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2001 Pontiac Firebird Coupe

2dr Cpe Trans Am

Starting at | Starting at 18 MPG City - 28 MPG Highway

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  • $27,145 original MSRP
Printable Version

2001 Pontiac Firebird Coupe

Printable Version

2001 Pontiac Firebird Coupe

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2001 Pontiac Firebird

Source: New Car Test Drive

Trans Am as T. Rex.

by Sam Moses

Base Price (MSRP) $18,725
As Tested (MSRP) $35,770

Pontiac's Trans Am can fairly be considered a dinosaur, considering that the market for muscle cars has all but dried up and its type is near extinction. Still, the Trans Am WS-6 has many engineering attributes and excellent qualities. And there are still a few people who enjoy a V8-powered all-American cruiser. Even with all its inconveniences and occasional beastliness, the rear-wheel-drive Firebird is still fun to drive and continues to reflect an enduring personal style.

Model Lineup

Pontiac Firebird is available in coupe and convertible body styles and in three models: Firebird, Formula and Trans Am.

Compared with the base Firebird, the Formula adds speed-rated tires, performance suspension tuning, and a Monsoon CD sound system with 10 speakers.

The Trans Am gets further standard equipment: removable roof panels and a special spoiler on the coupe, and leather seats with six-way power adjustment for the driver.

The engine in the base Coupe or Convertible is the 3800 (3.8-liter) V6, yielding 200 horsepower and 225 foot-pounds of torque. The 5.7-liter V8 (overhead-valve LS1 with aluminum cylinder block and heads) comes in the Formula and Trans Am in two versions: 310 horsepower and 340 foot-pounds of torque or, with the WS-6 Ram Air package, 325 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds of torque.

Three transmissions are available: The base Firebird gets a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic; the Formula and Trans-Am get either the automatic or a six-speed manual in which both fifth and sixth gears are overdrive.

Walkaround

Few cars on the market today have the visual impact of a WS-6 Trans Am - especially a red convertible like our test vehicle. With its big bulges and long hood, the Trans Am always draws stares and comments. There are actually four nostrils for the Ram Air intake, two flared ones and two more gaps where the hood meets the rest of the nose. Fat chrome tips to the twin exhaust come out of tunnels under the rear bumper that look like an exotic racing car ground-effects undertray.

The Trans Am also features some of the usual Pontiac styling touches, including hundreds of hexagons in the taillights that suggest a fly's eyeballs. The 17-inch, five-spoke aluminum wheels are so polished they appear to be chrome, and they are wrapped with wide P275/40ZR17 tires rated for extremely high sustained speeds.

There are other flares, scoops, styling grooves and bulges, which are probably considered uncool by your Lexus owner, but they are a Trans Am tradition and not out of place on this car. There are functional louvers behind the front wheels, for the release of hot air from the engine compartment. The wing on the convertible is more like a platform over the entire rear deck; it begins just behind the side windows, and it might even offer downforce to keep the car from floating should you ever run it in the 130-mph range, which we certainly don't suggest. With its incredibly tall sixth-gear ratio, the engine would be rumbling at less than 3000 rpm at that speed.

Interior Features

From the inside, you feel like you're in a racing car, as the low seating position and faraway unseen corners make judging near distances difficult. However, with so many adjustments to the driver's seat and steering wheel, this can be improved.

The convertible top, though handsome, is wide behind the side windows, creating a big blind spot that further complicates parallel parking; the glass rear window is small as well. But the power top operates easily. A tonneau cover takes up precious limited trunk space, and thus will be left in the garage by many owners.

Not surprisingly, the rear seats offer little legroom and almost no visibility. The convertible top is a tradeoff in the rear compartment; it steals 2.2 inches of hip room, but gives back 4.2 inches of headroom.

The front bucket seats are intelligently shaped and comfortable for long distances; they aren't difficult to climb into and out of, considering how low to the ground they are, but the front doors do scrape on sidewalks. The driver will probably wish he had a steering wheel with a larger diameter, more in keeping with the muscle car theme, and more suited to the excellent handling. It tilts into a good position, allowing visibility over the top without hitting the knees of an average-sized person.

An extra set of sound system controls is located in the hub. Sounds are a high priority for Pontiac, and even the convertible comes standard with an eight-speaker CD system. There's a big fixed cupholder behind the shift lever, which has a stylish leather knob. There's a tidy compartment between the seats, and other storage spots exist in the doors and behind the front seats.

Driving Impressions

We spent a wonderful long 500-mile weekend with this car, using it as it's absolutely intended, while at the same time as it's not really intended. We drove from San Francisco to Mendocino up the remote and curvy Pacific Coast Highway, an approximate 175-mile stretch whose views from rocky cliffs hanging over the rugged ocean are some of the most stunning in the country. It was a gorgeous spring day, and we had the top down. This is truly what this car was made for.

