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2,304 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi guys,
I was in Kansas on business for about 3 weeks and during that time I had a 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix GT as a rental car.
Here are my comments about the Grand Prix vs. the Passat (I have an '01 GLS V6 w/ 5-speed).
Well first the Grand Prix is an ugly car, and this one being a gold color didn't help matters any. Tacky trunk-lid spoiler, typical Pontiac looks. This one was 2-door, so I have to complain about those doors. They are HUGE. Makes getting in or out of the car a real pain, especially if another car is parked anywhere near.
The seats were pretty comfortable, no real complaints there. The car had a power driver's seat which was nice, though the power stuff was only fore-and-aft and height adjustment, the seatback angle was manually adjusted. I didn't like the interior much, very gray and typical GM plastic stuff everywhere. I guess after driving a VW you would expect me to complain about a GM interior

The steering wheel is a bit bigger than the Passat it seems, and it has two bulges at 10 and 2 for your hands, though they are not comfortable to use. It has tilt but is not telescoping.
There are radio and cruise control buttons on the steering wheel, so that was nice (used to that w/ the VW). However the feel of all the switchgear (buttons, knobs, etc) was pretty crappy, they have a cheap feel. It's hard to describe but the VW stuff gives more of a tactile feel of quality when you turn a knob or push a button, and that is lacking in the Pontiac. Everything feels kinda flimsy.
I don't like the fact that in the Pontiac you cannot control the headlights. They come on automatically when it gets dark outside, even if the headlight switch is in the off position. No, that's not the DRLs I'm talking about. Headlights, instrument lighting, taillights, etc. all come on automatically.
Foot-operated parking brake, which I'm not really a big fan of, makes bootleg turns harder to do

Instrumentation was pretty good, basic complement of gauges, pretty much the same ones VW has included. Everything lights up in red, of course not as cool as VW's red/blue scheme

The Pontiac has an ugly/garish trip computer display separate from the main instruments that just looks tacky there. Huge screen with a line drawing of the car which I guess lights up problem areas like trunk open or whatever, and then below that a display where you can push a button to toggle through 4 different displays, such as oil life, mpg, etc. Just too big & ugly.
The car had an in-dash CD player. The stereo is very powerful but not great on sound quality I thought. You can really crank up the bass and it will get booming but it's not accurate at all. I actually prefer the Monsoon in the VW, it won't pump the bass up as much however it is very accurate in comparison. In the Grand Prix where I would just hear a "blob" of bass for a bass line, in the Passat I can hear when the bass player is hitting the string again and again rather than one continuous line. Also when a CD skips in the Grand Prix you hear the skip rather than the pleasant boop tone w/ CD ERR message you get in the Passat.
The Grand Prix does have a nice climate control feature, it has the dual-zone temperature controls for the front passengers. Nice touch. However it uses cheesy sliders to set the temps and when you just want one zone, it's hard to use them together.
Another nice touch was that this car had storage everywhere. There were little compartments on each side of the steering column, a good-sized compartment below the climate controls on the console, a nice big compartment under the console armrest, and a couple overhead compartments too, one obviously for sunglasses, one for a garage door opener, etc. Of course, my Passat couldn't have this overhead stuff because of the sunroof. I guess GM doesn't offer a sunroof for the Grand Prix?
The Grand Prix also had the automatically dimming rearview mirror which I thought was very nice. Kinda makes me wish I had gotten a GLX Passat
The mirror also had a compass and outside temp display in it. Also located on the mirror unit where the OnStar buttons and a button with a red cross on it which I assume is to summon emergency help. However, the wiring harness to the mirror comes out of the headliner and just lays up on the windshield before going into the mirror. Seems to have a lot of extra wire there, seems like they could have wired that up in a cleaner and less half-assed way.
Don't like having the trunk release in the glovebox, have to open up the glovebox each time you want to get to the trunk. VW has spoiled me. The Grand Prix also has no fuel filler release, you just pull the door open from outside, which I don't like from a security standpoint.
The Grand Prix has auto down only on the driver's side window and doesn't have auto up on either window. http://****************.com/smile/emthdown.gif
The Grand Prix automatically locks the doors when you drive off but unlike the VW it doesn't automatically unlock them when you pull the handle to get out if the car is running. I seem to recall that it does automatically unlock them when you turn the car off.
I don't like Pontiac's way of dealing with wipers, the Grand Prix has all the controls for the turn signals, high beams, wipers/washer, and cruise control on one damn stalk. I hate that thing.
OK, on to driving it

First, the engine. This car does have plenty of power, I'll give it that. I believe it has GM's 3800 V6 and it accelerates nicely. However the exhaust is too loud and has that annoying GM "sporty" exhaust note. BTW this car had about 10,000 miles on it when I got ahold of it.
The transmission, well it's a 4-speed automatic. Who cares?
I didn't like the brake pedal feel, kinda spongy. Also the steering was kinda slow and numb compared to the Passat. Lots of dive and squat from the suspension on braking and acceleration.
The ride/handling was not bad for a GM product but still not as good as the Passat. It was a little firmer than most other GM cars I've driven, I guess that's part of the GT package.
It's a big car compared to the Passat, or at least it felt that way. Hard to see where the corners of the car were, and it just felt big. Did not notice any squeaks or rattles with the Grand Prix except for one in the instrument cluster area when it was cold outside.
When I got back into the Passat after my trip I had to readjust to it. I immediately realized how much better of a car the Passat is. The steering is MUCH quicker and more precise. The handling is better, the Passat feels much more stable at high speeds. The steering wheel on the Passat seems to be smaller and it feels nicer but that could be due to the leather wrap

It was nice driving a car where I had to shift again and I got to appreciate all those thoughtful VW touches again such as heated seats, adjustable lumbar, etc etc.
So Passat wins as you might expect. Now that I've driven a Grand Prix for some time I'm not bothered at all by the fact that I never even considered one when I was looking to buy a car

455 Posts
Re: Passat vs. Grand Prix GT (Bartnik)

Great review, thanks! http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif
I test-drove an Olds Intrigue the year it came out, which sits on the same platform and uses the same engine as the Grand Prix GT. The engine is good, but you get the impression that it's an American engine. There is gobs of low-end torque and the pedal is a bit hard to modulate if you're not used to it. There's also plenty of power-steering assist at low speeds. It wasn't bad though... as far as American cars go it was pretty good.
Good call about the tackiness. The Grand Am is the king of tackiness. Lots of plastic here and there, and on the inside too. When I sat in one at a dealership I hit my head hard on the massive overhead console that was huge, stuck down, and had almost as many controls as the overhead console from a Boeing 737. I guess one nice thing you can say about it is that it has lots of personality, but I wouldn't want to live with it.

4,710 Posts
Re: Passat vs. Grand Prix GT (Bartnik)

Wow - excellent review. I actually feel as if I myself had driven a Grand Prix for 3 weeks <<shudder>>, great descriptive language. You really nailed what I dislike about GM cars in general, especially Pontiacs.
quote:[HR][/HR]Also when a CD skips in the Grand Prix you hear the skip rather than the pleasant boop tone w/ CD ERR message you get in the Passat.[HR][/HR]​
Good description. Not a beep, a boop. http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif

135 Posts
Re: Passat vs. Grand Prix GT (Bartnik)

Not three weeks, and well before I owned my Passat, I rented a Grand Prix GT to go to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Stopped to get gas and the guy in the station was aking where my Tony Stewart stickers were! I think the Nascar GP's are the only ones truly fun to drive.
Great description of the car in general - forgot how garish the dash actually was!
P.S. Torque steer - WOW!!
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