1998 Pontiac Grand Am SE2 Sedan (198)


The Pontiac Grand Am advertises and promotes a “Wide Track” stance and “Driving Excitement” that differentiates it from the competition. The whole Pontiac line is very racy and sporty looking and in contrast to much of the foreign competition Pontiac sells for much less money.

The perception however is that foreign cars last longer and therefore better than American cars. Mark Twain said, “Things ain’t what they used to be and probably never was”. Well Mark was right, but it’s good that things have changed because where cars are concerned change has been for the better. That is especially true of American made cars. In this case, the Grand Am is not only Pontiac’s bestseller and GM’s compact sales leader, it has also been among the nation’s top-ten best-selling passenger cars since 1992.

In the case of foreign versus American, I really don’t think the perception holds much water any longer. In fact, I still see some real old American cars on the road, because parts are readily available for nostalgia buffs to keep them running great. In the case of foreign cars, parts are not as easy to get hold of and are expensive at best. Ok, I would agree that for the past 20 years or so, foreign cars earned a good reputation as dependable quality cars.

More important to the perception of what kind of car you should drive comes from the ad agencies who are more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. They have convinced most Americans to adopt a “Fly now and pay later” attitude. But that isn’t bad, mind you, and in fact may have a lot of merit. Consider the following advice I got from a flight instructor I had years ago. He was a carpet layer in his other life and after flying with me he resumed that trade. I didn’t think I was all that bad. Oh well. Anyway his advice was that I buy a decent mid-priced carpet and replace it more often. He said, “That way you can change color or style and it will always look nice”. In any case a high quality carpet can cost 2-3 times more, would outlive most buyers and if you sell the house the new owner would probably replace it anyway. Not that your taste is bad, but the buyer may feel peach carpet doesn’t go with their furniture. So much for expensive, last forever carpet or any purchase for that matter.

If you think about it, American cars are still Henry Ford crank ‘em out, affordable to everyone kind of cars. People in this country change homes every 5 years on average and I don’t know about you, but I change cars every couple of years. So why not spend less and trade more often. I always figure that the excitement of a new car every two years beats changing spouses and costs a whole lot less too. And a final “think about it”, is that it’s patriotic because all those sales are good for the economy.

My recommendation: Buy American. What’ll you do with all the money you’ll save? Bank it. Drive a new car more of your life. Save by not having to repair that old car. Have a reliable car all the time. Never put on another set of tires. Avoid repair shops. Develop less stress – which means you’ll save on the cost of doctors and medicine. Finally, let the Jones’s keep up with you for a change.

The competition:

Chevrolet Malibu $15,670 – $18,620, Dodge Avenger $15,185 – $17,460, Dodge Stratus $14,840 – $17,665, Ford Contour $14,460 – $22,460, Honda Civic $10,650 – $16,480, Mazda 626 $15,550 – $23,240, Nissan Altima $14,990 – $19,890 Oldsmobile Alero, Subaru Impreza $15,895 – $19,195, Toyota Corolla $11,908 – $14,798, Volkswagen Jetta $14,595 – $20,955

Good News:

Great Pricing. Nice styling and good performance.

Bad News:

Poor attention to detail, low on JD Powers list of prob/100 cars.

Standard Equipment:

3.4 liter V6 170 horsepower engine, 4-speed automatic trans, AM/FM stereo w/ compact disc player & 6-speaker sound system, cruise control, power windows, door locks and mirrors; remote keyless entry, front disc and rear drum brakes and leather wrapped steering wheel.

Gas Stats:

21 City and 29 Highway MPG.


MSRP is $18,970

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com
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