The Pontiac Grand Prix was a long-term staple in Pontiac’s lineup, a Driving Excitement alternative to the Buick and Chevrolet cars with which it shared its various platforms. Though it faded from its initial personal luxury prominence, Grand Prix had one final V8 hurrah at the end of its life. It was a sort of return to form after many years with a maximum of six cylinders. Let’s check out some GXP goodness.
The Grand Prix started out in the early Sixties as a rear-drive two-door personal luxury car of the sporty variety and continued in that mode through the mid-Eighties. At its new fifth-generation, the Grand Prix switched over to front-drive (as so much of the American automotive landscape did), and grew a four-door sedan body style for the first time. It also lost a couple of cylinders, as its largest engine became a 3.4-liter V6. Grand Prix continued through its sixth generation before reinventing itself one last time: a final seventh-gen model that would see it through the Great Recession, and nearly to the end of Pontiac as a marque.
In 2004 the new Grand Prix debuted on an updated third-gen version of GM’s long-running W-body platform. For the first time ever, Grand Prix stepped away from its roots and was available only as a sedan. It grew to a long 198.3 inches overall and was either a small full-size or a large midsize, however, you’d like to classify it. On a platform with the Chevrolet Impala and Buick LaCrosse, it was a couple of inches shorter than Impala and marginally longer than LaCrosse. The new Grand Prix represented a welcome step away from the cladding era that Pontiac enjoyed for over a decade prior, and its styling was praised as fresh and distinctive.
In its first model year, all Grand Prix were powered by the blessed Buick 3800 Series III V6, in naturally aspirated L26 guise (200 HP) or as supercharged L32 (260 HP). The sportiest initial trim was the GTP, which was the only one to receive the supercharged engine. All Grand Prix used the same four-speed automatic, as manual transmissions were not of interest to the majority of the 2000s buying public.
During the latter portion of the 2005 model year, the GXP arrived in the Grand Prix lineup. GXP heralded the return of a V8 to the Grand Prix – a feature absent since 1988. The engine in question was the 5.3-liter LS4, an engine based on the Corvette LS1. Good for 303 horses, the 5.3 was shrunken and compacted in various ways to allow fitment into the front-drive W-body platform. The engine was not available in any other vehicle in 2005, but in 2006 made its way to the Impala SS and Monte Carlo SS. And for 2008-2009 it was also available in the LaCrosse Super.
GXP came standard with paddle shifters, a heads-up display, and a performance suspension complete with a .4-inch lower ride height over other Grand Prix trims. StabiliTrak ride control kept things in check on the move. Outside, the GXP was identified with sharper trim on all sides, a revised and more angular front clip, a faux fender vent, dual exhaust, and a different bumper. Chromed alcoa wheels were another GXP exclusive.
But much like the torque steer of a front-drive V8, by the mid-2000s General Motors was out of control financially. GM posted a loss of $10.5 billion in 2005. The upcoming recession sealed GM’s fate and took with it, Pontiac. Grand Prix was canceled after the 2008 model year; its successor technically the G8. But that rear-drive Australian lasted just two years. Pontiac closed out 2010 with three run-off offerings, only one of which was actually a Pontiac. On offer were the G2 (Daewoo Matiz), G6, and Vibe (Toyota Matrix).
The GXP is largely forgotten today, a remnant of General Motors from the moments before its bankruptcy and reorganization. It was the sort of car not many asked for: A torquey transverse V8 paired with front-drive and a fairly appalling interior. Its few customers paid quite a premium for the V8 – $29,335 – just over $42,000 adjusted for inflation. Today’s Rare Ride GXP asks much less at $10,995. It’s traveled just 66,900 miles and has a clean ownership history.
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