2006 Pontiac GTO
By Frank Rawland
Lightning, alas, isn't going to strike twice after all. Three years after its reintroduction, General Motors has discontinued the Pontiac GTO due to lackluster consumer response and cost issues.
The domestic auto industry's first acknowledged muscle car made a comeback for the 2004 model year at a time when SUVs and trucks were GM's bread-and-butter (and still are). Judging by that first model, one might have justifiably concluded the company forgot how to build things that look like they were meant to go fast. Its body was right out of the mid-1990s. If we agree to drastically accelerate the pace at which popular culture gets recycled that might be considered retro. Otherwise, it just doesn't excite. The 2005-2006 model has essentially the same aerodynamic shape as its predecessor, but did get one slight improvement; the air scoops on the hood, a staple of the car's heyday, are back.
Under the skin is where you'll find the meat of this beast. The 5.7L LS1 engine has been replaced with a 6.0L Gen IV LS2 V8, pushing horsepower up to 400 from 350. That extra power gives it the kick to go from 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds and finish a quarter mile in 13.3 seconds at 105.9 mph. Not record setting numbers to be sure, but quite respectable --it had more than enough oomph to carry Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins to victory at the Homestead GT race on March 26, 2006. A four speed automatic transmission is standard, with a 6 speed manual transmission optional. Progressive/variable-rate springs, rear wheel drive, fully independent suspension, a Bosch 3 channel traction control system, and 55/45 weight distribution give it much improved handling over its 60s and 70s vintage predecessors. You could say the car is all go and no show.
In 1974 the GTO was done in by the imperative to reduce emissions and increase fuel efficiency, both of which sapped performance. This time a combination of bland styling, the expense of shipping vehicles across the Pacific (the new Goat is actually made by GM's Holden subsidiary in Australia), and a boneheaded decision to introduce it in the Midwest in mid-winter got the GTO off to a bad start. On top of that, air-bag deployment regulations requiring costly interior changes and plans by Holden to phase out the Monaro, on which the GTO is based, have proved to be insurmountable hurdles.
That doesn't necessarily mean it's gone for good. Key executives at GM do want to develop a mid-sized, rear wheel drive platform for 2008 or 2009 that could accommodate a GTO, and build it in the US to save shipping costs. But given the company's dreadful financial situation it is far from certain whether such a thing will be possible. For now, enthusiasts will have to make do with a rocket that doesn't quite look the part.
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Pictures of the Pontiac GTO
Click pictures to enlarge
Posted April 4, 2006
Photos courtesy of