With the release of the Chevrolet SS sports sedan only months away, there are many looking forward to Chevy’s return to the segment. General Motors hasn’t produced a proper large, V8 RWD sedan since the demise of the Pontiac G8 GXP, a car that I deemed a Future Classic not long ago. There are signs that suggest the SS will become a Future Classic as well, but does that mean you should rush to your local dealer to throw down a hefty deposit? My crystal ball says no.
Photos from BMW
BMW’s Z3 and Z4 have always been soft roadsters better left relegated to navigating suburban megamall parking lots and boulevards than conquering the Tail of the Dragon. Like the Mazda Miata, the original Z3 was a small, compact two-seater that made do with a small 4-cylinder that produced a bit less than 140hp. After BMW owners made it clear that they were not in the market for a modern adaptation of sparsely appointed classic British roadsters, the manufacturer borrowed the 6-cylinder offerings from the 3 Series, and the Z3, along with its Mercedes SLK competitor, became the sedate choices for buyers not looking for the enthusiasm and prestige of a Porsche Boxster.
A few years into the product cycle, BMW’s M division got their hands on the Z3 and decided that it could use a few more ponies under the hood. The 2.8L I6 was thrown out and replaced by the 3.2L from the E36 M3, resulting in a horsepower bump from 189hp to 240hp. In 2001, the engine was changed again, and this time it was the aggressive 3.0L from the new E46 M3. The engine output was lowered from 333hp to 315hp as the redline was lowered (connecting rod bearings were destroying M3 engines, and BMW went for a cheap and easy fix), but the Z3M was transformed from an underpowered roadster to the certifiably insane M Coupé shooting brake you see here.
All photos from bmw.com
The Future Classics road was destined to be driven in a BMW E39 M5. It is the last 5 Series to have a truly clean, uncluttered design, and will likely be the last to keep a naturally-aspirated V8 under the hood; it was also exclusively available with a manual transmission, which is guaranteed to never happen again. Unlike the E60, which was famously overstyled by Chris Bangle and utilized a ridiculous 5.0L V10, the E39 was a perfect sleeper with just the right amount of power under the hood. At the time, the M5 and its 394hp 4.9L V8 was the most powerful sports sedan on the market, easily outperforming the Mercedes E55 AMG and Audi S6. Although it is a heavy bastard at more than two tons, the S62 was able to launch the midsized tanker from 0-60mph in a tick under 5 seconds. The power, luxury, reputation, and a current price around $20,000 make this M5 a Future Classic.
All photos courtesy of General Motors
For the third article in the ongoing Future Classics series, I’d thought we’d move away from the two Pontiacs (G8 GXP and Solstice GXP Coupe) and go a bit more upmarket. Unlike the two from General Motors’s defunct performance brand, this car is (theoretically) available for purchase at a Cadillac dealer near you! Here’s the spec: CTS-V Wagon with a stick shift. It’s the kind of combination only an automotive journalist would buy, a combination so uncommon but in such a fantastic car that its destiny to become a future classic is practically cemented.
All pictures from caranddriver.com
I realize that this is the second entry in the “Future Classics” series that now includes only Pontiacs, but with its dying breaths, the storied high performance brand produced two models that were the perfect sendoff. One was the G8 GXP that was to run with the best sports sedans from Europe, and the other was a hardtop version of the Solstice roadster.
Sharing the same platform with its Saturn Sky sister (and badged as the Opel GT in other markets), the Solstice was first sold in 2005 as a roofless two seater at a base price under $20,000. The car was first previewed in 2002 as both coupe and roadster concepts, but the soft top was the only version sold upon its release. The future of the fixed roof variant seemed uncertain, but Pontiac finally pulled the trigger in 2009, which would end up being the only year the coupe was produced. Shortly after the first batch of cars was sent out to dealers, General Motors announced that by the end of the following year, several GM brands would be disbanded, including the 84 year-old Pontiac.
The G8 was the last RWD sedan Pontiac ever produced before the brand was shuttered in 2009 as part of General Motors’ restructuring after the company filed for bankruptcy. Like the GTO coupe before it, the G8 was based on a car from GM’s Holden division in Australia, and it replaced the ancient Grand Prix. The G8 was a modified version of Holden’s Commodore sedan and the engine powered the rear wheels, making it the first Pontiac sedan to have such a configuration since the 1986 Parissienne and Bonneville. The base G8 was powered by a relatively competitive V6 that produced 256hp while the upscale GT model featured a V8 that made 361. The V6 was mated to a five-speed automatic only, while the V8 was given a six-speed unit. The interior was standard General Motors fare, which meant comfort and design took a back seat to cost-cutting. The car was benchmarked against the Mercedes E-class, Audi A6, and BMW 5 Series, and hoped to replicate a similar driving experience at a much lower price (5 bucks shy of $30k, to be exact). While the V8 was a strong, detuned version of the one in the pre-refreshed Corvette C6, Pontiac, being GM’s performance division, knew that there was no such thing as too much power.