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2008 Pontiac G8 GT vs. 2008 Dodge Charger R/T

A Double Dip of That Old-Time Religion: Testifyin’ in a holy-roller showdown at the church of the big-inch V-8.



You may recall, ye disciples of wheelspin, that cars such as these—middle-class American sedans with big ol’ American pushrod V-8 engines—were once quite common. They were everywhere, and dads who brought home new cars with six cylinders risked excommunication by their teenage sons. It was the era of cheap fuel and four-barrel carbs, when domestic automakers sought to get us all to worship at the Temple of Torque. And this policy met with widespread success.

It’s no secret that this Old-Time Religion (OTR) is in decline today, the congregations drifting away, scattered by concerns about the price of fuel, concerns about where the fuel comes from, and concerns about the consequences of burning that fuel.

Whatever your CO2 position may be, it seems clear that there probably won’t be many more cars like these two. NASCAR’s so-called stock cars notwithstanding, Ford no longer acknowledges the Church of the Big Inch, at least not in sedans with any pretense of fun-to-drive. Only Chrysler and GM have four-doors that qualify for OTR vestments, and we’ve gathered this pair for side-by-side services, to see which does a more convincing job delivering the gospel.

One of these parishioners is well known to the faithful. The Charger, along with the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum, revitalized the sect with the resurrection of the Hemi V-8, one of the church’s towering names from the glory days. The other is new, a heartening revivalist from a corporation that has largely eschewed rear-drive sedans since the mid-’90s. Although its face and name seem familiar, it comes to us from a faraway place, where winter is summer, and where exist vast spaces for one to chant the holy mantra of the OTR: Whooma! Whooma! Whooma!

It’s rare to have players so evenly matched as these. Both deliver thrust to the rear wheels, both are propelled by big V-8 engines with two valves per cylinder, punched open by rocker arms activated by pushrods riding camshafts deep in the engine block. Both are capable, in varying degrees, of smoking their rear tires. Both are substantial hunks, weighing in north of two tons. And both offer impressive performance for a relatively modest price.

But for all their OTR bona fides, the technology isn’t slavishly retro. Both engines are fed by port fuel injection, and both have cylinder deactivation to help keep them off the EPA’s gas-greedy list (although in vigorous driving, both are thirsty). Both our test cars had stability control, both had robust all-disc-brake systems with ABS, and both were equipped with automatic transmissions that included a shift-for-yourself manumatic feature.

So, as the Rev says to the congregation: Let us pray.

2008 Dodge Charger R/T

Second Place: A Double Dip of That Old-Time Religion



Highs: Macho curbside presence, front seats worthy of a BMW, ergonomically correct.

Lows: Numb steering, lengthy stopping distances, sunroof compromises rear headroom.

The Verdict: Yeah, that thing’s got a Hemi in it. But a Hemi is no longer quite enough.

The Charger is the bigger car here—a half-inch taller and four inches longer—on a wheelbase—120.0 inches—that’s 5.2 longer than the Pontiac’s. Inevitably, this adds up at the scales, where our Dodge test car weighed in at 4160 pounds, 140 more than the Pontiac from way Down Under.

One option on our loaded R/T was the $3940 Road and Track Performance Group (20-inch wheels, stiffer suspension tuning, and a less restrictive exhaust), the exhaust bumping output of its 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 from 340 horsepower to 350. But even so, the pound-per-horsepower index comes up short versus the G8’s. Add a tall rear-axle ratio (2.82:1), and the results are predictable: 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, the quarter-mile in 14.3 at 100 mph. That’s not slow, but the G8 is a half-second quicker in both sprints and 4 mph faster at the quarter-mile mark. (It’s worth noting that the Charger gets an updated version of the Hemi for 2009, developing 370 horsepower.)

Still, the key traits that relegate the Charger to second place are more subtle. For example, the interior materials don’t look as upscale as the G8’s, with harder finishes that aren’t as inviting as the softer surfaces and textures inside the Pontiac. For all its edge in wheelbase, and nearly identical rear-cabin volume, the Charger’s rear seats are a little short of legroom, and our test car’s $950 sunroof took a severe bite out of rear-seat headroom. We were also surprised to find that the G8 had a bit more trunk space.
The Charger’s four-spoke steering wheel has a manly thickness, but its leather wrapping covers a hard, unyielding core, another invidious contrast with the G8, where the wheel’s hide cladding is stretched over material that’s compliant, providing a more satisfying grip.

