I have to confess that I am a Car Guy, and always have been.

With the highest gas prices Americans have seen in living memory, the car industry is responding in every way possible to consumer reaction. Production of full-size pickups and sports utility vehicles is being drastically reduced, replaced by smaller cars and SUVs. Dealer inventories of large vehicles are being sold at deep discounts.

Design and engineering is being rushed for hybrids, smaller cars, smaller engines, more efficient transmissions, utilization of different fuels, and greater use of diesel power, all of which are intended to increase dramatically miles per gallon range. Right behind is a major effort to bring into service electric cars that will have a practical and reliable range.

Initial costs of these vehicles will probably be higher than people would like, but with economies of scale and competition, that may very well change. It is also likely in this scenario that innovations and new features and technology will make our cars better at every level.

Imagine to my surprise when I saw and drove the new Pontiac G8, which arrived at dealers this spring. Its design and technology are amazing for a lower middle-priced four-door sports sedan which offers a basket full of very cool features. It has all of the improved quality GM has brought into play in the past few years, plus high marks from most of the automobile magazines which have not always been kind to new American cars.

Motor Trend wrote that the G8 “Immediately gains admission into a lofty arena occupied by the likes of BMW and Infinity.”

The body has a similar look to the BMWs, with a wheelbase longer than their 5 Series. Great leg room for a 6-foot-3-inch guy like me in the front and back seats is a big plus, with heated front seats and leather. The drive train includes a six-speed automatic transmission with two overdrives, with manual shift control, and state-of-the-art rear wheel drive with 50 / 50 weight balance, which makes braking safer and easier. They have thrown in Stabilitrak stability enhancement, traction control, limited slip differential, and ABS brakes.

The V8 engine has active fuel management, which shuts off four cylinders to save fuel when road conditions allow.

Inside there is an 11-speaker sound system, tilt and telescope steering wheel, electronic dual zone climate control air conditioning, and a driver information system with tire pressure monitoring, GPS and more. What an offering for $32,000!

With a high-performance handling suspension system, it has the smoothest and quietest ride we’ve experienced in a long time. I should know — I bought one.

Al Cook is an active Oro Valley resident.

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