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By Jim Flammang
May 7, 2003
Vehicle Overview A new SE2 sedan joins the lineup of Pontiacs popular front-wheel-drive (FWD) compact series for the 2003 model year. This new four-door delivers more power and contains more standard equipment than its SE companions. All SE sedans get a freshened exterior. An XM Satellite Radio is newly available, and GMs OnStar communication system is now standard on all models except the base SE. The SE coupe has been discontinued.
Last restyled for the 1999 model year, Grand Am coupes and sedans come with a four-cylinder or 3.4-liter V-6 engine. The V-6 power plant is offered only with an automatic transmission. Built from the same basic design as the Oldsmobile Alero, but with sportier styling, the Grand Am uses the same engines and FWD chassis. Five Grand Am versions are available: SE, SE1, SE2, GT and GT1.
Aggressive styling has long been a Grand Am hallmark. Both the coupe and 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.
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 deck lid spoiler.
The Grand Ams front buckets and a three-place rear seat accommodate five occupants. 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 storage space beyond the 14.6-cubic-foot trunk.
Standard SE equipment includes air conditioning, programmable door locks with lockout protection, a CD player, a PassLock II theft-deterrent system and illuminated entry. The SE1 adds power windows and a remote keyless entry system.
Under the Hood
Pontiacs base Ecotec 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine is rated at 140 horsepower and mates with either a four-speed automatic or a five-speed-manual transmission. A 170-hp, 3.4-liter V-6 engine is optional in the SE1. A 175-hp Ram Air V-6 with cold-air induction and a lower-restriction exhaust system goes into the GT and GT1 and teams only with the automatic transmission.
Antilock brakes are standard on the SE2 and optional on the SE and SE1. All-disc antilock brakes are standard on GT models.
The Grand Am is easy to drive; this car has established a reputation for commendable performance and handling. Both body styles retain their mildly aggressive appearance even if theyre not the most refined models on the market.
Acceleration is smooth and rather energetic with the Ecotec four-cylinder engine except when trying to go up steep hills. 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. The Grand Am is also pleasantly quiet inside.
The GT is well controlled and stable, but its tauter suspension produces a fair amount of tossing. Performance is satisfying and energetic, especially at passing speeds. The seats are excellent in the driver-oriented cockpit. Small audio controls on the cluttered dashboard are difficult to use.