The Greatest 1980s GM Car You’ve Never Heard of: The Pontiac 6000 STE

It’s extensively thought-about that every thing the Detroit automakers did in the course of the Malaise Period of the 1970s and ’80s was uniformly horrible, however that isn’t actually the case. True, most of the automobiles produced by the Large 4 had been fairly dire, however there have been a number of examples of brilliance—automobiles that weren’t merely much less crappy than the norm, however really possessed honest-to-goodness retina-burning brilliance. Probably the greatest home automobiles of the period—certainly, the most effective automobiles from anyplace on the time—got here from the humblest origins potential, and that was the 1983-1989 Pontiac 6000 STE.

Pontiac 6000: Rising From the Ashes of the Phoenix

The 6000 was Pontiac’s model of GM’s new-for-1982 A-body, a automobile that in right this moment’s vernacular could possibly be referred to as a reboot of that rolling disaster known as the X-car (Chevrolet Quotation, Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile Omega, and—after all—the Pontiac Phoenix). The A-body sedan was styled because the Chevrolet Celeb, Buick Century, Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, and Pontiac 6000. All 4 had been straight-laced front-wheel-drive alternate options to GM’s traditionally-designed rear-drive intermediates.

As a bunch, the A-cars had been good and respectable public servants, roomy, well-equipped, and never terrible to drive. However it was the Pontiac that confirmed essentially the most promise, due to its cleaner styling and better-tuned chassis, significantly when outfitted with choice Y99, the sport-tuned suspension. Although saddled with the super-slow 2.5-liter Iron Duke engine, a Y99-equipped Pontiac 6000 took second place in our 1983 Automobile of the Yr contest, simply behind the Chevrolet Camaro Z28 and forward of the Firebird and all the different A-bodies. Our mustachioed minions noticed nice potential within the Pontiac 6000.

Pontiac 6000 STE: The Euro-Type Sport Sedan

That potential was realized with the 1983 Pontiac 6000 STE. Three GM divisions provided up some kind of “Euro-style” A-body for 1983: The Buick Century T-Kind, Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera ES, and the Pontiac 6000 STE, which stood for Particular Touring Version (Chevrolet’s Celeb Eurosport would come a yr later), however the Pontiac 6000 STE was the one one which appeared critical about taking over the European competitors.

The 6000 STE was powered by a excessive output model the 6000’s non-obligatory Chevrolet-sourced 2.eight liter V-6—although on this case high-output meant an 18-horsepower bump to 130 hp, whereas retaining the 112-hp engine’s two-barrel carburetor and three-speed automated. This engine was notable for its 60-degree angle between the cylinder banks, which is perfect for a smooth-running V-6. (Many V-6 engines of the period had been derived from V-8s and saved their 90-degree angle.) Different mechanical upgrades included a decrease final-drive gearing, faster steering, a refined suspension with self-leveling rear shocks, and Goodyear Eagle GT tires. A six-lamp grille, blacked-out chrome, wrap-around tail lights, and two-tone paint differentiated it from lesser 6000s.

Inside, a nifty Driver Data Middle warned of burned-out bulbs, low fluid ranges, and upcoming scheduled upkeep, and the flip sign stalk even had a flash-to-pass characteristic, frequent in European automobiles however extraordinary in a GM product. Priced at $13,572—5 grand greater than a fundamental Pontiac 6000—the STE got here lavishly outfitted, with leather-based upholstery and a sunroof as the one choices.

Pontiac 6000 STE vs. Germany

We wasted no time in pitting a 6000STE towards its worldwide competitors: The Audi 5000, the Toyota Cressida, and the BMW 528e. The Pontiac 6000 STE didn’t stand head-and-shoulders above the remainder, however it did maintain its personal, and that was no small accomplishment—keep in mind that the A-body on which the 6000 was primarily based was designed not as a sportster however as a humble bread-and-butter household sedan. David E. Davis, founding father of MotorTrend‘s sister publication, Car, wrote, “The Pontiac 6000 STE stands head and shoulders above each different Detroit sedan, together with its fellow Normal Motors front-drive A-cars.” On the time he was nonetheless modifying Automobile & Driver, which put the 6000 STE on its 10Finest checklist for 1983, 1984, and 1985.

