With the thinning of the sports car ranks, more and more people are looking to Pontiac's performance mentality to give them something powerful and sporty that can also double as a daily driver. In my opinion, no car fits that description better than the GTP model Grand Prix. The GTP is a package that includes a supercharger adding 40 horsepower, special badging, and usually comes with all the options like dual climate control and a HUD.
In 1998 there was a series of pace car replicas released. These GPs (Grand Prixs) are identical to GTPs, except that they have a super metallic blue paint with grey highlights, and wear special Daytona 500 badging. My review is of my 98 pace car #356 of 1500...I think. ;)
Wider is better...theoretically. Though there are so many variables involved you can't begin to judge handling on that alone. The GP seems to really lag in handling, in spite of Pontiac's constant commercials saying otherwise. There is a medium amount of body roll coming around sharp turns, and the suspension can't seem to right itself fast enough for any kind of S turns.
This is pretty comparable to most passenger cars I've had a chance to drive. I wouldn't try competing against some of the slightly more maneuverable foreign cars, like a Prelude though. Of course, it's only fair to note that my suspension had 75k miles on it when I bought the car, and my daily driver besides the GTP is a 2002 Firehawk with the Bilstein suspension. What it comes down to is what you're used to. It'll definitely outhandle the SUV you may be used to driving, but if your current car is a 'Vette, expect a disappointment.
The performance besides the handling is actually pretty good. The 3800 series engine in the GPs is a very...peppy motor (sorry, best word I could think of =P). It's quick to respond and gives decent power all through the band. The 3800 is rated at 195 horsepower, and the GTP bumps that to 240 with the supercharger.
The GTP will pull 0-60 in under 7 seconds and can do the quarter mile in around 15 and a half. The supercharger adds a good kick to the engine and I strongly recommend it. There's a lot of low end power in this car. You'll have no trouble squealing the tires (as I do weekly by accident). The problem is in the high end. I'm not used to passenger cars, so this may be normal. I know that with my LS1 you just get squished harder and harder into your seat as the RPMs climb. In the GTP, you get a good boost off the line, but then it just kinda stays the same all the way through the band from there. In other words, the car is fun to take from stop signs, but not much fun to floor.
Gas mileage is pretty weak. I've been getting around 20+ mpg from my 8 cylinder LS1, so I assumed a GTP would come in at least in the 26+ area. Nope. Even with my driving (I'm good at getting good gas mileage) I average somewhere in the range of 19 mpg in this car. Now, that could be because of the supercharger, so if you're thinking of getting a regular GP research some other reviews to see what they have to say.
Of course this is subjective. I'm pretty sure you know what a GP looks like. If not, search google for some images, as they can convey it better than my words. I will only touch on the pace car here. It is a light, yet vibrant, metallic blue color. It's very beautiful in the sunlight. The front ground effects and lower rear bumper are a classy gray color. The doors sport 3 or 4 inch circular pace car decals. It doesn't sound very nice, but the colors mesh very well. I urge you to look at one before deciding.
The paint is pretty good quality. The metal flake in the metallic blue is superb. The paint holds up pretty well, though the blue holds up much better than the grey, as you may have suspected. Be careful of stone chips. Even a single one will stand out on this blue. :(
The interior is decent quality. It's got a classy feel to it. I was worried when I started looking as I think the Grand Am interior tried to be overly aggressive and looks horrible. I was pleasantly surprised here though.
I suggest the HUD (heads up display) and the dual climate control. Both are invaluable. I found it hard to get used to the HUD at first, but find myself missing it when driving another car now. It's very nice not having to take your eyes from the road when driving. Dual climate control is great...you'd be surprised how different people are when it comes to temperature.
The seats are somewhat comfortable. I honestly can't take more than about 2 hours in them though. After that I'm numb. I really expected better considering this is supposed to be Pontiac's toned down version of a luxury car. The back seats have a little more footspace than my Hawk, but I don't consider them roomy by any means.
Storage is reasonable. There is a decent sized trunk, but it's only some 12 inches high, making big packages a problem. I usually transport larger things in my front or back seats. The back has plenty of room to store stuff on the seats.
I've had a few problems with the car, though I think some were my fault. The first to fall into that category is the battery. It died on me a few months ago. Though from what I saw, it was the original battery, so that's not bad that it lasted 6 years and 80,000 miles. Though, as I later found out, it went because the alternator was going bad. I'm not sure how long they're supposed to last so I don't know if that was a maintenance issue.
I've found out that although the 3800 is a solid engine, it has a history of a head gasket oil leak. If you don't know what that is, think $750 repair bill. As I understand it, the repair becomes even more difficult (and nearly impossible for do-it-yourselfers) because of the supercharger being in the way.
Besides those problems, the car has held up pretty well for me. I've been told that the suspension is weakening and I may need new struts soon, but I don't consider that major considering the age of the car. It starts up pretty quickly, and hasn't failed in the winter yet. I've had it starting as temperatures as low as -5 F. It didn't want to start...but it did. ;)
The GPs are a nice middle of the road luxury/sport coupe. They're nice looking, pretty reliable, and have some power. I don't think they're anything spectacular though. To be honest, my old 99 Trans Am, that cost about the same as this car, was faster, more comfortable, more reliable, better looking, and got better gas mileage. So there are other cars I'd recommend instead. I went with this because I needed something front wheel drive to drive in the snow during the winter.
If you're looking for a nice family car that's still has a sporty feel to it, the GTP may be your perfect solution. If you want luxury or space, go look at the Bonneville or spring for a Cadillac. If you want a sports car and don't mind $1800/year in insurance, pick up a used Trans Am. Feel free to contact me with questions. Best of luck.
Amount Paid (US$):
1999Model and Options:
GTP Pace Car Replica