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Pontiac G5: What Could Have Been?

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author photo by Aaron Gold December 2016

I have a love for the underdogs -- the unloved and largely forgotten cars that litter the landscape of automotive history.

At least that's the excuse I use for cluttering up the digital pages of Oversteer with a mediocre car like the Pontiac G5.

A moment of honesty: When I first pitched this story, I called it "Pontiac G5: The Forgotten Cobalt," not thinking about the fact that anyone who has driven a Chevrolet Cobalt would probably like nothing better to forget it completely.

But the Pontiac G5 does deserve some points for its uniqueness, at least in the United States. Canadians and Mexicans, once again, you are excused from the conversation -- if memory serves, your countries were overrun not by the G5 coupes we had here but rather by a sedan version known, in Canada at least, as the G5 Pursuit. A name that implies... what? That the G5 might be the preferred ride of Canadian police, were they not forced by the mindless metric bureaucracy to buy Crown Victorias with twice as much space, power and acceleration?

Anyway, back to the topic of our story: the U.S.-market Pontiac G5, sold exclusively as a 2-door coupe. Now, I'm old enough to remember the Sunbird -- a Pontiac version of the Chevy Cavalier that even had its own engine for a while (a Brazilian-sourced 1.8, with and without a turbocharger). In the days when Pontiac sold excitement, the 'Bird was a hot seller. The similarity of nomenclature to the Firebird no doubt helped its image, though the car was renamed the Sunfire in 1995.

The G5 replaced the Sunfire in 2007, and as I mentioned earlier, it was sold in the U.S. only as a 2-door coupe. I reviewed the more stiffly sprung GT model, and truth be told, it wasn't a terrible car. It was loaded with equipment and decent to drive. But it was also as anonymous as a paper bag and every bit as thrilling to look at. Furthermore, GM hobbled it. Chevrolet had the brilliant supercharged (and later turbocharged) Cobalt SS model on the market, but even though the G5 was the same car, Pontiac got no equivalent.

And of course, we all know why they might have made that decision. By this time, Pontiac's doom was sealed. The G5 lasted just three model years, and GM binned the Pontiac brand in 2010. It's a shame, because had that hot-rod Cobalt been sold as a Pontiac, the car might have gotten some traction. For now, it's relegated to the role of a curiosity that's bound to attract attention at car shows in the future. Should you wish to speculate early, you can shop for a G5 on Autotrader.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Pontiac G5: What Could Have Been? - Autotrader