Subjective dynamic distinctions were also generally subtle, and if you weren’t able to do a back-to-back comparison drive with the two cars, we have no doubt you’d find the Dodge fully satisfying. The Charger’s transient responses, for example, are reasonably prompt for a sedan in this size and weight class but not quite as prompt as the G8’s. The level of grip delivered by the Goodyear Eagle RS-A all-season performance tires wasn’t impressive on the skidpad at 0.77 g, but that forgettable number was mitigated by a stability-control system (on which more later), and on mountain roads at brisk speeds, the Charger felt reasonably sure-footed.

And even though the Charger’s optional performance suspension kept cornering attitudes more level, the G8 could be hustled through the same turns faster, with more confidence and with slightly smoother ride quality. A more aggressive tire would help the Charger in this regard and would improve braking performance. The Charger needed a dismal 187 feet to stop from 70 mph at the test track, although there was no hint of fade, and pedal feel was a bit better than the G8’s. With its big brake rotors, this car should be capable of much better stops.

We made an oblique reference to the Charger’s stability-control system, and now that we’re straightening out some mountain roads, it’s time to elaborate. Stability systems are great, provided you can switch them off when you want to explore your car’s max capabilities on less-traveled dry roads. The Charger’s system does have an on/off switch, but off doesn’t quite mean off—it means higher threshold of intervention. This accounts for the Charger’s mediocre skidpad showing and slower speed through the lane-change test (53.1 mph versus 57.3).

The Charger’s dynamic trait that attracted the most criticism was its hydraulic rack-and-pinion power steering, which was as numb as a phantom limb. Drivers found themselves interpreting responses by the car’s directional changes rather than anything the steering was telling them via their fingertips.

But surely there was something to love in this package? Sure. For one, the snug bucket seats were far more supportive than the G8’s, as well as more comfortable and much easier to adjust. We grade the Charger’s ergonomics a shade ahead of the G8’s—controls easy to identify and operate, instruments clearly marked and readily legible. And we also give the styling nod to the Dodge. It exudes a macho menace that few other sedans can match.

Still, the Charger is second in more scoring categories than it wins. That, plus ambitious pricing—a base of $31,455, $1460 more than the base price of the G8 GT—makes the Dodge a pretty tough sell.


2008 Pontiac G8 GT

First Place: A Double Dip of That Old-Time Religion



Highs: Big V-8 punch, world-class brakes, sure-footed no matter how fast you dance.

Lows: Awkward front-seatback adjustment, where’s the nav option?

The Verdict: The BMW that Pontiac always wanted to build.

Some of our contemporaries have been rhapsodizing that the styling of this sedan from Holden, GM’s Australian division, conveys an impression of crowds gathering wherever it rolls. But in a week of Southern California cruising, we encountered exactly one guy who did a double take when we motored by. This is not to say the G8 is unattractive, and those fender flares, the forward rake, and the wide stance give it a more virile look than that of the GTO, Pontiac’s ill-starred attempt at Americanizing a Holden Commodore coupe. But parked next to the brawny Charg­er, the G8 looks as though it could stand an introduction to a set of barbells. So we give the exterior a B, a grade that includes a points reduction for those nonfunctional hood scoops.

But that’s just about our only reservation, if you can even call it that. Once inside, with the 6.0-liter V-8 strutting its stuff, the G8 seduces the pilot with its grunt, its poise, its eager responses, and the confidence it inspires in decreasing-radius turns with blind entries, or hold-your-breath sweepers, or 100-to-0-mph stops. Like the Charger, the G8’s defining dynamic trait is mild understeer, right up to the limits of adhesion. But the G8’s limits are higher, the steering is more tactile—as well as nicely weighted—and the certainty that goes with high-speed driving on mountain roads is sensational. BMW might do it better, but not by much. And not for this kind of money.

One additional word on braking: Although the G8’s pedal travel was a little longer than the Charger’s in hard use, there was no trace of fade, and stops from 70 mph in 163 feet in a two-ton sedan qualify as extraordinary.

