Vehicle Review - 2004 Pontiac GTO.

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Oct 30, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    TRADITIONALISTS BE DAMNED

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    By NATALIE NEFF
    (19:25:08 Oct. 29, 2003)
    (All photos © 2003 Alvin Haas)

    Pontiac won’t apologize for the fact that this car doesn’t look exactly like the car for which it was named. So to all of you looking to the resurrected GTO as the second coming of a sacred old nameplate, too bad.

    This ain’t your daddy’s GTO, and no, it doesn’t have a hood scoop, not even of the sticker variety with which Pontiac jokingly threatened us. You’re better off picking up any one of a thousand 40-year-old models still spewing fumes around the back roads of this great nation and being done with it. But keep this in mind as you grip that skinny steering wheel, slide around in that flat seat and lumber around the turns: The new GTO bests that old beast in every noteworthy way. Except one, that is.

    Man, that old goat looked good.

    The 2004 model, hmmm, not so much. We—and many of you, we’ve heard—find the GTO’s exterior styling nice, but forgettable. Rather than making it a “retro” car, Pontiac says that, had it not killed the GTO after the 1974 model year, the Goat would have evolved to look much like this car today.

    In fact, the new GTO looks virtually identical to the Holden Monaro that GM sells in Australia, save the addition of Pontiac’s signature split-kidney grille. Most of the changes made to the car for these shores occurred where you can’t see them, from improved door and window seals to modified knee bolsters and restraints, to a serious increase of power under the hood. Oh yeah, and the trunk houses the fuel tank (moved from under the car for safety; too bad for you golfers). Noticeable in its absence: any cladding.


    It seems the Excitement division finally heeded all those pleas for clad-free design—hallelujah!—but alas, took the move to an extreme by doing nothing to gussy up the sheetmetal. The car’s flanks have a smooth shape, but its rounded-over nose and tail feel a little undressed. Don't let the GTO’s uninspired skin fool you though, it is a driver’s car through and through.

    It doesn’t feel like any other car in the General’s North American lineup, not even the Corvette with which it shares a powertrain. Steering feel is fantastic, not quite razor-sharp like the Z06’s but totally natural-feeling, quick, crisp and responsive. Refreshing, really, given the vague, artificial-feeling systems found in other Pontiacs like the Grand Prix. The wheel itself has a nice heft, its leather-wrapped four-spoke shape providing good grip as the steering gets weighty at higher speeds.

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    On the twisty roads around General Motors’ Milford proving grounds, the GTO simply shines, its chassis almost unflappable over road imperfections and through aggressively driven curves. Its four-wheel independent suspension—MacPherson strut and progressive springs in front, multilinks with semi-trailing arms in back—hunkers down nicely in the turns and rides almost flat. Its 17-inch 225/50R BFGoodrich GForce TAs give a good deal of grip, too, and help the four-wheel disc brakes—11.7-inch vented fronts and 11.3-inch solid rears—and four-channel antilock braking system pull the car to straight stops with little drama.

    Its superior body control feels particularly fine when hustled full-on through tighter combinations of turns. Believe us, no ’64 (or 1965-74, for that matter) could even come close to handling like this. The original GTO was known as an asphalt burner, the original muscle car, but in stock trim it did little well in modern terms except accelerate down a straight.

    The optional Tremec close-ratio six-speed manual transmission does a great job keeping you in the chunky part of the engine’s powerband. Then again, with such a flat, fat torque curve peaking at 365 lb-ft at 4000 rpm, it’s not asking too much. The shifter itself, however, makes playing with the tranny all the more fun, with a pleasantly notchy action similar to BMW’s in feel. It even has that satisfying spring-back-to-center pop when disengaged. We never got it to hang up or miss a shift.

    If none of that sounds like genuine GTO stuff, then perhaps this will: Underhood, and powering the rear wheels, sits the all-American V8 engine. Differences abound, however, most due to the passage of time—and the learnin’ it brings—more than anything. This engine uses all-aluminum construction and sequential-port fuel injection in place of iron and carburetors, requires 92-octane fuel over leaded gas, and emits but a fraction of the noxious fumes of the engine of old. At least the overhead valves are still there.

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    Displacing 346 cubic inches, the GTO’s 5.7-liter LS1 V8 nonetheless cranks out more power than the original car’s 389-cid (6.4-liter) engine, with 350 horses at 5200 rpm vs. the Tri-Power’s 348 hp at 4900 rpm. For the super geeky, that amounts to 61.78 hp/liter specific output compared to the ’64’s 54.59, even if today’s car loses out in the power-to-weight department. At 3725 pounds, the smaller ’04 model outweighs the original Pontiac Tempest LeMans GTO hardtop by 599 pounds.

    Despite its heft, Pontiac estimates the six-speed GTO will run to 60 mph from a standstill in just 5.3 seconds and turn the quarter-mile in 14 seconds at more than 100 mph. The ’64 was good for but a 6.6-second 0-to-60-mph time and the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds.

    With all its handling and straight-line prowess, the GTO’s ride never approaches the too-harsh feel of out-and-out sports cars. The car moves smoothly over the road, its taut suspension reading every nuance without bursting a kidney, and transmitting a decent amount of information about what’s going on underneath your seat. The suspension rebounds quickly off of bigger bumps, without upsetting the car but never feeling the least bit wallowy. And only a minimal amount of road noise makes its way into the cabin.

