Sporty/performance car; Built in Canada
  • 2-door convertible
  • 2-door coupe
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,700 – $9,300*


1996 Pontiac Firebird 2-door coupe


1994 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 2-door convertible


1996 Pontiac Firebird Formula 2-door coupe


1993 Pontiac Firebird interior


1993 Pontiac Firebird interior

Pros:
  • Acceleration (V-8s)
  • Antilock brakes
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Entry/exit
  • Fuel economy (V-8s)
  • Noise
  • Rear-seat room
  • Rear visibility
  • Ride

Firebirds are styled more aggressively than Ford’s Mustang, and exhibit more muscle-car character, though a Mustang is easier to live with for everyday driving.

Overview

Restyled like the similar Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac’s rear-drive hatchback arrived in base, Formula, and Trans Am guise. Wheelbase was the same as the previous generation, but the new Firebird measured two inches wider, two inches taller, and half an inch longer. Dual airbags were installed and antilock braking was standard. Rust/dent-resistant composite was used for most outer body panels. Base engine was a 3.4-liter V6, rated at 160 horsepower. Formula and Trans Am models held a 5.7-liter V8 that made 275 horsepower. A 5-speed manual gearbox was standard with base model; the V8 got a 6-speed. Four-speed automatic was optional on both.

Yearly Updates

1994 Firebird
A top-line Trans Am GT arrived for ’94. This year, as a fuel-economy measure, the 6-speed manual gearbox added a system that forced the gearshift to go from first gear directly into fourth under light-throttle acceleration. Later in the 1994 model year, a convertible debuted with a standard power top and a glass rear window. Convertibles came in all three levels: base, Formula, and Trans Am.
1995 Firebird
After the model year began, a traction-control system became available for Firebirds with the V8 engine. The line-topping Trans Am GT was dropped after a single season on the market. Late in 1995, Pontiac added a 3.8-liter V6 engine option, making 200 horsepower rather than 160.
1996 Firebird
After a brief period as an option, the new 200-horsepower, 3.8-liter V6 displaced the 3.4-liter as Firebird’s base engine. At the same time, the Formula Firebird’s V8 engine got a boost to 285 horsepower. A “Ram Air” option hiked the V8 to 305 horses. A new 3800 Performance Package gave V6 models some of the Formula and Trans Am features, including 4-wheel disc brakes, a limited-slip differential, dual exhaust outlets, 16-inch tires, and quicker steering.
1997 Firebird
Daytime running lights and air conditioning became standard in all Firebirds. The optional Ram Air package could now be installed on convertibles as well as coupes. A new center console offered more storage, a pull-out cupholder, and two auxiliary power outlets.
1998 Firebird
Firebirds got a modest facelift and a new V8 engine for ’98. Despite again displacing 5.7-liters, the V8 was all new and made 305 horsepower. When equipped with the Ram Air option, engine output was boosted to 320.
1999 Firebird
Firebird’s changes for ’99 included larger fuel tanks (from 15.5 to 16.8 gallons), available traction control for V6 models, and a limited-edition 30th Anniversary package for coupes and convertibles.
2000 Firebird
Despite rumors of possible extinction, Firebird continued into 2000 with fresh colors, new rear child-seat anchors, and newly designed 17-inch wheels for the WS6 package.
2001 Firebird
Firebirds entered the 2001 model year with stronger engines and minor suspension revisions. The 5.7-liter V8 gained 5 horsepower and all models got revised shock absorbers. The WS6 Ram Air was no longer available on Formula, but increased Trans Am’s horsepower by 15.
2002 Firebird
Pontiac’s sporty coupe would be retired after the 2002 model year. For its last year, power windows, locks, mirrors, and antenna were standard. Offered earlier in the year was a commemorative Collector package based on the Trans Am; it included WS6 equipment, yellow paint with black accents, and special wheels and trim.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive

Base-model Firebirds started off with a 3.4-liter V6 engine, but turned that one in for a 3.8-liter late in 1995, earning 40 more horsepower. The 5.7-liter V8 under Formula and Trans Am hoods developed 275 horsepower in 1993-95, adding 10 in ’96. A “Ram Air” option hiked the output of that latest V8 to 305 horsepower. In 1998, an all-new V8 replaced the old unit. Despite a similar displacement, horsepower jumped to 305 on the base engine and 320 with ram air. With V6 power, the manual shift is a 5-speed; with a V8 comes a 6-speed gearbox. Automatic transmissions are 4-speed units, with either engine. V8 horsepower increased by 5 in 2001; SLP Firehawk package added another 5 horsepower.

