Aztek notwithstanding, Pontiac’s enduring legacy is one of muscle cars. And not just classic ones, but early-2000s models like the GTO and G8 GXP. Jay Leno has already shown his appreciation for vintage Pontiacs. But in a recent video, he takes a look at something more modern: a 2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6.
The 2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6 had “’ Corvette performance at a minivan price,’” Road & Track says
The ‘Trans Am’ and ‘WS6’ nameplates hold a lot of history for Pontiac Firebird fans, Hagerty reports. Much like SS for Chevrolet, ‘Trans Am’ meant a sportier Firebird. And as for WS6, it first debuted on the 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am as a handling package. But by the time the fourth-gen car debuted in 1992, it had disappeared, Hagerty reports.
In 1996, though, the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6 returned, Hagerty reports, albeit in a slightly different form. Yes, it was still a handling package, giving the Trans Am upgraded shocks and springs, stiffer anti-roll bars, and bigger wheels, Automobile reports. But it also gave the muscle car a performance exhaust system and a functional ‘Ram-Air’ hood. As a result, the 5.7-liter LT1 V8 under the hood went from 285 hp and 325 lb-ft to 305 hp and 335 lb-ft. But Pontiac wasn’t done.
Starting in 1998, the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am received the same 5.7-liter LS1 V8 as the contemporary Corvette. In standard form, it makes 305 hp, Road & Track reports, and comes with an aluminum driveshaft and four-wheel ABS-equipped disc brakes, DriveMag reports. But the Trans Am WS6 makes 320 hp, Hemmings reports. And with the Hurst short-throw six-speed manual, it can go 0-60 mph in 5 seconds, matching the contemporary Corvette, MotorTrend reports.
2002 marked the end of the road for the Pontiac Firebird, Trans Am WS6 and all. So, naturally, the final-year models came well-loaded with features. Standard features included leather seats, a power-steering cooler, removable roof panels, and Goodyear F1 tires, Autoblog reports. Plus, a limited-slip differential, Bring a Trailer reports, and a slight output bump to 325 hp and 350 lb-ft, Hagerty reports.
For Jay Leno, the 2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6 is “the best version” of a “fascinating” car
Jay Leno owns one of these final-year Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6s. And for him, the “swan-song” car is “the best one they ever built.”
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He once drove all the generations of the Trans Am at Daytona, and even the big-engine ‘70s models weren’t as good as the 2002 car. Jay Leno even describes his Trans Am WS6 as a “four-seater Corvette.” That’s appropriate, given that it shares parts with the Corvette, Hagerty reports. And according to Leno, it’s better to drive than the contemporary Camaro.
While early-2000s GM cars weren’t necessarily known for their interior quality, Jay Leno describes his Trans Am WS6’s interior as “nice.” It helps that his car is practically showroom-fresh; the only non-standard part is the battery. And even after 20 years of driving, he hasn’t had any problems with it.
Jay Leno calls the 2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6 a “real-world car.” Something that can be fun on the weekends and during the commute. It has comfortable seats, and without the ‘screaming chicken’ livery, it’s something of a Q-ship. Plus, even with the sportier suspension, it doesn’t ride harshly. And of course, there’s the rumble of that LS V8.
They’re fairly-affordable muscle cars
Naturally, the WS6 package’s upgrades mean Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams equipped with it command a slight premium. But even so, fourth-gen Trans Ams aren’t necessarily expensive.
A pristine 2001 Trans Am WS6 may go for around $32k, Hagerty reports. But the average BaT price is in the $20,000-$25,000 range. And some examples go for substantially less. An automatic 2001 Trans Am WS6 convertible went for $9900 in a September 2019 RM Sotheby’s auction. Such a low price certainly puts a smile on my face.
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