Once again, Pontiac has come up with a history-making performance vehicle and GM has pulled the plug. It happened to the Super-Duty Catalina when GM forced Pontiac to relinquish its role (and crown) in NASCAR and NHRA racing in 1963. However, this time GM killed Pontiac all-together, and along with it, axed the 415hp G8 GXP.
High Performance Pontiac magazine was able to test a 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP in June, after production of the model had already ceased. We were told by Pontiac that only 1,829 GXPs were produced during its abbreviated production run that was supposed to span multiple model years. Ours came in Sport Red Metallic, and other than the standard faire-LS3 engine, Brembo front brakes with quad-piston alloy calipers and 14-inch vented rotors, FE3 suspension, 19-inch wheels and tires, and leather interior-it was optioned with a six-speed manual Tremec 6060 transmission and a power sunroof. (Although we expected our G8 GXP to arrive with the no-cost optional 245/40ZR19 Bridgestone Potenza performance tires, our test car was equipped with factory-standard Goodyear RSA all-season rubber.)
The G8 GXP lists for $37,610 (ours was $41,590 including the $1,700 gas-guzzler tax). Fortunately, Pontiac is offering incentives on the GXP, putting its street price between $34,000 and $38,000. These incentives are likely to continue until the G8 GXP is sold out, and with its limited quantities, we expect it will fairly quickly.
Our first task was to take the GXP to the very- well-equipped Gainesville Raceway, an NHRA-owned and sponsored track in Gainesville, Florida. This first-class facility offers drag racing, road racing, skid pad testing, and a slalom course. It had everything we needed to get some hard data on the G8 GXP's performance. For drag racing, we used the track's test equipment. For skid pad and slalom we used a GTech Pro RR Performance Meter.
Pontiac's official quarter-mile stats for the G8 GXP are 13.2 seconds e.t. at 109 mph. This was accomplished using an automatic-equipped GXP, while its testing of the six-speed manual was 0.2 second slower for a 13.4 second e.t. at 109 mph. Other automobile magazines claimed quarter-mile times of 13.3 for an automatic-equipped G8 GXP and 13.4- and 13.5-second e.t.s for the stick.
At first, we were unsure how the previous reviewers of the G8 GXP produced these stock results. The week before our testing, we had seen a similarly-equipped G8 GXP sponsored by Haley Pontiac of Richmond, Virginia, tear up the track at Virginia Motorsports Park, but its best time was 14.1 seconds.
On our test day, Kevin DiOssi, HPP's Associate Editor, made the first run in street trim. After cleaning off the tires in the burnout, he launched the GXP at 3,500 rpm and let off the clutch sharply, resulting in wheelhop through First gear and into Second gear. He aborted the pass.
More familiar with the GXP's capabilities for his second trip to the starting line, he launched the G8 at 2,500 rpm, minimizing the wheelhop, and shifted through the gears at 6,100 rpm. He tripped the traps at 105 mph in fourth gear and his first e.t. was 14.00 at 105.57 mph.
Evaluating the GXP's maiden journey on the 1,320, we observed that its sixty-foot time was 2.58 seconds-not good. We also noticed something very interesting about its gearing. The six-speed manual comes mated to a 3.70 rear gear (the automatic has a 3.27 rear gear), forcing the GXP to hit Third-gear redline approximately 100 feet from the traps, and necessitating a shift into Fourth gear to complete the pass.
The next run was a 13.86-second e.t. at 105 mph, the difference being an improved 60-foot time of 2.35 seconds. We were not yet ready to give up. Prior HPP testing of a G8 GT with a 361hp L76 engine produced comparable times in the 13.8-second range at another venue, and the GXP's LS3 has 54 more horsepower than its GT sibling in stock trim.