The cars we loved.
The Pontaic G6 was a direct replacement for the sometimes boring and often ugly Grand Am, a car who’s proud name had been squandered with mundane rental car lot filler. The G6 was inspired by a concept car at the North American Auto Show in 2001. Its design captured the imagination of the public with a steeply raked windshield and graceful lines. The actual production car, was not as successful a design exercise, but was distinctive and well-engineered compared to the Grand Am. Despite being a better car, the G6 had some big shoes to fill saleswise as a replacement for the Grand Am. Not only was it trying to compete with refined Japanese family sedans, it was also trying to make a dent in the revived luxury sport coupe and convertible market dominated by the likes of BMW, Audi, Lexus and Infiniti.
Based on the Epsilon platform, the mid-sized G6 initially came in two trim levels, base and GT. Over the short life span of the car, 5 different engine options were available, depending on the trim level chosen. The sportiest of the two was the GTP, followed by the GT coupe. In 2006 a hard top convertible, a rarity among domestic cars, was available in either GT or GTP trims. The convertible offered some of the features of the more expensive Lexus SC450 for about $15k less.
The confusing array of model trim levels continued shifting with each passing year, sometimes mid-model year. A 2.4 L 4 cylinder engine became standard on the base sedan. Two V6 engines were available ranging from 3.5 in the GT to the new GTP’s 3.5 L with variable valve timing to produce 240 hp. The GT and GTP models were only available as coupes or convertibles. Eventually even the base car could be ordered with the SE sports package that included the same 3.5 L V6 found in the GT. A six-speed manual transmission was an option in all V6 equipped cars.
With still more engine and trim changes, the top GTP got a boost in power to 252 and a six speed automatic transmission. The rest of the line received minor power boosts also and got other small refinements. Sales were steady, but much lower than projections and well below those of the Grand Am. Pontiac’s answer seemed to be more changes in the G6 line up. In an effort to aim higher, the GTP became the GPX in 2008. Now exclusively using a 3.9 L V6, the GPX got an extreme style makeover that gave it a slight resemblance to the Infiniti G35, a car it no doubt targeted. The aggressive styling combined with the 18 in wheels made for a marked improvement over run of the mill G6 coupes, but still not as attractive as the more refined G35.
Strangely, starting with the 2008 model year, horsepower figures were down across the line for all but the GPX. By then the GPX convertible was canceled and with the coming of the 2009 model year all G6 sedans and coupes got a mild refreshing, mostly to front and rear and interior. In the last year for the G6, the base 4 cylinder car was available in with a sport package that included the 6 speed automatic transmission and for the first time the coupe was available with the 2.4 L 4 cylinder now making 170 hp. The GXP was now available as a trim level in the sedan with 252 hp up from the standard 219 in the 3.5 L V6.
For a brief period the G6 went racing, replacing the GTO in the GT class of the Rolex Sports Car Series. A heavily modified GXP also raced in the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series in the Pro Stock class. Despite Pontiac’s sporting image, racing never gave it the same effect that it did for Chevrolet, even though most Chevys were more austere looking. The sporting angle no longer work as it did in the past. Even amongst sedans, the G6 was not the sportiest or best performing entry in its class.
The G6 sedan offered a level of refinement that was higher than it’s predecessor, but not quite to the level of the Accord or even Ford’s Fusion. It was easily overshadowed by its closest platform mate the Chevrolet Malibu, as a public and press favorite. The press often had mixed reviews about handling on all but the GXP, but the G6, like many of GM’s products was too little too late.
One of the biggest complaints from the media about the G6 was centered around the materials used in its interior. It was most unfortunate that Pontiac did not go further with the G6’s interior to give it the same attention to detail found in the Holden sourced G8 sedan. One look at the G6 dash and the ghost of Pontiac’s 90’s style could clearly be seen. Instead of the detailed controls and subtle chrome accents of the G8’s dash, the G6 still managed to look like a refreshing of the over styled control layout of the Grand Am. It was these small details that coupe buyers, interested in looks vs. performance looked for and the G6 was not quite up to GM’s international standards (Opel and Holden).
As the number of Pontiacs dwindle at new car lots across the country, it’s likely that cars like the G6 will pop up in force in the used car market. Already a staple of rental car fleets, G6 resale values have been low and will no doubt be hurt by the coming purge. Its not likely that you will come across many GXP coupes, but there should be no shortage of base sedans and possibly an occasional GT coupe waiting to drive away at greatly discounted prices (resale value has been low). The unfortunate legacy of the G6 proves that it has more in common with the Grand Am than Pontiac would have lead us to believe. Maybe that’s why Pontiac is no longer around.