Few model names evoke the muscle-car era of the 1960s and early 1970s as strongly as the GTO. Introduced as a 1964 offshoot of the Tempest, Pontiac's original GTO — dubbed "Goat" — quickly captured the attention of youthful drivers who craved a strong V-8 engine and performance-oriented add-ons in a relatively lightweight body.
Following an absence of three decades, the legendary GTO made a comeback as a 2004 model. It was based on the Australian-built Holden Monaro performance coupe. Like the originals, the modern-day GTO had rear-wheel drive. A 350-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8 adapted from the LS1 V-8 used in base-level Chevrolet Corvettes was installed. A six-speed-manual gearbox or a four-speed-automatic transmission was available.
A new LS2 6.0-liter V-8 that produces 400 hp replaced the LS1 for 2005. Rather than a plain hood, buyers can get twin air scoops. The rear fascia has outlets for a split dual exhaust system. Pontiac says the GTO can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in less than five seconds with the six-speed manual.
For 2006, revised taillamps have a gloss black background. New 18-inch aluminum wheels are available, and illuminated steering-wheel radio controls are standard. An orange instrument-cluster background and orange stitching on the seats match the newly available Fusion Orange body color.
While developing the GTO, General Motors opted for a contemporary appearance that doesn't stray appreciably from the Holden Monaro's. Though it's basically a Monaro underneath, the coupe features a Pontiac-signature dual-port grille. A wide, aggressive stance clearly suggests the fierce nature of the performance coupe. Alloy wheels hold 17-inch tires, but 18-inch wheels are optional.
Four adults can fit inside the GTO, which has 2+2 bucket seating. Black leather upholstery is standard, but hues that match the car's body color are available. The GTO's color-coordinated interior extends into the door panels and instrument cluster. A six-CD changer coupled with a Blaupunkt 200-watt 10-speaker sound system, cruise control, keyless entry and a multifunction information center are standard.
Under the Hood
Equipped with specially tuned dual exhausts, the LS2 6.0-liter V-8 generates 400 hp at 5,200 rpm and 400 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Two transmissions are available: a four-speed automatic or a Tremec close-ratio six-speed manual. Traction control and a limited-slip differential are standard.
All-disc antilock brakes, daytime running lights and three-point safety belts for all seating positions are standard.
Even though enthusiasts criticize the GTO for not being true enough to the original, Pontiac managed to inject quite a bit of muscle-car personality into it. With the first-year V-8, a manual-shift GTO produced ferocious responses and snarling sounds. Though it quieted down in upper gears, noise never disappeared. Adding an extra 50 hp turns this coupe into an even more emphatic, snorting beast.
Like most muscle machines, the rear-drive GTO is more adept on straightaways than through serious curves. The ride is firmly taut, but it's not unpleasant on the highway. While it's not so bad on bumps, you might get signs of imperfect construction during those stretches. The manual gearshift is inviting to use but less positive than some. The seat bottoms are short, but support is good.