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A LUST FOR LIFE

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Apr 11, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

A LUST FOR LIFE

By JOHN GRAFMAN

All right, I admit it. I do really enjoy sampling the various flavors in the automotive kingdom. Just when I thought I had my fill, along comes Pontiac to steal the show.

I might as well dish the dirt out early and get it out of the way here and now. First, can we manage to make a car like the GT0 here in America? Second, if isn't made here, must they pinch the name off a prior Pontiac success story? Yes, an American icon. There. I said it. I feel better now. The image of Pontiac’s muscle car of yore is etched into our brains. The public has accepted a romantic image for this car that expresses the spirit of America, much in the same way the image of the cowboy had on previous generations. No way would GM do anything to tarnish that image. I was thereby anticipating good stuff from the far reaches of General Motors. I wasn't expecting something this good, though. After all, we are talking about the General. Well, maybe the new generals at the General have a better battle plan. The GT0 might be one of their first salvos aloft.

The Pontiac comes across as attractive and refined. No ungainly molding or trendy accents. Design such as this one won’t be dated nearly as much as cars that seemed to try too hard expressing the latest fad when it comes to styling. The inside, overall, works. Plenty of room for four. One could argue the link between GT0s of past, but that is a rather weak argument. Immediately I noticed that the gauges are colored, but not in a way that resembles something childish. The seats are all business. Once in these buckets, sliding around is out of the question.

For the driver, the lack of a dead pedal is definitely a misstep (pun intended). Having your left foot float in space is not what enthusiasts want. This is supposed to be a car that's meant to be driven, right? As good as the interior is laid out, the window buttons have taken an awkward placement. In the center console lays both the driver and passenger window switches. To the amazement of my passenger, the switch is off limits once a cup is placed in the cup holders. The general strikes again!

All minor problems aside, the overall fit, finish, and material choices are beyond my level of expectation. However, the real story lies not inside the passenger cabin but, rather, under the hood. This is the spiritual successor to the recently departed Camaro and Firebird. The power produced by a 5.7 liter motor is maybe not as extraordinary as in the Corvette (where it produces 400), but it's as gratifying as anyone can hope for. The engine is engaging and excessive waste of petrol is a habitual pleasure. This car moves out with authority at any speed!

Even puttering around town, sticking the automatic transmission in low gear is muscle car all the way. This car is torquey and poised to pounce - just like back in the day. This time, though, the red line is a good deal higher than the good ol’ days. The sound emitting from the motor to the tail pipe is enough to turn heads. Its low tone invades your body in a gratifying, sexual sort of way. The gurgle emitted from the exhaust system is so potent, why bother with a stereo? Now if the transmission was of a sequential type as seen in most modern cars, this would be Nirvana. When the GTO is pitted against nearly any other in its genre, the GT0 shines. For a car priced in the low thirties, with room for four and enough power to smoke nearly any at a stop signal, how can this not be an awesome value if not an outright steal? The GT0 is one of those cars where the total package is greater than the sum total of its parts. This indeed is the soul brother to any one of the numerous muscle cars from the '60s and early '70s

. On taking a short spin with designer and a muscle car nut, Mike Desmond (formally of Mitsubishi and now designing at West Coast choppers), the look on his face said it all. Eyes wide open and an ear-to-ear grin highlight what I've been saying: This is a blast from the past. This history of Southern California is steeped in performance car lore. So much of that lore revolves around American-made cars. As we reinvent the new American economy, will foreign-made cars like this suffer backlash or get their fair share of the pie? That's a tough one to ponder. In the meantime, I'll take the GTO for another spin around the block. Being bad feels so good in this car! Placing the whole experience behind the wheel in perfect perspective was none other than music legend, Iggy Pop. Iggy’s classic 1977 song “lust for life” found its way on to the airway twice while I was behind the Pontiac’s wheel. Although currently being exploited by a cruise line, this song still has special place in the heart of the automotive world. The sincere, poetic utterance of “Got a GTO” says it all. What else contains three short words that mean so much after so many years?

For more information check www.pontiac.com

SPECIFICATIONS Price: $ 31,795, as tested $ 33,495 Engine type: 5.7L V-8 aluminum block and cylinder head, OHV, 2 valves per cylinder Horsepower: 350 @ 5,200 RPM Torque: 365 @ 4,000 Drive configuration: Front engine/rear-wheel drive Transmission type: Hydra-Matic 4L60-E 4-speed electronic automatic FWD transverse Suspension: Front: independent MacPherson struts and progressive-rate springs Rear: independent semi-trailing control-link with gas pressure dampers Wheels and tires: Front: 17-inch alloy, P225/50R17 Rear: 17-inch alloy, P225/50R17 Brakes: Front: 11.7” discs, ventilated, power assisted with 4-channel anti-lock braking system. Rear: 11.3” discs, ventilated, power assisted with 4-channel anti-lock braking system Overall length: 189.8” Overall width: 72.5” Overall height: 54.9” Curb weight (lbs.): 3,725 EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 16/21 mpg

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