The latest version of Pontiac's Grand Prix has been a success for the company since its introduction a couple of years ago. It also has pointed to the future look of Pontiac's mainstream sedans. The latest Grand Am, new as a 1999 model in early 1998, and 2000's all-new Bonneville both owe much of their style to the Grand Prix. While the Grand Prix may not be as aggressive in looks and demeanor as the bad- boy Firebird, it's no wallflower, especially in performance-oriented GT and GTP trim. It's comfortable and roomy enough for family duty, and is one of the most entertaining choices in the midsized sedan category.
Two basic models are offered. The SE comes in sedan form only, with a 3.1-liter V6 engine. That engine has a number of improvements for the 2000 model year, with an extra 15 horsepower (now 175) and 10 lb-ft of torque (to 195). The GT is offered in coupe as well as sedan form. If its 3800 Series II V6 engine's 200 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque isn't quite enough, Pontiac is happy to oblige the performance enthusiast with the GTP package: add one supercharger for 40 additional horses and another 55 lb-ft of torque. A sportier suspension tuning is also included. The Grand Prix GT is a good Pontiac-style executive express; the GTP just adds a generous helping of Pontiac attitude in a well-balanced package.
The GT and GTP have a number of minor enhancements but no major changes for 2000, so the 1999 GTP sedan in my driveway should tell all of the important facts about the 2000 model. What's important? Civilized muscle. The GTP has plenty of raw acceleration. It also corners and stops very well, and will transport four people in comfort. It's a sports car for the whole family.
APPEARANCE: Try telling a Grand Prix GT or GTP sedan and coupe apart from any distance. It's difficult, as they share the same wheelbase, length, and roofline. The B-pillar is more forward in the sedan to make room for two shorter doors on each side compared to the coupe's one. Next, try to tell a GT from a GTP without reading the badge on the front fender. The GTP has lower side cladding that is remarkably conservative for a Pontiac, and the "wing" in the lower front bumper fascia is a dark color. From the rear, a "ground effect"- look rear bumper fascia and dual cast aluminum exhausts tell the difference. Both cars have low, wide ovoid headlamps flanking medium-sized Pontiac nostrils located above the main bumper and large wraparound taillights.
COMFORT: Like the exterior, the Grand Prix's interior is conservative only for a Pontiac. It's a driver's car, with a good environment for passengers as well. The instrument panel design places important gauges and instruments front and center, with auxiliaries in a central panel angled toward the driver. The front bucket seats are comfortable and supportive. The rear seat has plenty of room for two people, and will hold a third when necessary. The optional perforated leather upholstery is comfortable even in hot weather, and a heater in the driver's seat takes care of cold. A good dual-zone climate control system, with five dashboard vents, ensures optimum interior comfort. Useful storage areas add convenience. That most Pontiac of options, the aircraft-style "heads up" display of speed and other data reflected off the windshield, takes some getting used to but is actually quite useful. The trunk is large and uses hydraulic struts that won't crush luggage.
SAFETY: Standard safety equipment on the GTP includes 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction control, dual airbags, side-impact protection, and daytime running lights. The standard Driver Information Center display provides useful safety information, including a low tire pressure warning.
ROADABILITY: Some (but very few!) of the Grand Prix GTP's ancestors might beat it in a contest of straight-line acceleration, but the GTP will leave them far behind when it comes time to turn or stop. Its fully-independent suspension is a littler firmer than the GT's for extra control in fast corners, but not so firm as to be uncomfortable. Four- wheel antilock brakes ensure quick, repeatable stops. The power- assisted steering is weighted just right. Despite the engine's healthy torque output, torque steer is not a major problem. The GTP is a fine highway cruiser, but shines best taking the long way home.
PERFORMANCE: 3800 Series II supercharged V6: V8 power, V6 fuel economy. And for 2000, it has been refined to meet Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) status. The Roots-type supercharger operates only when needed for fast acceleration, and there is no lag between power demand and delivery. In normal operation, where the extra power is not required, the supercharger is disengaged and the fuel injection is calibrated accordingly. Put the pedal to the metal, and the blower kicks in, extra fuel is added, and off you go -- quickly. It's kind of like opening up the second 4-barrel in the old days, but with much more precision. The supercharged engine's 240 horsepower beats some competitive V8s, but it's the 280 lb-ft of torque that gets the GTP moving so well. And with real-world gas mileage around 16mpg in town and well over 25 mpg on the open road, it'll keep moving for a while.
CONCLUSIONS: The Pontiac Grand Prix GTP is a refined modern muscle car.
SPECIFICATIONS Base Price $ 23,910 Price As Tested $ 26,445 Engine Type supercharged 12-valve ohv V6 Engine Size 3.8 liters / 231 cu. in. Horsepower 240 @ 5200 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 280 @ 3200 rpm Transmission 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 110.5 in. / 196.5 in. Curb Weight 3,440 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 14.3 Fuel Capacity 18 gal. Fuel Requirement premium unleaded, 92 octane Tires P225/60 HR16 Goodyear Eagle RS-A Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent tri-link Drivetrain front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 18 / 28 / 22 0 to 60 mph 6.6 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 15.0 sec Option Package 1SC - includes: power glass sunroof, power 4-way driver's seat (heated), "Eyecue" head-up display, leather seating surfaces, premium interior lighting package $ 1,650 16-inch 5-spoke "Torque Star" aluminum alloy wheels $ 325 Destination charge $ 560