Irrational Love – Front-Wheel Drive Pontiac Grand Prix’s

In 1988, I was a mere adolescent, too young to comprehend (or frankly care) about the current automotive landscape. But I have a feeling many Grand Prix faithful were appalled by the decision to switch Pontiac’s mid-size coupe from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive.

Although many probably predicted doom, gloom, and the end of the car line, the Grand Prix soldiered on for another two decades; right up until the Pontiac brand ceased to exist. But more than just survive, the Grand Prix thrived. Pontiac continued to produce high performance versions of the car over its final three generations.

Were these ground-breaking vehicles shaking the automotive industry to its core? No. But that has not stopped me from developing an unhealthy love and fascination for them; and I am certain I’m not the only one. So, let’s all take a closer look at four stand-out models.

1989 Grand Prix Turbo Coupe

For the 1989 model year, Pontiac teamed up with ASC/McLaren to produce a turbocharged version of the Grand Prix coupe. By boosting the 3.1-liter pushrod V6 engine, power surged to 205 hp and reduced the 0-60 mph to under 8 seconds. The rest of the car was upgraded as well to further improve performance, but the Turbo Grand Prix wasn’t exactly a BMW M5 killer.

1991 Grand Prix GTP

After two years of turbo power, a new 3.4-liter DOHC V6 engine making 210 hp was introduced in the Grand Prix GTP. Although it was down a bit on torque compared to the 3.1-liter turbo, it did come with an optional five-speed manual transmission – further enhancing driving appeal. There were also a few over-the-top NASCAR-inspired special editions.

1997 Grand Prix GTP

The new sixth-generation Grand Prix came dubbed as ‘Wide-Track’ by Pontiac – harkening back to the brand’s 1960s heritage. Both GTP coupes and sedans came equipped with a 240 hp supercharged 3.8-liter V6 engine which made this unsuspecting mid-size car quite quick in a straight line. Handling sadly did not match the engine’s prowess, but the car as a whole was fun to point and shoot on a long straight roadway.

2005 Grand Prix GXP

For the Grand Prix’s swan song, a special GXP trim level was included. This put V8 power back in the Grand Prix for the first time since 1987 – albeit powering the front wheels. Still, the 5.3-liter V8 made 303 hp and allowed the 3,600+lbs. car to reach 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds. The V8 wasn’t the car’s only party trick either. It had wider front tires than those in the rear to help offset the unfavorable front-wheel weight distribution, thus improving handling.  

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