In 2004 GM imported an Australian muscle car and sold it to the US as the Pontiac GTO. It was 40 years after the original GTO was first introduced to the world. The GTO may not have been the retro-mobile along the lines of the upcoming Camaro or the new Challenger, but it was true to the GTO formula. Take a small coupe, stuff the biggest engine in it and let the tires smoke!
The 2004 GTO was powered by the infamous LS1 and was putting out 350hp and 365lb-ft of torque. The 2004 received high marks for speed and comfort, but was much aligned for being a “Bland Am”. In 2005 and 2006 the GTO was updated with 50 more horsepower and 35lb-ft of torque. The newer GTOs also got a little more physical appearance improvements with some hood scoops and split dual exhaust.
In the GTO community what really separates the 2004 vs the 2005/6 GTOs is simply the engine. Under the plain hood of the 2004 pumps the 350hp LS1 and beneath the hood scoops of the newer models is the 400hp LS2.
Both versions of the GTO enjoy a large aftermarket of go-fast goodies and tuning opportunities for the GTO driver who wants to go faster. An interesting tidbit about the LS1 is that given the same mods it tends to respond with more horsepower.
SLP makes a “421HP Bobcat” package for the 2004 GTO that gives the LS1 a 71hp boost for $3405. SLP makes an identical Performance Pac for the 2005/6 GTO called the “455HP Bobcat” sold for $3868. That gives the 2005/6 GTOs merely a 55hp gain.
If you study those numbers you wil realize that LS1 produces 16 more hp for 463 less dollars. Of course if an ‘04 GTO owner and an ‘06 GTO owner were to both purchase the same Performance Pacs the ‘06 GTO would still have 34 more horsepower.
All these factors have made the 2005/6 GTOs slightly more desirable than the 2004 GTOs. For the thinking muscle car fan, a good case can be made for the rarer slightly less powerful 2004 GTO. However, a slightly less powerful 2004 GTO is just a few mods away from being faster than a stock LS2 GTO.
Oh and you should have some money left over for mods because the 2004 GTOs are being sold less than $15k.
So is it the 2004 the “Lesser GTO”? Well it has less horsepower, less appearance modifications, mods cost less and the selling price is less. So yes the LS1 GTO is the lesser GTO, but sometimes less is more.