2004 Pontiac Grand Prix - You've come a long way baby!

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Mar 14, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    From ersatz Duesy to BMW wannabe—you've come a long way, baby!

    [​IMG]

    BY FRANK MARKUS

    Grand Prix. Literally, big price or big prize.

    Utter the words in an automotive context, and one probably thinks either of an open-wheel race-car parade with Schuey as the grand marshal, or of Pontiac's version of the ubiquitous GM W-sedan. Perhaps you've rented one at Avis? Today, we enthusiast types don't salivate much at the name, which has come to conjure overtly boy-racerish cars poorly clad inside and out in low-grade plastics. But at its zenith, the Grand Prix deigned to use model designators borrowed from Duesenberg—and folks didn't laugh!

    The year was 1969, and the boomers who had created a big bulge in the population were landing real jobs and working hard to lure the attractive sex. The long-nosed, luxurious Grand Prix "personal luxury coupe" may not have been a real Duesy, but in J and SJ trim levels, it suggested its owner aspired to the F. Scott and Zelda lifestyle. An optional 428-cubic-inch V-8 and high-performance suspension even endowed this two-ton sled with blistering performance for its day.

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    Now Pontiac is trying to herd the Grand Prix out of the rental-car corral and back upscale, with Bob Lutz manning the whips and lariats. The plastic festoonery is gone from the outer flanks. The interior trim takes a giant leap forward, with flush-fitting controls, one-millimeter gaps, and low-sheen finishes. The mouse-fur headliner has been replaced by an Audi style woven fabric. Thicker glass and new seals dramatically reduce wind noise. A stiffer body and thoroughly retuned suspension with 10mm more travel improve both ride and handling. Even the 3.8-liter, 90-degree V-6 boasts Series III enhancement.

    Has the Grand Prix become a reasonable choice for the discriminating enthusiast? Quite possibly.

    The lineup now consists of GT, GTP, and GTP Competition Group models. The 3.1-liter rental-grade SE is gone, and the Competition Group car is aimed at hard-core enthusiasts, as Dodge and BMW do with their SRT and M models, respectively. The base, 3.8-liter GT gets 200 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque. Both GTP models are supercharged and get a 20-hp boost to 260, and 280 pound-feet of torque—figures that lead the $20K-something sedan class. Credit the power boost to a freer-spinning fifth-generation Eaton Roots-type supercharger that runs 13 percent more efficiently and 10 percent cooler. Powdered-metal connecting rods, a new crankshaft isolator and damper, and a larger, 75mm throttle body with drive-by-wire control round out the 3.8-liter's Series III upgrades.

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    Spinning through the Comp G model's 3.29:1 axle, GM reckons the dash to 60 mph will take 6.5 seconds (the Comp G also gets manumatic shifting buttons on the steering wheel). Add a 10th for the base GTP's 2.93:1 gear. For 2004, GTs get a taller 3.05:1 gear to increase fuel economy, but it doesn't turn up on the EPA cycle—all Grand Prixs carry over last year's figures. Our keisterometer readings agree with those acceleration estimates, and we anticipate best-in-class passing times, too. We're also happy to report that torque steer is nearly nonexistent and that the drive-by-wire programming now permits limo-smooth launches when conditions dictate.

    Straight-line storming has always come easily for Pontiac, so chassis refinement is the Grand Prix's most pleasant surprise. The basic strut design carries over with modified geometry, a new engine cradle made of welded aluminum extrusions, and thoughtfully retuned spring and damping rates, with softer springs and slightly firmer shocks. A smaller and lighter front anti-roll bar provides better control by acting directly on the struts—via long ball-joint rods—rather than on the control arms. Throw in bigger wheels (16-inch on GTs, 17 on GTPs) wearing 225/60 or 225/55 rubber good for a claimed 0.79 to 0.83 g of grip, and you have the makings of a respectable chassis.

    We were impressed by the steering precision and ease with which we were able to carve a line through Sedona's red-rock countryside in all models, although the steering effort seemed a trifle low in the GT and GTP models. The GTP Competition Group car gets Magnasteer II, which varies effort not only with speed but also with changes in lateral acceleration, and StabiliTrak Sport, a skid-control system that allows the tail to come out a bit and then intervenes gently to keep the car on track. We like the Comp G's handling, but the ride feels too rough for the pothole-belt states. The GT's grip is lower, and its tires howl more, but it corners flatly and gracefully. Like Goldilocks, we found the in-between GTP to be "just right."

    If Pontiac's latest and greatest has one fatal flaw, it's the low, hard rear seat, which offers no support for adult thighs and provides poor visibility for kids. The snazzy coupelike roofline and wedgie rising beltline reduce headroom and pinch the rear window. The low, flat seat is a concession to the Grand Prix's uncommon interior utility: The seats fold down nearly flat, leaving a pass-through that measures three feet by 16 inches, and an optional fold-down front-passenger seat makes room for kayaks, ladders, and other unwieldy cargo.

