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The Best & Worst Cars That Forgotten Brand Pontiac Ever Made

Cameron Eittreim August 5, 2022

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1992 Pontiac Grand Am (Best)

In 1992, the Pontiac Grand Am was completely redesigned from the ground up. The styling was new and modern, and the interior was also brought into the mainstream. The styling of this Grand Am model is the design language Pontiac would use for the next two decades. The car was modern and compact, with reasonable performance. Consumers reacted well to the styling of the car, and it was one of the best-selling Grand Ams (via Classic Car Database).

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If there is one Pontiac model that defined the early 1990s, it was the Grand Am. The styling of the car was universally accepted by the automotive public. GM had many controversial designs around this period, but the Grand Am managed to stand out from the crowd. The Grand Am would continue to be a success for the Pontiac brand for many years. This variation of the Grand Am is by far one of the most sought-after due to its unique styling.

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1993 Pontiac LeMans (Worst)

The Pontiac LeMans of the early 1990s was the ultimate junk car. The car got its design from Daewoo, a Korean automaker that had a partnership with GM during this time. The automotive press panned the LeMans for having a cheap interior design and questionable reliability. The LeMans was so bad that there were even reports of these cars breaking down as soon as they left the dealer (via Classic Car Database).

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The LeMans was not a good selling model for Pontiac. It would be the last subcompact model until the Wave was released in 2004. The market for a subcompact Pontiac model was not what GM had hoped. It turns out that customers who want a subcompact want something reliable and styling. The LeMans was neither of these things and was dropped from the lineup.

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1994 Pontiac Firebird (Best)

The 1994 Pontiac Firebird model was a groundbreaking advancement for the GM F-Body cars. the Firebird had an LT1 engine, which was shared with the Corvette. The styling of the Firebird was largely different than the Camaro with which it shared a platform. The interior was much more modern, and the exterior was very different. Some would argue the Firebird was always the better looking of the two cars, and the 1994 model personified this (via Classic Car Database).

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The fourth generation Firebird model is also the last variation of the Firebird ever built. GM canceled the line in 2002, along with the Camaro, and the Pontiac division was closed in 2010. The Firebird is one of the last unique Pontiac cars that you’ll still see on the road. But even the fourth-generation models are becoming harder to come by.

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1995 Pontiac Sunfire (Worst)

For the 1995 model year, the Sunbird was redesigned and renamed the Sunfire. The car went from being a unique compact car offering to a carbon copy of the Chevrolet Cavalier. There was nothing unique about this version of the car. Gone was the unique styling that made the Sunbird a one-of-a-kind car (via Classic Car Database).

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The Sunfire would maintain the respectable sales numbers of the previous car, but it was never the same as before. The Sunfire lost the unique identity that enticed buyers. Instead, you got a carbon copy of the Cavalier, and that just didn’t cut the mustard. The Cavalier had a bread and butter design, and the Sunfire needed to be unique.

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1996 Pontiac Bonneville (Best)

The 1996 Pontiac Bonneville was a unique car, with a twist of modern styling and technology. The plush ride of the car enticed traditional buyers, but the supercharged version made it into a sport sedan. The Bonneville had some of the best stylings of the time, and the interior was luxurious for the price tag (via Classic Car Database).

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If you were lucky enough to get the SSE-I version of the car, you had one of the best sports sedans that GM has built. The SSE-I came with a lot of luxury features for the price, and the supercharged engine was the icing on the cake. The Bonneville from this generation has become a sought-after vehicle.

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1997 Pontiac Grand Am (Worst)

By 1997, the Grand Am was outdated and outclassed by the competition. While GM would release an updated model the next year, the 1997 model didn’t offer anything unique. The engine is considered one of the least reliable, as GM switched to using Dex-Cool in all their vehicles. The performance of the Grand Am from this year is lackluster and there were far better cars on the market (via Classic Car Database).

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The 1997 Pontiac Grand Am model is not the most satisfactory in terms of the history of the car. There are much better options available on the market. The Grand Am from this era has become harder to find. Part of that is because the car was not that popular with consumers. You’ll seldom see one of these on the road anymore because they just didn’t make sense.

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1998 Pontiac Firebird Formula (Best)

For the 1998 model year, the Firebird got a mid-cycle refresh. The car was much more modern and the front end was also redone. The interior would also see a major improvement over the previous models. But it was what was new under the hood that got the automotive world talking. The Firebird Formula got the same LS1 V8 engine that you got in the C5 Corvette. Which meant you got Corvette performance for thousands less (via Classic Car Database).

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So what happened? Well, by this point in time, consumers were ready to move on from two-door sports cars. SUV models were all the rage, and GM was losing money on the performance vehicles. That meant the fourth generation F-Body cars would be canceled for the 2002 model year. Still, just from a performance standpoint, this is one of the best Firebird models you can get on the road.

Photo Credit: GM Authority

1999 Pontiac Grand Prix (Worst)

For 1999, the Grand Prix grew but not in a good way. The car went from being the slender, well-designed pinnacle of GM design, to a cushioned large family sedan that shared its underpinnings with Buick and Oldsmobile models. That isn’t to say this generation of the Grand Prix was horrible. But, it wasn’t the best car you could get for the money (via Classic Car Database).

