By Chris Chase, CanadianDriver.com
The Pontiac G8 is a full-size sedan introduced in Canada in 2008 as a 2009 model. As the replacement for both the Pontiac Bonneville and Grand Prix, the G8 was arguably a step in the right direction as far as large sport sedans were considered, being rear-wheel drive and available with V8 power.
The G8 reached U.S. Pontiac showrooms a little earlier than in Canada, so a number were sold as 2008 models in the States; this review covers both model years, for the benefit of anyone considering importing a G8 from south of the border.
This car is a great example of a “captive import:” a car built for an overseas market and sold there under one name, and then imported to North America to be sold by a different brand, and by a different name. In this case, the G8 was built in Australia by GM’s Holden subsidiary and sold there as the Commodore VE.
That said, the G8 was based on General Motors’ global rear-wheel drive platform that also underpins the Chevrolet Camaro. Like the Camaro, the G8 could be had with either a 3.6-litre V6 engine making 256 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, or a 6.0-litre V8 with 361 hp and 385 lb-ft. A later addition to the line was a 6.2-litre V8 with 402 hp and 402 lb-ft.
Unfortunately for many enthusiasts, the only choices, at least initially, were automatics: a five-speed with the six-cylinder engine, and a six-speed with the 6.0-litre V8. A top-line GXP model used the 6.2-litre engine and got a six-speed manual transmission to go with it, though the six-speed automatic was an option.
Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption estimates for six-cylinder cars were 12.2/8.0 L/100 km (city/highway), while the 6.0-litre V8 was rated at 14.4/8.4. The figures for the 6.2-litre engine were 16.4/10.1 L/100 km with the six-speed automatic, and 16.4/9.9 with the manual.
To this point, serious problems are few, but here are a few items to watch out for in a G8.
A clunk or rattle in the front end of the car indicates the suspension’s lower control arms are on their way out. This is a common fault, and a technical service bulletin (TSB) was issued in the U.S. to address it. Apparently, the problem came back in some early cars which were repaired using the same part design; later repairs were done with redesigned components that have proved more robust.
Another TSB was issued to deal with an out-of-balance driveshaft. Symptoms are a vibration and/or a low-frequency moan or “boom” noise felt/heard around 100 km/h. The fix is pretty simple; details can be seen here and read the entire thread here.
Vibrations/distortion from the rear door stereo speakers are a common complaint at G8Board.com. Some owners say that replacing the speakers with better aftermarket units help, but not always.
The stereo display has an anti-glare coating on it that comes off if rubbed, such as when cleaning fingerprint smudges. Some owners have been successful in getting the display replaced under warranty, while others say they’ve simple dismantled the stereo and finished what they accidentally started, and simply taken all of it off.
Consumer Reports (CR) notes frequent “fuel system” problems, which usually relates to the check engine light, which illuminates whenever there’s a problem with one of the sensors the engine’s emissions control system. Overall, that publication gives the G8 an average (2008) or below average (2009) reliability rating.
The G8 was never crash-tested in North America, but it was in its home country. There, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) gave the Commodore VE five stars and an overall score of 33.45 of a possible 37 for its performance in the ANCAP’s frontal offset test and 16 of 16 points in side impact testing. The ANCAP’s test procedures are very similar to those of the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Used G8 values, according to Canadian Black Book, range from $22,425 for a 2009 V6 model to $27,275 for a V8-powered GT with leather and power sunroof. By comparison, a Dodge Charger SXT, another full-size rear-drive sedan, with a 3.5-litre V6 and five-speed automatic transmission, is worth $19,475; the Charger R/T, powered by the 5.7-litre Hemi V8, is valued at $25,000.
Both G8 models’ values are nearly $10,000 off their respective MSRPs, but I’m surprised this car hasn’t depreciated even more than that, given Pontiac’s recent demise and the general poor health of the domestic auto industry at the moment. Naturally, asking prices listed on AutoTrader.ca for G8s in Ontario are mostly inflated compared to Black Book’s values, so don’t let a greedy dealer overcharge you.
The G8 is an impressive sedan, but its styling is bland, inside and out, compared to the Charger and its upscale Chrysler 300 twin. Reliability has been solid so far, and based on that information, I’d say the G8 is worth looking at. Keep in mind, though, that these cars have barely been on the road for two years at the time of this writing, and another couple of years and few thousand kilometres could bring out more serious problems, so look for an update of this review in 12 or 18 months’ time.
For now, if you’re considering a used G8, look for one that comes with proof of regular maintenance, and cars that have had the front suspension and driveshaft issues dealt with are preferable. And, as always, have any car inspected by a trusted mechanic before you do the deal.
Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) xxx:
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I found most of the information for this article at G8Board.com. G8Forum.com, G8GT.com and G8Forumz.com are similarly G8-centric, but neither is as busy. GRRRR8.net is a reasonably busy site that serves owners of the G8 and the new Camaro, which shares the Pontiac’s drivetrains. PontiacForum.com has a G8 section, but it’s not terribly populous.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2009146; Units affected: 2,781
2009: On certain vehicles, the brake pedal position switch may have been incorrectly programmed during vehicle assembly. As a result, the brake lamps may remain illuminated when the brake pedal is released. Failure of the brake lamps to operate as intended may result in the following road users being unaware of the driver’s intentions, increasing the risk of a crash causing personal injury or death. Correction: Dealers will reprogram the brake position sensor.
Crash test results
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.
Chris Chase is an Ottawa-based automotive journalist. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).
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