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The process of distinguishing between models-within-a-model-range has perplexed countless automotive designers, marketing mavens, and head honchos for…. well, always. Automakers want buyers who upgrade to, for instance, the SE to feel as though they’re car looks as though it’s worth more than the base model. Thus, alloy wheels and body-colour bumpers and skirts do the trick. Ah, but what about those who head for the EX? How to make them feel good about their car? Perhaps a rear wing, larger front air dam, and fake dual-exhaust tips will do the trick.

Worse than that is the challenge of the performance edition, the SS or M or AMG? Mature consumers may want speed and panache, but they don’t necessarily want to look boy racer or import tuner, do they? BMW strikes the right balance with its M5: distinguishable to the cognoscenti but simply high-lux to the eye of the plebians.
Pontiac, the hopeful answer to BMW from American conglomerate General Motors, typically fails to strike that balance. The G6, not exactly a high-profile beauty to begin with, is in dire need of deconstruction by the time GXP badges are ready to be slapped on. Pontiac’s G8, meanwhile, is actually a fairly handsome and classy car. The base model looks deserving of your money, the GT ups the ante just enough. And the GXP? Ach. Ick.
The G8 has potential for greatness somewhere inside. But the addition of nostrils to its hood masks mature performance more than the stripes or huge lower air intakes on special anniversary Holdens, the exact same car. Never have I seen a mass-manufactured OEM hood so drastically ruin a car that we all want to love. General Motors had plenty of options, but as the gallery below will show you, the G8 GXP’s look is a serious letdown and makes the G8 GT seem almost more desirable, despite its lower power figure and less capable chassis.