You've read the driving impressions and the reviews of the '04 GTO in the previous issues of HPP and you were taken inside Pontiac's press preview for the '04 GTO in these pages as well. So what's left to know?
Well, how about how fast is it on a drag strip? Sure you may have read some road tests in the mainstream new car mags but we like to test our own cars for HPP and drive them to the best of our abilities and adjust things like tire pressure, launch technique, and shift points. And we let the cars cool down between runs in an effort to extract the best performance possible.
For this strip session, we made the trip to California to get a test car because there were none in the press fleet anywhere else in the country at the time. It was February so we weren't complaining too much about traveling to a 70-degree climate with sunshine, while at home temps were hovering in the single digits with most tracks snow covered and closed.
When we lined up our tester there were just 2 stipulations, it had to be a 6-speed car because we felt that it would produce the best e.t.'s and it had to be a bright color because we were thinking cover shot the whole time. Thanks to Silvia Paul at GM Communications West we received the Torrid Red, stick GTO that you see here.
We also contacted historic Carlsbad Raceway in Carlsbad, California, and rented the track for a day. Finally, the plans were set to drag test the '04 GTO. Our goal was to run faster than previously published times and to learn as much as we could about the new model on the strip. Carlsbad is very near sea level so we were hoping for good air so we had no idea how the starting line was going to be.
We arrived early on a Thursday morning with the '04 GTO and a '04 Mach 1. We were testing the GTO and doing a quick comparison with the Mach 1, which will also appear in our sister publication Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords. Three drivers would make passes in the GTO and Mach 1--Evan Smith, technical editor for Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords, Steve Baur, associate editor HPP and GM High Tech, and myself. The fastest times will be printed here regardless of driver.
Both the GTO and Mustang were cooled down for approximately 45 minutes before the first passes were made. The Carlsbad crew would run the tree for us and prep the starting line.
Evan Smith was the first driver of the GTO and would ultimately run the low e.t. of the day for it. Beginning at 13.8 on a shakedown run to learn the characteristics of the car, the second pass dropped to 13.65 and on the third 13.52. After the 3 back-to-back passes, the Pontiac was parked for a cooldown.
Having run the GTO exactly as it had come off the street, we checked the tire pressure to find 39 pounds all around. While that's fine up front to somewhat cut rolling resistance, we felt it was excessive in the back and hoped to gain some traction by reducing the pressure to 32 pounds.
Back out on the track, Smith was behind the wheel again for consistency sake to see if the pressure reduction helped. He ran 13.64 and then 13.57 at 104.89 but more importantly the 60-foot times were 2.21 and 2.28 respectively, both within a few hundreths of the previous best run but it appeared the lower pressure didn't improve traction. The track was sprayed with traction compound a couple of times during the day and it felt sticky but GTO could still overpower it.
After lunch, I made some passes with the GTO but none were better than Smith's 13.52. Launching was no problem walking the GTO out at about 2,200 rpm and squeezing the pedal to the floor. The 1-2 powershift at 6,000 rpm was clean, breaking the tires loose as it had done for other drivers, the 2-3 same thing. But when yanking the lever into fourth, my arm would hit the seat bolster. I tried cranking my arm around to a different angle and changing seat positioning but it persisted. Evan and Steve, who later made passes, were able to overcome it more effectively resulting in lower e.t.'s since I finally resorted to granny shifting the 3 to 4. My consolation prize for the day was lowest 60-foot time for the GTO at 2.18.
The GTO makes a lot of torque from its LS1, which requires some finesse at the line to avoid breaking traction excessively--and the tires are not very wide at 245/45-17 when you consider the dearly-departed F-body's 275/40-17 rear shoes. On launch, the GTO appears to transfer weight quickly to the tires squatting down at the rear. On the 1-2 and 2-3 shifts the tires break loose, the rear shudders and the car begins to dance a little to the right. At first we thought that the independent rear could be responsible but the Mustang did the exact same thing with a solid rear axle. The rest of the run is smooth forward thrust that carries you through the traps at 105 mph most of the time.
Trap speed indicates that there is certainly more e.t. to be found in the GTO. Some better tires and a sticky starting line will bear this out in the future. For comparison sake to another late Pontiac, the 3,740 race weight 2002 Collector Edition T/A with an automatic and a 3.23 rear gear ran 13.13 at 104 mph at Englishtown, New Jersey for the September 2002 issue of HPP. The GTO has the advantage of more rated horsepower at 350 as compared to 325 for the Bird, the 6-speed over the automatic, and the steeper 3.46 gears. But its heavier at over 3,900 pounds race weight (sorry, the track had no scale for a proper weigh in and the 3 drivers weigh between 155 and 180 pounds, published curb weight for the GTO is 3,761 pounds). So posting 105.57 mph shows that there is power is there to reduce e.t.'s further.
