If a student of sociology were inclined to put a finger on the pulse of the American automotive market, pointing said finger at a Pontiac Grand Am buyer would be about as close to the nation's automotive center as you might reasonably expect to get. Pontiac's 1997 Grand Am is the division's volume leader and GM's leading compact entry. As such, its development and evolution receives a lot of attention from both customers and Pontiac dealers. The Grand Am has received some significant refinements recently. The interior and front and rear fascias were freshend last year. And this year there is an increase in standard equipment. Pontiac says the Grand Am appeals to active people who "want the best combination of bold, distinctive styling, driving fun and value in a compact car." For the most part, the Grand Am still delivers on that promise, but its age shows when compared with newer competition, such as the Ford Contour, Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Cirrus. On the other hand, it's clear that Pontiac's excitement formula works. When it first appeared, the Grand Am was one of three equally important corporate cousins, along with the Buick Skylark and Oldsmobile Achieva. But it seems likely that by the end of the 1997 model years the Grand Am will be the only survivor.