    But at wide-open, the passenger compartment echoes with a deviously tuned exhaust note, growling out of a true dual exhaust channeled through siamesed twin pipes tucked under one corner of the rear bumper. That pleasing grunt is perhaps the most GTO-like aspect of this muscle car built for 21st century tastes.

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    The GTO’s interior speaks fluent sports coupe lingo, with a clean but sporty style punctuated by tastefully inspired splashes of color coordinated to the car’s paint. The color-keyed gauges and door inset panels work well, particularly when paired with matching leather seats. And attention to the details—like the contrasting stitching on the steering wheel, shifter and parking brake, the uncluttered layout of the controls and the machine-drilled aluminum pedals—imparts to the GTO a true sports car character.

    A true sports car for four, no less. Pontiac calls the GTO a 2+2, but the rear seat offers plenty of leg- and headroom for real-sized adults. A relatively low H-point helps out to that end, though the rear access feature Pontiac is so proud of makes climbing in and out of the back seat a chore. Tilt the front seat forward, push a button and a servo powers the front seat forward; flip the seat back, and the same button reverses the movement—but it’s sooo slow. A standard manual lever would make the whole process much more tolerable.

    The GTO should start rolling into Pontiac showrooms across the country within the month, with all 18,000 annually produced units slated for the States. And if you think all this performance will come with a price, you’re right, but it’s not an outrageous one. Stickers fall around $33,000, north of entry-level Bonneville territory but less than a fully dressed Bonneville SSEi.

    The GTO offers only one option, the six-speed, that will add $695 to the bottom line. Everything else you’d expect from a car of its class comes standard: traction control (but no stability control), 200-watt Blaupunkt stereo with six-disc in-dash CD changer and 10 speakers, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, keyless entry, leather interior, floor mats, etc. So far, Pontiac says early sales orders are running 50/50 between the six-speed and the standard four-speed automatic, though the automaker expects final breakdowns to shake out to around 35 percent to the manual.

    Second coming or no, this goat’s really got the goods.

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    2004 PONTIAC GTO
    ON SALE: December
    BASE PRICE: $33,000
    POWERTRAIN: 5.7-liter, 350-hp, 365-lb-ft V8; rwd, six-speed manual
    CURB WEIGHT: 3725 pounds
    0-60 MPH: 5.3 seconds


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  2. MiseryIndex

    MiseryIndex i never know why. i only know who. Moderator

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  3. MeAmEddie

    MeAmEddie My car goes Whooosh psst

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    front bumper :hs:
     
  4. MiseryIndex

    MiseryIndex i never know why. i only know who. Moderator

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  5. AsianRage

    AsianRage Know about Media Ventures?

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    Looks too much like a Cav :dunno:

    I'd rather pimp the CTS-V
     
  6. tofu

    tofu New Member

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    i want one
     
  7. jinushaun

    jinushaun New Member

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    OMG is that a new BMW!? :eek: Bangle > Jeebus
     
  8. ImpalaSS

    ImpalaSS Guest


    It doesn't bother me that much, but this one would look a hell of a lot better, minus the red and blue lights. :big grin:

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  9. RenaultFreak

    RenaultFreak OMG

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    I really really like the interior layout :o
     
  10. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    I'm thinking I'd much rather pimp this and have $20,000 without taxes left in my pockets.
     
  11. psykosis

    psykosis Go placidly amid the noise and the haste

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    so trishield, which will it be for you?


    GTO or CTS-V?
     
  12. MeAmEddie

    MeAmEddie My car goes Whooosh psst

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    and it's not like it'll be difficult to make fast
     
  13. psykosis

    psykosis Go placidly amid the noise and the haste

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    whatever you choose, I want a ride at the Dream Cruise next year...
     
  14. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Dark metallic blue GTO with blue leather or silver CTS-V with ebony leather?

    I honestly don't know.
     
  15. interstate

    interstate New Member

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    That can't be truer. All the people saying it doesn't look like a GTO.. :rolleyes:

    4th gen F-bodies looked nothing like their original counterparts. The vette has soem similarities, but still looks ALOT different..
     
  16. interstate

    interstate New Member

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    Id like to see a ram air hood on the new GTO. :cool:
     
  17. SoliDSnakE

    SoliDSnakE Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

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    if it wernt so damn heavy, i would love it. i do like it tho.
     
  18. interstate

    interstate New Member

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    ok™
     
  19. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    5.3 seconds to 60MPH. :eek:

    It's already much faster than the Monaro, and edges out the HSV tuner Monaros in Australia, and it isn't that shy of the CTS-V.

    I'm thinking I can do a lot to one of these and the price difference.
     
  20. Yoritomo

    Yoritomo dad's jar chimer

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  21. Supertrapped

    Supertrapped President of 2:73

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    I want an black GTO :x:
     
  22. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    The '94-'96 Impala SS cars don't look anything like the original 409s, and they were round too. :p
     
  23. ChosenGSR

    ChosenGSR Mama always said you'd be the chosen one

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    pathetic 1/4mile time
     
  24. Supertrapped

    Supertrapped President of 2:73

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    Imagine the GTO...it already has true dual exhaust, just replace the pipes with offroad pipes. Heads, cam, stall converter, nitrous. That would be fuckin sweet. It would hall some ass, as well as look good, as well as hittin the twisties :cool:
     
  25. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    It's also noisy at speed, rides like Hell, has no interior space whatsoever, no creature comforts, has spotty build quality, cheap interior materials, and you practically sit on the ground.

    All that and the GTO is still a smidge faster to 60, and through the quarter mile. :p
     

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