But it will have to happen at another track with another GTO because our day was drawing to a close and we still needed to get photography done. We got respectable times that were quicker than the mainstream new car titles so we were happy. We also learned a lot about our Little GTO performance-wise. How did the Mach I compare to the GTO? Read the giant sidebar.
There was no weather station at Carlsbad so these readings were taken from my watch that has the features below...except wind speed of course.
|Elevation:||100 ft. above sea level|
|Wind speed:||Very light|
GTO VS MACH 1 HEAD TO HEAD
The Mach 1 was raced by the 3 of us as well that day at the track and comparisons were made to the GTO.
EDITOR HIGH PERFORMANCE PONTIAC MAGAZINE
I enjoyed the opportunity to compare and contrast the GTO and the Mach 1 for the few days that we had them. In the price heirachy, the GTO at $33,190 (with the $695 6-speed option) fits right between the Mach 1 at $29,790 and Ford's Cobra Mustang at about $35,000-39,000.
On the strip, the GTO has more low end grunt making it a bit more of a challenge to launch. Conversely, the Mustang makes power at higher rpm redlining a 7,000 to the GTO's 6,000, which is conducive to launching on street tires. This because you can get out clean and the power comes on further down the track. The Mach 1 also didn't transfer weight nearly as much as the GTO did but it did post similar 60-foot times. I liked the Mustang's shifter better but the car goes through the traps at the top of third gear so steeper gears will make this car even faster. With the Goat you are well into fourth gear with revs climbing at the traps so stock gearing is better matched with the GTO. Clutch action was light but positive in both cars.
The Mach 1 feels solid on the road as does the GTO, but we didn't do direct handling or braking comparisons so I can't comment further.
Exterior stylingwise, the Mustang has a mean retro look with graphics that resemble a '69 Mach 1 and a shaker hood to boot. The GTO as we know, is much more sedate, offering a grownup look in direct contrast to the Mach 1s boy-racer style but it's easily mistaken for other Pontiac models. Interior styling is very attractive in both cars but the GTO gets the nod for higher quality materials.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR HIGH PERFORMANCE PONTIAC MAGAZINE ASSOCIATE EDITOR GM HIGH TECH PERFORMANCE
I don't care what anyone says about the styling of the GTO. It may be a bit bland, but give the aftermarket 6 months with it and it'll be the coolest thing on the road, plus it already has the performance to back it up. Think of it as a blank canvas for its future owner to draw on.
Its LS1 engine offers plenty of torque, which was an essential ingredient of GTOs in the past, and the aftermarket has simple head and cam packages to make it a 500hp monster should the factory power supply not be enough. The stock suspension seemed a bit too compliant. It transfers weight exceptionally, however I feel that the IRS's ability to plant the tires may suffer from this. Aurally, the GTO offers an exhaust note that is distinct and separate from the current LS1-powered crop
The driving position was great and the fit, finish and feel of the interior components is far and above anything Pontiac has put out on its own. Seats are plush yet secure and the shifter is smooth, but its throw is a little too long for my taste. Still I had no problems powershifting the T56 for all it was worth. Give the GTO an A for effort. To quote Han Solo, "She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts."
I've spent an extensive amount of time and miles in Mach I Mustangs now, and really love the cars. They have the perfect blend of exclusivity, power and appeal that make them one of the best buys in the market. Add to that an aftermarket that offers anything and everything for them and there is no limit to what you can do to one. They really are fantastic out of the box though, and that is what makes them a great value.
The Mach I has great style both inside and out. It's so popular that most of the pieces can be bought over-the-counter so you can build your own. Power output is impressive and the addition of a 3.55:1 rear gear ratio quickens the wide powerband of the DOHC motor far better than the earlier Cobra's 3.27 ratio. If you look at the fact that the Mustang is a pony car and the GTO is supposed to be a full-size car, it is pretty much an apples to oranges comparison. However the General's minions have nothing else (short of the Corvette) to employ in their quest for street superiority. Despite being heavier, the GTO has a much larger engine to make up for its heft, and the elapsed times showed that it does pretty well.
Frankly it's a toss up between the two. Both are planned for limited production, although the GTO may become the next Chevelle after its run is over. This makes either of them collectible. Both are fun to drive and similar in power and performance, so we are left with brand loyalty but in reality, any enthusiast would truly enjoy either of these cars and we should be thankful that the big companies are finally listening to the performance enthusiast and are finally producing some hot, tire-smoking musclecars again.
TECH EDITOR MUSCLE MUSTANGS & FAST FORDS MAGAZINE
The '04 GTO and the '04 Mach 1 made for an interesting comparison. They are modern musclecars in every sense of the word, and in addition, are priced similarly, but at the same time they are worlds apart.
