Pontiac is a brand name that built a reputation with muscle cars like the classic GTO, and that name will soon be retired once parent company General Motors gets through its bankruptcy restructuring. This is unfortunate, because, while the some of the brand’s offerings have been a bit lackluster in previous years (we’re looking at you, Pontiac Vibe), they finally have an incredible car that offers unsurpassed value for the performance: the 415-horsepower, under $40k, 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP.
Perhaps the best vehicle to compare the G8 GXP to is the BMW M5. Both are performance sedans with big engines (the new M5 has a V10, while the G8 GXP has a 6.2-liter V8), and both offer great ride quality at high speeds and nimble cornering. The G8 GXP, however, costs less than half of the German car, however, starting at $38,360 versus $85,500.
Under the hood is a naturally aspirated version of the large-block LS3 V8 found in the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and the Cadillac CTS-V. The lack of a supercharger means the G8 GXP isn’t quite as quick as its cousins, but at 415 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque, it definitely doesn’t lack for power, and that power comes from regular fuel, not the expensive premium stuff. And true driving enthusiasts will be happy to know that the G8 GXP offers a traditional manual transmission for your driving pleasure, not the steering wheel paddle auto-clutch design found on most performance sedans.
The GXP version shares the same suspension architecture as the middle-level G8 GT (there’s also a V6 base model), but the shocks and struts have been retuned to provide a much more responsive drive. Also, sturdier sway bars and stabilizers help the G8 GXP stay flat around tight corners. The car rides on 19-inch alloys and performance Brembo brake calipers will help you slow down when you find yourself cruising at 150 mph, which is incredibly easy and incredibly smooth in the GXP.
On the outside, the G8 GXP doesn’t look that much different from the other G8 models, and the added accents are mainly for show, anyway. There are hood scoops, side gills, and a rear diffuser, but none of them are functional and are just there for looks. But, the performance of the GXP is good enough to forgive the deception. On the inside, you’ll see that this isn’t your average sedan. The seats are firm enough to keep you sitting upright through tight turns, but not so stiff that you’d be uncomfortable after a long ride. The brushed alumimun pedals are straight out of a racer, and all necessary gadgets are within comfortable reach. The only blemish is the steering wheel, which is overly large and features rather odd grip points and contours.
All in all, the G8 GXP is a marvelous car, and one of the best offerings from Pontiac in years. It is incredibly fast, hitting 0-to-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, t doesn’t cost nearly as much as other performance sedans with comparable power, and there’s still enough cargo and cabin room that you could take the family on a 200 mile drive without many complaints. The only bad thing about the G8 GXP is that it took Pontiac so long to build it, and it’s coming out just as the Pontiac brand is about to be dismantled. But then again, that means you might be able to snag one of these beauties at a bargain-basement price.