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The Pontiac Grand Am's flashy styling is toned down for 2003. Pontiac calls the Grand Am "sports car excitement with room for everyday life." It is practical, particularly in sedan form. Obviously, this combination appeals to a lot of people because the Grand Am is one of the 10 best-selling vehicles in the U.S.
The Grand Am has long relied on overstated styling to make a strong first impression. It shouts Pontiac excitement with its road-hugging lines and extroverted styling cues. There's no confusing this car with other compact cars and, at a quick glance, it could be mistaken for the bigger Pontiac Grand Prix.
For 2003, however, Pontiac has stripped the aggressive body cladding from the sides of the Grand Am along with the ribbed bumpers. The new look is lighter, cleaner, and more appealing in our view. We still wouldn't call the Grand Am understated.
Also, Pontiac this year is focusing more on the four-door Grand Am sedan, less on the two-door coupe. A loaded SE2 sedan has been added this year that should appeal to buyers who want a little more luxury in their lives. All Grand Am coupes this year are GT models (SE coupes are history).
Hot rodders should not despair, however, as GT models come with aggressive body cladding, a ribbed bumper with large intakes and integrated fog lamps. More important, the GT models come with a cold-air induction setup (more horsepower) and a sports suspension. An optional composite ram-air hood and spoiler ($1100) indicate the GT's intent in no uncertain terms.
The Pontiac Grand Am comes standard with a newly developed four-cylinder engine called the EcoTec, which delivers good acceleration around town and on freeway ramps. It is one of the most compact four-cylinder engines built in the world, and the lightest engine GM builds in its displacement class. All-aluminum construction contributes to its ultra-light weight of only 305 pounds, while twin balance shafts are designed to provide smoother operation. It still doesn't feel like the smoothest engine available, but it does offer lively performance, a benefit of dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder for good breathing.
The four-speed automatic transmission on our SE1 shifted smoothly and positively.
Drivers who want more exciting performance should opt for the V6, which delivers 170 horsepower at 4800 rpm, and 195 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm to SE models. The GT model's cold-air induction and less restrictive exhaust boost output even further, to 175 horsepower and 205 pound-feet, at the same engine speeds.
The Grand Am offers competent ride and handling. Like most compact cars, it lacks sophistication. The suspension does not filter bumps that well. This car takes a moment to settle after going over big bumps, it leans in corners, dives under hard braking, and squats under hard acceleration. Only enthusiasts are likely to notice this behavior, however. Most drivers will be fine with it.
The Grand Am handles reasonably well. When driven hard, it's a little slow to turn in to corners, perhaps due to a lack of grip in the front tires. It's stable once it takes a set in a corner. Its wide track and a relatively long (107-inch) wheelbase provide stability in corners, at high speeds, and in cross winds.
Big front disc brakes stop the Grand Am in a reasonable distance. Aluminum brake calipers reduce unsprung weight, which improves handling in bumpy corners. We recommend optional antilock brakes (ABS) and electronic traction control because they make this front-wheel-drive car easier to control in slippery situations.
The Pontiac Grand Am is slimmer and trimmer this year, something many of us would like to say. However, it's no wallflower, with bold styling that ensures you won't look Toyota bland everywhere you go. Grand Am GT coupes and sedans, meanwhile, flaunt their increased performance with ribbed body trim. Coupes and sedans are the same price. The two-door coupe is more stylish, while the four-door sedan is better for rear-seat passengers.
Regardless, the Grand Am is loaded with convenient interior features. It's easy to jump in and out of this car and getting it going requires a minimum of fuss. Once underway, it offers competent road manners. It isn't the most refined car in the class, but delivers style and value.
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2005 PONTIAC GRAND AM$3,494 | 95,891 mi
2005 Pontiac Grand Am$4,975 | 62,313 mi
2005 Pontiac Grand Am$6,282 | 100,009 mi
2005 Pontiac Grand Am$6,673 | 115,526 mi
2004 Pontiac Grand Am$4,995 | 94,644 mi
2004 Pontiac Grand Am$6,995 | 98,238 mi
2003 Pontiac Grand Am$4,999 | 93,728 mi
2003 Pontiac Grand Am$6,985 | 61,614 mi
2002 Pontiac Grand Am$4,480 | 115,705 mi
2002 Pontiac Firebird$6,888 | 97,402 mi
2002 Pontiac Firebird$13,929 | 57,308 mi
2001 Pontiac Grand Am$7,997 | 128,670 mi
2001 Pontiac Firebird$9,995 | 118,674 mi
2000 Pontiac Grand Am$2,999 | 106,432 mi
2000 Pontiac Grand Am$4,395 | 205,099 mi
2000 Pontiac Grand Am$5,995 | 52,700 mi
1999 Pontiac Grand Am$3,400 | 99,717 mi
1999 Pontiac Firebird$4,995 | 148,206 mi
1999 Pontiac Firebird$9,995 | 39,305 mi
1999 Pontiac Firebird$17,900 | 38,000 mi
1999 Pontiac Firebird$30,995 | 7,516 mi
1999 Pontiac Firebird$30,999 | 7,052 mi
1998 Pontiac Firebird$11,495 | 50,226 mi
1997 Pontiac Firebird$8,900 | 34,144 mi
1993 Pontiac Firebird$6,998 | 62,146 mi
1993 Pontiac Firebird$9,995 | 56,153 mi
1983 Pontiac Firebird$9,995 | 40,413 mi
1980 Pontiac Firebird$22,995 | 65,705 mi