Test Drive: Pontiac GTO
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By David Haueter

One of the highlights of the 2006 Grand Am GT season was the introduction of the Pontiac GTO.R race car, which was competitive from its first race, went on to win four race out of eight races it competed in, won the GT team championship and nearly took Andy Lally and Marc Bunting to the driver's championship. While the racing version of the GTO is much different than the road version, with tube-frame construction and a racing sequential gearbox (among other changes) the GTO was on our short list of cars to drive during 2005.

The GTO is based on the Australian model Holden Monaro, which has raced very successfully in the Bathurst 24 Hour race, and the GTO is manufactured in Australia, at the Holden plant in Elizabeth. Even so, the GTO is a throwback to American muscle cars of the 1950's, with a big 400hp V8 put into a conservatively styled package. That package proved to be a little too conservative for the buying demographic of the new GTO when it first came out, so for 2005 Pontiac spiced things up by installing dual exhaust pipes and hood scoop, which give the car a more sporty appearance than the more understated 2004 model. Apparently the design changes are working, as Pontiac is selling a lot more GTO's in 2005 than they were last year.

One piece of hardware that is shared on both the street and race versions of the GTO, and is the heart of both of them, is GM's LS2 motor, which is 6-liters of good old American V8 and puts out an even 400hp and 400 lb-ft of torque (50 more horsepower and 35 lb-ft more torque than the 2004 model). This is the same motor that powers the Corvette and has several design improvements over the previous generation motor, including a flat-top piston design that reduces friction, a larger single-blade throttle body and a new aluminum block with revised oil galleries. The compression ratio was raised to 10.9:1 and redline was increased to 6,500rpm.

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