One of the major criticism’s of the new GTO is that is doesn’t live up to the name of the original GTO. Now, I have never driven an old GTO, but I have driven some newer Mustangs and a Corvette.
After 1 week of driving my new GTO, I can say that every minute is more fun than the previous and can only get better as I get better with the 6-speed. Not to slight the other cars I have driven, but the GTO is much more comfortable than them and is at a minimum, on par performance wise with those cars (but only because those were hopped up 😉 ).
The juice is worth the squeeze – Dr. Bud cuts loose in the Pontiac GTO.
Austin, Texas. The assignment was simple: Since the AE bunch up in Detroit was going to be driving a 2005 Pontiac GTO for a few days, I could either come up there and drive it, too, or I could wrangle one to drive down here. Either way, I was to write about it. After I checked in with my usual assortment of loosely connected car freak friends, I was lucky enough to find a GTO that I could take for overnight. Ironically, it was in the same wild “Impulse Blue Metallic” with the equally wild “Bermuda Blue” leather and trim combo that headquarters had. And I do mean wild. This car gave new meaning to the term electric blue – and it was an appropriate color, I thought, because it gave this modern GTO a full measure of ’60s American muscle car exuberance.
I might as well get this part over now – as for the debate about whether this GTO is a “real” GTO or not, I am going to offend the purists right off the bat. To those who say the new GTO “doesn’t look like a GTO,” I say bullshit. “They” couldn’t tell you what a new GTO should look like even if they tried. And for me personally, the original GTO was the best one – even more so than the more popular 65-67 cars. Why? Because it was nothing more than a plain looking Pontiac Tempest with dog-dish hubcaps, a set of red line tires and a big-ass motor stuffed in it. Peter agrees, and he sent me this note before my little test drive:
“The original GTO was the very first “muscle” car, and it defined the essence of muscle car for all the cars that came after it. Don’t forget that in order to escape scrutiny from GM headquarters (that’s back when GM was still in the throes of complying with the ludicrous AMA ban on performance cars and racing at the time) the very first GTO was just an option package. Pontiac pulled a fast one on headquarters to get the car built. The GTO was faithful to the letter of its original mission: It was to be plain looking, with a fly-under-the-radar street profile, it was to be fast – with a big V-8 stuffed in it, and above all, it was to be affordable. This simple formula propelled the Pontiac Motor Division into the stratosphere, making it GM’s “go-go” division and making its leader, John Z. DeLorean, a star (even though Bill Collins, the chief engineer and Jim Wangers, the ad agency genius behind the promotion of the car deserve most if not all of the credit for the car’s success). Go drive the new one and see what you think.”
Vintage Peter. Always tellin’ you more than you need to know until you realize it’s exactly what you need to know. Guess that’s why he is The Autoextremist.
At any rate, I confronted this beast for the first time in the late afternoon, but because traffic is so horrendous down here, I just rumbled it home with Jolene following me after we picked it up. “Rumbled” being the operative word here, too, because the new GTO has the best pipes of any modern performance car I’ve ever heard. It gurgles and pops and burbles with bad-ass attitude to go. Whoever was in charge of the pipes needs to be recognized so that enthusiasts across the country can pay their proper respect. This new GTO sounds freakin’ great. As for the way it looks, I don’t mind it at all. This ’05 version had the scoops, otherwise it’s pretty plain lookin’ – more true to the original than some of the purists would care to admit, maybe? I walked around it in the driveway for a while, and I thought it looked good. Jolene looked at it for a nanosecond, said, “It sure is blue,” and disappeared into the house.
I went inside, and we had a nice leisurely dinner (sans any drinks for me), because I wanted to be sharp for my midnight run later. I like daytime speed runs the best, but the traffic down here is sucking so bad lately that I’ve had to rethink my favorite speeding roads. Now I have a route that’s lightly trafficked at night, infrequently patrolled and above all, safe. So I would bide my time. Besides, there’s still somethin’ about driving fast at night that really seems right to me. You can get lost in a car’s soul – or find out it doesn’t have one at all – quicker at night, it seems. At least that has always been the case for me.
True to form, I dozed off on the couch, and Jolene woke me up on her way to bed and told me to be careful. It was a little too early. I watched Conan to kill another hour, then I made my way out to the driveway only to see the GTO lit up in the moonlight. The damn thing about glowed in the dark with its “Impulse Blue.”
