The Once and Forever G8

Let me get personal for a moment: I miss Pontiac.

General Motors’ bankruptcy forced the largest automotive concern in the world to make some sacrifices. Since one of the complaints by analysts and pundits had been the large number of brands on sale by the company, GM was forced to make some sacrifices. It had to cut brands and the number of dealerships selling them. When it came to closing down the Pontiac brand, a number of loyal enthusiasts were not happy about that decision.

I can cite the many reasons for the closure of Pontiac. I can also cite the frustrations and laments of those who were loyal to the arrowhead.

Truthfully, I was actually a fan of Pontiac – coming from an Oldsmobile heritage, that is. Once Oldsmobile went away, I looked to Pontiac for hope to keep me engaged with GM products. Though my family never owned a Pontiac, I always considered them when I shopped for an automobile, or was asked for advice on shopping.

Today, I was doing some field research for a future review subject when I was talking to one of the owners of a dealership that once sold Pontiacs up until the closure of the brand. I always liked this particular dealership (White Bear Lake Superstore in White Bear Lake, Minnesota) as it was not part of a chain and had a loyal following of customers in sales and after sales.

This gentleman, a young fella who was part of the ownership family, and I were talking when I noticed they had only one Pontiac G8 around. My heart started to sink.

Why? Well…the G8 was one of those cars that I would probably never drive in my life.

When Holden announced the development of the VE Commodore a few years ago, it was announced that there was a possibility that this car would either be imported or produced in North America. Having a love for Australian automobiles, this was indeed good news! I loved the Holden Monaro/Pontiac GTO when it arrived here – a coupe worthy of its twin heritage, in my opinion. Having the Commodore here made my heart flutter.

Sadly, I missed the boat. When I was renting cars locally to do my reviews for this blog, I always wanted at a day in the G8’s base model – the V6 powered sedan. It was a case where I could not afford the rental fees on this model or they never had one available for me to even look at.

Then, Pontiac closed. No one was renting G8s anymore. I am not one to do test drives at dealerships unless I have a relationship with one.

After admitting that I have never driven a G8 before – having always wanted to drive one – this gentleman from the dealership took me outside and showed me the G8 in question – a red 2008 GT model that was modified inside and out. While the interior was stock, the 6.0litre V8 was tuned to 425HP, enhanced exhaust system with color-matching rims and performance tires I never heard of before. The gentleman stated that it the third set of tires on this car.

I have a rule of thumb taken my days of playing Boomer (my succession of conga drums since 1990): Never play with another person’s gear unless that person trusts you 100%. In my time, I allowed three people to play my drums – only two. The same goes with automobiles. If you absolutely trust me, invite me to drive.

I deferred to this gentleman to do the honors…and I’m glad I did. On the highway the dealership was located on, he got the G8 above 80MPH. It simply handled flat with full grip and sharp handling. Whoever did the modifications knew exactly what they were doing. It was a beast.

It wasn’t about the drive that engaged me with the G8. It was the experience. This was a sedan that I always admired and wanted to at least experience once. Granted, this is not a Rolls-Royce or a Pagani or something truly special that is worth a King’s ransom. This was an Australian-built Holden with Pontiac badges and twin kidney grille that had so much potential to become a leader amongst large rear-drive sedans in this country. It was one of my dream drives – until my heart was broken.

Granted, GM has plans to reintroduce the large Holden sedans to this continent. Chevrolet is selling the Holden Statesman/Caprice as a police cruiser and a taxi conveyance. I pointed out that Buick sells the same premium Holden as the Park Avenue in China (though the car is badged the Chevrolet Caprice in the Middle East). Though the Commodore is sold as a Chevrolet in Brazil, the Middle East and South Africa, I heard through the grapevine that it would be sold in North American Chevy dealers as well as a performance sedan.

But, will they be the same? Will I be able to experience once and for all the triumph of Holden and the pride of John Howard’s Australia (as it is Kevin Rudd’s and Julia Gillard’s, too!)? For the old Monaros, Kingwoods, HSVs and Commodores before it, the Pontiac G8 was pure. It was GM’s answer to Europe’s big rear-drive (and all-wheel-drive) executive sedans that had a beast under the hood to boot.

A brief drive in the G8 quelled my curiosity. Now, I want another ride – this time, I’m driving. That is…if I ever will.

Photo by Randy Stern

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