GM’s six-speed automatic trumps the Dodge five-speed, although the manumatic function of both comes up average, with deliberate shifts. But six cogs are better than five for keeping the engine in the sweet section of its power band.

Like pretty much any big V-8, this one—dubbed L76 at Holden, a version of an older 6.0-liter design updated with cylinder deactivation—has plenty of torque (385 pound-feet) spread across a nice fat curve. If there’s any deficiency, it’s in the whooma department. The Charger’s exhaust note was much more reminiscent of Saturday night on Woodward Avenue, circa 1968.

Inside, the G8’s mostly black décor is relieved by silver trim and varied textures. We quickly tired of the oil and battery readouts at the top of the center stack—why monitor the battery in a nonhybrid car?—and Holden’s cruise control isn’t quite as user-friendly as those in GM’s North American products. The absence of an optional navigation system—strange, given the nice big screen in the center stack—will be a turnoff to some, as will the front-seatback rake adjustment, accomplished by turning a hard-to-get-at knob at the outside rear of the seat.

But most of the G8’s niggles are the kind that become transparent over time to an owner, especially when that owner feels he’s bolted himself into a performance bargain. Which is precisely what this car represents.

Let’s close the service with a money perspective. A while back, we tested a group of high-end sports sedans [“Faster Horses,” November 2006], a quartet that included a BMW 550i. With the exception of the lane-change exercise, the Bimmer’s test-track numbers were essentially identical with those generated by this new Poncho. The base price for a 550i today is $59,275. Subtract the G8’s as-tested price, and you have $27,430, which buys a lot of premium unleaded. Hallelujah, brothers and sisters! Can we get an amen?
 

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Re: 2008 Pontiac G8 GT vs. 2008 Dodge Charger R/T

I need $30,000 so badly...

Does the GT's engine run on premium or regular?? I've heard that it will run on regular, but premium will just give it better performance. Is this true?
 

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Re: 2008 Pontiac G8 GT vs. 2008 Dodge Charger R/T

A Pontiac on top once more. And ImportcarandOldBalddriver magazine calling it the BMW that Pontiac always wanted to build.

So why am I waiting for the other shoe to drop? How will ImportcarandOldBalddriver make up for this miscarriage of justice?
 

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If it had a Nav system and memory seats it would be on my list of cars to look at next year. Those are both deal breakers for me. Especially the memory seats. I'm 6' and my wife is 5'1". Seat adjusting is a big issue.

But I'm glad to see the Pontiac being competitive. I've driven the Middle East Caprice version of these for several years and they're fun cars to drive - even the V6 rental versions.
 

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As much of a fan i am of the old school muscle i have to admit their time has come an gone maybe if gm, dodge, and, ford would have picked up on this in the early 90s it would have been a savior but now its more of a gimmick. It will still be nice to see cars that harking backs to the good days but what both companies need is a 30 MPG to 40 mpg highway vehicle that trumps all foreign competitors.
 

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I can see this being built in Oshawa and getting the needed interior adjustments.

It's an awesome car. I'd buy it if it had AWD.

And here I was thinking Pontiac would never build a car I actually wanted to own again.
 

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if the dodge didnt have such tall gearing at the back then it would have bet the g8 to 60,
so when it gets 370hp plus hopefully gearing not as tall ...
 

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Re: 2008 Pontiac G8 GT vs. 2008 Dodge Charger R/T

A Pontiac on top once more. And ImportcarandOldBalddriver magazine calling it the BMW that Pontiac always wanted to build.

So why am I waiting for the other shoe to drop? How will ImportcarandOldBalddriver make up for this miscarriage of justice?
:lmao::lmao::lmao::lmao:


Well said. Well written. And the crowd roars.
 

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if the dodge didnt have such tall gearing at the back then it would have bet the g8 to 60,
so when it gets 370hp plus hopefully gearing not as tall ...
I don't think so. The GT has a 2.92:1 rear ratio - not much difference. Put a 3.46 manual trans ratio on it and it drops half a secnd in the quarter. If a SRt-8 with 425 only just beats it. 20 hp isn't going to get you half a second.

