Pontiac listened well to what the 2.2 million folks who bought a Grand Amsince it appeared in 1985 had to say about improvements they want. For 1996 the Grand Am adds dual air bags, the most sought-after feature ina car that had been limited to a driver-side cushion. It also removed the seatbelt in the door (because of owner complaints) and positioned it in the roofpillar. It dumped the 3-speed automatic in favor of a 4-speed, and the2.3-liter, 16-valve, Quad Four 4-cylinder has been replaced by a 2.4-liter,16-valve, twin cam 4-cylinder that develops the same 150 h.p. but with farless noise than the Quad Four. But don't expect the 2.4 to whisper. The decibels still need to be muffleda bit. Our engine choice fo r the Grand Am remains the 3.1-liter, 160-h.p., V-6 forthe best combination of off-the-line performance and quiet operation. On the negative side, Pontiac did a cosmetic touchup front, rear and sides.The grille still is split, but the honeycomb insets have been replaced by aseries of horizontal bars. The honeycomb insets were very sporty, thehorizontal bars are very sedate. If folks wanted sedate, they'd opt for aBuick. For the first time, you can get traction assist when you order the2.4-liter 4 or 3.1-liter V-6 with 4-speed automatic transmission. With dualair bags, four-wheel ABS and now traction assist, Pontiac's (and GM's)best-selling individual nameplate should attract even more buyers for 1996. Also, new darker seat and carpet colors help hide interior dirt better thanthe lighter shades, such as beige, used in the past. And if you liked thelooks of the cross-laced wheels on the 1995 Grand Am GT, you'll be happy toknow you can get the same design on he SE for 1996. They'd look better with ahoneycomb grille. Grand Am also features daytime running lamps (high beams at one-half normalintensity) that automatically switch to regular low-beam lamps if needed whileyou are driving. And we'd be remiss not to mention that front-seat cupholders now haverecessed bottoms to better hold cans and rear-seat holders are available thathold cups, cans or juice boxes. Grand Am comes with 14-inch tires as standard. For improved ride andhandling, opt for the 15-inch touring tires. For optimum ride and handling andmore sure-footedness in corners, get the 16-inch tires. Base price of the SE we tested is $13,499, which is the same for coupe orsedan.
- Service & Repair