A new 140-horsepower, 2.2-liter Ecotec twin-cam four-cylinder engine goes into the SE model of Pontiacs midsize coupe and sedan. The sporty GT model gets new five-spoke, 16-inch aluminum-torqued wheels, and chrome tech wheels are available as an option. A new Grand Am console includes an integrated cupholder. Four Grand Am versions are available: the SE, SE1, GT and GT1.
Last restyled for 1999, Pontiacs front-drive compact coupe and sedan can be equipped with either the new four-cylinder engine or a 3.4-liter V-6 power plant, which is offered only with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The Grand Am stems from the basic design of the Oldsmobile Alero and uses the same engines and front-drive chassis. But styling and interior features differ considerably, as Pontiac takes the lead as the sportiest member in the General Motors group.
Aggressive styling is a Grand Am hallmark. Both the two-door coupe and four-door sedan feature a low nose and high tail, with a pronounced wedge profile. Traditional Pontiac styling cues include ribbed body cladding and a twin-port grille.
Coupes and sedans ride the same 107.2-inch wheelbase and measure 186.3 inches long overall. Each is a couple inches shorter than the top-selling Honda Accord and Toyota Camry and about a foot shorter than the Ford Taurus. The Grand Am stretches 70.4 inches wide and stands 55.1 inches tall.
All models have a four-wheel-independent suspension. The GT has unique front and rear fascias, color-keyed side cladding, twin-post mirrors and a decklid spoiler.
Seating is provided for five occupants, with front buckets and a three-place rear seat. Like many two-door vehicles, the coupes narrow rear seat is better suited for two people than three. All models except the base SE have a split, folding rear seatback that adds extra storage space beyond the 14.6-cubic-foot trunk.
Compared to the Aleros design, the Grand Am dashboard looks cluttered. Small audio controls are difficult to use while driving.
Standard SE equipment includes air conditioning, programmable door locks with lockout protection, a CD player, tilt steering wheel, PassLock II theft-deterrent system and illuminated entry. The SE1 adds traction control, power windows and a remote keyless entry system. In addition to a stronger engine and more aggressive body features, the GT comes with a Monsoon stereo sound system.
Under the Hood
Pontiacs new base 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine is rated at 140 hp and mates with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. The 170-hp, 3.4-liter V-6 engine is optional in the SE1. A 175-hp Ram Air V-6 features cold-air induction and a lower-restriction exhaust system; this engine goes into the GT and GT1 and teams only with the automatic transmission. All-disc antilock brakes and traction control are standard.
The Grand Am has established a reputation for commendable performance and handling, and it retains its mildly aggressive appearance even if its not the most refined midsize on the market. Acceleration is smooth and rather energetic with the new Ecotec four-cylinder engine, except when trying to go uphill. GMs automatic transmissions rank among the smoothest around, and the one in the Grand Am is no exception; but drivers may notice an occasional bit of uncertainty. Grand Ams also are pleasantly quiet inside.