Road Test - 2004 Pontiac GTO

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Nov 12, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Lusty performance disguised in a phone-company fleet car

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    BY AARON ROBINSON
    PHOTOGRAPHY BY AARON KILEY
    December 2003

    It doesn't look like the old goat. That's the harshest indictment we can make against this new Pontiac GTO. Yes, there are other, eminently fixable flaws with the GTO, and we'll get to those shortly. But we're really struggling to invent reasons not to put both hands together for this supremely comfortable, rear-drive, all independently sprung, Corvette-powered, husky-sounding, highway-inhaling coupe.

    Okay, the new GTO's styling is a snooze. But let's put the body lines into context. The car on which this new GTO is based, GM's Holden Monaro built near Adelaide, Australia, was a styling concept for the 1998 Sydney motor show. A Holden staffer penciled it in his off-hours without any approval by the management for production, much less any inkling that it would ever be sold in North America.

    Wish all you want, but GM won't spend hundreds of millions right now to bring us an all-new replacement for the Firebird. We've seen GTO concepts, some based on the front-drive Pontiac Grand Am and most recently a vile orange nonrunning concept car at the 1999 Detroit show that was too ugly even for Hot Wheels to build. We respectfully yawned in GM's face. So instead, we get a decade-old GM platform derived from the Opel Omega. But wait. The Monaro fits the template of what a GTO should be better than any other vehicle in GM's current global lineup. It's rear-drive, it's inexpensive, and it's already designed to accept a 350-hp Chevrolet small-block LS1 V-8. Plus, it's a perfect blank canvas for the aftermarket, which is already scrambling to develop bigger wheels and tires, body tack-ons, exhaust kits, and the inevitable 405-hp LS6 conversion. GTO Judge, anyone?

    Because the Monaro-to-GTO transformation was hasty—about 17 months, says GM—there wasn't much time or budget to thoroughly alter the car. The biggest change involved moving the fuel tank from below the trunk floor to inside the trunk—to help keep the GTO from becoming a fireball in rear-end collisions. The 18.5-gallon plastic-encased tank offers a range of about 350 miles while chopping the trunk almost in half, cutting cargo space down to about two golf bags' worth.

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    The other downside to the truncated development schedule: The options list contains just one item, a $695 six-speed Tremec manual transmission that replaces the standard Hydra-Matic 4L60-E four-speed automatic. There's no sunroof, no seat heaters, and no OnStar offered. Navigation is by the old-fashioned paper map and driver-supplied compass.

    As sparse as it is of optional luxuries, the GTO's cockpit welcomes patrons with leather seating for four adults, detailed with elegant French seams and embroidered GTO logos. "The best seats in any GM product ever" were compliments regularly heard about the deeply bolstered, lumbar adjustable power front buckets. Put to the endurance test during a nonstop, 29-hour beeline to Las Vegas, the GTO's seats left backs feeling free of fatigue, tailbones coddled, and spinal nerves unruffled.

    The individual rear seats are ergonomically sculpted and scalloped like the fronts. Heads and elbows in the rear get plenty of stretch space. The front seats sprout a manual-release handle that flips the seatback forward, but only just past vertical. Then a separate button must be held while the front seat motors forward and back with the alacrity of a garden slug. More than a few passengers preferred to wriggle into and out of the rear like escape artists rather than wait for the seats to release them. Every two hours the cluster's LCD flashes a "rest reminder" with a pixilated image of a tree (perhaps Australian eucalyptus?) and a picnic table. How exotic.

    The elegant detailing—including the red-face GTO dials with silver bezels and chrome pointer hubs, the red stitching on the leather-wrapped wheel and shifter boot, the polished metal door handles, and the aluminum-colored ring around the center dashboard stack—is a welcome departure from GM's typical Tupperware interiors. We only wish they would find some space for a dead pedal left of the clutch.

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    The corn-stalk shifter provides the leverage to easily shove the heavy forks around the Tremec T-56 six-speed. The detents are mushy and the gates somewhat sloppy, and the Corvette's hated one-to-four skip shift is there for fuel economy, but the stick knows its way and rarely hangs up. For a muscle car, the GTO's clutch is soft, slipping enough during shifts to cushion and flatten out small rpm differentials.

