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Under $5,000: Grand Prix vs. Monte Carlo

Steven Mitchell

Today, we pitted the Pontiac Grand Prix against the Chevrolet Monte Carlo at an amazing price of $5000 or less.

Fun and Function for a Great Price

2006 Chevrolet Monte Carlo - carsforsale.com
2006 Chevrolet Monte Carlo - carsforsale.com

The Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix are solid and reliable American metal in the used car market. This sedan and coupe are just what you need to make a statement. The broad-shouldered Monte Carlo and Grand Prix drew attention when they were reintroduced in the early 2000s, and they make an even larger statement now.

2007 Pontiac Grand Prix - carsforsale.com
2007 Pontiac Grand Prix - carsforsale.com

They may be on a similar chassis, but one has two doors and the other has four. One comes with a V8 option, and the other has a Supercharger. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but they will each appeal to a different driver. It’s a Coupe vs. Sedan and V8 vs. Supercharged V6 for this used car face-off. We’ll check them out and see which one of these GM sedans may fit you better for under $5,000.

Pontiac Grand Prix Overview

2007 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP - carsforsale.com
2007 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP - carsforsale.com

The seventh generation Pontiac Grand Prix was introduced in 2004 as a four-door, front-wheel-drive sedan. It’s not the tight and muscular performance car it was in the ’60s, but it also has comfort and features that drivers of the Grand Prix of old only dreamed about.

For under $5,000, you can get a fully optioned Pontiac Grand Prix GXP with a 5.3L V8 that makes 303 horsepower. You’ll need that power and torque to move this big car down the highway. Plus, it’s just fun to have a V8 behind the loud pedal. You could also go with one of the lower trim options on the Grand Prix with considerably fewer miles and a considerably less powerful 3.8L V6. For this review, we’re focusing on the GXP.

Chevrolet Monte Carlo Overview

2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS - carsforsale.com
2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS - carsforsale.com

Under the skin, the sixth generation Monte Carlo is built on the same W chassis as the Pontiac Grand Prix. However, looking on the outside, you’d never know they were corporate cousins. This version of the Monte Carlo was famously driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jeff Gordon on their days off from NASCAR. Both received their very own special edition trim for the vehicle.

Although it’s front-wheel-drive and not rear-wheel drive like its very distant NASCAR cousin, the Monte Carlo still offers a lot of car with a stylish exterior. An example of what you can get for $5,000, is a Monte Carlo SS with a supercharged 3.8L V6 or a lower trim Monte Carlo with a less powerful, non-aspirated 3.4L V6. In this review, we’re focusing on the SS trim.

Pontiac Grand Prix Specs

2008 Pontiac Grand Prix GPX - carsforsale.com
2008 Pontiac Grand Prix GPX - carsforsale.com

Even among today’s automotive competition, 300hp and 323 lb-ft of torque would put the Grand Prix engine in sportscar territory. It has the potential for 5.7 second 0-60 times and is a rock-solid GM V8 engine if taken care of. With the V8, you get GM’s Active Fuel Management System that deactivates four cylinders under light loads to 16/25 mpg city/highway.

The four-speed automatic transmission also gives you the aforementioned steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters to cement the sports sedan attitude further. Even for today’s standards, that’s a nice touch. With the GXP, you get larger brakes and better anti-skid control, because you’ll need it with all that power.

2008 Pontiac Grand Prix 5.3L V8 - carsforsale.com
2008 Pontiac Grand Prix 5.3L V8 - carsforsale.com

Helping move this rather large car around the turns is the suspension with higher spring rates, gas-charged shocks, a nine-millimeter lower ride height, and a larger rear stabilizer bar when compared to the V6 model. In 2008 terms, it’s not bad hustling it through corners as long as you realize it’s front-wheel-drive.

Chevrolet Monte Carlo Specs

2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS - carsforsale.com
2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS - carsforsale.com

When the Monte Carlo is compared to a similarly sized Toyota Camry of the same vintage, it’s a rocket. However, it’s 6.8 seconds 0-60 leaves it slower by a second when compared to the Pontiac Grand Prix. That doesn’t mean that the supercharged six isn’t a quick engine. It still has 240hp, and the supercharger makes torque available when needed, no matter the RPMs.

