New front and rear fascias go on the 2002 SE edition of Pontiacs full-size front-drive sedan, which rides fresh 17-inch aluminum wheels. A Monsoon audio system is standard on the SSEi. This years models get LATCH child-seat tethers, a trunk-entrapment release handle and a restyled console with cupholders.
Redesigned for the 2000 model year, the Bonneville is Pontiacs largest and most expensive sedan. Built on the same basic front-drive platform as the conservative Buick LeSabre, the Bonneville has sportier styling and a performance-focused image two of Pontiacs hallmarks. Like other Pontiac models, the Bonneville is supposed to attract younger buyers than those who stroll into dealerships for other GM brands. Full-size competitors include the Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler Concorde and Dodge Intrepid, as well as a few midsize models such as the Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon.
Three trims are still available: the base SE and the midrange SLE, which are both powered by a 205-horsepower engine, and the SSEi, which comes equipped with a supercharged V-6.
Bold styling is what identifies Pontiacs among the crowd, and the Bonneville is no exception. Design touches include a wedge profile, a sporty-looking twin-port grille, cats-eye headlights and bodyside ribbing. At 202.6 inches long overall, the Bonneville is an inch shorter than the Intrepid. The Bonneville rides on a 112.2-inch wheelbase and measures 74.2 inches wide. The SE has standard 16-inch tires, while the SLE and SSEi run on 17-inchers. A rear spoiler is standard on the SLE and SSEi.
Bonnevilles can be fitted to hold either five or six passengers. SE models are available with front bucket seats or a solid three-place bench, but only about one in five is built with the bench seat. Front head restraints are the catchers-mitt type, which move up and forward in a rear-end collision, close to the occupants head, to reduce the chance of whiplash injury.
Heated front seats are optional on all models. GMs OnStar communication system is standard in the SLE and SSEi sedans. A small pass-thru from the trunk to the interior permits carrying long items, but the rear seatback does not fold down. The trunk comes with a deep and fairly wide cargo floor and a spacious capacity of 18 cubic feet. The wheel wells do intrude a bit into the trunk area.
Under the Hood
The SE and SLE have a 205-hp, 3.8-liter V-6 engine, which is used in various GM automobiles. The SSEi model gets a supercharged version of that V-6, which whips up 240 hp. All Bonnevilles use a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Antilock brakes and side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard. Traction control is standard on the SSEi and optional on other models. StabiliTrak, GMs electronic stability system, is standard only on the top-of-the-line SSEi.
The Bonneville didnt change all that much with the 2000 redesign, though its previously rounded projectile shape was edged aside by a more angular look. But thats no drawback because the Bonneville has long been a fine road car one of GMs best in that regard. The latest model offers more of the same, with plenty of virtues to attract big-car fans.
Because the regular V-6 engine delivers such strong performance, theres little need for the supercharged version. Drivers are likely to feel a welcome burst of confidence when they push the gas pedal to pass or merge in a hurry, with or without a blower sending air into the engine.
Handling fails to stand out, but it is about right for its class. The Bonneville steers with a light touch and responds capably to both driver inputs and corners. Body lean is noticeable but not dramatic in quick curves.
The SE rides comfortably most of the time. Its also a very easy car to drive with its smaller tires. Judging the sedan for parking is more of a challenge because its difficult to see the front or rear end from behind the wheel. The seats are wide but minimally bolstered, and come with good rear legroom and generally ample space all around.