The Pontiac G8: A Future Classic Car That Will Turn Heads

In the early 1980s, General Motors' Pontiac division adopted the slogan "We Build Excitement" and indeed it did. The television show "Knight Rider" turned the brand's freshly restyled Trans Am into a runaway success, followed up by the groundbreaking, if flawed, mid-engine Fiero sports car. But 25 years later, Pontiac was decidedly out of the excitement business. Its halo car, the Firebird/Trans Am, was discontinued. 

GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz had valiantly attempted to revive the historic GTO nameplate with a V8 muscle car imported from Australia and though the performance specs were impressive, the new GTO was not a sales success due to bland, dated styling and an expensive price tag. Shortly after the GTO flop, Lutz again turned to Australia when it was decided that what Pontiac needed to get its groove back was a rear-wheel drive performance sedan to compete with European offerings. 

Like the ill-fated fifth-generation GTO, the G8 was built Down Under by GM's Holden division and launched stateside in 2007 as a 2008 model. Although a base version with a V6 was available, enthusiasts will focus on the GT, which packed a 6.0 liter V8 producing 361 horsepower. That was good enough to propel the G8 GT from zero to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds, beating a HEMI-powered Dodge Charger in the process. Learning from its mistakes with the 2004 to 2006 GTO, Pontiac was careful to keep the base price of the G8 GT under $30k — $29,995 to be exact, which was a steal for such a capable and stylish machine.

[Featured image by Gm4life via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | Public Domain]

Nearly as quick as a BMW M5

In 2009, an even spicier version of the G8 was released called the GXP. Although it costs approximately $40,000 (equivalent to $56,000 in today's dollars), buyers got a 6.2-liter Corvette V8 engine that made 415 horsepower and pushed the G8 GXP to 60 mph from a stop in only 4.5 seconds, just 0.4 seconds slower than BMW's M5 sedan, which cost nearly $50,000 more than the G8 GXP.

Even more remarkable, the GXP could be ordered with a Tremec six-speed manual transmission. Besides the drool-worthy engine and transmission, the suspension was reportedly tuned on the famed Nürburgring track in Germany and the four-wheel disc braking system was sourced from none other than Brembo. This time around, the Australians nailed the styling, too. The G8's body lines were angular and fresh, with racy decorative hood scoops and a prominent air dam with fog lights. So what went wrong? In a nutshell, it was the U.S. economy rather than the car itself. 

Adios, Pontiac

In 2009, Americans were smack dab in the middle of the Great Recession, an economic downturn predicated by the bursting of the housing bubble and the subsequent failure of financial institutions. Car sales were poor in general during this time and General Motors itself declared bankruptcy in June 2009. As part of a taxpayer-funded restructuring process, several GM brands were axed for the sake of streamlining operations, including Saturn, Hummer, and yes, Pontiac.

With Pontiac shuttered, the G8's benefactor, Bob Lutz, hinted that the G8 might live on as a Chevrolet Caprice but nothing ever materialized. All told, just over 30,000 G8s were sold in its two-year lifespan, including 1,829 of the GXPs. 

According to the website, the current average price for a preowned G8 is $23,528, so they're as much of a performance bargain today as when they were new. Of course, that excludes the ultra-rare GXP which trades in the $30,000-plus range. Although Pontiac will best be remembered for its muscle cars and pony cars from the 1960s and 1970s, the G8 GT represents the end of an era and warrants a place in any car collector's stable. Not to mention that its modern technology will smoke those 1960s muscle cars in a drag race.