First-generation W-bodies have been getting very scare in the Northeastern U.S., but thankfully someone in Vienna, Austria appears to be caring for this 1990 Pontiac Grand Prix LE. The number of Kansas-built Grand Prix destined for sales in Europe couldn’t have been large, but this car was undoubtedly built to European specification, as evidenced by its rear fog lights. Further research reveals that, rather oddly, European-spec GPs sported quad sealed-beam headlights, instead of the composite units of North American Grand Prix sedans.
Introduced for the 1988 model year, the fifth generation Grand Prix holds several distinctions, each triggered by then-current industry trends. First and foremost, this generation would see the Grand Prix shift to front-wheel drive, a layout it would continue using until the nameplate’s retirement in 2008. This would also be the first time in which V8 power was not offered, as well as the first (and only) time an inline-4 was available in the Grand Prix.
Most notably, this would be the very first time a Grand Prix sedan was offered, after nearly three decades of being exclusively a 2-door. GM was wise to add the sedan body style to its W-body cars; even it didn’t arrive until 1990. The market was rapidly shifting away from coupes, with sedans becoming the primary bulk of sales for most automakers.
While much can be said about the W-body (aka GM10) that isn’t entirely positive, GM at least provided each variant with unique sheetmetal. Furthermore, Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac W-body sedans differed rather extensively from their coupe counterparts. While the Cutlass Supreme and Lumina sedans received distinctive greenhouses, the Grand Prix and Regal used a very similar design. Although unique belt lines would provide some further distinction, the two cars shared their A-, B-, C-, and D-pillars. That these two were selected to have this in common is odd, as Pontiacs and Buicks were most likely to be sold together in the same showrooms.
In any event, the Grand Prix was treated to the most interesting and modern-looking interior of the bunch. Reflective of its late-‘80s design, the Grand Prix’s original interior was a plethora of buttons, switches, and LCD screens. Higher-trim models even featured redundant controls for the stereo in the center of the steering wheel for no fewer than 10 individual buttons, along with two more for the horn.
It may not have been the most user-friendly interior of its day, but for those who didn’t mind sacrificing some simplicity for the sake of showcasing technology, it was quite spectacular. A much-simplified interior redesign would come in 1994, bringing with it dual airbags and decidedly less flair (but thankfully, still far better in presentation than its siblings).
Like the other W-bodies, the Grand Prix was left to wither on the vine a little too long, with its aging design looking quite tired by this point. Over the course of this single generation, the Grand Prix would compete against three generations of the Taurus and Sable, as well three generations of mid-sized Mopar sedans.
The slightly older coupes would receive greater attention, in the form of new fascias, ground effects, and cladding, but apart from a very Sable-like lightbar, GP sedans would continue largely unchanged through 1996.
A redesigned Grand Prix sedan and coupe would come in 1997, marking the end of the of this rather lengthy fifth generation. It would boast several appreciated improvements, including its 240-horsepower supercharged V6, longer wheelbase and wider track for better handling, and curvier styling, but the sixth generation Grand Prix was otherwise a predictable update to Pontiac’s mid-size car. While easily more exciting than its predecessor and existing siblings, the new Grand Prix would face and uphill battle against stiffer competitors, as well as a significantly more refined W-body sibling, the 1998 Oldsmobile Intrigue.