Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Danville Street Sighting - 2009 Pontiac G8 GT

Today is my birthday, and it's my party and I'll cry if I want to. It still bums me out that the Pontiac brand is gone, even ten years later. Especially after a couple of bright spots amid the general decline of GM's Excitement division. The Pontiac G8 was a rebadge of the Australian Holden Commodore, engineered for left hand drive and other compliance with American road laws. It lasted only two years here in the states based on the VE Commodore, then enjoyed an almost equally brief resurgence with a Chevrolet badge as the Chevy SS based on the redesigned VF. Today the Holden factory in south Australia is itself shut down, no longer building the iconic rear-wheel-drive coupes, sedans and ute pickups that carried such monikers as Monaro, Commodore, Maloo, Statesman and Caprice. For decades the Commodore platform was a strong seller in Australia, but rising fuel costs, environmental concerns and the spreading worldwide plague of the SUV ate into Holden car sales. General Motors imported some cars into the US, apparently as an excuse to keep the Australian factory open. Frustratingly, the Pontiac G8 and Chevrolet SS were barely advertised and always remained niche products for enthusiasts in the know.

I fell in love with the Pontiac G8 in 2008 when I first saw a red G8 GT at the auto show and picked up a brochure. I wanted one badly. Twelve years later, I still haven't driven one. The second and final year of G8 production brought new packages and new colors. Most notable was the high-performance GXP, equipped with a 415 horsepower 6.2 liter V8 and optional six-speed manual (the only way to get a stick in a G8), special ground effects and wheels. Also new was a Sport package for the 361 hp, 6.0 liter V8 GT that upgraded the car to a handsome set of 19-inch five spoke alloy wheels, summer tires and a special sport steering wheel. One of my favorite additions for 2009 was a few new paint colors, mainly Pacific Slate Metallic. That's the color seen on this car. My realistic dream car for the past ten years has been a 2009 Pontiac G8 GT Sport in Pacific Slate. For the most part, you're looking at it.

I'm generally not wild about billet aluminum stuff tacked onto cars. I really don't think it adds much to the vehicle. This one has billet and mesh inserts in the grille, front and rear valance panels, and even a billet fuel door cover. Standard G8 grille parts are mostly black plastic with a honeycomb pattern. I admit the stock parts look kind of cheap. As mentioned previously the paint color was the deciding factor in me shooting this car. Pacific Slate is one of the rarest colors on the G8, accounting for just 1,748 cars (1,063 GTs like this one). If you can find a GXP in Pacific Slate, you've encountered the rarest G8 combination with only 45 made. I sat in a Pacific Slate GXP at the San Jose auto show in 2009. I think one reason why the color didn't sell well is because it looks very different depending on the light. It's not great under fluorescent light (like, say, an auto show or a dealer showroom), but I love how it looks outdoors in sunlight. Were it not parked under a tree this would have been a great shoot.

The Pontiac G8 always did well in comparison tests from a performance standpoint. Some publications called it a cut-rate American BMW M5. It suffered the same problem as the Dodge Charger and the Corvette: cut-rate interior plastics. The leather seats were great but the dashboard was not. Early G8s had tacky red gauge dials, cheap silver paint on the steering wheel spokes that scratched over time and low-resolution red digital auxiliary gauge displays that were generally considered a waste of space. These things were addressed for 2009, mostly by changing the colors to black and replacing the digital gauges with a small cubby. Some owners have installed real analog gauges in the cubby location using Holden Special Vehicles parts from the Commodore. Fun fact: When GM announced the end of G8 production, Holden had so many G8 fascias lying around in their factory that they made a Special Edition Commodore with the Pontiac front and rear. I think it's quite funny that while Americans have been slapping Holden badges and fascias on their G8s, some Australians also liked to dress their Commodore Special Editions with Pontiac G8 badging. Forbidden fruit and all that. Car culture is a funny thing.

The Holden Commodore still exists today, but it's a rebadged Opel Insignia built in Germany. You can technically still buy a new Commodore in North America. Just go to your local Buick dealer and look at a Regal. But make it quick. After GM's sale of Opel to Groupe PSA (Peugeot-Citroen), the old GM platform is going away soon.

Photographed August 2019

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