New Car/Review

Pontiac

Pontiac Sunfire GT Coupe (2000)

By Matt/Bob Hagin

Pontiac Full Line Video footage (3:29)
SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 16,210
     Price As Tested                                    $ 16,465
     Engine Type              DOHC 16-valve 2.4 Liter I4 w/SPFI*
     Engine Size                                 146 cid/2392 cc
     Horsepower                                   150 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               155 @ 4400 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  104.1"/68.4"/182.0"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     2798 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  14.3 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P205/55R16
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (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                            22/30/25          
     0-60 MPH                                        8.0 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          16.5 seconds @ 87.0 mph
     Top speed                                           105 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

(Matt Hagin remembers how cool it was in high school to have a Pontiac Muscle Car. His father Bob, however, says that although Pontiac tries hard with its new 2000 Sunfire GT, it just isn't the same.)

MATT - I had a roommate in my single days who was a Pontiac enthusiast and his ride-of-choice was a '69 Pontiac GTO with a four-on-the-floor transmission. I thought of that car when I was driving this week's test car, the 2000 Pontiac Sunfire. It came with a five-speed transmission and has some of that hot-rod appeal of that old GTO.

BOB - Calling the Sunfire a hot-rod is stretching things a bit, Matt, but in today's "ecologically correct" market, it's as close as the average entry-level buyer can come. The Pontiac line is vast - from the compact Sunfire to the 345-horse Trans Am. The Sunfire we tested was a coupe, with GT trim and "spirited" if not spectacular performance. The engine is a 2.4-liter twin-cam four-banger that's been around for a long time now, so the "bugs" of the early models have no doubt been worked out. It puts out 150 ponies and 155 pound-feet of torque, which pushed it to 60 mph in about eight seconds. This year the GT Coupe sports a five-speed manual transmission that's a German design and its designers have even put a synchronizer on the reverse gear. The synchronizer protect the gears from damage when the impatient drivers simply "cram" the shifter into reverse. The braking system uses front discs and rear drums, but four wheel discs would be my choice for a modern-day street performer. But that would boost the price up and most buyers of this car would rather put their money into a hot-shot sound system than unseen performance options. The car is designated as a subcompact by the EPA, but that classification must be borderline because the Sunfire sedan is classed as a compact. It's not as wide as the coupe, but the wheelbase is longer. And even though you and I are "stick shift" guys, in my opinion, an automatic is the correct choice for the intended buyers of this car. Over 60 percent of the current owners of the Sunfire GT Coupe are female and most are single. In this demographic group, the most popular drivetrain system utilizes an automatic. The standard transmission is a three-speed automatic, while the standard engine is a 2.2 liter four cylinder that develops 115 horsepowers. In this configuration, the sedan makes a perfect airport rental car. There's a traction control system offered, but only with the optional four-speed automatic.

MATT - The Sunfire got a facelift for 2000, and our more sporting GT coupe had 16-inch wheels and tires to improve the handling as well as its image. The suspension system uses conventional MacPherson struts up front and a twist-beam axle in back. Sway bars front and rear help to keep it flat in corners. I like the built-in fog lamps that comes standard on the GT version because I like anything that improves driving at night, especially in bad weather. Another nice feature is the battery rundown protection system that shuts off the power if any accessories are left on inadvertently or the car is static for a prolonged period of time.

BOB - The front seats in the GT are buckets that are marginally comfortable but the rear "emergency" seat has enough seat belt to accommodate three across. It's better suited to carrying luggage and groceries, however. The number of different sound systems offered for the Sunfire lineup is amazing and there are more of them than there are different Sunfire models. We had the top of the line sound system, the "Monsoon," and cranked up, it put out an ear-splitting 200 watts of power. This is a system usually found on more upscale G.M. cars but it seems to be filtering down to entry-level kid cars. There's a convertible model in the Sunfire lineup and in sunny areas, this is a very popular model, but I gave up on ragtops after my first one got its top slashed after a high-school football game.

MATT - Probably by an irate student from the other school who was jealous because he had to go home in a horse-and-buggy.

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