1988 - A new beginning
A clean sheet of paper was used in designing the
next-generation Grand Prix. The only thing the new car shared with any other GP was the name. It
was based on the GM10, W-body platform, incorporating a front-wheel-drive layout with MacPherson
struts up front and an independent tri-link design in the rear.
While the basic platform was actually shared with the Buick
Regal, Chevy Lumina and Olds Cutlass Supreme, none of these cars had interchangeable exterior
sheetmetal. The "cookie cutter" look had finally been eliminated.
The body shape of the new GP was clearly the effort of
extensive wind tunnel testing, combined with sensible interior volume constraints. The efforts
paid off, as the coefficient of drag for the base coupe stood at 0.299, a very impressive figure
that is easily in F-body territory. As one might guess, the slippery silhouette of the GP was an
immediate hit with the NASCAR racers, and also, to a lesser extent, in drag racing.
The new Grand Prix was offered in three variations the base
model, the luxury-edition LE and the sport-edition SE, a sort of spiritual reincarnation of the
old SJ series of years gone by. The SE was easily distinguishable from the base and LE models by
virtue of its monochromatic paint scheme, ground effects package and color-keyed wheels, which
provided for an aggressive stance. It is much to Design Staff's credit that the SE's aero package
actually improves the look of the car. Without it, it seems a bit underdressed.
Inside, the new-generation GP bore no resemblance to its
forebears. The base car came with a 60/40-split bench seat, or optional buckets. The LE had the
split-bench standard. Both of these versions had LCD electronic instrumentation standard, with
analog gauges optional, and a rear seat for three passengers.
The SE came standard with air-bladder-adjusted reclining cloth
bucket seats, with leather covering optional. The rear seats were also buckets, with seating for
just two and a folding rear console. LE and SE Grand Prixs also had a "pass-through" access to the
trunk. This was an especially convenient feature for skiers.
On the mechanical side of the new GP, only one engine was
available, a 2.8-liter multipoint fuel injected V6. It developed 130 hp at 4800 rpm, with 160
lbs.-ft. of torque at 3600. It was mated to a standard 4-speed automatic transaxle, or a 5-speed
manual if an SE was ordered. The automatic was optional in the SE.
The powertrain did not make for a real performance fireball,
but first-year offerings usually make do with what is available, and production of engines is
increased the following year. Such was the case here.