Overview & Reviews
For 47 years, the Pontiac Bonneville was a constant sight on Pontiac's dealership lots. Very few nameplates have lasted that long, and even fewer belonged to mainstream vehicles that were neither luxury nor sports cars. Like other long-lasting, everyman models from America's domestic automakers, the Bonneville subsequently experienced the major trends that swept through its brand and the auto industry as a whole during its lifetime, serving as a telling chronicle of what we've driven over the years.
Named after the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah where many land speed record attempts are made, the first Pontiac Bonneville debuted in 1957 as a tail-finned, high-performance convertible based on the Star Chief. It was the brand's top-line model and coupe, sedan and even wagon variants followed shortly thereafter. Through the late 1950s and '60s, the Bonneville earned a reputation for being both luxurious and performance-oriented thanks to generous power outputs from some of its big, muscle-car-era V8s. Today, some of these early Bonnevilles are highly prized as collector cars.
As with other cars during the Nixon era, the Pontiac Bonneville lost its performance edge as new governmental regulations went into effect. The biggest change occurred after the second gas shortage of the 1970s, when for 1977 Pontiac downsized the Bonneville into a more fuel-efficient, full-size car powered by V6 or V8 engines. In the early '80s the nameplate hit an all-time low when it was affixed to GM's midsize car platform, reducing the once-proud Bonneville to a gussied up LeMans. Another metamorphosis occurred in 1987, when the Bonneville returned to full-size status, atop GM's new front-drive family car platform.
This generation and the revamped 1990s Bonny that followed embodied Pontiac's new direction, focusing on exaggerated sporty styling and high-tech gizmos. In terms of sales and image, however, the Bonneville was on a constant slide as fewer consumers were interested in a large, sport-oriented front-wheel-drive sedan. Production finally ended in 2005.
Used-car shoppers interested in a Bonneville will most likely be taking a look at the two most recent generations of the car. In general, these cars provide plenty of interior room and trunk space thanks to their full-size sedan status, and, depending on trim, also offer respectable acceleration and handling. Typical downsides, however, include overwrought interior and exterior styling, some cheap interior materials and dubious build quality.
Most Recent Pontiac Bonneville
The most recent Pontiac Bonneville was produced from 2000-'05. This car's general shape wasn't too different from the car it replaced. But it was sleeker despite retaining some of Pontiac's signature ribbed plastic body cladding -- particularly on the exaggerated SSEi. This look was cleaned up on the V8-powered GXP for 2004, with a more attractive face and cladding-free sheet metal.
Inside, this Bonneville brought the idea of a driver-centered cockpit to new heights with controls angled heavily toward the driver. Dozens of little gray buttons and switches, eight round air vents, six gauges, an information center and an optional head-up display furthered the jet aircraft motif Pontiac was shooting for. This might sound cool, but it was tremendously busy and grew dated quickly.
This generation Bonneville didn't change much during its run. It was initially available in base-level SE, midgrade SLE and top-of-the-line SSEi trim levels. The bottom two trims came with a 3.8-liter V6 (205 horsepower and 230 pound-feet of torque) and a four-speed automatic transmission. The performance-oriented SSEi boasted a supercharged version of the 3.8 V6, increasing power to 240 hp and 280 lb-ft. These were hardly muscle-car numbers, but the SSEi outperformed other V6-powered large cars of the era like the Chrysler 300M and Lincoln LS. This advantage didn't last long, though, as horsepower numbers in the 2000s rose precipitously.
The SSEi was replaced by the V8-powered GXP in 2004. This 4.6-liter V8 made a healthy 275 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque and was enough to propel this large sedan from zero to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds. With that much power sent to the front wheels, the GXP handled it surprisingly well, with decent handling and few complaints about torque steer.
Although this generation's Bonneville was hardly our favorite full-size sedan, it did provide comfortable transportation for up to six passengers while adding in an appreciated amount of style and performance. The SSEi and GXP are the models that driving enthusiasts will want to focus on, but all Bonnevilles suffered from the gizmo-heavy interior and, like most GM cars from this era, inconsistent build quality and cheap, glossy interior plastics.
Past Pontiac Bonneville Models
The previous-generation Pontiac Bonneville was produced from 1992-'99, with a subtle midlife refresh in 1996. It was initially available in base SE, sporty SSE and supercharged SSEi trim levels. An SLE (Sport Luxury Edition) package was available on SE models starting in 1993 and became its own trim level for 1998. The SSEi did the reverse, as it changed from being a trim level to becoming an optional package (on SSE models) in 1994.
The SE and SSE Bonnevilles came standard with a 3.8-liter V6 that made 170 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque. Those figures grew to 205 hp and 230 lb-ft in 1995. The available supercharged version initially made 205 hp and 260 lb-ft, and those figures swelled to 225 hp and 275 lb-ft in 1994. The supercharged V6 was boosted one more time in 1996 to 240 horses and 280 lb-ft of torque. A four-speed automatic was standard on all engines throughout this generation's lifespan, but SSEi versions starting in 1994 featured "Performance" and "Normal" shift modes that quickened downshift response and raised rpm shift points.
Major equipment changes included standard antilock brakes in 1993 and standard dual airbags in 1994. (Passenger side was previously only standard on the SSEi.) That year also saw the introduction of optional Computer Command Ride, a two-mode system that adjusted suspension performance. Electronic load leveling and keyless entry became standard features on the SSE and optional on the SE in 1997.
