New Car/Review

1999 PONTIAC GRAND PRIX GT COUPE

by Tom Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 21,555
Price As Tested                                    $ 25,558
Engine Type                OHV 12-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 231 cid/3785 cc
Horsepower                                   195 @ 5200 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               220 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  110.5"/72.7"/196.5"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3425 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    18 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/60R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Five-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            19/30/23
0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       16.5 seconds @ 86 mph
Top speed                                           120 mph
     * Sequential-port fuel injection

The Pontiac Grand Prix can trace its name back to the Muscle Car era. In 1962, the Grand Prix carried a 389 cubic-inch V8 engine and available triple carburetors, as well as a four-speed transmission. Over the years, it became a luxurious personal coupe.

The 1998 version shares its platform with several of its GM corporate cousins, but can't be confused with an Olds, Buick or Chevy. Three models are available: base SE and mid-trim GT sedans, our GT coupe tester, which is also available with the top-line supercharged GTP package.

OUTSIDE - The Wide Track Grand Prix was redesigned for 1997 and became an immediate hit, outselling the previous model by over 50 percent. During the old days, it was always a two-door, but now it's also offered as a sedan, something only Grand Prix purists would notice. Thankfully, Pontiac has ditched the previous generation expanses of tacked-on plastic side cladding, instead focussing on an engineered-in design that looks refreshing. The front fascia carries the traditional Pontiac split grille above the bumper line with a large air intake cavity located below in the air dam which houses a set of fog lamps. Standard five-spoke alloy wheels carry P225/60R16 blackwall tires.

INSIDE - It takes some time to acclimate to the crowded array of controls and switches, and the whole dash blares a glowing red hue at night. There's adequate room for three in back, while an impressive center console folds down from the center of the rear seat to reveal a pass-through, along with a pair of molded cupholders and a small storage tray. The front bucket seats are softly padded with what looks like lots of side support, but aren't very supportive. A Driver Information Center becomes useful to give the driver pertinent information on service needs, while an EyeCue system beams more information onto the base of the windshield. The overhead console features nooks for sunglasses and a garage door opener, as well as a power port for plugging in a radar detector. Rear seat comfort loops for smaller passengers are standard and a center-mounted child's safety seat is optional.

ON THE ROAD - While hot-rodders will sing the praises of the GTP version with its 240 supercharged horsepower, and fuel economy misers will like the frugal nature of the base SE's 3.1 liter V6, the naturally-aspirated Grand Prix GT falls right in the middle, providing respectable performance and good fuel mileage on regular gasoline. At 195 horsepower and 220 lb/ft of torque, the 3.8 liter V6 engine has more than enough power. Its all-iron, two-valve-per-cylinder, pushrod design has been updated over the years with sequential port fuel injection and computerized engine controls, and features long-life coolant and spark plugs. GM has also added a heavy-duty 4T65-E four-speed automatic transmission that is currently used on the supercharged version to the GT. Unfortunately, traction control is not offered.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The suspension on the Grand Prix GT coupe is traditional: it uses strut-type control units up front with a coil-over shock system. This rear suspension is kept in alignment with tubular lateral links for rigidity and lightweight aluminum knuckles to reduce unsprung weight. There are anti-roll bars on both ends to reduce lean in the corners and as an aid in neutralizing understeer, or plowing ahead in turns. The ride is firm and predictable, and is every bit a '90s sport sedan. Its power rack-and-pinion steering is speed- sensitive and uses MagnaSteer, GM's less-expensive system that uses fewer moving parts to get the job done. Its steering provides natural-feeling levels of boost through all speed ranges. Braking is handled with four-wheel disc brakes with a standard anti-lock braking system (ABS).

SAFETY - Dual next-generation airbags, ABS and side-impact beams.

OPTIONS - The 1SC options package ($2109) adds an overhead console, rear seat pass-through, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, power driver's seat, trunk cargo net, keyless remote entry, trip computer, EyeCue Head-Up display, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, premium interior lighting, auto-dimming inside mirror. The destination charge added $560.

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