Despite CAFE, Pontiac Optimistic About Performance

General Motors Corp. is not giving up entirely on shifting some of its higher-volume products to rear-wheel drive, despite stricter fuel-economy laws that begin as early as 2010. But Pontiac Market Director Craig Bierley admits a rethinking is in order as to what constitutes performance at GM's excitement division. GM last year said it might abandon plans to switch its popular Chevrolet Impala midsize

General Motors Corp. is not giving up entirely on shifting some of its higher-volume products to rear-wheel drive, despite stricter fuel-economy laws that begin as early as 2010.

But Pontiac Market Director Craig Bierley admits a rethinking is in order as to what constitutes performance at GM's “excitement division.”

GM last year said it might abandon plans to switch its popular Chevrolet Impala midsize sedan from front-wheel drive to RWD, citing a new corporate average fuel economy standard of 35 mpg (6.7 L/100 km) for the U.S. fleet by 2020.

Also seemingly caught in the crosshairs was Pontiac, which GM executives hope to evolve into a stylish performance brand with a RWD backbone.

Indeed, GM product boss Bob Lutz once characterized his aspirations for the brand as “an affordable, American BMW,” and arguably the first salvo was the Pontiac Solstice roadster that arrived in 2006. At the recent New York International Auto Show, Solstice added a coupe variant due in early 2009.

But as Lutz pointed out in January, extensive rear-drive programs now may be unwise given inherently higher drivetrain friction that translates into poorer fuel economy.

Bierley insists that's not entirely the case, at least at Pontiac.

“We're not writing off rear-wheel drive at this point — heck, we're just launching the G8,” he tells Ward's during a preview in San Diego for Pontiac's new flagship sedan designed, developed and manufactured by GM Holden Ltd. in Australia. “We now have two rear-wheel-drive cars in our portfolio.”

The coupe introduced in New York retains nearly all of the roadster's styling cues, power output, driving dynamics and fuel economy, but adds a removable roof panel that fully opens up the cockpit. The 2-seater will not accommodate the roof panel, but GM will make an optional soft roof cover available that fits in the cargo area.

Pricing has not been announced yet, but a base model '08 Pontiac Solstice roadster starts at $22,785, while its GXP variant begins at $28,465.

And Pontiac also unveils at the New York show a top-of-the-range '08 G8 GXP powered by a 6.2L V-8 that premiered earlier this year in the '08 Chevy Corvette, as well as a yet-to-be-named '10 G8 sport truck also packing a longitudinal V-8.

High-Performance Pontiac G8 GXP, G8 Sport Truck to Bow in New York
subscribers.wardsauto.com/ar/pontiac_gxp_bow/index.html

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