1988 Pontiac Sunbird SE 2.0 from North America


350,000 miles got me my money's worth and then some!


Well, in fifteen years and 350,000 miles, let's see... The most memorable (but few) are as follows.

Flip up headlights quit in 1996.

Gone through two water pumps.

Top paint surfaces deteriorated rapidly beginning in 1999.

Six alternators, lastly in April 2003.

Power Steering Rack replaced in 2001.

General Comments:

Unbelievably reliable car. No major mechanical work (engine and transmission) needed, ever!

Seats have gotten to the point of the cushioning just flat wearing out. Were comfortable on many long trips.

Engine still gives me 30 to 33 miles per gallon highway. Still accelerates close to the day I first brought it home.

Suspension and transmission held up great. Still corners flat with good replacement struts and shocks.

Just wish I could've solved the "new alternator every two years" problem.

Today is last day of ownership due to too many wearable items needing replaced. Dash is cracked in several places, door interior fabric tearing, tires bad, paint job is horrible (but NO rust), etc.

This car stood up to a lot of hard driving from home (Florida) to Maine to Minnesota and just about everywhere in between.

A used Sunbird in decent shape can be a good value if given good care and upkeep.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 18th September, 2003

1988 Pontiac Sunbird SE 2.0 from North America


A good car for a teenager to start out in.


The ignition module went out at about 191,000 miles. This cost about fifty dollars. It was a pretty easy job to fix.

The cone gasket for the exhaust went out at 193,422 miles. The car lost a ton of power when this was gone. This cost thirteen dollars to buy the gasket.

I replaced the rotor at 193,422 miles also.

All the seats covers have ripped.

The transmission doesn't shift very well. I am guessing it is either the clutch or the transmission itself. It is barely going into first and reverse.

The flip up headlights covers don't work very well. When it is cold they work great however. At about 45 miles per hour they flip up unitentionaly.

Changed the valve cover gasket at about 190,600 miles.

General Comments:

This car handles surprisingly well. The cornering is great because it sits so low. On county roads it really sticks to the ground.

The acceleration is not that great, but it will squeal the tires. It is pretty sporty and quick with the 5 speed in it though.

If you are losing a lot of power check the cone gasket. That causes more trouble than you would think.

All the seats in the car are comfortable.

This is a great car to start out in because it doesn't have a lot of power to get in trouble with. The gas mileage is great. The insurance is cheap. And the styling of the car makes it unique to other cars.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 1st July, 2003

13th Sep 2004, 21:39

An update on this car. I had to replace the head gasket at about 194,000 miles. I found that it needed a new head and cam when I did this. It ran better than it ever has after this fix. It is still running strong and is quite dependable. It now has 199,300 miles and I am convinced I will get 200,000 out of it. It is such a nice car I will hate to junk it when it finally goes.

24th Oct 2006, 10:02

I can tell you this that my Sunbird has over 1,145,000 miles on it and I might need some repair, but she still rides strong.

1988 Pontiac Sunbird SE 2.0 turbo from North America


This car has V8 performance with 4cyl fuel economy. Who could ask for anything more!


The turbo began to leak early in its life (less than 30,000km) but was replaced at no charge under warranty. The replacement is still boosting strongly.

The front brakes are weak and have been replaced many times. The parts are cheap though and adapting our braking style has increased the longevity of the rotors.

We have had the timing belt replaced 3 times at approximately 70,000 km intervals. Twice the belt just failed, so now it is a regular maintenance cycle. Thankfully the valves have enough clearance to prevent mechanical contact under belt failure.

The electric trunk release failed.

The rear driver side window leaked and it took 3 trips back to the dealer to finally resolve and since then the car is weather tight.

General Comments:

Excellent straight line performance from the 2.0L turbo. Once the boost kicks in, you get firmly planted in your seat as the tachometer rushes for that red-line. Hang on to the steering wheel though, the torque steer can startle an unsuspecting driver.

Handling is great. This car is light and nimble and is a lot of fun to throw into the curves. the turbo package has heavier sway bars so the car remains flatter during aggressive maneuvers.

Unlike a more refined sports car, the turbo lag during acceleration does reduce the fluidity of motion through the curves though.

You have to keep the engine regularly tuned. This little engine pushes 82hp per liter compared with 45hp per liter for a 5.0L Mustang (stock). So when things get a little out of sorts the computer turns down the heat to protect the engine. If the 5.0L had the same hp/L rating as the 2.0L Turbo Sunbird, that 5.0L would be pushing 400hp.

There are reasons why the J-bodies from GM were the # 1 seller in 1988. Price, performance, and comfort.

Would I buy another? Absolutely, If GM created a similar package, I would look long and hard at it. But alas they have chosen not to, so the Dodge SRT-4 has caught my eye!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 1st March, 2003