1996 Pontiac Grand Am GT 2.4L from North America
Great car for the money, I'll definitely remember it!
I Bought this car used from a dealer, with a limited warranty. Bushings on the front control arms were too soft and caused clunking over railroad tracks etc. Dealer replaced both controls arms at no charge (Typically about $600). Also, the A/C Compressor was bad and needed to be replaced which the dealer also paid for.
At about 85,000 miles the front left wheel bushing went. The bushing is one piece with the whole hub, so the whole hub had to be replaced ($130). Total bill was $200, which wasn't bad considering it went out on the interstate and I had to use one of those "roadside" shops that usually charge an arm and a leg.
Brakes had to be done at 110,000 miles, almost 50,000 after taking ownership. That is the most wear I've EVER gotten out of any of my vehicles. The whole job including new rotors and drums was $300.
The water pump started to leak about 115,000 miles. This is a somewhat common problem with the quad4 engine. The placement of the water pump requires half of the engine to be taken apart. The pump is actually driven by the lowest portion of the cam chain. So, a $50 part usually requires about 8 hours labor, or roughly $450 plus the part. In my case, I opted to have all the timing components replaced if I was going to go that far, and with a friend doing the work got everything done for $600.
Tires lasted just shy of 50,000 miles (Firestone Firehawk SS20s, now Firehawk Indy 500s), about $450 including 4-wheel alignment.
Let me just say that I LOVED my Grand Am. I paid $6000 for it in May 2002 with 63,000 miles on it. I parted ways with it October 2004 with 130,000. Before it I owned an '88 Mustang GT, so it had a lot to look up to. Power from the quad4 was great. It was mated to the manual 5-speed, which was a great match. The manual in this car felt great as well. The shifter was precise enough to make you think that it was connected directly to the trans-axle. No sloppy linkage here. And the ratios were suited perfectly for the power coming from the engine. I easily beat other V6 grand ams of the same era, Neons and Cavaliers didn't stand a chance. My average Mileage through combined city/highway driving was an incredible 29mpg, consistently throughout almost 60,000 miles of ownership.
One thing that stood out from the moment that I test drove this car was how well I handled. I had the GT, so that came with 16 inch alloys, and slightly tighter tuned suspension. I just loved to fly around those cloverleaf interchanges at about 50mph, and surprisingly the tires didn't even argue. I also liked to find a country road and throw it through the gears once in a while. The car had a very "solid" feel that inspired quite a bit of confidence. I by no means "babied" my car, but on the same token I know how to drive my car without "beating" it. I worked my car hard, and it never complained.
Braking was OK in the Grand Am when roads were dry. Snow or Ice covered, WATCH-OUT. Undoubtedly the worst ABS setup I've driven. Also, driving in the snow was relatively good as long as the treads were OK.
Styling on the Grand Am was good. It certainly didn't look like other cars of 1996. Smooth and appealing on the outside, it definitely looked like a sports coupe. Interior styling was good as well. The gauge cluster was arranged well, center console arranged well, everything was easily reached by the driver, and nothing was "cluttered" like some small cars. In general, very clean and appealing. I did have and intermittent rattle somewhere in the dash, but it wasn't overly noticeable. Upholstery was durable, not showing any noticeable wear after 130,000 miles. There was a little fading on the back of the rear seat. The seats were also very comfortable, at least for front passengers. I had no problems sitting in them for 3 or 4 hours on long trips. There is also plenty of leg room for us long-legged folks, much more than any other small car I've been in, and even more than my current Lincoln LS. Back passengers were OK for an hours drive or so, but that's not much different than any other 2 door.
All-in-all, one of my favorites of the cars that I've owned. I really had a hard time trading it in. Maybe I was lucky to avoided some problems others report, or maybe it is all in how the car is maintained. By the way, the engine never burned ANY oil. I did use synthetic blend and changed it religiously every 3,000 miles.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 12th December, 2004