April 27, 1998


On the road with Carol


We were able to compare the 1987 and 1999 Grand Am. We like the improvements in 1999.

Test Drive - 1999 Pontiac Grand Am

   The 1999 Pontiac Grand Am SE sedan has a new bolder, flashier and sportier look. The 15" standard or 16" optional wheels and tires are now flush with the body, and the Grand Am has the longest wheel base in its class. The classic "cat-eyes" head lamps, twin-port grill and round running lights are still part of the design, but the thick, ribbed body side moldings are new and distinctive, offering better protection from dings and dents in parking lots.
   A recent road trip on Highway 101 from San Francisco to Santa Cruz proved the V6 Grand Am with its new power train had quick response, significant power, easy turning radius, and a comfortable ride--despite numerous hairpin curves. There is a solid-to-road feel and the muffled road noise gives you a bit of the race car driver experience. And there is definitely enough power that you have to watch your speed; it can creep up fast. Cruise control is definitely in order. The optional 3400 V6 produces 170 horsepower at 4800 rpm and 195 LB-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. That translates to rapid response from foot to pedal.
   The new braking system has aluminum front brake calipers and larger front rotors and pads. Stopping distance has improved and antilock brakes are standard. The brakes react quickly.
   The new 4T45-E- transaxle design provides a 10% increase in torque capacity for the four-speed, electronically controlled transmission. Keyless entry is very convenient and the alarm feature provides a sense of security and is handy for finding your car in a parking lot. I particularly like the trunk opening with a push of the button.
   The interior cabin is built for the convenience of the driver with the console curved slightly towards the driver. The gauges are large and easy to read. The steering wheel is significantly thicker and tiltable. Power windows and power mirrors are handy. The AM/FM stereo and CD player use a 7-band graphic equalizer and subwoofer and six speakers to deliver the sound. There are radio controls in the steering wheel which I always forget to use. I liked the windshield wiper feature which had the washer in the wiper arm instead of its being hood-mounted.
   The wheel base is 106.7, 3.6 inches longer than the previous model and longest wheel base in its class, but the overall length is slightly reduced. I liked the dual exhaust tips and the stop lamp mounted in the rear decklid. As a short person, I found the trunk a little high. Leaning over to reach items in the back required attention to protect my clothing from getting dirty. The rear cornering lamps are a real help in backing up. A nice feature is the front license plate pocket. If you need a front plate it doesn't stick out.
   The Grand Am is a popular car, ranked in the top ten with more than 200,000 sold every year since 1992. And at $18,970 base cost or $20,375 with leather, spoiler and other nice extras, the 1999 Grand Am is a great car for an affordable price.