Inside, these Bonnevilles were driver-centered like the following generation, but much less busy. Nevertheless, SSE models are remembered for having optional 12-way power seats with lumbar control that included nine dedicated buttons on the center console. We thought this Bonneville was also a decent choice for large-sedan buyers, with sportier styling and more high-tech niceties than most of its competitors.
The previous Pontiac Bonneville was produced from 1987-'91 with styling that was considered quite head-turning for the time. It brought back some of the sportiness that had been sucked out of the Bonny since the 1960s, particularly the SSE model. Like future Bonnevilles, this one also reveled in technology, with the SSE sporting numerous gauges, driver information displays, an abundance of power seat controls and ahead-of-its-time steering-wheel-mounted audio and temperature controls.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 462.00
GXP - A Love, Love Relationship - 2005 Pontiac Bonneville
By JVD PE - December 18 - 10:00 am
Most people acquire an automobile to transport the family from point A to point B. This Bonneville does that but with a lot of excitement thrown in. You find that any excuse to use this car is justifyable. Forget that its often less expensive to go by air. Who cares, its too much fun to drive especially in this GXP. Do not buy this car without heads up display and XM radio. The soft two tone leather seating is a great standard feature adding to superior driving experience.
GXP Review - 2004 Pontiac Bonneville
By redgxp - December 16 - 10:57 am
I bought this car in 2004 after seeing it at a local car show i fell in love with it .. as of today 3/6/2012 i only have 45k on it it has been a wonderful car ive done nothing to it just a onstar upgrade and new tires still on same brakes and oil changes at local dealer
2000 Pontiac Bonneville SLE - 2000 Pontiac Bonneville
By BJ Baker - December 15 - 2:00 am
I love my Bonneville!!! Exterior styling is awesome for a 4- door.
Good Vibes - 2005 Pontiac Bonneville
By Mike Buchner - December 2 - 6:03 am
The Bonnie Gxp is a blast to drive. With the sweet sound of its pipes, I feel like it;s 1965 again. It has good power,could use more torque down low, but its a dohc engine; and really starts to cook @ about 3500-4000 rpm.I love the styling. Looked at the Chrysler 300; but couldnt handle the cheese grader front end. And please; the Toyota Avalon is just plain ugly! The Bonnie has a busy interior, but I love the red dash at night; XM radio is fantastic. Gas mileage is only ok but it is a big heavy car with a v8. But like the man said "I feel good when I get in, and I feel good when I get out" If your looking for a larger car that handles like a BMW;w/good power;nice ride,big trunk; GXP!
Pure Fun - 2005 Pontiac Bonneville
By V8frk - November 30 - 11:33 am
I went from a 2001 Yukon to my 2004 Greystone Metallic GXP. The size was the toughest adjustment, but the power and handling made up for the loss of room. Its nothing but muscle and fun to drive. Theres nothing better then merging into fast moving interstate traffic and listening to the growl of the Northstar at its best! I have had it in for warranty work four times since purchase in six months for silly minor things and one major A/C water leak which the dealer kept in the shop for a week! Probably more of a dealer issue. The brake rotors rust as well and the dealer thinks its acceptable.
Love it!!!! - 2002 Pontiac Bonneville
By dgmyr1 - November 28 - 10:00 am
This is my third bonneville and is by far the best car I have ever driven!! It is extremely fun to drive! It handles well and responds when you press the pedal unlike other cars that I have driven. With it being low to the ground it is also safer to drive as I found out when I hit a patch of wet pavement with my last Bonneville (balding tires my fault)and spun off the road (at 70mph) but the car and passengers were quit safe. My first Bonnevillewas over 200,000 miles when I sold it my second 80,000 after 4 years when I sold that. No problems!!! Great cars!!!! Looking forward to my next Bonneville!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Amazing Car! - 2002 Pontiac Bonneville
By Anonymous - November 19 - 2:00 am
I bought my 2002 Pontiac Bonneville a few months ago, and absolutley love it. I owned a 91 Bonneville before, and was very suprised at how reliable the car was even with its old age. I expected nothing less from my new one, and found that it is just as reliable. It is a very smooth and comfortable ride. The cars V6 3800 engine gives it the kick one would expect, while maintaining that level of comfort that is needed for long car trips. It is a larger car, so as you could expect, it does not get the greatest gas milage. Like any car, it does have a few issues such as the leaky doors and trunk, the poping noice in the steering, and noicy exhaust. Other than that, it is an amazing car!
GOOD CAR - 2002 Pontiac Bonneville
By cyclone10 - November 19 - 12:44 am
I bought my Bonneville new in 2002. It is the best car I have ever owned. I have owned new Dodges and Fords. I have been a Ford fan for most of my life.am a Ford person, but this has been the best car by far I have ever owned. Still own it.
Ah!.. The Bonneville - 1997 Pontiac Bonneville
By Bviller - November 11 - 10:00 am
Purchased new. Its been great since day one. It has a smooth comfortable ride without feeling like a boat. Its covered 110,000 miles and still running strong. We had one transmission problem which was repaired under warranty. The water pump started leaking at 102,000 miles. No other repairs. Getting 24mpg in mixed city/highway driving.
Reliability is not worth the price! - 1998 Pontiac Bonneville
By ATS - October 28 - 2:00 am
We like the vehicle and the first 40,000 miles were fine. Then the problems began to appear. They included failed intake manifold (requiring engine rebuild) at 60K, ABS pump at 70K, transmission at 52K, radio twice, computer modules three times, and now at 105K, the manifold went again to the tune of $1200! For what we paid for the car, I would not recommend this model especially when GM has issued tech bulletins on these issues yet will not cover the repair costs.