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Old 04-23-2006, 12:08 AM   #1
Mike Jung
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A Review for those considering a 2nd hand '99 & up Pontiac Grand Am

Pontiac Grand Am had flash and flaws
Apr. 22, 2006. 01:00 AM
Toronto Star newspaper

If the predictions are right, Toyota will surpass General Motors as the world's biggest automobile manufacturer within a year or two.

Media types will then ask business analysts how this was allowed to happen.

GM, after all, has ruled the industry for decades and, at one point, owned half the North American market.

The MBAs will cite "poor brand management," "market segmentation" and "uninspired designs."

In reality, the company's slide can be attributed to the fact that some GM owners have quality concerns. They grumble, and people take note.

While some of the General's models are fine those coming out of its Oshawa complex, for instance others exhibit problems that frighten buyers.

Such is the case with the Michigan-built Pontiac Grand Am, a popular mid-size sedan and coupe whose style and rapid depreciation appeal to used-car shoppers.

The arrival of the improved 1999 models suggested build quality issues would be a thing of the past. Uh, no.


For 1999, GM slipped the Chevrolet Malibu's rigid floorpan under the redesigned Grand Am and new Oldsmobile Alero. Structural rigidity was said to be 32 per cent better.

A solid foundation makes it much easier to build a car that's quiet and vibration free, and to dial in better driving dynamics since the suspension is well grounded.

The new Grand Am was slightly shorter and 5 cm wider than the old model. Its track was also wider for greater stability. The 8 cm wheelbase stretch yielded a roomier interior a welcome change since the old car had a pinched back seat.

With MacPherson struts up front and a multilink suspension out back, the Grand Am was up to date, and the refined ride revealed as much. Speed-sensitive power steering came with the V6-equipped cars, which aided steering feedback.

The standard engine was GM's DOHC, 2.4-litre four-banger, which was not a model of smoothness, though much improved over the original Quad 4. Making 150 hp and 155 lb.-ft. of torque, it was reasonably alert.

The optional powerplant was a 3.4-litre V6 serving up 170 hp and 195 lb.-ft. of grunt. A buttery four-speed automatic transmission was tied to both engines initially; a Getrag five-speed manual was introduced in 2000.

In keeping with its "excitement" branding, Pontiac offered a high-output version of the V6, which amounted to "Ram Air" induction drawing slightly colder, denser air into the intake manifold.

Actually, a low-restriction exhaust system provided most of the additional five horses and 10 lb.-ft. of torque.

Inside, occupants were treated to a stylized dashboard and sculpted doors. Some reviewers called the Grand Am's styling overwrought inside and out, but plenty of consumers liked it.

The tall trunk conspired to limit the view out the back, one owner pointed out.

The last-generation Grand Am changed little over its seven-year run. In 2002, GM swapped the base 2.4-litre four for its 140-hp, 2.2-litre Ecotec four-cylinder. The Grand Am was sold briefly beside the G6, its replacement, in 2005.


Pontiac's cartoonish styling cues, such as swirl marks on the alloy wheels, promised excitement and the car actually delivered some decent performance numbers.

The high-output GT model could accelerate to highway velocity in 7.7 seconds, or 0.4 of a second quicker than the base SE with the regular-spec V6.

That wasn't attributable so much to the Ram Air ductwork as the higher final-drive gear ratio.

The four-cylinder models were about half a second slower to 96 km/h (59.7-mph) than the regular V6.

The cars also felt at home carving up the road. The front-drive GT could generate 0.82 g on a skidpad and haul down from 112 km/h (69.6-mph) to zero in just 54 metres (177-feet).

"I've owned two Mustangs in the past, and neither compares to the handling of this car," blogged one owner enthusiastically.


"The car was peppier than expected, handled quite well and proved absolutely reliable," reader Achim Krull said.

Yes, there are happy Grand Am owners around, but there are also repair horror stories.

"It has been in the shop 18 times for various mechanical problems," noted the owner of an '01. Another counted 29 trips to the dealer.

"Brakes are like disposable diapers on this car," another remarked. Pads and rotors sometimes don't last a year, and many owners express dissatisfaction with the replacement parts.

Frequent brake jobs are the least of a Grand Am driver's headaches.

The litany of faulty parts includes intake manifold gaskets, head gaskets, fuel pumps, batteries, alternators, starters, oxygen sensors, fuel injectors, wheel bearings, turn-signal stalks, hazard flashers, gas tank sending units, ignition cylinders, security systems and the Ecotec's timing chain.

A common (and expensive) ailment is power windows that break with alarming frequency. More than one reported fixing all four windows twice.

