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The Pontiac press conference was the place to be..

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2007 Chicago Auto Show: 2008 Pontiac G8

At 3:15 this afternoon, the Pontiac press conference was the place to be. Everybody wanted to see the new rear-wheel-drive G8 sedan. And we mean everybody. The Pontiac press conference was without a doubt the most crowded of the day. And it wasn't just members of the press waiting for the new performance sedan to show itself, we spotted people from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Ford and Toyota in the audience. The car lived up to the anticipation.

"This car is everything we think a Pontiac should be," said Bob Lutz, GM's vice chairman of global product development about the Austrailian-built sedan. "It's a return to tradition. And it's what Pontiac fans have been clammering for for years. An athletic, beautiful, powerful rear-wheel-drive sedan."

When the G8 goes on sale in early 2008, it will compete with and be priced against the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300C. "Pontiac is all about performance at affordable prices," said Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president of North American sales, service and marketing after the G8's debut. "Over time we will transition Pontiac to predominantly rear-drive."

Unlike the illfated Australian-built GTO, the G8 was designed to be a Pontiac from the beginning, and LaNeve thinks that will make all the difference. Plus, it's a sedan, which should appeal to a larger group of buyers. Underneath is the same chassis that will be used for the Chevy Camaro, which will be built in Canada, but there's no Pontiac coupe planned at this time according to Lutz. That's right, fans of the Screaming Chicken, the Firebird is still a dead duck.

The G8 displayed is the only one in the world and is dressed up in production G8 GT trim, which is the top performance model. It's powered by a 6.0-liter small-block V8 rated at 362 hp and is fitted with a six-speed manual transmission. Only the 20-inch wheels on this showcar are not production spec. The production G8 GT will wear 19-inch wheels, but those oversized slotted brake rotors and massive calipers are the real deal. The hood scoops, too.

Pontiac has a winner on its hands. — Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief, Inside Line

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