It never got a fair shot but the G8 deserves its moment in the sun.
Before General Motors shut down its Australian Holden division, some of the brand's rear-wheel-drive muscle cars trickled their way onto US shores. Most recently, the Chevrolet SS gave US buyers a final taste of a naturally aspirated V8-powered four-door sedan from GM. But before the SS arrived as Holden's swansong, we were given a brief taste of Australian brilliance in the form of the Pontiac G8.
The G8 (and the Pontiac brand) was discontinued following the 2008 recession when GM was bailed out by the US government and forced to eliminate several of its brands (Hummer, Pontiac, and Saturn included). It may now be more than a decade old but we think the Pontiac G8 is more relevant than ever. Prices are now relatively affordable and with very few full-size sedans left on the market, it is a great time to shop for a G8.
By the end of 2020, the Chevrolet Impala, Buick LaCrosse, and Cadillac CT6 will all be discontinued. This means there won't be a single full-size sedan left from any of GM's brands. Ford has jumped out of the sedan space entirely, leaving only the Dodge Charger as the last American performance sedan standing. There are still plenty of luxury automakers building full-size performance sedans but most are too expensive for the average consumer.
Kia has stepped up to the plate with the Stinger but it lacks the charm of a V8 that most muscle car enthusiasts crave. Nissan calls the Maxima a "four-door sports car" and there is now a TRD version of the Toyota Avalon but both are front-wheel-drive and will do little to please hardcore enthusiasts. If you want one of the best value rear-wheel-drive, four-door performance cars, it's the G8.
There were only three trim levels available for the G8, each one offering a different engine under the hood. The price you pay for a used G8 hinges on which trim level you choose and whether or not you must have a manual transmission. Base G8 models were all powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine and are by far the least expensive examples you can buy. You don't want a V6 G8. While you can now find a V6-powered G8 for less than $7,000, you will be losing what makes the car feel special... the engine.
The V8-powered GT model is pricer, with high-mileage examples commanding around $12,000. If you are prepared to wait for a clean example, they can mostly be hard for less than $20,000. The top GXP trim is by far the most valuable of the three since it had the most powerful engine and only 1,829 units were ever built. Even high-mileage examples start in the low $20,000 range and if you want one with a manual, prepare to pay at least $30,000 (if you can even find one at all).
If you're even considering the 256-horsepower V6-powered G8, you may as well look at a more modern front-wheel-drive sedan like an Impala. The mid-level G8 GT was much more potent with a 6.0-liter V8 producing 361 hp and 385 lb-ft paired to a six-speed automatic. Back in the late 2000s, the G8 was once of the quickest sedans on the market, hitting 60 mph in 5.2 seconds with quarter-mile times in the mid-13-second range.
Just as the G8 was about to be killed off along with the entire Pontiac brand, GM released the G8 GXP. This model packed the 6.2-liter LS3 V8 from the Corvette, with 402 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque on tap. Not only did the LS3 satisfy enthusiast's cries for more power, but it also unlocked the ability to option a six-speed manual transmission. With the bigger engine, the 0-60 mph dropped to 4.5 seconds and a quarter-mile time fell to 13 seconds.
Because the G8 was built in Australia, it has a different interior than pretty much any other GM product sold in the US at the time. Material quality was much better than any of its corporate counterparts, although still well off the level of luxury found in a European luxury sedan. The G8 lacks many modern amenities such as built-in navigation, push-button start, or phone connectivity but for the 2009 model year, Pontiac added XM Satellite Radio with Bluetooth. Even by modern standards, the G8 is still quite a practical car. The back seat offers 39.4 inches of legroom while the trunk houses an acceptable 17.5 cubic of storage.
Pontiac only sold the G8 for two model years and during that time, only 38,159 examples found happy homes here in the US. The Chevy SS later took the G8 recipe and modernized it but those cars are more expensive and we'd argue that the styling is less unique. There are very few modern sedans that still offer V8 power going out to the rear wheels and if you can't afford a new Dodge Charger or a late model Cadillac CTS-V, the G8 is a great option.