Seals that allow water into the cabin and break-prone door hinges and interior plastic trim are further weak points.

GM may have sacrificed its Number 1 ranking in the market by outsourcing components to the lowest bidder.

"Did they let preschoolers build this car?" the owner of an '02 model asks. "The rack-and-pinion is a joke, the catalytic converter a joke ... "

Unfortunately, some owners aren't laughing.
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Old 04-23-2006, 08:37 AM   #2
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wow. Nice find. Kinda depressing that GM is going to be replaced as the world leader...I mean, it's no surprize though. I don't know how a company with their expenses can stay competitive in a market with so many companies that have a fraction of the costs.
As for the Pontiac grand am write up, it was ok. The car was never the coolest car to own but for the most part you get what you pay for, its not going to be as smooth as a luxery sedan. One thing not mentioned in the report is that frequent LIM problems also plauge some grand ams.
This thread has some good information but regardless of what the Toronto Star thinks I love my car. I hope that this thread doesn't scare away too many potential grand am owners.

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Old 04-23-2006, 10:49 AM   #3
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yeah thats to bad as GM being replaced by toyota.. i am very happy with my GA, except that passenger wheel hub.. almost 100k only problems i had was a rubber power steering pipe cracked. I cannot blame GM for the wheel hub, the one that keeps going was the on I hit off a curb in an accident I more blame the dealer for not fixing it correctly.
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Old 04-23-2006, 11:18 AM   #4
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Very good review, would've been nice if he went into more detail on the problems of the car than simple quotes and if there were some actual numbers on how many of the cars have these issues.

It seems like he built the car up nicely then shot it down with a few complaints. Yes our cars have issues, but numbers are more accurate than a few disgruntled customers.
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Old 04-23-2006, 11:38 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by KeyserSosa2000
One thing not mentioned in the report is that frequent LIM problems also plauge some grand ams.
This thread has some good information but regardless of what the Toronto Star thinks I love my car. I hope that this thread doesn't scare away too many potential grand am owners.
it did mention intake manifold gaskets which I'm sure they were talking mostly about LIM gaskets.

Pretty descent write up. I can identify with the rain leaking in issues, brakes (rotors of course), ignition/starter stuff, the window/sunroof motors going out, and the intake gasket leak. Those were my main issues over the last 6 years of owning the car. I still have liked it ALOT (mainly because I like the styling so much) and will miss it I'm sure when I sell it.

I pray that GM get their act together. If they do get surpassed for #1 soon I can't imagine that they won't take that as the ULTIMATE wake-up call and do everything possible to lean their operation up and strive for perfection as Toyota does and get the #1 spot back!!
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Old 04-23-2006, 10:15 PM   #6
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From what it shows, I identify with the LIM, wheel bearing, and brakes...and I wouldn't trade my GA for anything else.
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Old 04-27-2006, 05:23 PM   #7
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I'm with Shad0wguy, though since I replaced all 4 brakes with the throw-away rotors and premium ceramic pads, I've had no brake problems whatsoever...all cars have their problems; I can handle wheel bearings and the LIM gasket pales in comparison to the snapped timing belt in that Honda I had (and I have the new one anyway). Great handling, great styling (inside and out), lots of room, decent fuel economy, great pick-up off the line, great stereo, and a real nice highway cruiser. I plan on keeping mine for a while yet.
2002 Grand Am GT - still running strong and getting great fuel economy
2009 Pontiac Torrent AWD - great looking crossover, with a nice blend of fuel economy and performance
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Old 05-16-2006, 07:47 PM   #8
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Good Write up ! i can vouch for a few of those issues, ive only had my 00GT for almost a year (driven only in winter)96,xxx and its up for sale (resale is horrible im loosing my ass on this car), im seeing leaking issues,brake issues, Rear clunking issues, & misc things, pretty sad when comparing to my 89 corolla GT-S with 197,xxx miles.

also within the family my bro had a 91 grand prix that had to be complety rebuilt after engine fault (whether its Owners error or Manufacture who knows) But GM isnt my cup of tea

hopfully GM will get it together and take quality into consideration
just my perspective on my first GM Vehicle
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Old 05-18-2006, 06:03 AM   #9
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was he browsing this site while writing that article? sounds like he read a post from 5-l0.
"The news isn't so depressing when you're surrounded by bubbles."
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Old 05-24-2006, 12:55 PM   #10
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2.4-litre four-banger, which was not a model of smoothness
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I could be wrong, but if you keep clearing the code with the OBDII scanner, it will keep coming back until the problem is solved.
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