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Pontiac Grand Prix, Sedan
#150 of 249 Check out the Edmunds First Drive Review
Mar 13, 2003 (10:28 pm)
First Drive: 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix
By John DiPietro
Date posted: 03-13-2003
After years of taking it on the chin spoiler for having an excess of body cladding and general busy-ness in its cars' styling, Pontiac has slowly been smoothing things out. Having to walk the tightrope between having a recognizable design theme and being boring isn't easy, but it seems that the company has a handle on it. Witness the 2004 Grand Prix, which will be available in base GT 1, midlevel GT 2 and supercharged GTP models.
With a semifastback roofline, the four-door Grand Prix resembles more a sporty coupe (almost like a supersized Acura RSX in profile) than a four-door sedan. With the Grand Prix coupe being discontinued, this sporty countenance is probably no mere coincidence. A smooth nose with the trademark Pontiac dual-port grille and a clean profile with just enough sculpting to lend a sporty character highlight the elegant envelope. Only the rear end has a bit of awkwardness with a fussy rear spoiler that fills a depression in the deck lid. Overall, however, we have to say this is one handsome car.
Moving to the interior, there is a definite cockpit theme, as the center stack curves to meet the driver. The assorted plastic trim seems upgraded compared to past GPs — a good thing as Pontiac has taken more than a few hits for its interior material. And we're glad to see the dowdy old steering wheel (that looked like a vinyl-covered throw pillow) gone and replaced by a much sportier three-spoke job with metallic accents and (on some models) controls for the stereo.
Gauges and displays are done in red, and all controls, even the trip computer, are intuitive. The cruise control is worked via a small stalk located at 4 o'clock on the wheel (like a Toyota), as the old 1980s-style turn signal stalk-mounted control finally retires. Those with a copy of Top Gun in their DVD collection will be pleased to know that the fighter jet-inspired heads-up display now has a "stealth" function that kills the instrument cluster lights so the GP's pilot isn't distracted. Also helping during aggressive maneuvers are the firmly bolstered seats on the GTP that held us in place while running through the countryside.
One of Pontiac's goals was to maximize this sedan's versatility in terms of being able to carry large, awkward objects. To that end, the new Grand Prix boasts a wide and low-cut trunk opening, a 60/40-split rear seat that allows a large pass-through, a fold-flat front passenger seat and rear doors that swing open nearly 90 degrees. To demonstrate the GP's almost wagonlike hauling capacity, a Pontiac rep tossed (OK, maybe not tossed) a nine-foot-long roll of carpeting into the car. Kudos to the interior team for designing a very functional yet sporty cabin; we would only suggest adding (or making optional) metallic trim (matching that on the steering wheel) to accent the dash on the left and right side of the instrument cluster and to cover the out-of-place dimpled portion of the door pull handles.
As before, a pair of 3.8-liter V6s (newly refined and dubbed Series III) serves duty in the Grand Prix. In the GT models, the standard 3800 Series III makes 200 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque. In addition to furnishing brisk performance, this engine is great on gas, scoring mileage estimates of 20 mpg city and a highway figure of 30 mpg highway — numbers associated more with four-cylinder econoboxes than a roomy V6 sedan. The GTP once again has a supercharged version of the 3800, tweaked this year to make 20 more horsepower (for a total of 260 ponies) and the same 280 pound-feet of twist as last year. Both engines now feature electronic throttle control (often called "drive by wire") whose action is speed-sensitive, meaning that, when parking, the response is slower to allow smoother, jerk-free maneuvering, while at higher speeds it reacts more quickly, so as to allow swift passing and merging.
This year, the supercharged engine can run on regular fuel, though premium is recommended for the best performance. We sampled both engines, which are teamed with a four-speed automatic. Of course we enjoyed the rush of the force-fed V6, whose transmission can be shifted manually via steering wheel-mounted buttons if the Competition Group Package is ordered. Pontiac calls this manual-shift feature "TAPshift," and we like that it has full manual operation during upshifts, meaning it won't baby-sit the driver like some other systems and thus will allow him to run into the rev limiter if he's not paying attention. We're all for anything that encourages more involvement and concentration from the driver. TAPshift is also pleasingly quick on the draw, shifting up or down virtually as quickly as the button is thumbed — a nice change from many other automanuals we've driven that have an annoying lag in this mode. Left to shift for itself, the tranny ran through the gears seamlessly, even under full throttle.
Pontiac had a 2004 Grand Prix GTP tested against its competition (all 2003 models) under the supervision of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) at Firebird Raceway in Arizona and got a 15.0-second quarter-mile out of it, besting such cars as the Nissan Maxima and Dodge Intrepid SXT. Pontiac claims the GTP will cover the 0-to-60 race in 6.5 seconds. Even without the supercharger, the 3800 V6 furnishes plenty of thrust and continues to be a favorite engine of this writer for its great combination of performance and economy, as well as its solid reliability history.
