weight by some 300 pounds. Shutting down half the 3.9-liter V-6's cylinders during cruising will help mitigate the pain at the pumps.
ON SALE: Fall 2004
PRICE: $22,000-$28,000 (est.)
ENGINES: 200-hp, 3.5-liter V-6; 240-hp, 3.9-liter V-6
BOTTOM LINE: The next wave of Pontiac's performance renaissance.