Vintage Review: 1977 Pontiac Bonneville Brougham

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(first posted 3/15/2014)     The Outtake yesterday of a 1986 Pontiac Parisienne, like previous popular features on full size 1977-81 Pontiacs such as this 1977 Bonneville Brougham coupe, this 1978 Bonneville Brougham sedan, and this 1979 Bonneville Brougham coupe, triggered many fond memories of these cars.  The chorus of praise here for these full size Pontiacs and other GM B-Bodies makes one ask what the car magazines thought of them at the time.  The answer is that they had very favorable thoughts, as shown by this review of a 1977 Bonneville Brougham from the November 1976 issue of Road and Track.

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R&T reviews from four decades ago had a straightforward, technically focused style that differed sharply from the obsession with trying to be clever, often by being snarky, that took over car magazines by the 1990s.  In keeping with this tone, the review starts with the obvious issue of size, comparing the Bonneville both to its larger 1976 predecessor and the comparably sized W116 chassis Mercedes-Benz 450SEL.  (Saying that the W116 S-Class  had a “trim size” shows how much standards have changed since 1977.)  It then praises the layout and comfort of the interior and the improvement in trunk capacity.  All matter of fact, and all praise.

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The review continues its realistic examination of the Bonneville by praising the simplicity and durability of its engine, pointing out the higher complexity, cost and maintenance requirements of the more advanced Mercedes V-8.  It continues with further praise for almost all aspects of the car: vision, quietness, ride, handling, and braking.  The only false note comes in the praise for “the excellent Turbo Hydra-matic 200,” but since that transmission’s problem was long-term durability rather than shift quality when new, the statement was a mistake only in retrospect.

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Fans of the GM B-Body here probably need no outside affirmation of their views, but many no doubt will still be pleased to see that they have the support of a reviewer that was not even a fan of this type of car, R&T having had a distinct bias toward sports cars and foreign cars.  Furthermore, R&T gave its favorable review to a sample with the smallest 301 cubic inch V-8 and lacking the optional handling package; with more power and better handling, the appraisal almost certainly would have been even more positive.  It is further evidence of the significant progress that these cars represented during the 1970s and their fundamentally sound design.