Just like a baby boomer, the Pontiac Grand Prix has quietly entered middle age. Although it made its debut in 1962, it seems to have aged better than most of its peers from that time period.
In proper Detroit fashion, Pontiac is celebrating the milestone with a special edition. The Grand Prix 40th Anniversary edition, an option package available on Grand Prix GT and GTP models, features special hood vents, wheels, badging, and rooftop “fences” like those found on NASCAR racers. A unique color is also part of the package, and the scheme is carried over to the interior. It’s the latest fashion among cars.
Otherwise, the 40th Anniversary Grand Prix carries on its tradition of full-size Pontiac goodness. The “Wide Track” body style puts it in competition with the racy family sedans from Dodge and Chrysler, but the Grand Prix is more conservatively designed than Chrysler’s flying-wedge cars. The cat’s-eye headlamps and twin element grille have been Pontiac hallmarks for years. The 40th Anniversary car wears chrome 16″ wheels that don’t look as good as they could, but the rest of the special equipment is quite eyecatching. All 40th Anniversary models are painted a deep Dark Cherry red. The hood vents are functional “heat extractors,” which help to keep the supercharger cool. It pushes the limits of Pontiac’s ability to stick additional nostrils on the front of the car, but the design remains integrated, if not necessarily clean. The rooftop fins aren’t noticeable until you’re up close, but they’re a neat design fillip. In light of past Pontiacs, the Grand Prix 40th Anniversary Edition is more subtle than many, and lacks the too-much-plastic look that Pontiac has been criticized for in the past.
Inside, the Ruby Red seats and dashboard inserts lend a unique touch to the Grand Prix’ bulbous interior. The cabin is wide and spacious, and the seating position is good but Pontiac’s materials selection leaves something to be desired. The controls and layout don’t seem quite fitting for a car that’s pricey enough to compete with the likes of Acura and Infiniti. Pontiac’s interior plastics are a bit too rough-grained and toylike. Equipment like a six-way driver’s seat and stereo with CD player is standard. Our test car featured the optional heated driver’s seat, sunroof, and Pontiac’s signature head-up display which projects the speed onto the windshield. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it option; we generally kept it turned off.
The big Pontiac acquits itself nicely on the road, however. It’s no German sports sedan, but a supercharged 3.8 liter V6 enables the Grand Prix to step out nicely when the light turns green. The Grand Prix is rated at a healthy 240 horsepower. Power delivery is eager, if a bit unruly at times. We noticed a bit of torque steer, mostly when there was sand or rain making the road a bit slick. The boost from the supercharger is subtle and nicely modulated, unlike the hammerblow of acceleration to be found in other blown cars. Given the Grand Prix’ mission as a family car, this is a good thing. A four-speed automatic is the only transmission offered. Lesser Grand Prix models are equipped with naturally aspirated versions of the 3.8 V6, with only 200 horsepower.
Four-wheel anti-lock brakes are also standard. Holding the wheels on the road is a fully suspension with MacPherson struts up front and a tri-link coil over strut setup at the rear. Anti-roll bars are included, but even with its “Wide Track” design the Grand Prix isn’t a huge fan of seriously curvy roads. It’s easily upset by frost heaves. Keep the roads smooth and the Grand Prix makes an amiable cruiser, however. Freeways are its favorite stomping grounds.
It’s a bit more special than the typical tape-‘n’-paint special edition from Detroit–but only just. Our test car was a GTP sedan with the 40th Anniversary package, and stickered for $30,050. That’s not shockingly expensive, but it’s encroaching upon Acura 3.2TL territory, and the Grand Prix just isn’t well-built enough to seem as good a value at that price point. The Grand Prix GTP starts at $25,805, and when compared to Ford Taurus and Honda Accord, it’s easily in the game. Given the 40th Anniversary edition’s almost $3000 premium over the Grand Prix GTP, we’d suggest opting for the regular GTP, unless you just have to have the Dark Cherry paint and those cute little roof fins.
All specs are for the 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP 40th Anniversary Edition, which we tested.
Length: 197.5 in.
Width: 72.7 in.
Height: 54.7 in.
Wheelbase: 110.5 in.
Curb weight: 3559 lb.
Cargo space: 16.0 cu.ft.
Base price: $25,805
Price as tested: $30,050
Engine: 3.8 liter supercharged V6
Drivetrain: four-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Horsepower: 240 @ 5200
Torque: 280 @ 3600
Fuel capacity: 17.5 gal.
Est. mileage: 18/28