Honestly, we didn't think we had a chance. The 2008 Pontiac G8 GT is powered by a 6.0-liter V8 rated at 361 horsepower at 5,300 rpm and 385 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. Steve's Mopar, a virtual twin to the one we tested a few months ago, is packing a 6.1-liter V8 pumping 425 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.

Both cars left clean, with just a turn or two of tire slip. Then Steve pulled a fender on us. No surprise considering his Bee's torque advantage. But that's all he had. Past 60 mph the Mopar was still just a fender ahead. The Pontiac's six-speed automatic clicked off clean, crisp gearchanges just before its 6,000-rpm rev limiter, and kept pace with that Charger well past 100 mph.
From here

It's the extra speed in the tranny plus the better weight distribution plus the better rear suspension. Why are you so keen to see that fat-arsed barge go faster?
 

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This sounds like a biased review but I am not going to cause a problem on a GM site.

It sounds like, providing that this article is true, that GM is really stepping up. If they can out compete the HEMI then that must be a solid car. However, the HEMI is the powerplant of my Rumble Bee Ram 1500 and it is quick on the throttle. I try to baby it but when you hear the HEMI roar it creates an addicition for itself so I find myslef buring a little too much rubber and a little too much gas then I should. So if the HEMI is so great in the bulky Ram 1500, I am in awe that it was out done in a car.
 

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This sounds like a biased review but I am not going to cause a problem on a GM site.

It sounds like, providing that this article is true, that GM is really stepping up. If they can out compete the HEMI then that must be a solid car. However, the HEMI is the powerplant of my Rumble Bee Ram 1500 and it is quick on the throttle. I try to baby it but when you hear the HEMI roar it creates an addicition for itself so I find myslef buring a little too much rubber and a little too much gas then I should. So if the HEMI is so great in the bulky Ram 1500, I am in awe that it was out done in a car.
The problem, frankly is that the rest of the Charger isn't up to snuff. They could have transplanted the M3's engine into it and it would fix the rest of the car.
 

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The problem, frankly is that the rest of the Charger isn't up to snuff. They could have transplanted the M3's engine into it and it would fix the rest of the car.
D***, it must be some kind of F***ed if the HEMI can't fix it( pardon my french, but had to make sure to get the mood of that statement right, :D ) Just look at the Ram 1500, otherwise a sorry truck but if you throw a HEMI in there, it turns it into a monster. Guess cars don't work the same way.
 

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D***, it must be some kind of F***ed if the HEMI can't fix it( pardon my french, but had to make sure to get the mood of that statement right, :D ) Just look at the Ram 1500, otherwise a sorry truck but if you throw a HEMI in there, it turns it into a monster. Guess cars don't work the same way.
Im sorry but you must be smoking something....

The G8 GT makes a good amount of more horsepower, is a good amount lighter, and has an extra gear how could the R/T keep up with it?

Maybe if it was a real HEMI I guess.......
 

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D***, it must be some kind of F***ed if the HEMI can't fix it( pardon my french, but had to make sure to get the mood of that statement right, :D ) Just look at the Ram 1500, otherwise a sorry truck but if you throw a HEMI in there, it turns it into a monster. Guess cars don't work the same way.
I don't know how to break this to you, but the Mopar V8 with the dome shaped combustion chambers isn't the be all, end all of V8s. GM's Gen IV motors are, well, better.

I'm not just saying this, either. I drove a 300C for a month while my GTO was in the bodyshop thanks to an inattentive driver in a Silverado. It was a nice car, but I didn't think the engine was quite up to the level of the LS2 I was used to. The biggest problem with the car was the 5 speed, however. It downshifted very slowly, especially at highway speeds. It also makes it worse when you're used to choosing your own gears.

The car also has a very 'big' feel to it. Bigger than it actually is. I'm sure that the G8 seems better based on that alone, at least in terms of feel.

At the track, the 300 did better than I expected. Pretty good acceleration from a stop. I got 5.68 s 0-60 based on the built in timer, and my best ET was a 14.03 at 99. Makes me feel pretty good to beat the mag's time when the have 10 more hp. :D Not on the level of a GTO, certainly, but very good for a family cruiser.

Based on my experience in those two cars, the results don't shock me. G8 being directly descended from the Commodore I'd expect it to be better than my GTO in most ways other than hp, and I think the GTO was better than the 300C overall.
 
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