With a 6-liter V-8 and brawny styling, the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT looks like the return of American muscle, only, it's not. The new G8, an example of International brand engineering, actually comes from Australia, where it's called a Holden VE Commodore. These origins explain some odd styling around the cockpit, such as window and mirror controls mounted on the console and a big red display showing battery charge and oil pressure.
The central point of the G8 seems to be the big engine, not really the best peg to hang your hat on these days. The car looks good, but takes some styling cues from BMW in the heavily flared front fenders complete with vents. When we first looked at the cockpit, we thought we were in for a tech treat because of the big LCD on the stack. But the car doesn't make good use of that display space, merely showing audio information. Likewise, a voice button on the steering wheel got us looking for Bluetooth or voice command, but then we found the button merely activated OnStar.
Test the tech: 60 mph runs
As there wasn't much else to do with the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT, we decided to see how fast we could get it to 60 mph. The engine produces 361 horsepower and 385 foot-pounds of torque, numbers that seemed a little low considering the displacement. This power is fed to the wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission--there is no manual transmission option. We made our 0-to-60 mph runs in normal drive mode, sport shift mode, and using manual gear selection.
With our performance computer hooked up and calibrated, we put the car in drive for its first run. Stomping the accelerator gave immediate results. The tires gripped with only minimal slip, the engine roared, and we were moving. Fast. Keeping the car under control was not a problem, as it uses rear-wheel-drive and a limited slip differential. The transmission let the engine speed run up to 6,000rpm before the third gear shift, and we blew past 60 mph in 5.52 seconds. The computer also told us we had reached 30 mph in only 2.17 seconds.
We reset for the second run, this time putting the transmission into sport mode, which entails pushing it to the right, into the manual shift gate. When we launched in this mode, we got more wheel slip, but not enough to slow us down significantly. As we watched the tach needle cross 12 o'clock, it didn't seem any different than our first run, but the computer proved otherwise, showing a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.33 seconds, with 30 mph reached in 1.93 seconds.
For our final run, we pushed the shifter to the manual gate and pulled it back to the put the car in first gear. We waited for the computer to calibrate then hit the gas. As the tachometer passed 6,000rpm, we made ready to shift, but before we could do it, the car bogged down as we hit redline, forcing an engine cutoff. The lack of a redline marking on the tachometer made it difficult to judge when to shift. We went through with the run, but that over-revving slowed us down to 6.75 seconds to 60 mph.
We gave it another try, figuring we would have to shift before 6,000rpm, but we were too careful, and only made 6.72 seconds to 60 mph on the second run. Figuring the automatic mode could do a better job, we called the test complete. The times this car made were impressive, and we also found it interesting that manual shift mode lets you run over the redline, as most automatics will upshift once you hit a certain engine speed even if you put it in manual mode.
In the cabin
Although plastic abounds in the cabin of the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT, we found the general design, fit, and finish very good, suitable for the top sedan in Pontiac's line-up. Of course, leather seats and steering wheel wrapping, because of our car's Premium package, didn't hurt. We particularly liked the feel of the steering wheel, with its thick and easy-to-grip circumference.
However, some features of the interior didn't seem to make the transition from Australia to the U.S. For example, the Blaupunkt stereo includes a 6.5-inch LCD, plenty of room for a navigation system, but navigation wasn't present and is not offered. Instead, the car relies on OnStar for turn-by-turn directions. A large LED sits at the top of the stack, but it only shows virtual gauges for battery and oil. Another waste of very usable space, and ripe for someone to hack into an in-dash pong game.