I got in and had my first encounter with the GTO’s instrumentation. You can fool with it to set up your preferences, and I put it so that I had the digital readout of the speed to augment the analog gauges. The greenish glow from the instruments was a little off-putting, but not a deal breaker, and I fired it up and burbled my way out of the neighborhood.
Your first impression of this beast is that it’s a substantial feeling car – and judging by its almost 3,900-lb. weight, it is. But it has a pleasing heaviness to it at slower speeds, the kind of feel that translates into “just right” at higher speeds, and I was chomping at the bit to find out.
The 400HP LS2 Corvette motor is so sweet that this car just begs you to put your boot in it. As for “tip-in” – this GTO gets your attention in a hurry. I gave it a short burst as I started down a freeway entrance ramp in the southwest corner of the city – and the thing just hunkered down and launched itself like it was shot out of a cannon.
I gave my left mirror a quick glance as I merged and thankfully saw no traffic, so I decided to turn the short burst into a meaningful four gear blast – and the GTO responded to the whip like few cars I’ve ever been in. The heaviness immediately gave way to “just right” as the booming V-8 gobbled up air and catapulted me down the road, pushing me back in the seat as God intended that it should be. It took only a few seconds to realize that this GTO delivers serious performance to go with its seriously bad-ass attitude. And in just a few seconds more I was blowing past 130 mph, the unmistakable wail of the Corvette V-8 filling the cockpit with its distinctive mechanical cacophony that will never, ever get old to me.
I used to think 300HP was the absolute rational minimum for delivering satisfying performance on the street. Until now. After booting the 400HP V-8 in the new GTO for a night, I have changed my mind completely. If you’re a real driving enthusiast, 400HP is the new minimum – and you’ll love it.
I spent the next hour strafing fast bends that I know intimately, letting the GTO take a set and then feeding the power on hard for the exits – and the more I hammered it, the better it got. The GTO loves to be flogged within an inch of its raucous, rock-and-roll heart. It craves it, and then begs you for more. The essence of this new GTO is that it’s an unapologetic outlaw machine that’s constantly looking for a partner in crime. And I was more than happy to oblige.
We live in a golden era of high-performance machines. Car magazines are filled with the latest this and the fastest that, but I think some of these car reviewers have gotten carried away with the new technologies that are infiltrating our modern high-performance machines. Technology for technology’s sake turns me off. And many of the new cars I’ve driven are sensational on paper, but strangely uninvolving and cold behind the wheel – as if there is no “there” there.
The 2005 Pontiac GTO, thankfully, isn’t one of those cars. It’s refreshing to be in a high-performance car in this day and age that lives up to its expectations, but then again, the GTO is even better than that – because it so far exceeded my expectations with every mile that I wonder why enthusiasts aren’t lining up to buy them. And for $32,995 the new GTO is the high-performance value of the year – as we’ve been saying here at Autoextremist.com for a while now. You might pay more for something else, but I guar-an-damn-tee ya’ that you won’t have any more fun.
All jacked up after roaring around the countryside, I pulled into a late-night coffee place in town that I frequented when I was, ahem, AWOL from home a while ago. As I was paying, the 20-something kid behind the register said, “Is that the new GTO – the one with 400HP?”
I was kind of taken aback by the question. Isn’t this the age group that’s supposed to lust after Subaru WRXs and Mitsubishi EVOs?
“Yeah, it is,” I smiled at this kid knowing that he must be a burgeoning enthusiast – and an open-minded one at that. I started to walk away figuring the conversation was over, when I heard…
“How is it?”
I turned around and thought of the best line from one of my favorite movies of late – “The Girl Next Door” – and I said, “The juice is worth the squeeze.”
He just said, “Dude,” and grinned.
I smiled and walked away.
With Peter’s historical words echoing in my head, I thought about this new GTO and decided it’s more than faithful to the letter of the original’s mission: It’s on the plain-looking side, with its low key, fly-under-the-radar street profile, it’s blistering fast thanks to the big Corvette V-8 stuffed in it, and above all, it’s affordable.
I just might have to go get one for my own self…
Adios until the next time.