IF the mention of "Grand Prix" or "Daytona 500" sends visions of checkered flags and hyper pit crews racing through your head, then a new offering by Pontiac might be in order. The 2000 Grand Prix's top-line GTP coupe, especially in limited-edition Daytona 500 pace-car form, has the charisma to get racing enthusiasts moving on Pontiac's Wide Track.
Limited to 2,000 units, the pace-car replica is an invitation to those liking a ride that shouts exclusivity. Pace-car glitz comes at $2,345 tacked to GTP's $24,280 base price.
Features setting the pace-car package apart from the standard-issue GTP are cosmetic, and make the capable performer look even more menacing. Compared to graphics typically splashed across pace-car bodies, checkered bodyside artwork adorning the Daytona 500 model's Galaxy Silver Metallic paint looks understated. Even so, there's nothing ordinary about a replica pace car roaming city streets, and the treatment does turn heads.
Other special-edition add-ons include heat extractors on the hood, a pair of black NASCAR-style roof fences, distinctive rear decklid spoiler and custom exhaust tips. The brightest pace-car flash is created with aggressively styled, polished three-spoke aluminum wheels.
Even in standard form, GTPs generate flair with a rear decklid spoiler, GT-specific front and rear fascias, integrated fog lamps, custom-look twin-post power mirrors and stunning five-spoke aluminum wheels. Standard tires are P225/60R-16 blackwalls. In decades-old Pontiac tradition these tires are spaced wide apart, enhancing Grand Prix's athletic poise. Front tread width spans 61.7 inches and rear tread width 61.1 inches.
Pace-car pizzazz also is impressively conveyed on the inside. Seats are upholstered in custom leather, tailored in an eye-grabbing two-tone scheme. Upholstery is charcoal-colored, with headrests and inserts on upper seatbacks a lighter gray. Embossed high on each front seatback is a Daytona 500 logo. Metallic-look trim on the instrument panel and console round out the special interior effect.
Documented proof a Grand Prix is one of the official pace-car replicas comes with a credit-card-sized plaque mounted on the center floor console. It's stamped with a Daytona 500 logo and a notation the car is one of 2,000 units produced.
Beyond good looks, the cabin's level of comfort and functionality are high. Front seats are firm and supportive, with cushions moderately bolstered and seatbacks offering a bit more hug. GTP's standard six-way power-adjustable driver's seat, coupled with optional four-way power lumbar support, up the odds of a driver finding the optimum seating position.
Nestling into the driver seat in a higher seating position, drawing a bead on the optional Eyecue head-up speedometer display is difficult. For some drivers, only the bottom half of the large digital display can be seen projecting on the windshield's lower-left corner. Of course, the speedometer and othe r analog gauges are in clear view, and illuminate a vivid red-orange for enhanced nighttime visibility.
A convenient driver information center also provides updates as it monitors average fuel economy, fuel used, oil life, traction control system status and estimated range on the 18-gallon tank. Filling up after achieving a zero range notification, the computer calculates the Grand Prix can be driven 360 miles on premium fuel without a gas stop. Considering there had to be some fuel left in the "empty" tank, the range was in sync with the car's estimated fuel economy of 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. Another readout on the information center is a boost meter, but its use may be limited. There's usually no need for a reminder that the supercharger is doing its job of packing extra air into the GTP's standard 3.8-liter V-6 engine.
Grand Prix's supercharged
V-6 boosts emotions back to the '60s Pontiac Wide-Trackin' muscle-car days. Generating 240 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 280 foot-pounds of torque at 3,600 rpm, the engine is matched with a four-speed automatic transmission. Off-the-line responsiveness is especially pleasing. While unleashing a velvety roar, the GTP scoots from 0-60 mph in an estimated 6.7 seconds.
Whether the Grand Prix GTP is dressed as a pace car or simply running stealth, its supercharged muscle and old-style Pontiac spirit power the senses into the winner's circle.
TYPE: Midsize 2-door coupe
LENGTH: 196.5 in.
WIDTH: 72.7 in.
HEIGHT: 54.7 in.
ENGINE: 3.8-liter supercharged V-6
HP: 240 @ 5,200 rpm
TORQUE: 280 ft.-lbs. @ 3,600 rpm
WHEELS: 16x6.5 in. cast aluminum
BRAKES: 4-wheel disc, ABS
AIRBAGS: Dual frontal
BASE PRICE: $24,280