    If you want necks snapped, row hard and keep the gas pedal flat. The all-season 245/45 BFGoodrich g-Force T/As are mere shrimps on the barbie of the LS1 V-8. The GTO charges headlights ablaze out of a toxic cloud of tire smoke to turn 5.3 seconds at 60 mph and 14 flat in the quarter-mile at 102 mph, clobbering with new import performance coupes such as the Infiniti G35 and Mazda RX-8.

    Best of all, the GTO vents USDA Prime V-8 grumble out of a genuine dual exhaust
    (the Monaro's interconnecting H-pipe is there, but blocked off for meatier noise). The pops and thuds of backfires on the overrun sound positively illegal, like you'd pulled the cans and were heading for Paradise Road.

    Unchanged from Australia are the PBR calipers with Akebono front pads and Bendix Mintex rears. They scrub off 70 mph in a longish 185 feet, some 20 feet more than the smaller, lighter-weight Asians. The brake pedal also feels squishy at bottom, as if it were swinging against seat foam.

    With a little more rubber on the spindles (base Corvettes get 275/40 rear run-flats to handle the same horsepower abuse) the GTO would likely be even faster down the drag strip and shorter in the stops. Aftermarket tire retailers are standing by.

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    The GTO glides above the pavement on struts in the front and semi-trailing arms in the rear with an adjustable toe-in link. Australia is a land of rough roads, so the control arms are stout welded steel and forged iron, and the crossmembers to which they attach are beefy stampings and tubes. It all contributes to the GTO's 3800-pound curb weight, a 550-plus-pound hike above a base Corvette coupe. Elevating the fuel tank into the trunk pushed the GTO's center of gravity in the wrong direction, too.

    Subsequently, don't expect the GTO to two-step like a Corvette. There's more sponge in the steering, more roll in the tires, more lean and bob in the body. Yet the GTO pulled 0.88 g on the skidpad, a testament to its fundamental balance and stability. The GTO's handling is really more Deutschland than Detroit. In corners the front end bites hard and the rear tracks dutifully, the understeer staying in the shadows. Hanging the tail out is a challenge, even with all the power on tap; the Pontiac prefers to scrub its excess speed through the front tires. This is a car for getting where you're going, not putting on a stunt show.

    Along the way, expect a supple ride over expansion joints and cold-patch cracks, until the tires hit something big. The bump stops are rigid, a compromise to permit the tires and 17-inch alloy wheels to fit into the small wheelhouses without constant rubbing. At least the GTO's stiff, rattle-free body soaks up shakes that would've had the old Camaro and Firebird shedding parts.

    Speaking of which, the GTO did shed one or two of its own, including its battery tie-down and the wing-mounted center stop lamp, which fell off when one of its plastic screws sheared. Additionally, the A/C repeatedly switched itself on and off, the button controlling the passenger-seat motor broke, and the suspension alignment was off enough to occupy a Las Vegas frame shop for two hours.

    GM will say that our GTO was an early pilot car, which is true enough, but the Monaro has been in production for two years, and these are Monaro parts. For the GTO to prosper, GM is going to have to ride its Australian division hard to keep the quality up.

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    The GTO is God-bless-America performance wrapped in a sleek and refined package at a price the rest of us can afford. And if you still don't like the GTO, it'll be gone soon. Chief engineer Bob Reuter says the company plans to sell the $33,000 GTO for just three model years at the rate of 18,000 per year. After that, who knows?

    Likely, as the song goes, you won't know what you've got till it's gone.

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    THE VERDICT

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    Highs: Corvette sound and power, Euro ride and handling, acceptable price.

    Lows: Iffy build quality, tiny trunk, styling that makes you say, "So what?"

    The Verdict: The new GTO isn't perfect, but don't look a gift goat in the mouth.

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    COUNTERPOINT

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    BARRY WINFIELD
    Having visited Holden's operations in Australia, where I drove the Holden Monaro on which this Pontiac is based, I was looking forward with great anticipation to driving a GTO in the States. A sporty rear-drive coupe with a Corvette motor, a manual six-speed, and a sport-tuned suspension sounds like our kind of car. But among the hordes of 10Best vehicles at our disposal that week, the GTO seemed anonymous-looking, with a somewhat sober interior despite the best GM seats anywhere. There's power aplenty, and the exhaust note is great, but real GTO heritage doesn't really extend beyond the V-8's warble.

