The mild-mannered power of a well-made naturally aspirated V6 might be just the ticket for balancing big-sedan comfort with mid-sized efficiency - though that’s up for debate as well - but it sure isn’t what you’d expect from the aggressive looks and Aussie-bred demeanor of the new Pontiac G8. Despite the less-than-impressive performance, however, almost everything else remains the same as its bigger brother, and without the intoxicating aroma of the big V8 found under the hood of the G8’s GT variant, the true essence of the car is easier to discern. Few other publications have tested the V6 variant. Is it possible that the ego-enhancing effects of a large-displacement V8 have skewed the results in favor of an otherwise bland car?
At first blush the G8 is an exciting car. The styling isn’t typical of the last half-decade of American cars, though the past year or two have brought some interesting competition. It has an air about it that certainly impresses more than the Grand Am or Grand Prix ever did, at least for this reviewer. Even the also-Australian GTO, beloved by some but detested by many as heretical to the original Goat, didn’t offer the combination of utility, visceral appeal and affordability that the G8 brings to the table. The athletic, forward-biting stance and angular lines give the car purpose, and though the front end may be a bit overwrought, it clearly brands the car a Pontiac, and makes it recognizable from blocks away. But a good first impression isn’t enough to carry the day anymore - buyers are looking for well-built, easy-driving, safe and efficient transport more than ever before.
The quick verdict: the G8 manages to rise to the challenge for the most part, and its few foibles are not significant enough to justify its relegation to the ‘also-ran’ list. Perhaps even more importantly, there is unlocked potential in this car - it could be great, with just a little help. Handling is as good as you can expect from an affordable large sedan, with a predictable and capable nature that speaks of a well-designed chassis tuned for comfort over speed.