From the August 1994 issue of Car and Driver.
The year 1969 was a long time ago. How long ago was it? It was so long ago that most cars cost less in dollars than they weighed in pounds. Think about that as you tool around in your 2500-pound Neon, considered a good buy today at $13,000.
But a few verities from that long-gone era remain. Among them is the fact that a bright-white, blue-striped convertible with a big honking motor still is a slam-dunk head-turner wherever it goes. Pontiac knew it then, when the Trans Am model was launched as the high-sport Firebird. And it knows it today, as it celebrates 785,000 Trans Ams with this 25th Anniversary special.
Then as now, the closed coupe will account for the vast majority of sales. (Only eight Trans Am convertibles were minted in 1969, making it one of the most collectible Pontiacs of all time.) But for grabbing attention, sparking conversations, and indulging adolescent impulses on sunny backroads, nothing beats a droptop. So that’s the flavor we chose in sampling Pontiac’s 1994 25th Anniversary Trans Am GT.
We also chose to back up the 275-hp Corvette-derived LT1 gut-rumbler with the automatic transmission, a power team we had not tested since the Camaro and Firebird twins got their makeover last year. We still think the U-shift-it six-speed manual box better suits the sharp and reactive nature of the F-cars, especially in Z28 and Trans Am guise. But the four-speed 4L60-E autobox does its chores effectively too, and we wouldn’t try to dissuade anyone wishing to—as the French might say—take the auto route.
Electronic controls (that’s the “E” suffix in 4L60-E) are new this year on the wide-ratio automatic. They allow finer management and smoother shifting by enabling interaction with the engine-control computer. They also give the driver a choice of running characteristics. Push a console button curiously labeled “Transmission Perform” and the upshifts become joltingly firm and quick. Part-throttle shift points climb a bit up the rev scale, and manual downshifts execute faster.
Selecting this mode tells the transmission to act more as if it were seeing full throttle, so everything happens with greater intensity. This was, frankly, a pain around town, where we much preferred the more seamless action of the transmission’s normal program. But we did like the way “Perform” upped the energy level in brisk curvy-road cruising.
Of course, when you really do go to full throttle, this higher-intensity shift mode has no discernible effect. Shift points and shift action are optimized for WOT anyway. So the selectable shift mode doesn’t improve performance in any measurable way.
Not that this automatic’s acceleration needs much help. It’s an honest six-seconds-to-60 car, and it gave up surprisingly little time to the six-speed manual Firebird Formula we tested in January 1993. Weighing nearly 200 pounds more than that coupe (3668 pounds to 3471), the 25th Anniversary convertible reached 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, compared with the six-speed car’s 5.4. Quarter-mile results were 14.6 seconds at 96 mph versus 14.2 seconds at 99. You won’t notice a difference that small without a stopwatch.
In most other ways, the 25th Anniversary Trans Am works and feels just like the other new V-8-powered F-cars we’ve tested. (In addition to the Formula in January 1993, we compared that car and a Camaro Z28 with a Mustang Cobra in February ’93, ran a Camaro Z28 convertible in October ’93, and compared a Z28 with a Mustang GT in December ’93.) That means we have a few quibbles—front seats with slop in their mounts and marginal rearward visibility with the convertible top up—but the story is overwhelmingly upbeat. Like its brethren, this Trans Am is bold, tough, noisy, and fast. Especially fast, because Pontiac saw fit to stay with the high-performance Goodyear GS-C tires on the convertible. (Base Firebird Formula and Z28 ragtops come with Eagle GAs and an embarrassing 104-mph governor.) This automatic-transmission TA convertible whistled around the test track at 153 mph, the same as we’ve seen from the six-speed Formula coupe.
In less intense duty, the TA convertible is easy to live with, though it’s never exactly relaxing, what with the hollering engine, pounding chassis, and darty steering. Plus constant, unashamed ogling from your fellow motorists. But all that aside, the car works fine—especially as a convertible, from the no-fuss power top to the effective draft protection of the close-up, sharply raked windshield.
A Trans Am GT convertible lists for $26,969 these days. Add $995 for the 25th Anniversary package, a collection of cosmetic and identity items including the white paint scheme with blue stripe and bird decal, matching white alloy wheels, white leather seat faces with blue embroidery, and “25th” badging.
The result is a white-on-white-on-white stunner of a car, with the highest profile in traffic this side of a presidential motorcade. But if the rubberneckers get to be a bother, just put the throttle on the carpet and they’re history. As long gone as 1969.
1994 25th Anniversary Edition Pontiac Firebird Trans Am GT
Vehicle Type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2+2-passenger, 2-door convertible
Base/As Tested: $27,964/$28,965
pushrod 16-valve V-8, iron block and aluminum heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 350 in3, 5733 cm3
Power: 275 hp @ 5000 rpm
Wheelbase: 101.1 in
Length: 197.0 in
Curb Weight: 3668 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 6.1 sec
1/4-Mile: 14.6 sec @ 96 mph
100 mph: 16.1 sec
130 mph: 32.6 sec
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 6.2 sec
Top Speed (drag ltd): 153 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 166 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.84 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 17 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
City: 17 mpg
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED
Source: Reviews - aranddriver.com