Photo Credit: GM Authority

This generation of the Grand Prix was still notable, the car had a decent run in the NASCAR circuit. GM would try to position this Grand Prix as the exciting family car. Unfortunately, the only people who bought into that hype were rental car fleets and consumers looking for a deal on something heavily discounted.

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2000 Pontiac Bonneville (Best)

For the 2000 model year, the Pontiac Bonneville was completely redesigned and could be considered one of the best redesigns in automotive history. The car was completely changed from the ground up, perhaps most noticeable was the styling. But under the hood, the new Bonneville also packed a punch with a supercharged V6 engine (via Classic Car Database).

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The car proved popular with consumers, something that the outgoing Bonneville model never did. Consumers were fond of the bold styling, and the engine provided a nice boost in power. This is by far one of the most common generations of the Bonneville that you’ll still see on the road today.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

2001 Pontiac Aztek (Worst)

Is there any surprise that the Aztek is one of the worst Pontiac models ever made? Probably not. But still, take one look at the car even today, and you will instantly recognize it. The Aztek was the ultimate blend of ugliness and lack of functionality. There was nothing to like about the car at all. The Aztek had some unique features, such as a built-in drink cooler that was also removable. But the design of the car was hideous and most consumers couldn’t get over it (via Classic Car Database).

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Surprisingly enough, after the widespread success of the hit TV show “Breaking Bad,” where Walter White drove a Pontiac Aztek, the car experienced a resurgence. Now the Aztek is an expensive proposition on the used car market. But, you know that the car is still quite ugly, and no popularity will ever disguise that fact.

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2002 Pontiac Grand Am (Best)

The 2001 Grand Am rectified many issues that the model had in the previous years. But most notable was the GT model, which came with a Ram Air forced induction setup. The Grand Am Ram Air is one of the rarest Pontiac models on the road. Not because of a limited production run, but because you can’t find them anymore (via Classic Car Database).

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On top of that, there were quite a few new improvements made to the car. The interior had many higher-quality materials, and the dashboard was slightly redesigned. The car also got a new high-end sound system, and GM was also introducing a new tracking system. If you can get your hands on a two-door Grand Am with the Ram Air setup you are in for driving pleasure.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

2003 Pontiac Vibe (Worst)

The 2003 Pontiac Vibe was born out of a long-standing relationship that GM had with Toyota. Many cars came out of this partnership, most notably the Prizm. But the Vibe was a poor excuse for badge engineering if there ever was one. The car was a Toyota Matrix with a redesigned front clip and a lot of body cladding (via Classic Car Database).

Photo Credit: Motor 1

If you remember Pontiac was heavily into using body cladding around this period. The Vibe was wrapped in more body cladding than the equally ugly Aztek model. The Vibe didn’t sell very well, and consumers were confused about why this model was in the Pontiac lineup. The Matrix was much better for essentially the same car.

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Photo Credit: GM

2004 Pontiac Grand Prix (Best)

The redesign of the 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix is the last redesign that the Grand Prix line would get. Pontiac would be dissolved for the 2010 model year, and the Grand Prix was no more. But in the meantime, the car was a great redesign, and it even brought back the V8 engine to the Grand Prix lineup in the form of the Northstar V8 (via Classic Car Database).

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Sadly, by this point in time, the Grand Prix was not a good seller for Pontiac. The car had a lot of issues, and the consumers were just not that into the brand anymore. Considering Pontiac had let the Firebird go a few years prior, the Grand Prix was sort of the odd-duck. The car couldn’t hold a candle to offerings from Honda or Toyota in terms of quality

Photo Credits: GM

2005 Pontiac GTO (Worst)

The resurgence of the GTO brand name in the 2000s is probably one of the biggest automotive letdowns in history. Consumers expected something great, and what they got was a rebadged Holden model from overseas. The styling was bland and sedate, especially when you considered the storied history of the GTO brand (via Classic Car Database).

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The GTO would be discontinued shortly after this model year. The car wasn’t the success that GM had hoped for. Consumers were ready for something unique that would hearken back to the history of the brand. But what they got was something that made no sense. The car was nothing like what you’d expect the next generation GTO model to be.

Photo Credit: GM

2006 Pontiac Torrent (Best)

The first Pontiac SUV had a nameplate that an entire generation knew. GM chose to name the SUV the “Torrent”, which was equated with the massively popular file-sharing of a generation. The Torrent was based on the Chevrolet Equinox, which was a new SUV that was the replacement for the Tracker (via Classic Car Database).

Photo Credit: GM

The Torrent did everything right, it was a quintessential upgrade over the bland Equinox model. There were sportier wheels, the body was nicer, and there were quite a few unique paint colors. The Torrent would prove to be one of the better badge engineering jobs that have come out of GM. The sales of the Torrent were also respectable, so although it was not a unique Pontiac, it was a great SUV.

Photo Credit: GM

2007 Pontiac Solstice (Worst)

Right towards the end of the Pontiac brand, GM would choose to release a roadster. The car had all the makings that made the Mazda Miata great. The problem was that it was decades too late. At this point, the Miata ruled the compact roadster market and no other car was going to intrude on that (via Classic Car Database).

Photo Credit: GM

The Solstice was buggy and cheap and there were better options on the market. The car just felt half finished, and that put a damper on the sales. Not to mention the 2008 Recession, which would also spell the end for the Pontiac brand. The GM restructuring effort just didn’t deem the Pontiac brand profitable. The Solstice has since become a rare vehicle that you don’t see often.

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