The Mach 1 is based on Ford's Fox chassis that was introduced in 1979 and has been updated ever since. Amazingly, though, the Mach provides better than average handling, braking and acceleration. The 4.6L DOHC engine is a wonderful unit, that revs smoothly up to 7,000 rpm, but it's small displacement hurts it. The 4.6 is backed by a Tremec 3650 5-speed that shifted like a dream, but the car doesn't have the right gearing for quarter-mile sprints. The 3.55 rear gears are just not steep enough to keep the 4.6 in its powerband. It really needs 4.10s or 4.30s.
I have lots of seat time in these types of cars, so it was easy for me to get comfortable. Launching quickly requires you to rev the engine to about 2,800 rpm and then not to quickly, but smoothly, get the clutch out and ease the throttle to the stop. I shifted the Mach at 6,400 rpm and crossed the line in third gear. The Mach pulls nicely above 4,500 rpm, but at times you wait for it to get there. As for the style, it's as nice as any new muscle machine. It has form and function and Ford even offers neat colors like our Competition Orange tester.
In contrast, the GTO is more modern, despite its 16 pushrods and all. The interior is up to date and the materials, including the switch gear, door panels, seats, and gauge package are first class. The whole package makes you feel like you're in a much more expensive car, though the shifter could use some work. In addition, I did not like the thick metal spokes on the steering wheel because when my hands were in the proper 9 and 3 position, the spokes dug into my thumbs.
The GTO did feel heavier, but it has the strong LS1 to motivate it. On hard launches the IRS tended to hop, so I had to walk the car out of the hold with a smooth balance of throttle and clutch slip. Powershifting was not a problem (with the traction control switched off) and I hit the gears at 6,000 rpm. I was impressed by the 105-mph trap speeds, which showed that there was more e.t. on the table. Note: During prior testing for Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords magazine (in November 2003 at Englishtown) I recorded a 13.15 at 105 in the Mach 1 and so I believe the GTO is fully capable of equal quarter-mile times given better air and more grip on the line. It is my belief that in a heads-up race the better driver would prevail.
BEST RUNS FOR GTO AND MACH 1
When most of the smoke cleared, Evan Smith had the quickest e.t. in the GTO at 13.52 at 105.57 and ran the Mach 1 to a 13.51 e.t. at 103. So there is your comparison with the same driver. Later Steve Baur ran the Mach 1 to a best of 13.42 at 103 marking the lowest e.t. of the day but he couldn't better Evan's performance in the GTO.
|GTO||Mach 1||Mach 1|
|TEST CAR SPECS|
|2004 GTO||2004 Mach 1|
|Paint||Torrid Red||Competition Orange|
|Track width front/rear||61.4/62.1"||60.2/60.6"|
|Curb Weight||3,774 lbs||3,465 lbs|
|Engine||LS1 V-8||DOHC V-8|
|2 valves per cyl.||4-valves per cyl.|
|Displacement||346 CI/ 5.7L||281 CI/4.6L|
|Horsepower||350 @ 5,200 rpm||310 @ 6,000|
|Torque||365 ft-lb @ 4,000 rpm||335 ft-lb @ 4,200|
|Throttle Body||75 mm||Twin 58 mm|
|Injectors||26 lb-hr||24 lb-hr|
|MAF||75 mm||80 mm|
|Intake Manifold||LS6 Composite||Alumninum|
|Heads||Cast aluminum||Cast aluminum|
|Duration at .050||196°/207°||196°/190°|
|Lobe sep angle||116°||Can be adjusted |
|Ignition||Individual coil-per-cylinder||Coil-on-plug sequential|
|Transmission||6-Speed T56 M12||5-Speed 3650|
|Rear Axle||Independent limited slip ||Solid, limited slip|
|Brakes||4 -Channel ABS||ABS|
|Front||11.7" Vented disc||13" Brembo vented disc|
|Rear ||11.3" Solid disc||11.7" Brembo vented disc|
|Wheels||17x8" 5-spoke||17x8" 5-spoke|
|Tires||245/45ZR17 BFGoodrich g-force KDWS||245/45ZR17 Goodyear Eagle|
with progressive-rate springs
|Modified MacPherson struts |
(Tokico gas struts) with separatelinear rate springs on lower arms
|Stabilizer bar ||1.1" Solid||1.04" Solid|
|Rear||Semi-trailing arm with control link, gas shocks coil springs||4-bar link, linear ratio coil springs on lower arm,Tokico gasshocks with horiz. axle dampers |
|Stabilizer bar ||.63" Solid ||.906" Solid|
|Steering||Power-assisted variable rate rack-and-pinion||Power assisted rack-and-pinion|