    BROCK YATES
    The Pontiac styling department—presuming such an entity exists—has yo-yoed from the sublime to the ridiculous. After decades of festooning their vehicles with grotesque fiberglass stick-ons, they have created a GTO cunningly disguised as a phone-company fleet car. When I first spotted our dishwater-dull, battleship-gray GTO, I thought perhaps a Navy recruiter had stopped by in an attempt to snare a couple of our office interns. Did the dolts at Pontiac even take a peek at the 1964-65 Goats, the first truly vivid and now classic muscle cars? The GTO is a solid-performing Cinderella who lost her shoe before leaving for the party.

    CSABA CSERE
    Full marks to GM for conjuring up a thoroughly modern Pontiac GTO. A sophisticated chassis with disc brakes, an independent suspension at both ends, and rear-wheel drive is exactly what the 21st century demands. And the LS1 V-8 provides gutsy thrust in the GTO tradition. With the exception of a heavy shifter, all this hardware works well, and the car's $33,000 base price is right. However, the new goat's lines are simple and clean to the point of boredom. Other than beefy wheels and tires, the visuals do nothing to suggest performance and speed. A proper GTO should look butch. This one doesn't.

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    C/D TEST RESULTS

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    ACCELERATION (Seconds)
    Zero to 30 mph: 2.0
    40 mph: 2.8
    50 mph: 4.2
    60 mph: 5.3
    70 mph: 7.1
    80 mph: 8.8
    90 mph: 10.8
    100 mph: 13.4
    110 mph: 16.0
    120 mph: 19.1
    130 mph: 23.4
    140 mph: 28.9
    Street start, 5-60 mph: 5.8
    Top-gear acceleration, 30-50 mph: 10.2 50-70 mph: 10.4
    Standing 1/4-mile: 14.0 sec @ 102 mph
    Top speed (governor limited): 158 mph


    BRAKING
    70-0 mph @ impending lockup: 185 ft

    HANDLING
    Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.88 g
    Understeer: minimal


    ESTIMATED FUEL ECONOMY
    EPA city driving: 16 mpg
    EPA highway driving: 28 mpg
    C/D-observed: 22 mpg

    INTERIOR SOUND LEVEL
    Idle: 54 dBA
    Full-throttle acceleration: 79 dBA
    70-mph cruising: 71 dBA

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    Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door coupe
    Estimated price as tested: $33,396
    Options on test car: 6-speed manual transmission
    Major standard accessories: power windows, seats, and locks; remote locking; A/C; cruise control; tilting and telescoping steering wheel; rear defroster
    Sound system: Blaupunkt AM/FM radio/CD changer, 6 speakers

    ENGINE
    Type: V-8, aluminum block and heads
    Bore x stroke: 3.90 x 3.62 in, 99.0 x 92.0mm
    Displacement: 346 cu in, 5665cc
    Compression ratio: 10.0:1
    Fuel-delivery system: port injection
    Valve gear: pushrods, 2 valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters
    Power (SAE net): 350 bhp @ 5200 rpm
    Torque (SAE net): 365 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

    Redline: 6000 rpm

    DRIVETRAIN
    Transmission: 6-speed manual
    Final-drive ratio: 3.46:1, limited slip
    Gear ... Ratio ... Mph/1000 rpm ... Max. test speed
    I ... 2.97 ... 7.2 ... 43 mph (6000 rpm)
    II ... 2.07 ... 10.3 ... 62 mph (6000 rpm)
    III ... 1.43 ... 15.0 ... 90 mph (6000 rpm)
    IV ... 1.00 ... 21.4 ... 128 mph (6000 rpm)
    V ... 0.84 ... 25.5 ... 153 mph (6000 rpm)
    VI ... 0.57 ... 37.6 ... 158 mph (4200 rpm)

    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 109.8 in
    Track, front/rear: 61.4/62.1 in
    Length/width/height: 189.8/72.5/54.9 in
    Ground clearance: 7.8 in
    Drag area, Cd (0.31) x frontal area (23.3 sq ft, est): 7.22 sq ft
    Curb weight: 3821 lb
    Weight distribution, F/R: 56.0/44.0%

