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Reborn GTO Roars With Power
October 30, 2004
By DUNCAN HAIMERL, Special To The Courant

The reincarnated Pontiac GTO doesn't look anything like the GTO of old, the car that put muscle into the Pontiac vocabulary, but it isn't a slouch either. Its 350-horsepower V-8 provides as much raw power as you can use legally on any American highway - and then some.

Mind you, I test-drove the GTO with a six-speed manual transmission and not the automatic transmission that left the Pontiac fan magazines underwhelmed. The six-speed lets you plan the shift to get the biggest roar you would want from the exhaust, and it sounds tremendous.

It even has that popping sound common to a souped-up hot rod engine.

Built in Australia by GM's Holden division, the GTO sports a 200-mph speedometer, has an overspeed warning system that can be set up to 130 mph and was designed to fill a need for muscle in a rear-wheel-drive Pontiac. And muscle it has, with a zero-to-60 mph run at 5.3 seconds with the six-speed manual and 5.4 seconds with the four-speed automatic.

How does that compare with the 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge? The Judge had a 360-horsepower V-8 (370 horsepower with the Ram Air IV) that did zero to 60 in 6.2 seconds, according to my 2005 Muscle Cars calendar from Seawinds, and that was considered fast back then.

The cruise control is so sensitive that you can move up or down in 1-mph increments, handy in case the police along Route 4 in Farmington have a such a hot-looking car in their sights.

Today's GTO is a mid-size coupe hatchback at 189.8 inches long and 72.5 inches wide, and it weighs 3,725 pounds. Front shoulder room is an ample 59.7 inches and front leg room of 42.2 inches, with rear shoulder room of 51.7 inches and rear leg room of 37.1 inches.

Yes, there are seats for two passengers in the rear although exit and entry can be a little cramped.

A fellow Pontiac enthusiast thought the car sounded as if had plenty of power even though it didn't look like the old GTO. And it whisked up to 65 mph in short time and then signaled that there was an overspeed condition by sounding some gentle tones that resembled a cellphone's ringing.

The only option to select is the six-speed manual transmission; everything else is included: a trip computer, audio controls on the steering wheel, a six-disc Blaupunkt stereo system, power driver and passenger seats - and a distinctively Pontiac nose.

The manufacturer's suggested retail price is $31,795 with a dealer invoice of $29,410. The edmunds.com True Market Value pricing guide notes the average selling price is the same price the manufacturer wants.

But here is an interesting wrinkle. With the four-speed automatic and a 16-mpg city and 21-mpg highway EPA mileage estimates, there is a $1,000 gas guzzler tax. Ask for the six-speed manual transmission at $695, and the mileage leaps to 17mpg city and 29 mpg highway and the gas guzzler tax fades away.
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