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1998 Pontiac Grand Am REVIEW logo 4/5/2017

Con: Aged chassis. Uncomfortable seats. Chintzy interior plastic.

Pro: Sporty style for pocket change. Decent performance with manual transmission.

What’s New: Second-generation airbags are newly standard, and option groups are simplified.

Review: Recently, Pontiac gave the Grand Am a fresh exterior look and an all-new interior. It's understandable then that this year, the car is carried over sans changes. Despite the Grand Am's seven year old design, it is one of the hottest sellers in the GM stable. We doubt the dearth of updates will cause sales to nosedive in 1998, though news of an all-new 1999 model that mimics the look of the hot Grand Prix might make buyers take pause.

Under the hood of the 1998 Grand Am, a twin-cam 2.4-liter engine is standard. A 3.1-liter V6 is optional, but requires an automatic shifter. Traction control is included with the automatic transmission, and antilock brakes are standard equipment. Daytime running lights were added to the Grand Am two years ago, and they remain for 1998. You can defeat them by pulling up the hand brake handle one notch, though when we did this during a road test of a Saturn SL2, the brake engaged ever so slightly. Be sure you aren't damaging your parking brake using this DRL-disabling method. PASSlock theft deterrent is standard on all Grand Ams. Variable effort steering is available on both trim levels.

Recently, we drove a Grand AM SE and weren't impressed. Nose-heavy handling, uncomfortable seats, and a generally displeasing interior were to blame for our malaise. The twin-cam engine, though boomy at higher revs, was a fun motor to rev, even when connected to an automatic transmission. We came away from our test drive non-plussed, unable to understand what makes this car so popular, aside from its low price.

In its seventh year on the market, the Grand Am is sure to remain Pontiac's best-selling model. It offers stylish good looks and reasonable performance, yet remains a decent value. These attributes combined can be the only explanation for the Grand Am's continued popularity. The SE model is our pick, because it can be equipped to GT specs without the false performance pretensions and higher price of that premium trim level. Budget minded shoppers may want to investigate the twin-cam Sunfire, which offers more equipment and better performance for less money.


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