Pontiac continued to enhance the 6000 STE: A digital dashboard (together with the initially omitted tachometer) and rear disc brakes for 1984 and multi-port gasoline injection for ’85. In 1987, the three-speed automated gave option to a four-speed automated with overdrive, and a five-speed guide was provided as a no-cost choice.

In ’86, we pitted the 6000 STE towards the world as soon as extra. The BMW 528e got here out on prime for its near-perfect driving dynamics, adopted by a stellar new Japanese competitor, the Acura Legend. It was the 6000 STE’s dated ergonomics and overboosted steering that saved it out of the lead, however it nonetheless handily beat the Audi 5000S. “One of many few automotive bargains round,” was our conclusion. “For the client who needs a style of the Euro-sedan market however can’t afford one constructed throughout the large pond, the STE is a good deal.”

Pontiac 6000 STE Goes AWD

In 1989, the Pontiac 6000 STE grew to become the primary Normal Motors passenger automobile to supply an non-obligatory all-wheel-drive system. It employed a 140-hp 3.1-liter model of the 60-degree V-6, a three-speed automated transmission, and an electro-mechanical heart differential that could possibly be locked with a change on the dashboard. The bespoke unbiased rear suspension featured a differential borrowed from the GMT400 pickup truck and a transverse composite single-leaf spring from the new-for-’88 GM10-based Pontiac Grand Prix (which, by the way, was our 1988 Car of the Year). For 1989, the Pontiac 6000 STE’s final yr, the all-wheel-drive system grew to become normal, and Pontiac capped manufacturing at simply 1,300 models.

Pontiac launched a four-door model of the Grand Prix for 1990, and the STE moniker jumped ship to the newer automobile. After we give it some thought, it’s moderately wonderful that the 6000 STE lasted so long as it did. By the shut of the 1980s, Pontiac was getting nice outcomes from its rock-n-roll Ride Pontiac Ride TV ads and its showrooms had been stocked with a number of newer, slicker-looking automobiles: The Grand Am, which introduced Pontiac pleasure to Everyman; the Grand Prix, which was obtainable with a 220-hp McLaren-massaged turbocharged engine; the slick second-gen Fiero; ever-improving Trans Ams; and the Bonneville, provided with the recent SSE touring package deal. Regardless of a slick new roofline with a rounded rear window, the 1989 6000 STE regarded boxy and dated, a faint reminder of extra determined days at Normal Motors.



A Winner Till the Very Finish

And but it was nonetheless aggressive. In July of 1989, in regards to the time the final 6000 STEs would have been rolling off the road, we wrote, “The brand new [6000 STE AWD] is essentially the most skillful sedan Pontiac’s ever constructed—certainly, the automobile is probably an important sedan of any stripe constructed by GM within the fashionable period. It gives nice dealing with with out sacrificing experience high quality, many of the cues and gear anticipated of a tremendous touring sedan from any producer, Germans included, and a pleasantly conservative exterior look that helps its refined mission.”

The mid-1980s is seen because the time when Detroit pulled itself out of the Malaise Period with a vengeance and produced a few of its finest and most revolutionary automobiles so far, and that makes the Pontiac 6000 STE all of the extra wonderful. Here’s a automobile born of Detroit’s darkest hour that grew to become one of many shining lights of the automotive world, and remained a beacon proper by one of many automotive business’s most revolutionary and transformative many years. The Malaise Period was unhealthy—however because the Pontiac 6000 STE exhibits us, it wasn’t all unhealthy.

1983 Pontiac 6000 STE Specs

PRICE $13,572 (when new)
ENGINE 2.8L OHV 12-valve V-6/130 hp @ 5,400 rpm, 145 lb-ft @ 2,400 rpm
TRANSMISSION 3-speed automated
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD sedan
L x W x H 188.2 x 68.2 x 54.Zero in
WHEELBASE 104.9 in
WEIGHT 2,878 lb
0-60 MPH 10.2 sec
TOP SPEED 120 mph (est)

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