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Cheap Thrills: A Look Back at the 2004-2006 Pontiac GTO

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On: Wed, Aug 14, 2013 at 3:08PM | By: Teddy Field


Cheap Thrills: A Look Back at the 2004-2006 Pontiac GTO

Back in 1964, GM had instituted a ban on factory-sponsored racing. This was a bit of a problem for the Pontiac Division, because their entire marketing strategy was centered on performance. To get around the new corporate policy, Chief Engineer John DeLorean (yep, the guy that built those stainless-bodied Back to the Future cars) decided to take the 389ci V8 from a full size Bonneville, and cram it into the much lighter LeMans. With the optional triple-deuce carburetors, and 4-on-the-floor, their new GTO was an absolute monster. 

The public went nuts over Pontiac's new Gran Tourismo Omologato (a racing term that means a particular car is certified to run in the GT Class), and it became the very first Muscle Car to emerge from Detroit. Given this significance, Pontiac knew that launching a new version of the GTO was risky. So Bob Lutz, the Chairman of GM's North American Division, decided to import the Australian-built Holden Monaro. It was a good idea, given the car's excellent RWD setup, and potent Corvette LS1 V8. But GTO fans cried foul, claiming the car wasn't worthy of its legendary name.

Originally intended to launch several years earlier, the 2004 Pontiac GTO already appeared dated by the time it was released. Muscle cars were back in vogue by 2004, and aggressively styled competitors like the Dodge Charger and Ford Mustang, made Pontiac's little coupe look like a real 'goat'.

The 2004 Pontiac GTO was powered by a Corvette-derived 5.7L V8, which made 350-hp / 365 lb-ft of torque. Backed by either a 6-speed manual, or a 4-speed automatic, LS1 could propel the 4th-Gen GTO to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds. A little over 15,000 of these 5.7L cars were imported for 2004, and they all came equipped with such luxuries as leather seats with stitched 'GTO' insignias, full-power, and a 6-disk in-dash CD changer. $10k-$12k will buy you a nice example in the 60,000-120,000 mile range. Cheaper GTO's will typically have many more miles on the clock, and it's not uncommon to see cars with over 200k.

For 2005, a larger 6.0L LS2 replaced the 350, and power jumped to 400-hp / 395 lb-ft. 60 mph could be reached in well under 5-seconds, and a Sport Appearance option gave the more powerful Goat loud mufflers, along with a subtle body kit. Despite the improvements, sales dropped to around 11k units. Expect to average between 16-19 mpg with the automatic, and 19-22 with the manual. By comparison, the 2004 tends to average between 18-20 mpg. Prices for a clean '05 generally run between $14k and $18k depending on the mileage.

No significant changes were made for 2006. Although, the GTO's final year did see a slight uptick in sales, which ended at 13k. Pricing isn't much different than the '05's, and you'll probably notice a lot more low-mileage 2005 & 2006 models, due mostly to the 6-liter's higher fuel consumption. Electrical / electronic issues are common on these cars, so have it thoroughly inspected before you buy. And as always, try to buy an adult-owned example with a full service history.

The engines & transmissions on the 4thgeneration Pontiac GTO tend to be extremely reliable, and extremely powerful. Stomp the Go-Pedal, and a massive wave of torque sends you hurling toward the horizon, in a cloud of tire smoke. In U.S.-spec, the Monaro's suspension is tuned for comfort, so there is a bit of body roll when you go around curves. Pundits who railed against this car's 'authenticity' should note that the original GTO didn't handle very well either. Muscle cars are about comfort and tire smoke. So if you're looking for a heck-raising daily driver, the 2004-2006 Pontiac GTO works brilliantly.


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