In 2003 Pontiac announced it was going to bring the GTO back into the American market. However, instead of producing the car domestically, or even in Canada, GM tapped its Australian subsidiary, Holden. The plan was set to import the 2-door Holden Monaro and rebadge it as a GTO. The Monaro had recently been redesigned in 2001, but by the time it made its way to the US in 2004 many found the car’s styling to be underwhelming and rather bland. Due to the styling issues, an increase in the Australian dollar and some questionable dealer tactics, the GTO produced lukewarm sales. The car however, was a marvel to drive and a clear performance bargain.
The 2004 model year featured a 5.7 liter LS1, producing 350 bhp and a 0-60 time of 5.0 seconds. With the market deprived of 2-door performance cars, the GTO offered V8 power, sports car handling, an independent rear suspension and the best GM interior outside of a Cadillac for a modest $35,000. With sales below initial projections, GM pushed ahead with a refresh the following year.
The 2005 GTO took an exceptional car and made it even better. First and foremost the engine was upgraded to the newly introduced 6.0 liter LS2. Pushing horsepower to 400 bhp and dropping its 0-60 time to 4.7 seconds. Additional mechanical upgrades included an enlarged driveshaft and half-shafts, plus larger brake disks and calipers. From an exterior perspective the GTO was given a bit more punch as well, adding front hood scoops, a split rear exhaust and optional 18” rims. A dealer installed Sport Appearance Package became available, including such items as a different lower rear fascia, aftermarket mufflers with quad chrome exhaust tips, revised spoiler and front lower fascia extension, recessed grilles and revised rocker panels. 2006 saw only minor interior and exterior changes, including revised tail lamps and a new door lock switch.
After the 2006 model year sales of the GTO were halted. The total number of vehicles delivered came in at 40,808, making the car relatively rare for a mass produced modern sports car.
Advantages & Disadvantages:
In general the 2004-2006 Pontiac GTO is a wonderful car to own, with the advantage clearly going to the 2005-2006 models. Some of the features the GTO has to offer include:
• V8 Power (LS1 – 350 bhp & LS2 – 400 bhp)
• Independent Rear Suspension
• Large Brakes (2005-2006 feature 12.6” front rotors compared to the 2004 11.7”)
• 6-Speed Manual Transmission (optional)
• Luxury Perforated Leather Bucket Seats (Front and Rear)
• Interior Suede Inserts (On Doors & Kick Panels)
• Smooth, Rattle Free Ride more akin to a Luxury car
• Excellent Build Quality
• Affordable Mechanics (Powertrain is Shared with other GM Vehicles)
There are however some inherent design shortcomings:
• Thirsty Engine (Real World Averages are Between 13 & 21 MPG)
• Suspension can be Soft under Hard Cornering
• 4-Speed Automatic Transmission (As Compared to Modern 5, 6 & 7-Speed Units)
• The Rear Seats, While Very Comfortable, are Difficult to Climb Into
• Soft or Bland Exterior Styling
• Rear Wheel Well Does Not Allow for Extra Wide Rims
• Vehicle Specific Replacement Parts can be Expensive (Interior Trim, Body Panels, Etc…)
Clearly some of the disadvantages are aesthetically related, which differ from person to person. Overall though the car is superb, truly merging various genres and providing a 4-seat sports car experience. Based on current day pricing there are few cars that can provide such a high-level performance driving experience for a relatively modest dollar amount.
Special or Desirable Options:
While the GTO came with little available options, there are some features, as well as color combinations that are more desirable than others.
• Cosmos Purple Metallic Exterior with Purple Interior: Only produced in 2004 (700 Units)
• Torrid Red Exterior with Red Interior: Produced from 2004-2006 (2,287 Units)
• Impulse Blue Metallic Exterior with Blue Interior: Produced from 2004-2006 (2,813 Units)
• Barbados Blue Metallic Exterior: Only produced in 2004 (573 Units)
• Brazen Orange Exterior: Only produced in 2006 (1,175 Units)
• W40 Sport Appearance Package: 2004 Only (794 Units)
• BZJ Flat Hood: 2005 Only (24 Units)
• 17” Chrome Wheel: 2005 Only (17 Units)
• Dealer Installed Sport Appearance Package: 2005 & 2006 Only (Includes a different lower rear fascia, aftermarket mufflers with quad chrome exhaust tips, revised spoiler and front lower fascia extension, recessed grilles, and revised rocker panels)
What to look out for:
While the general build quality of the 2004-2006 Pontiac GTO’s is excellent, there are a number of things that potential used car buyers should look for.
• Driveshaft Center Carrier Bearings: The driveshaft used on the GTO’s are a 2-piece design which have a center carrier bearing to locate the pivot point underneath the car. This bearing has a rubber component that can shear and break, typically requiring a new driveshaft.
• Water Intrusion: Water can find its way inside the car through two spots.
• As the weather-stripping softens water can sit on the edge of the rubber seal besides the door sill. When driving away the water can drip in.
• There are body grommets found in front of the rear tire wheel well. If the grommets become damaged this can allow water to enter into the rear floor pan area.
• Front Strut Rub: As the upper strut mount deteriorates on the front suspension, this can cause the tire to rub on the actual strut.
• Front Bumper Damage: The front bumper is relatively low slung. So it is not uncommon for them to get caught on parking stops and get ripped off. Additionally the retention clips can wear out causing the bumpers to sag.
• Sagging Rear Springs: The OEM rear suspension springs begin to sag after approximately 30k miles. This will cause the car to sit lower and will cause premature tire wear to the inside of the rear tires as it will change the original suspension geometry.
• Spreading Front Calipers: The front calipers do not include closed sides (unlike modern Brembo units utilized in the Corvette, Camaro, etc…). As such over time the caliper will actually spread at the top slightly. This will be evident when installing new pads as you will not have a complete contact patch until some of the upper pad material wears down.
• Sagging Head Liner: All GTO headliners sag eventually…
• Split Leather Seams: While the leather in the GTO is excellent, if it’s not taken care of it can split at the seams. This is especially true in the rear headrests as they receive more abuse from the sun.
• Lifting Interior Trim: Some of the factory glue can become weak, causing the suede and leather inserts to lift. This is more predominant if the car comes from a very hot climate.
• Engine Knock: The GTO comes with a front sump oil pan. This can cause (under extreme circumstances, i.e. over revving, low oil, etc.) the oil pump to run dry. This will eventually lead to damaged rod bearings. If the engine has a loud and rev-related knock it is a good idea to avoid.
• Heavy Racing Abuse: Look under the hood and elsewhere for signs of previous modifications and abuse (cylinder head, intake manifold & exhaust manifold bolts showing signs they have been removed). An area to check is inside the rear wheel wells for rubber accumulation, which is hard to remove from burnouts.
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