I remember among all the hoopla circulating over the Pontiac G8 when it was released back in 2008, the phrase used to describe it by some media publications such as MotorTrend, was “The poor man’s BMW 5-Series”. With prices starting at just under $30K for a 361-horsepower 6.0L V8 model, the G8 was certainly a bargain compared to the nearly $60K BMW 550i (whose 4.8L V8 made 1 less horsepower by the way).
The G8 of course, barely made a ripple in the market, its life cut short after less than two years, a result of the decision to terminate the Pontiac brand altogether. Despite the “poor man’s BMW 5-Series” label, the G8 was a more realistic competitor to cars such as the Dodge Charger and Ford Taurus SHO, and not German luxury-sports sedans.
I myself was intrigued by the G8 at the time, impressed by the performance it had to offer, as well as its styling. The G8’s styling was clean and athletic, something quite uncharacteristic of most Pontiacs produced during my lifetime, as after all, it was an Australian design to begin with.
Little changed beyond the Pontiac-specific grilles/badging and left-hand drive over the VE Holden Commodore, which was released two years earlier. The Pontiac G8 was even built alongside the Holden in Elizabeth, South Australia.
Costing half as much as the 550i and still only two-thirds as much as a 528i, the Pontiac’s discount was naturally felt somewhere, and predictably this area was the interior. Materials weren’t glaringly cheap and they were suitable for the G8’s price point, but along with the interior design, it was clear that the G8 was no BMW competitor on the inside, and in every way the “poor man’s” version.
Given my taste in cars, I think it’s obvious which one of these cars I prefer. But at the end of the day, the G8 was the first and only Pontiac which I ever found appealing to my nature, and that alone says something about its very different qualities from other Pontiacs. The discontinuation of the G8 and Pontiac wasn’t the complete end of the line for the car itself in the U.S., as the succeeding generation Commodore also made its way over from Australia as a V8-powered, rear-wheel drive performance sedan. Now sold as the blander Chevrolet SS, however, the magic and personality of the G8 have unfortunately been lost.