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Bold styling with aggressive ribbed body work is designed to draw attention to this sporty compact. Pontiac redesigned its Grand Am for 1999 with new exterior styling, a redesigned interior, a re-engineered chassis and suspension, a bigger optional V6 engine, and more convenience features. For 2000, a new Getrag 5-speed manual gearbox is available.
Driving around South Florida revealed that the Grand Am offers a smoother, more controlled ride quality than pre-1999 models. There's a noticeable absence of shimmy and shake and rattles over potholes. It's also much quieter inside.
Miami's busy roads provided little opportunity to fully explore chassis dynamics, but compared with the previous model, the new Grand Am feels taut. It provides sharper steering response and makes the driver feel better connected to the road.
We focused on a sedan equipped with the standard 2.4-liter engine and the SE1 trim package as that's what most people buy. With its relatively flat torque curve, this engine delivers plenty of power around town and offers good acceleration for tackling freeway on-ramps. The four-speed automatic offers smooth, positive shifts and seems a good match for the engine.
That wide-track Pontiac stance gives the car more athletic handling response. The front track - the distance between the left and right tires - is a significant 3.3 inches wider than pre-1999 models, yet the width of the car has increased only 1.5 inches. Likewise, the wheelbase has been stretched a substantial 3.6 inches, while the overall length of the car is slightly reduced. In effect, the wheels have been pushed farther out toward the corners of the car. This gives the Grand Am a more aggressive, sporty appearance. It also increases stability at high speeds, in corners and in cross winds. Grand-Am's 107-inch wheelbase is longer than other compact cars.
Beneath the Grand Am's sporty appearance is a rigid unitbody structure. Pontiac says Grand Am's structure is more rigid than that of the Ford Contour and Nissan Altima. That's good news for drivers and passengers because a stiffer unitbody allowed GM engineers to design a three-link rear suspension that offers more precise control of the wheels and better noise and vibration damping. That adds up to improved handling and ride quality, areas where previous-generation Grand Ams left something to be desired.
Big front brakes offer good braking distances. Aluminum brake calipers present lower unsprung weight, which improves handling in bumpy corners. All Grand Ams come standard with antilock brakes (ABS) and electronic traction control, both of which make the car easier to control in limited traction situations.
Pontiac's Grand Am offers bold styling and is loaded with convenient interior features.