Gone in a Flash: Pontiac G8


Automotive models come and go, but the Pontiac G8’s two-year run is one of the shortest on record. Introduced in 2008, the full-size G8 sedan was canceled in 2009, following parent GM’s bankruptcy and restructuring that shut down the Pontiac brand. Just as quickly as the Pontiac G8 showed up and grabbed the hearts of enthusiasts, it was gone in a flash, but not apart from an interesting twist that has kept this sedan alive in a slightly different form.

Pontiac G8 Origin

General Motors tapped its Australian subsidiary, Holden, to produce a car for Pontiac. The G8 became Pontiac’s flagship sedan and was based on the Holden Commodore, a five-passenger rear-wheel-drive model.

The Holden Commodore was designed, engineered and built in Australia. Introduced in 1978, the Commodore went through multiple generational updates and was produced through 2017. Beginning in 2018, a new model was imported from Germany. The G8 was produced before the technology to prevent auto accidents rolled out, such as lane departure alert and automatic braking.

2008 Pontiac G8 Introduction

Upon introduction, the Pontiac G8 secured flagship status for the brand. This large sedan offered V6 and V8 engines with its power sent to the rear wheels. Its dramatic styling and rear-wheel-drive layout quickly endeared people to the sedan, what some have called the poor man’s BMW.

The base Pontiac G8 sedan has a 3.6-liter V-6 engine making 256 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 248 foot-pounds of torque at 2,100 rpm. It comes paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. The Pontiac G8 GT has a 6.0-liter V-8 engine making 385 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and 361 foot-pounds of torque at 5,300 rpm. Pontiac teams this engine with a six-speed automatic transmission. Its 0-to-60 mph time comes in at approximately 5.3 seconds.

Standard equipment across the Pontiac G8 line includes alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, climate control, a tilt and telescoping steering column and a premium sound system. The G8 GT supplies a Blaupunkt audio system, dual-zone climate control, summer tires, and a limited-slip differential. Safety equipment includes stability control, traction control and brake assist.

2009 Pontiac G8 GXP

For 2009, Pontiac expanded the G8’s model line to include the GXP sedan. This model has the Corvette’s 6.2-liter V-8 engine, making 415 horsepower at 4,600 rpm and 415 foot-pounds of torque at 5,900 rpm. A six-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting control comes standard. A Tremec six-speed manual transmission was also available.

The Pontiac G8 GXP has thickly bolstered sport seats, a GXP-specific sport steering wheel, rubber-trimmed alloy pedals and offers three driving modes. Incidentally, Motor Trend reported that the GXP sedan zoomed from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds.

Death of a Dream

Following years of poor financial health and a historic economic downturn that took hold in 2008, GM declared bankruptcy in June 2009. The bankruptcy move was aided by American and Canadian taxpayers who put up tens of billions of dollars to help restructure the company.

As part of GM’s restructuring, the automaker sought to sell off or close down several brands. Ultimately, GM freed itself of Saab, Saturn, Hummer and Pontiac, the latter taking the G8 sedan with it.

Chevrolet Caprice PPV and Chevrolet SS

Months after the cancellation of the Pontiac G8, GM announced that a new vehicle based on a Holden platform would be imported to the United States. That vehicle, the Chevrolet Caprice PPV, was for law enforcement fleets only. Moreover, it was based on the Holden Caprice, a slightly longer version of the Holden Commodore.

Beginning in 2013, GM introduced another variant, this one based on the VF Commodore. The Chevrolet SS, based on the latest version of the Holden, made its debut for the 2014 model year. It has the same 6.2-liter V-8 engine found in the Pontiac G8 GXP and includes a sport-tuned suspension, electronic power steering and a near perfect 50/50 weight distribution. Essentially, the Chevrolet SS took up where the Pontiac G8 left off.

Founded in 1926, the Pontiac brand shut down in 2010. Its Holden subsidiary was temporarily bereft of an American receiver until Chevrolet was tabbed to fill that void, delivering to enthusiasts its own iteration of the Pontiac G8. But Holden itself has changed as the company no longer builds any models in Australia. That’s also spelled the demise of the Chevy SS, once again leaving the U.S. market bereft of a full-size mainstream rear-wheel drive sedan from GM.


See AlsoThe History of the Pontiac Fiero

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Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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