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2006 Pontiac GTO

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San Francisco:  Giddy, excited, eager, awakened, inspired. There arenít many things that will make a mid-30s man spew adjectives like these. Winning the lottery and finding the perfect bargain on eBay are a few examples but not much else. These are just a few of those little wonders of this adult life that make it all seem worthwhile. That is, until you get behind the wheel of a sports car of top caliber.

We got such a chance when the wonderful guys from GM dropped off a six-speed manual, 400-horsepower beast known as GTO. The first time we drove a new Goat, way back in 2004, it had an automatic and was quite docile around town, but punch the throttle and go full-bore to the next stoplight and you remember what this car is designed for.

This one, however, was like riding a bull - hang on and donít let go because the landing might hurt. Bad. Donít get the wrong idea here, the Goat was not difficult to drive, it just took total concentration when driven hard and fast. With 400 lb.-ft. of torque under your right foot, itís easy to get ahead of yourself, thank GM for giving the Goat traction control to keep things from getting really ugly.

Speaking of ugly, we were quite disappointed with the longish shifter throws of the Tremec T56 manual. We really expected something a little easier to toss. And getting the GTO into reverse was a chore because of the right-handed nature of the reverse positioning. (Remember, this car was designed and built in Australia, where they drive on the left like the English and Japanese.)

Luckily, the controls and pedals were in perfect position, or so it seemed; everything felt like it was where God had intended it to be, like the switchgear was easy to find and the pedals worked magnificently. In all, actually driving a new Goat is a wonderful experience.

The interior looked like a more thought-out design that could have really tuned the Firebird and Camaro into high-class cars rather than the brutish Neanderthals they eventually turned into. We also liked the gauges with white letters on a red background, very sporty and easy to read.

Also sporty were the front buckets, covered in nice leather, of course. The bolstering could have been backed off a bit, it was pretty tight, but thatís what kept us from sliding out of place during spirited driving. HVAC controls were tight and notchy, not what youíd expect on an over-30k car with high pretenses. But fit and finish overall was stellar. The leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob also give the interior a polished look that makes driving hard that much more enjoyable.

And, much to our surprise, a bass guitar (in its case) and Crate twin-speaker amplifier fit in the backseat, which we had to use because the trunk is practically non-existent on the Goat. You can fit a couple of duffels but not much else, let alone some guitar equipment.

Speaking of driving, we took a ďleisurelyĒ drive through most of our test loop and found ourselves behind a BMW 3-Series convertible. Lucky for us, the Bimmer driver was out to drive as well. We kept pace with the Bimmer until we finally got out onto a two-lane divided highway. The Bimmer driver tried to keep up, but once we hit third, we outpaced the wheezing BMW and kept going until we hit our turnoff.

With the LS2 Corvette engine filling the underhood area, the GTO basically goes like stink. Weíre talking 0-60 in about five seconds Ö less if youíre an experienced driver good at launching a beast such as this, which we tried to be but with a heavy clutch (for us) it proved difficult, but totally fun.

One of our biggest gripes about the GTO is having to pay for a manual transmission. It should be a no-cost option in such a performance-oriented vehicle. And it should be standard, like in almost every car out there that has a manual tranny. But enough about the gripes, so few they are.

On a positive note in this day of high gas prices, our trip computer estimated 18 miles per gallon in everyday driving, mixing city and highway routes during our daily commute. On a jaunt to the nearby tourist trap, we drove 60 highway miles and the trip computer gave us an average of 21.3 mpg. Not bad for a Corvette motor stuffed into an Australian coupe. At least the Goat isnít hit with the gas guzzler tax.

Lastly, since they are minor indeed, the changes for 2006 include redesigned taillamps with clear lenses and black background and a couple new color choices; Fusion Orange with orange stitching on steering wheel, shifter, seats and on the doors and Spice Red Metallic. Other than that, itís pretty much the same car that debuted in 2004.

Believe it or not, just like in í04, all this power and performance comes at a small price: almost $34k, as tested. For that price, you get the 6.0-liter LS2 V8 (from the Vette); four-wheel independent suspension; disc brakes all around with four-channel ABS and traction control; leather seats (the fronts have eight-way power adjustment); a nifty driver information center (where we got our mileage readings and other pertinent info); hood scoops and rear spoiler. The extra-charge items were the six-speed manual ($695) and destination ($700).  By James E Bryson © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  The Goat Grows Some Nostrils And Gets More Attitude
Topic:  The 2006 Pontiac GTO
Word Count:  976
Photo Caption:  The 2006 Pontiac GTO
Photo Credits:  Pontiac Internet Media
Series #:   2006 - 27

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2006 Pontiac GTO

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