Hauling it all down are larger antilock (on all except the GT 1, where it's optional) four-wheel disc brakes that feature Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD). These binders were easily modulated and felt strong while we subjected our GP to many elevation changes (and hence heavy brake usage), certainly an improvement over the previous brakes which didn't feel as hefty or have as much pedal feel.
An independent suspension is found under the sleek bodywork, and in keeping with its performance-minded image, even the base cars feature antiroll bars fore and aft, 16-inch tires (225/60 Goodyear Eagles) and a quick (only 2.4 turns lock to lock) steering ratio. Step up to the GTP and the rubber is upgraded to Michelin Energy 225/55R17s. The Competition Group goes all the way with firmer suspension tuning, BF Goodrich Comp T/As (same size as the Michelins), 10-spoke alloys, enthusiast-oriented stability control (dubbed StabiliTrak Sport), a higher final drive ratio (3.29-to-1 versus the GTP's 2.93-to-1) for quicker acceleration and red brake calipers (just like a Porsche Turbo!).
We drove a base car and then jumped into a GTP Comp G and immediately noticed that, while the standard GP handles fine and has more than enough potential to be enjoyable, the GTP Comp G is definitely the car for the enthusiast. Cornering is flat and composed; even through rapid transitions, the car never wavere
Mar 14, 2003 (2:58 pm)
my father just called me and said he got a 2004 Grand Prix as a 3-month company car! Not sure if its a GT or GTP. hes on his way home now so maybe ill take a few pics or something with my digital. im quite excited
#152 of 249 so i drove the new gp...
Mar 14, 2003 (9:35 pm)
So my dad came home with a 2004 Grand Prix. Unfortunately it was a base model with NO options except a CD/Cassette player and an engine block heater. But after driving it you would never think it's a base model. Compared to the last generation GP (which I used to lease) this car handles a LOT better. It feels very tight and controlled. Throttle response and break pedal feel are great and the car truly feels smaller than it really is. Acceleration feels like its improved; I estimated a 0-60 time of around 7.5 seconds using brake-torque method and a stopwatch. The entire car feels tighter and connected when compared to the old car. In fact I would go as far as saying it's the best front wheel GM car I have driven to date. While im not a big fan of the exterior styling (kind of tacky in some areas) I love the new interior. The materials used are of much higher quality and the panel gaps are quite small, especially when compared to the previous GP. The seats are pretty deeply bolstered and remind me of those found in the CTS. The quality of sound from the standard 6 speaker setup makes me question if its really worth anteing up $600 for the better monsoon system. Overall: an awesome improvement over last generation's car and an above average mid-sized car. here is a link to the pics:
http://photos.yahoo.com/bc/amaximeya/lst?.dir=/we+got+a+2004+Gran- - d+Prix+for+3+months&.src=ph&.order=&.view=t&.done- - =http%3a//photos.yahoo.com
if ya got any qestions or want more detailed pics let me know. I gotta try and sell this car so GM gives my dad a bigger bonus this year
Mar 14, 2003 (11:20 pm)
Glad to see they've improved the car, but it still has the 'old' Pontiac look, like a larger Grand Am.
Mar 15, 2003 (3:37 am)
If changes aren't somewhat evolutionary, the current customers will bail. That's what happened to Olds. Yep, it was NOT your father's Oldsmobile. Unfortunately for Olds, it wasn't the son/daughter's either. And EVERYONE quit buying it.
Gradual change from the old Pontiac and the company can be a success. Rapid change to NOT even a bit like the old Pontiac, and they risk losing the old customers AND not appealing to the new target group.
Mar 15, 2003 (9:49 am)
I know this is a '04 Grand Prix discussion group, but has anyone heard if the '04 Regal GS will be also be getting the supercharged Series III engine? I keep hearing NO since the body style hasn't changed.
#156 of 249 dont think so jpstax
Mar 15, 2003 (11:43 am)
no the regal is not going to get the new series 3. the car was supposed to get a redesign this year along with the GP but Lutz said the new car is no good and one of the worst designs hes seen in a long time (read that somewhere). so the regal pretty much stays the same. im guessin its going to stay that way for a few years.
Mar 15, 2003 (4:04 pm)
Did your GP have cloth or leather? I have not seen any pictures of the cloth, so if you have cloth and could post some pictures I'd really appreciate it.
I prefer cloth for comfort reasons, but if it looks cheasy, I'd go with the leather.
Mar 15, 2003 (4:23 pm)
yeah the grand prix has cloth. its a base car. its clear that the GM is going slightly downmarket (an effort to save money) as the cloth is not as "soft" and "nice feeling" as the old GP. But in a way this is good becuase tehy are nice and gripy. like i said before, seats are great and nicely bolstered. I hear the leather is of much better quality this year (on par with that of cadys?) Anyway it looks to me that my link for the pics arent working so ill post them on another site tomorrow morn. ill try and take some pics of the seats tomorrow too (car is in Canada now).
#159 of 249 try this link
Mar 15, 2003 (5:53 pm)
plase use this link rather than the other one i gave. this one has more pics. i will try to take a few pics of the seats soon. take it easy.