Unlike an exhaust-driven turbocharger, the supercharger is belt-driven and always pumping high volumes of air into the engine when needed. There’s no turbo lag, and you get good gas mileage at 19/29 mpg city/highway. The gas mileage is significantly better than the Grand Prix, so that slower 0-60 time is a good trade-off.

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2002 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS 3.8L V6 - carsforsale.com
2002 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS 3.8L V6 - carsforsale.com

With a suspension that’s a copy of the Grand Prix, the Monte Carlo is fun to play with, and the interior won’t leave your passengers cramped. However, they will need to hold on, as cornering in the Monte Carlo could hit 0.83 g at the skid pad testing. It has to be said that those skid pad numbers would still be highly respectable today. A 2020 BMW 330i X-drive does 0.89 on a skid pad test. So even though you’re looking at 2008 technology, you don’t sacrifice much in drivability.

Pontiac Grand Prix Interior

2008 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP - carsforsale.com
2008 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP - carsforsale.com

You may find the Pontiac interior design of rounding everything a little odd, and there is hard plastic everywhere. Regardless, everything is in the right place and, if you look past the plastic, you’ll notice an excellent driver-centered cockpit feel. Leather and suede upholstery adorn the inside. An optional Monsoon sound system is added in to help provide a nice ambiance on your commute or just having fun listening to tunes. The style of the seats matches the sporting intentions of the engine and suspension. Even though they’ll have miles on them, GM’s fabrics wear really well and hold up to use.

Chevrolet Monte Carlo Interior

2006 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS - carsforsale.com
2006 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS - carsforsale.com

The Monte Carlo has the same amount of plastic as the Grand Prix, but at least on the SS, it’s broken up by a silver-ish colored plastic top half of the instrument panel. The result is something breaking up the sea of darkness on the inside. Without the sedan windows, things get a little dungeon-like inside, but that’s something that comes with a coupe design. The Monte’s dash, although still sporty, is more “normal” and will most likely be your favorite of the two options. The seats, on the other hand, aren’t up to the sporting exterior intentions like its corporate cousins were. While they’re comfortable, the seats’ side bolsters aren’t pronounced like the Grand Prix’s. Plus, with the extra miles on the seats, you’ll be bracing yourself against the door and center console more than you’d like to in the turns.

Decisions, Decisions

2008 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP - carsforsale.com
2008 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP - carsforsale.com

Even in their heyday, the Monte Carlo SS and Pontiac Grand Prix GXP were throwbacks to a different era. The Chevrolet Monte Carlo was in its final years, and the Pontiac Grand Prix was soon to be replaced by the new Australian built, more technologically, and dynamically advanced G8. However, the cars were and still are worthy and fun methods of transportation.

Ultimately, in the Pontiac Grand Prix vs. the Chevrolet Monte Carlo for under $5,000, you’re going to have two decisions: The V8 vs. the V6 and the two-door styling vs. the four-door. As much as we love the styling of the Monte Carlo and gas savings of the V6, our money would be on the Grand Prix. The V8 is solid and proven and, if maintained, can last hundreds of thousands of miles.

2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS - carsforsale.com
2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS - carsforsale.com

As a daily driver, you want reliability, and the Pontiac Grand Prix will give you that every day. As nice as the Chevrolet Monte Carlo is with its coupe-style, the supercharged engine does become costly in repairs. If you truly want to go with the Monte Carlo, we recommend getting the 200hp non-supercharged V6. You give up the sport suspension, a higher horsepower engine, and some extra spoilers and a sports interior, but the basics are still there.

For space, fun, and a reliably strong V8 with an attitude, you couldn’t go wrong with the Pontiac Grand Prix. A sub-$5,000 0-60 in 5.7-second American sports sedan might be the ticket to brighten up your drive every day.

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Steven Mitchell
Steven Mitchell

Steve's first car had pedals, and he's been filled with passion for four wheels ever since. He lives and breathes the car life as a technologist, futurist, and writer while keeping up with the whys, hows, and plans of the automotive industry. His automotive journey began with a fully restored Triumph TR3b that he sadly never appreciated until decades later. Ownerships of X-1/9's, BMW's, an SVT and a Dodge Ram Hemi have given way to the house of Audi Sport. You'll also find him as an endurance athlete on the bike in SoCal, but you'll know he's thinking about cars.

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