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RETURN OF THE MUSCLE

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, Nov 6, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

RETURN OF THE MUSCLE

By JOHN GRAFMAN

Some things are worth waiting for longer than others. Pontiac offered the return of the GTO badge just a couple years ago. After the initial hoopla and surge that most new vehicles have in sales, the sales figures just sort of chilled. Pontiac is now cranking up the heat on this baby in a big way.

In 2004, I drove the GTO with 350 horsepower and an automatic transmission - and thought that was a fun machine for the muscle car set. This time around, the power jumps to 400, and a six-speed manual is the transmission of choice. Given the actual transaction price of the GTO, this is the deal of the decade. No, this isn't perfection in the way a Porsche or Ferrari is, but who cares at this price? I left my acid tongue off at the bottom line of the window sticker.

I can sense every pony in the engine, even while we're just puttering around. The vibrations spawned by this motor echo down to one's core. I am not just emotionally moved, but physically as well. The deep, low bass tone that rumbles from the exhaust is all I need to get excited. Fortunately, most parts of the GTO hold up under scrutiny. The seats and interior are good in material and design - both are keeping in the flavor this car evokes. Similar to the interior, the exterior is not sharing many of the most current design themes - and has been the source of some comments. I for one have no issue with the shape of the vehicle. I may not be bowled over, but I can easily live with this. The hood of this year's model (featuring a couple of air intakes) complements the aggressive nature of the car.

Like the namesake of the GTO, this car is not about the extraneous details. Although this is a competent player, this car is about power. By-and-large, the new six-liter motor is on par with the Corvette. The Pontiac does have to deal with a fair amount of additional bulk, a higher center of gravity, and two additional seats - and this keeps it from being a threat to the Vette's domain. On the other hand, it's nice to see that this car is not redundant in the GM stable of cars (no badge engineering here). This is a special four-passenger car - one that can kick butt on almost anything straight out of the box, no added tuning and tweaking required. For what is not a whole lot more than the cost of many other automobiles, this is a car overflowing with character.

Those concerned about anything other than power need not apply. I am more than satisfied with the basics. A modern muscle car needs to handle decently, have good steering feel, and ability to come to a stop without any panic setting in - and this car does all of that and more. The rack-and-pinion with variable ratio steering, four-wheel independent suspension, limited slip differential, disc brakes all around with four-channel ABS, and sticky 17-inch 245/45ZR tires are good reasons why this car feels so right.

Sure, the manual transmission shifter can be more refined, and perhaps some other little issues can be addressed (e.g., the tilting steering wheel can come down a bit more). However, getting too caught up in these things somehow misses the point. This is not a car that is refined to death, and maybe for good reason. This is, after all, a muscle car!

If gas prices keep working their way upward, we might not see the domestics offering a car like this again for some time to come. For those who missed their chance to be a part of the last century's muscle car epidemic, now is the time. It doesn't get much better than this!

For more information please go to www.pontiac.com

SPECIFICATIONS

Vehicle: 2005 Pontiac GTO

Price: $32,990, as tested $33,690

Engine type: 6 Liter V-8 LS2, aluminum block and heads, OHV, 2 valves per cylinder, sequential-port fuel injection

Horsepower: 400 @ 5,200 rpm

Drive configuration: Front engine/rear drive

Gas mileage: EPA 17 city, 25 highway

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