We had two kids in the back, in car seats-one just over five, the other just under three. Battling boys, on top of it. This is not what the Trans Am was made for. But it worked. Kids are happier in the back than adults. Legroom is not a problem when your feet don't touch the floor. Of course, we traveled light. The one-kid collapsible stroller stayed home, although it fits in the trunk.

Driving relatively easily, the Trans Am is a gem. Macho drivers-and there will be plenty with the WS-6-will abuse the car and push to its limits, but when it's driven reasonably and within the law, it is highly rewarding and not the least bit uncomfortable or difficult.

The biggest problem is the perception of size, from behind the wheel. Still, the wife and mother of this driving family is 4'10" tall, and she managed to find a seating position that afforded her reasonable driving and parking in the city.

The power steering is not heavy, but it is a compromise; women might like easier turning for parking, but precision would then be lost in the cornering-and this is, after all, a high-performance car. The steering is direct and steady, no roaming or twitching at all, both in the curves and on the freeway.

Cowl shake has been a bugaboo with Firebird and Camaro convertibles, given the lack of chassis stiffness provided by a roof, combined with a suspension that isn't designed to simply soak up bumps. During our test over fairly smooth roads, the cowl never reared its shaking head. This is a significant advancement, a true character change. If this T. Rex is destined for extinction, at least it will be refined when it goes out.

The suspension performed admirably. Never once were we jarred, which is saying quite a lot. And never once did we feel the car undulating, even slightly. We suspect that extremes in both road conditions and driving aggression could indeed produce those responses from this Trans Am-at least we hope so, because the suspension wouldn't be correct if they didn't. All Firebird models receive re-valved shock absorbers for the 2001 model year.

The six-speed gearbox with Hurst linkage feels solid, though not quite buttery. It might be overstating things to call it quirky, but it requires some understanding. The pattern is closely spaced for quick shifting, which means you sometimes find yourself in third gear instead of first, when pulling out. There is a lockout of second gear at certain rpm and at a certain pace of acceleration designed to save gas. Accelerating slowly causes the computer to force you to shift from first gear into fourth. Basically, it won't let you drive sharply and casually at the same time. You either accept it or you learn how to get around it. There is a way to get into second gear, when you want to; we could explain, but it would take two paragraphs. The good news is there's so much torque that you actually can go from first to fourth gear, even at a tame 2500 rpm, without bogging the engine.

Sixth gear will save you more gas, because the ratio is so tall. It might also get you a ticket. Sixty-eight miles per hour is only about 1500 rpm, and because there is so little engine compression to slow you down when you lift off the throttle in sixth gear, the car wants to keep rolling on into the 70s and 80s. With such low rpm, you don't hear it or feel it. You really need to use cruise control in sixth. On an open highway, it does indeed save gas.

As for power, well, you've got 325 horsepower with the Ram Air system to go with the manual transmission. It's smooth, not really neck-snapping, and the exhaust note is deep but not loud. It's as much power as you'll ever need, and probably as much as you'll ever want, but it's not scary. It's eminently controllable. A few of the mechanical changes for the 2001 model include a new camshaft and intake manifold, which results in five more horsepower and foot-pounds of torque for the standard and Ram Am V8.

Pulling away in first gear does call for some attention, however. It's easy to stall the engine if you're too casual with throttle application, especially at red lights on the steep streets of San Francisco.

Final Word

Dinosaur or not, powerful rear-wheel-drive cars like this are tradition - tradition that isn't likely to be killed off as long as it's profitable. It will die a natural death, when its time comes. So Pontiac keeps building them - and improving them. The Trans Am might not be as slick as a Lexus, Mercedes or BMW, but it's a lot better than it's often given credit for. You just have to take it for what it is.

© New Car Test Drive, Inc.

Printable Version

2001 Pontiac Firebird Coupe

Safety Ratings help

What do the Safety Ratings mean?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performs independent crash testing of new vehicles and then assigns them a score based on their performance. The overall crash test rating is based on how a vehicle performs in the following tests:

Driver Crash Grade:

Measures the chance of a serious injury to a crash test dummy that is placed in a driver's seat and driven into a fixed barrier at 35 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less chance of injury.

Passenger Crash Grade:

Similar to the driver crash grade, only now the focus is on the passenger.

Rollover Resistance:

Simulates an emergency lane change to measure the likelihood of a vehicle rolling over. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less risk of rollover.

Side Impact Crash Test - Front:

Focuses on the front side of a vehicle. It simulates crashes that can occur in intersections by striking a 3,015-pound weight against the side of a vehicle at 38.5 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 5 percent or less chance of injury.

