Pontiac's full-size front-wheel-drive sedan was last redesigned for the 2000 model year and received a face-lift for 2002. As the 2004 season began, little had changed on the Bonneville except for newly available 16-inch chrome-plated wheels for the base SE sedan. The supercharged SSEi edition has been dropped from the 2004 lineup. A regular 3.8-liter V-6 engine now powers the SE and SLE models.
Big-car performance fans need not fret, though. Early in 2004, a new GXP model powered by a 275-horsepower Northstar V-8 engine is scheduled to debut. Fitted with a performance-tuned fully independent suspension, the GXP rides on 18-inch performance tires.Built on the same basic front-drive platform as the conservative Buick LeSabre, Pontiac's largest sedan has sportier styling.
Bold styling identifies a Pontiac model among the crowd, and the Bonneville is no exception. Its design touches include a wedge profile, a sporty-looking twin-port grille, cat-eye headlights and bodyside ribbing. Unique fascias, headlights, taillights and exhaust tips highlight the new GXP sedan, which is equipped with a rear spoiler. Measuring 202.6 inches long overall, the Bonneville is built on a 112.2-inch wheelbase. Cast-aluminum wheels on the SE hold 16-inch tires, while the SLE gets 17-inch rubber and GXP rides on 18-inchers.
Bonnevilles may be fitted to hold either five or six people. SE models are available with front bucket seats or a solid three-place front bench. Front head restraints on the catcher's mitt-type seats move up and forward in a rear-end collision in order to be closer to the occupant's head, reducing the chance of whiplash injury. A small pass-thru from the interior to the trunk permits carrying long items, but the rear seatback does not fold down. In addition to leather-appointed bucket seats with suede inserts, the GXP sedan gets a brushed-aluminum gearshift handle, carbon-fiber trim and ebony-hued switches. A CD player with Monsoon sound entertains GXP occupants, who also benefit from dual-zone automatic climate control. All models may be equipped with XM Satellite Radio.
Under the Hood
The SE and SLE are equipped with GM’s 205-hp, 3.8-liter V-6 engine and a four-speed-automatic transmission. The new GXP model gets a 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 engine that produces 275 hp and 300 pounds-feet of torque and uses a different four-speed automatic.
Antilock brakes are standard in all models. Side-impact airbags are standard in the GXP and optional in other trim levels. GM’s StabiliTrak system is standard on the new GXP.
The Bonneville has long been considered a fine road car — among GM's best. This sedan offers plenty of virtues to attract big-car fans. Because the regular V-6 engine delivers such strong performance, there's little need for a larger engine. Drivers are likely to feel a welcome burst of acceleration when they push the gas pedal to pass or merge in a hurry. Handling on regular Bonnevilles fails to stand out, but these models steer with a light touch and respond capably to driver inputs and during cornering. In quick curves, body lean is noticeable but not dramatic. The SE rides comfortably most of the time and is a very easy car to drive. Rear-seat passengers get good legroom, and there is ample space all around.