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Expert Reviews 1 of 6
By Jim Flammang
November 25, 2003
Vehicle Overview Pontiac has revamped its midsize front-wheel-drive Grand Prix sedan for 2004. Now in its ninth generation, the Grand Prix has styling overtones that are related to the automaker’s new GTO. “What began with the sleek design of the 2003 Vibe and Solstice concept car can now be seen in this Grand Prix,” said Pontiac-GMC General Manager Lynn Myers.
The base SE versions are no longer part of the lineup, which leaves two versions of the GT and a GTP, plus a GTP with a Competition Group (Comp G) handling package. A 3.8-liter V-6 produces 200 horsepower in the GTs, while the GTP gets a supercharged V-6 that generates 260 hp. A Formula One-style TAPshift (Touch Activated Power) system lets the driver of a Competition Group model use paddles at the steering wheel to change gears on the automatic transmission.
Exterior The Grand Prix’s smooth bodysides are said to be Coke-bottle shaped, a theme that harks back to the muscle-car era. They extend into twin-port grilles with a two-tone lower fascia. What Pontiac calls aggressive driving lamps accent the sedan’s well-known WideTrack stance. Large corner-mounted taillights flank the rear spoiler.
With a 110.5-inch wheelbase and measuring 198.3 inches long overall, the Grand Prix is approximately 4 inches shorter than the Pontiac Bonneville. Fog lamps are standard. The tires measure 16 inches in diameter, but the Comp G edition gets 17-inchers. The rear doors now open to 82 degrees, and the trunk opening is wider and lower for 2004.
Interior The Grand Prix is spacious enough for five adults. The deep trunk holds 16 cubic feet of cargo, and a pass-thru for the 60/40-split, folding backseat is installed.
The larger analog gauges have a 3-D look, and the doors get new satin-nickel accents. The optional head-up display provides a “stealth” mode provision that allows the driver to extinguish all instrument panel lighting for enhanced visibility during night driving.
Under the Hood A 200-hp, 3.8-liter V-6 engine is standard in the GT. The GTP sedan is equipped with a supercharged version that develops 260 hp. Both engines team with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Safety Antilock brakes are standard on the GT2 and GTP and optional on the GT1 sedan. Side curtain-type airbags are newly optional.
Driving Impressions While the Grand Prix has many appealing features, it can’t quite compare to European and most Asian models in solidity, though its build quality has improved. The Grand Prix performs energetically, especially if it’s supercharged. Accelerating from a standstill with vigor, the Comp G sedan is strong when it comes to passing, though there’s little evidence that the supercharger has taken hold. The Comp G’s paddle shifters work well, but with a little delay.
The GTP’s suspension eases over quite a few road flaws, but it gives the impression of avoiding rather than absorbing them. Its handling skills are a bonus; as expected, handling with the Comp G package is tighter yet. Ride comfort in the Comp G isn’t bad for a performance model.
Headroom is ample in each seating position, but a power sunroof steals some space. Comp G riders get snugly bolstered, extra-supportive seats with leather upholstery.