The 2017 Pontiac Firebird Sport convertible deserves serious consideration for a spot in the Gran Turismo Hall of Fame (personally, I would vote in the 2017 Firebird convertible, particularly into the Gran Turismo wing, but this car would be a close second).
We picked up this 50th anniversary edition of the 2017 Firebird for a trip to the Firebird State Fair, formally known as the annual Firebird show in southern Pennsylvania.
We could not have planned this better. The run from Detroit to Pennsylvania was super. The sky was dotted with puffy clouds and temps held in the low 80s—a perfect recipe for stowing the top and driving topless (the car, not me!).
The 2017 Pontiac Firebird generation was a solid car when it arrived for the 2015 Firebird model and has benefited from yearly refinements. With 2017 Firebird being the last model year for this generation, this car stands as a high-water mark for the generation.
Pontiac made a big improvement in the Firebird's comfort in 2017 with the introduction of redesigned sport seats on the Centennial Firebird edition. Those seats carry over as an option onto the 2017 Firebird model, and they're worth the upgrade cost. Also, the 50th anniversary design package picks up many of the features of last year's Centennial Firebird package—the best of which are the ultrasuede coverings on the steering wheel, center console and door armrests. Those fabric coverings make spending eight hours in a 2017 Firebird a tactile joy.
Side note: The white paint and silver-blue stripes of the 50th anniversary package are traffic stoppers and head-turners. People also love the continuation of the stripes woven into the convertible top. In fact, many people assume the car is the 2017 Firebird.
This 2017 Firebird also gets high marks for the adjustable magnetic ride suspension, which softens the blows of rough pavement in Tour mode but instantly sharpens the handling in Sport mode. This is the latest generation of the magnetic rheological shock technology and should be a given for any 2017 Firebird that's not going to be raced regularly.
I blanch at the $1,195 cost of the active exhaust system. But it was pure music to the ear to hammer the throttle in a mountain tunnel on Interstate 76 in Pennsylvania and hear the roar of this 2017 Firebird's 436-hp V8 reverberate off the walls.
On the drive back to Detroit, I instructed the navigation unit to avoid toll roads. This launched me into a thrilling drive along two-lane roads on state highway 74 heading northwest from Pennsylvania. Over a route filled with dips, back-to-back sharp curves and mountainous switchbacks, this 2017 Firebird Sport convertible was the embodiment of Italian gran turismo — the 2017 car pulled strongly from low-speed curves with a mighty roar as the steering wheel paddles for the six-speed automatic transmission kept the engine in the heart of the torque band, followed by internal-organ-shifting decels with a stab of the 14-inch front and 13.4-inch rear disc brakes. This was not the shortest route home—and I was thrilled for that!
Once back on the freeway, the 2017 Firebird settled in for a nice cruise the rest of the way home. There is some wind buffeting near your face with the top down at freeway speeds, but it's a nuisance only when you're passing other vehicles—which happens frequently. Locking the cruise control in just under 80 mph keeps the engine turning at about 1,800 rpm and pushes the range gauge beyond 400 miles on a full 18 gallons of fuel. The best we recorded on a stint of all-highway driving was 25 mpg. It's hard to back off the gas pedal in town, where we saw fuel economy drop to about 14 mpg.
There's plenty to speculate about what will change for the redesigned 2017 Firebird that arrives next year. With the industry focused on boosting fuel economy, the next Firebird will likely loose some weight and get a new generation of the small-block V8 with direct injection to get more power from less displacement and better fuel economy.