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GM unveils new 4-door Pontiac G8

With hood scoops and rear-wheel-drive, new car aims for more performance.

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors will unveil a new Pontiac sedan at the Chicago Auto Show today.

"With the balance of rear-wheel drive and the availability of V8 power, the G8 represents another step in Pontiac's commitment to its performance DNA," Pontiac General Manager John Larson said in a GM announcement.

GM is moving its Pontiac division, traditionally the company's performance-oriented brand, toward more rear-wheel drive cars. Rear-wheel drive offers better weight balance and allows for larger and more powerful engines than front-wheel-drive, which is the more common configuration in cars today.

The car unveiled in Chicago is, officially, a concept vehicle. The G8 will be available in dealerships in early 2008, GM said.

The concept version rides slightly lower to the ground and has bigger wheels than the production version, GM said. The concept also features a "modernized" Pontiac badge to test consumer opinion.

The G8 is based on rear-wheel drive engineering created in Australia by GM's Holden division there. Holden also created the recently discontinued Pontiac GTO performance coupe.

"We spent many hours refining the chassis to create a unique blend of steering precision, vehicle balance and handling that we believe driving enthusiasts will love," said Doug Houlihan, G8 chief engineer, in a GM statement.

The G8 will be available with a choice of either a 261-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine or a 362-horsepower 6.0-liter V8. The V8 engine will automatically shut down four of its cylinders when their power is not needed.

The V8 version will be available with six-speed manually-shiftable automatic or a six-speed manual transmission. The V6 version will have a five-speed manually-shiftable automatic.

Since the G8 is not in production yet, estimated fuel economy figures are not available.

The G8 will compete against performance-oriented four-door cars like the Dodge Charger and Nissan Altima.

Toyota unveiled a redesigned highlander Wednesday and Ford and Nissan will also be unveiling redesigned vehicles at the Chicago Auto Show.

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