    Curb weight per horsepower: 10.9 lb
    Fuel capacity: 18.5 gal

    CHASSIS/BODY
    Type: unit construction
    Body material: welded steel stampings

    INTERIOR
    SAE volume, front seat: 54 cu ft
    rear seat: 41 cu ft
    luggage: 7 cu ft
    Front-seat adjustments: fore and aft, seatback angle,
    front height, rear height, lumbar support
    Restraint systems, front: manual 3-point belts, driver and
    passenger front airbags
    rear manual 3-point belts

    SUSPENSION
    Front ind, strut located by a control arm, coil springs, anti-roll bar
    Rear ind, semi-trailing arms with a toe-control link, coil springs, anti-roll bar

    STEERING
    Type: rack-and-pinion with hydraulic power assist
    Steering ratio: 11.8:1-17.2:1
    Turns lock-to-lock: 3.1
    Turning circle curb-to-curb: 36.1 ft

    BRAKES
    Type: hydraulic with vacuum power assist and anti-lock control
    Front: 11.7 x 1.1-in vented disc
    Rear: 11.3 x 0.6-in disc


    WHEELS AND TIRES
    Wheel size/type: 8.0 x 17 in/cast aluminum
    Tires: BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDWS, 245/45ZR-17 95W
    Test inflation pressures, F/R: 33/39 psi
    Spare: high-pressure compact on aluminum wheel

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  2. Nemesis_152

    Nemesis_152 I'm a delicate desert flower from Arizona.

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    :rofl:
     
  3. mucky

    mucky .

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    Quick, someone post sprint times for the 350Z. Go!
     
  4. yer mom

    yer mom Pelvic THRUST

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    trishield, did you see the new blue color they are coming out with?



    ill upload a few pics i saw
     
  5. yer mom

    yer mom Pelvic THRUST

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    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 12, 2003
  6. yer mom

    yer mom Pelvic THRUST

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  7. mucky

    mucky .

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  8. Otto

    Otto Who the hell do you think I am!?!?!?!

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    two different cars :slap:
     
  9. Pursuit

    Pursuit Guest

    GM: We suck so bad, we took a car our australian engineers developed, slapped a pontiac bumper on it, and gave it an old muscle car name, just to get attention.
     
  10. guru

    guru Active Member

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  11. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    That's Impulse Blue (dark metallic blue).

    Like I said before, if I get a GTO, it will be this color combo. :cool:
     
  12. mucky

    mucky .

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    Here come the haters.
     
  13. yer mom

    yer mom Pelvic THRUST

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    hum, i heard it was a new color... guess not.

    definitely my favorite color as well.

    :cool:
     
  14. KyngNothing

    KyngNothing My own little world...

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    :eek3: Only 3 years??!?! :wtf:

    They better be doing the replacement now then!!
     
  15. Scream_Phoenix

    Scream_Phoenix Handsome Boy Model

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    so heavy...
     
  16. Sanguine

    Sanguine Leave me alone.

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    the huge pics in this thread make the article unreadable. :hs:
     
  17. Otto

    Otto Who the hell do you think I am!?!?!?!

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    well its a large coupe, not some lighweight sports car
     
  18. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Fixed.
     
  19. Buick Muscle

    Buick Muscle Guest

    If its only three years, then I forsee another Impala SS like car.
     
  20. Phreck

    Phreck Apple Crew Horra!

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    :sad2: My SRT-4 stops a lot faster than that. 60-0 in 119ft.
     
  21. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    They are, the next Monaro/GTO will use the Cadillac CTS platform. It sounds like most of the all new Holdens will be using that architecture as well as Caddy's new 3.6L V6 (in addition to the LS1).

    Aussie cars performance tuned at the 'Ring. :eek3:
     
  22. Sanguine

    Sanguine Leave me alone.

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    the article has the 70-0 distance of the GTO, not 60-0.
     
  23. mucky

    mucky .

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    And It's still a NEON!
     
  24. Phreck

    Phreck Apple Crew Horra!

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    I know that, but 10 mph isn't going to make 80 feet of difference. I don't wanna get into an SRT-4 bashing thread since that's what usually happens. I was just expecting more from the GTO.
     
  25. yer mom

    yer mom Pelvic THRUST

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    my bad :o
     

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