    Quality and content have definitely moved upscale with this new Grand Prix, but the price of entry is unchanged—$22,395 for a GT. The GTP goes for $26,495; add $1395 for the GTP Competition Group. It's certainly no Duesenberg, but that's okay with Bob Lutz, who hopes we'll come to think of Pontiacs as American BMWs. Hey, it could happen!

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    Vehicle type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
    Base price: $22,395-$27,890
    Engines: 12-valve 3.8-liter V-6, 200 hp, 225 lb-ft; supercharged pushrod 12-valve 3.8-liter V-6, 260 hp, 280 lb-ft
    Transmission: 4-speed automatic with lockup torque converter
    Wheelbase: 110.5 in
    Length: 198.2-198.3 in
    Width: 71.6 in
    Height: 55.9 in
    Curb weight: 3500-3600 lb

    Manufacturer's performance ratings:
    Zero to 60 mph: 6.5-8.5 sec
    Top speed (governor limited): 108-142 mph

    Projected fuel economy:
    EPA city driving: 18-20 mpg
    EPA highway driving: 28-30 mpg

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Platinum_Thunder

    Platinum_Thunder Reliability for life and liberty

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    back end looks like a fucking Sunfire :greddy:
     
  3. mucky

    mucky .

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    I like the current exterior of the Grand Prix better. :happysad:
     
  4. coldfusion

    coldfusion 21st Century Digital Boy

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  5. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    I like it more every time I see it, especially in black.
     
  6. court-jester

    court-jester I love dykes

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    gheyest spoiler ever
     
  7. aggr3ssor

    aggr3ssor Active Member

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  8. CyberEye

    CyberEye Oh god, the voices

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    the ass end looks like a sunfire.
     
  9. Tool

    Tool Erect Member OT Supporter

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    well its heading in the right direction (performance/looks)
     
  10. JustGod

    JustGod New Member

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    Looks nice, but I'm still not feeling that interior.
     
  11. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    ...or those wheels.
     
  12. glide

    glide primer

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    Whoa!

    That looks nice, kickass front.
    Cool dash.
     
  13. JW2

    JW2 New Member

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    I'm reading that issue of C&D right now... And I'm sad to say that GM comes out with another blandly styled vehicle. When is GM going to get with the program when it comes to styling? They could take some cues from almost any other carmaker. BTW, I like the interior of this car. They just need to do something to make it more eye catching. The word that I think of when I see a GM car is: BLAND
     
  14. mucky

    mucky .

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    I'll say this, the exterior looks slightly better than the 04 Maxima.
     
  15. SeanVR4

    SeanVR4 Guest

    i like the current one better :sad2:

    i want to buy a GTP
     
  16. The_notorious_P.O.O.P.

    The_notorious_P.O.O.P. She was all naked... and articulate!

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  17. killaGTP

    killaGTP Holden poser Moderator

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    pffft mine looks better [​IMG]
     
  18. PsychoDeli

    PsychoDeli Day of the Baphomets

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    :bigthumb:

    Love the new look... 2004 GTP is one of my new car candidates... :cool:

    And i think you people need to get the shit outta your eyes... Rear looks nothing like a Sunfire.. I currently own a 2000.. looks nothing like it.. and it dosent look like the new one either.

    [​IMG]

    :shrug:
     
  19. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    The new Maxima needs help, but not the kind we can give it. :p
     
  20. mucky

    mucky .

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    Holy shit, I just noticed how huge that rear window is. :eek:

    Not saying its a bad thing. Just its pretty large for a non-hatchback sedan.
     
  21. limitless

    limitless You didnt hurt me, nothing can hurt me, nothing ca

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    Yay. A ..... Pontiac.....:ugh2:
     
  22. Voland

    Voland AHHH MOTHERLAND!!!

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    WTF, lose the fucking arrow grille.
     
  23. Sideways

    Sideways Do I look like I give a damn?

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  24. bigboto

    bigboto Guest

    Saw it at the 2003 new car show. It's as big as the current Bonneville (they were side by side). The exterior still seems like a mild mid-production refresh. I like the current one. My wife wants to trade her GTP for a G35 or the new Max when it comes out :sad2:. We're going to get :0wned: on the GTP trade-in value :wtc:
     
  25. MerkurMan

    MerkurMan Gimme Nuts, Bolts and 12 Volts

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    We've got one at work, being prepped for delivery to CarGuide magazine. (also have three Hummer H2s. :big grin:) I have to say, the aluminum exhaust tips are very different. Kinda look stupid when you bend down and look inside them. basically a hollow aluminum box with two holes on one end. Interior looks very nice, very modern. Gauges are waaay too big, but they have a nice design. Shifter looks too art-deco minimalist cheap. Loving the stitched leather armrest. Styling is a little clumsy. I'd drive it. :dunno:
     

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