ohv V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.4/207
Engine HP 160
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 200
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
19/28
19/28
18.6
18.8
ohv V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.8/231
Engine HP 200
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 225
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
19/30
19/29
18.6
18.8
ohv V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.7/350
Engine HP 275-310
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 325-340
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
4-speed automatic
16/26
17/25
16.0
15.1
ohv V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.7/346
Engine HP 305-330
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 335-350
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
4-speed automatic
17/26
18/24
15.5

Road Test

Few cars can match the level of performance of a Firebird. V8 versions promise acceleration of the sort that shoves your spine right into the seatback. V6 powered ‘birds aren’t exactly slugs, either. With manual shift, in particular, they feel lively enough in everyday driving. The stronger 3.8-liter V6 delivers particularly brisk acceleration and strong passing power. Also, the V6 is considerably more fuel efficient, netting 17-20 mpg versus 15 for the V8 models. Available traction control on recent models helps deal with horrendous grip on slippery pavement.

Even a base-model Firebird holds the road well, though naturally not with the tenacious grip delivered by the Formula and Trans Am cars. On the downside, those low-profile tires on V8 models roar over most pavement surfaces. They also combine with stiff suspension, to produce a jarring ride over bumpy roads.

Firebird’s low-slung cockpit is best for two adults. Getting into the rear and finding a comfortable home back there is a challenge. Even children might have trouble. Up front, a hump in the floor cuts into passenger leg room. Cargo space is adequate, as long as you don’t expect too much.

Structural rigidity and assembly quality are much better than in prior Firebird generations.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1994 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am automatic

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 8
80%
Fuel Economy - 2
20%
Ride Quality - 3
30%
Steering/Handling - 8
80%
Quietness - 2
20%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Front - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Rear - 2
20%
Cargo Room - 1
10%

Other

Value - 3
30%

Total: 39

Specifications

2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
101.1 195.6 74.5 52.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
12.9 15.5 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.2 35.3 43.0 38.9
2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
101.1 195.6 74.5 52.0
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
33.7 15.5 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.2 35.3 43.0 28.9
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Firebird 2-door coupe

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Front Passenger Injury - 5
100%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 3
60%
Rear Passenger Injury - 4
80%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 167
Injury 102
Theft 142

Trouble Spots

Brake noise
Description: Rear brake squeal can be eliminated by replacing the brake pads with revised ones. (1993-94)
Coolant leak
Description: The 3.8-liter V6 may leak coolant into the engine from the intake manifold. A new gasket kit, revised throttle body nuts, and sealing compound is available. Redesigned manifolds are also available in the aftermarket. (1993-2002)
Coolant leak
Description: Coolant loss via plastic intake manifold is corrected by installing upgraded manifold and gaskets plus new PCV kit. (1995-02)
Doors
Description: The power door locks may not operate due to a rubber bumper falling off of the actuator arm. (1994-95)
Engine temperature
Description: Overheating and coolant loss may be due to rough surface on radiator filler neck. Neck should be sanded smooth and cap replaced. (1999-2000)
Manual transmission
Description: Manual transmissions tend to pop out of gear in cold weather until the interior warms up. (1993-94)
Starter
Description: The starter may keep running after the engine starts, or the key is turned off, due to a short in the wiring. (1995)
Transmission leak
Description: Fluid may leak from the pump body on 4L60-E transmissions due to the pump bushing walking out of the valve body. (1995-96)
Vehicle shake
Description: Cars with the 5.7-liter engine may vibrate at highway speeds, which can be corrected by replacing the driveshaft with an aluminum shaft (although this usually results in axle noise becoming more apparent). (1993-96)

Recall History

1994
Description: Misrouted V8 fuel line may contact “air” check valve; heat could damage line.
1995
Description: Lower coupling of steering intermediate shaft could loosen and rotate, resulting in loss of control.
1997
Description: Seatbelt retractors on some cars can lock-up on slopes.
1999 w/manual transmission
Description: Clutch master cylinder on a few cars may have incorrect retaining ring, preventing disengagement when clutch pedal is depressed.
2002
Description: Welds near the lower driver’s-side door hinge do not meet specifications.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.