An MP3 player with an equalizer and Radio Data System operation become optional in Pontiac’s popular front-wheel-drive compact series for 2004. A four-speaker sound system is now standard in all SE models, and three new body colors are offered.
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 is offered only in models equipped 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 front-drive chassis as its Oldsmobile mate. Five Grand Am versions are available: SE, SE1, SE2, GT and GT1. Pontiac will unveil a new compact model to replace the Grand Am for 2005.
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. An SC/T performance appearance package is available for GT models.
The Grand Am’s front buckets and three-place rear seat accommodate five occupants. Like many two-door vehicles, the coupe’s 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 and a PassLock II theft-deterrent system. The SE1 adds power windows, cruise control and remote keyless entry. XM Satellite Radio is optional.
Pontiac’s base Ecotec 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine is rated at 140 horsepower and mates with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. A 170-hp, 3.4-liter V-6 engine is standard in the SE2 and 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 has established a reputation for commendable performance and handling; it is an easy-to-drive vehicle. Both body styles retain their mildly aggressive appearance even if they’re 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. GM’s automatic transmissions rank as some of the smoothest around, and the one featured in the Grand Am is no exception; but drivers may notice an occasional bit of uncertainty. Grand Ams are pleasantly quiet inside.
The GT is well controlled and stable, but its tauter suspension produces a fair amount of tossing. Its performance is 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.