Side Impact Crash Test - Rear:

Similar to the front side impact test only now the focus is on the rear passenger.

Driver Crash Grade
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Passenger Crash Grade
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Side Impact Crash Test - Front
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Side Impact Crash Test - Rear
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Safety Features & Equipment

Braking & Traction

4-Wheel ABS Std
Traction/Stability Control Opt

Passenger Restraint

Driver Air Bag Std
Passenger Air Bag Std

Road Visibility

Daytime Running Lights Std
Fog Lamps Std
Intermittent Wipers Std

Security

Anti-theft System Std
Printable Version

2001 Pontiac Firebird Coupe

Original Warranty  help
Original Warranty
An original warranty is the warranty associated with a vehicle when it is brand new. In addition to the original warranty, select items, like tires, are typically covered by respective manufacturers. Also, an act of Federal law sometimes provides protection for certain components, like emissions equipment.
The original warranty is often broken down into multiple sections, including:
Basic Warranty:
Typically covers everything except for parts that wear out through normal use of the vehicle. Examples of non-covered items are brake pads, wiper blades and filters.
Drivetrain Warranty:
This warranty covers items the basic warranty does not protect. Wear and tear items such as hoses will not be covered, but key items like the engine, transmission, drive axles and driveshaft often will be.
Roadside Assistance:
The level of service differs greatly with this warranty, but many manufacturers offer a toll-free number that helps provide assistance in case you run out of gas, get a flat tire or lock your keys in the car.
Corrosion Warranty:
This warranty focuses on protecting you from holes caused by rust or corrosion in your vehicle's sheet metal.
Please check the owner's manual, visit a local dealership or look at the manufacturer's website to learn more about the specifics of the warranties that apply to a vehicle.

Miles

Months

Pontiac Certified Pre-Owned Warranty  help
Certified Pre-Owned Warranty
To be eligible for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status, vehicles generally must be recent models with relatively low mileage. CPO vehicles must also pass a detailed inspection, outlined by the manufacturer, which is measured by the number of inspected points.
Warranty coverage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. While most certified pre-owned programs transfer and extend the existing new car warranty terms, others offer a warranty that simply represents an additional year and mileage value. Always check with the manufacturer for the specific warranties they offer.
Common features and benefits of Certified Pre-Owned warranties include:
Age/Mileage Eligibility
To even be considered for certification, a car must be a recent model year and have limited mileage. The exact requirements are established by individual manufacturers.
Lease Term Certified
Some manufacturers offer certified pre-owned cars for lease. The length of the lease is often shorter than a new car lease, but it will cost you less.
Point Inspection
These inspections entail a comprehensive vehicle test to ensure that all parts are in excellent working order. The point inspection list is simply a numbered list of exactly what parts of the car are examined. While many inspections range from a 70- to 150-point checklist, most are very similar and are performed using strict guidelines. Ask your local dealer about specific details.
Return/Exchange Program
Some manufacturers offer a very limited return or exchange period. Find out if you will get the sales tax and licensing/registration fees back should you return or exchange the car.
Roadside Assistance
Most certified pre-owned programs offer free roadside service in case your car breaks down while still under warranty.
Special Financing
Reduced-rate loans are available through many certified pre-owned programs. Manufacturer-backed inspections and warranties help eliminate the risks involved with buying pre-owned, so buyers who qualify can take advantage of the great offers.
Transferable Warranty
When a new car warranty transfers with the certification of the car and remains eligible for the next owner, it is known as a transferable warranty. Once the original transferable warranty expires, an extended warranty takes effect.
Warranty Deductible
This is the amount for which you are responsible when repair work is performed under the warranty. Some manufacturers require a deductible while others don't, so always ask.

2-year/24,000-Mile¹ CPO Scheduled Maintenance Plan.

12-Month/12,000-Mile² Bumper-to-Bumper Limited Warranty.

5-year/100,000-Mile³ Powertrain Limited Warranty

¹Covers only scheduled oil changes with filter, tire rotations and 27 point inspections, according to your vehicle's recommended maintenance schedule for up to 2 years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. Does not include air filters. Maximum of 4 service events. See participating dealer for other restrictions and complete details.

²Whichever comes first from date of purchase. See participating dealer for limited warranty details.

³Whichever comes first from original in-service date. See participating dealers for limited warranty details.
Age/Mileage Eligibility 2009-2010 model year / Under 75,000 miles
Lease Term Certified No
Point Inspection 172-Point Vehicle Inspection and Reconditioning
Download checklist
Return/Exchange Program 3-Day 150-Mile Satisfaction Guarantee
Roadside Assistance Yes
Transferrable Warranty Yes
Warranty Deductible $0

Learn more about certified pre-owned vehicles

Printable Version

2001 Pontiac Firebird Coupe

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