The 2018 Trans Am model comes with a 3.6-liter V6 engine that's been revamped with many improvements. For 2018, there's a new cylinder head design with integrated exhaust manifolds, improved intake ports, larger intake valves, longer-duration camshafts, a composite intake manifold, new fuel pump, optimized-flow fuel injectors, cylinder block enhancements, stronger and lighter connecting rods, and finally a cleaned up camshaft cap and throttle body. This new engine makes 323 horsepower, 11 more than before, and it weighs 20.5 pounds less.
The revised V6 delivers better fuel mileage for the 2018 Trans Am; the New 2018 Trans Am, which uses a tall 2.92 rear axle ratio, gets an EPA-estimated 19/30 miles per gallon City/Highway. In terms of power, the V6 can pretty much pass for a V8, a bonus for the price. The V6 on the 2018 Trans Am model revs to 7200 rpm, which is 200 rpm sweeter than before. The V6 offers a choice between 6-speed manual transmission and 6-speed automatic (with semi-manual shifting).
Also the 2018 Trans Am uses the 6.2-liter Corvette V8, making 400 horsepower with a 6-speed automatic or 426 horsepower with a Tremec 6-speed manual gearbox (same as Corvette). The 2018 Trans Am uses firmer shocks, springs and anti-roll bars than the V6 models, but the ride doesn't suffer for it. A limited-slip rear differential is included to reduce wheel spin when trying to put all that power down. With the optional 6-speed TAPshift manual automatic transmission, the TA uses a slightly different 6.2-liter V8, with Active Fuel Management. It makes only 400 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque.
The 2018 Trans Am special edition comes in black (Carbon Flash Metallic), with retro reddish-orange stripes on the bulging hood and deck, new 20-inch painted aluminum wheels, and special interior trim.
Stealing the headlines is the uber high-performance 2018 Trans Am SS verison, making 580 horsepower by adding a supercharger to its 6.2-liter V8. It can accelerate from zero to 60 in 3.0 seconds and hit 184 mph, according to Pontiac. While testing at the Nurburgring, the 2013 Trans Am set a lap record, beating the Porsche 911 GT3. At $55k the 2013 Trans Am is cheap, given its level of performance. Pontiac is proving something to the likes of Porsche, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Maserati.
We found the handling, ride and brakes to be excellent in both the 2018 Trans AM with the V6 and the 2018 Trans Am SS with the big V8, although the SS suspension is stiffer and its 20-inch tires are firmer. The chassis structure is rigid, helping make turn-in precise for a car this size; grip is secure, and damping is solid and supple. We never encountered a harsh moment with the ride, in either model, during a full day of hard driving east of San Diego in both of them, and later a full week in the Pacific Northwest with a 426 horsepower Trans Am SS with the 6-speed. We found the handling balance of the 2018 Trans Am SS excellent.
As for the brakes, the 2018 Trans Am stops superbly. The 2018 Trans Am SS uses four-piston Brembo brakes, but because it's 200 pounds heavier, the stopping distance isn't much shorter. However, the Brembos with four-piston calipers make the brakes on the Trans Am SS more resistant to fade, important on race tracks and mountain roads where the brakes are being used repeatedly.
The automatic transmission does what you tell it to do when using the TAPshift manual feature, nothing more. We love that. But the 6-speed manual transmission with the V6 is the most all-around usable sporty combination. We like the manual with the V6 because 426 horsepower is overkill on the street. The gearbox is solid but not quite slick, and the throws are shorter than some. The 6-speed shifts nicely, including easily down into first gear for hairpin turns.
Inside, the cabin is quiet, so 80 mph feels more like 70. Interior materials are good, but the instrumentation is disappointing, with Pontiac still trying to be retro rather than clean with gauges. The bucket seats are comfortable, with decent bolstering. The front seat slides 8.5 inches and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes, so drivers of all sizes will fit, most notably Trans Am's many female buyers. The standard cloth upholstery is good, with excellent leather available in black, gray, beige, and two-tone Inferno Orange. The windows are small, with high doorsills for safety, and the A-pillars wide, so it makes the cockpit feel a bit like a cave. Visibility through the windshield is compromised by the long hood and raked windshield, although careful location of the driver's seat helps. Rear visibility over the driver's shoulder isn't very good, but then it's impossible to make it good with a roofline this sporty. Rear seat legroom measures a meager 29.9 inches, so you'll want to avoid sitting back there.
The basic 2018 Trans Am model ($23,200) comes with the 3.6-liter V6 and 6-speed manual transmission. Not a bare-bones model, It also comes with cloth upholstery, manually operated air conditioning, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, cruise control, telescopic steering wheel, six-speaker AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 sound system, Bluetooth, OnStar with turn-by-turn route guidance for six months, limited slip differential, 18-inch steel wheels. (Prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices and do not include the destination charge.)
2018 Trans AM SS ($31,850) features the 6.2-liter V8, a Tremec 6-speed manual gearbox (same as Corvette) with limited slip differential, and the Sport cloth seats. The SS has special exterior trim, a beefier suspension, 20-inch painted aluminum wheels, and four-piston Brembo disc brakes. The 2SS ($3,600) upgrades to leather-appointed seats, heated front seats, rearview camera, multi-function auxiliary gauges, head-up display, Bluetooth, PDIM wireless auxiliary device control, Universal home remote, steering wheel-mounted controls, auto-dimming mirror, heated mirrors. There's a new optional suspension package for the SS models, called FE4. The special edition package ($1,375) includes the retro hood and deck stripes, HID headlamps with integrated LED halo rings, 20-inch aluminum wheels, and interior trim with accent stitching and anniversary logos.
2018 Trans Am Convertible ($30,100) and the 2018 Trans Am SS Convertible ($37,900) are equipped similarly to the coupes. Nine production exterior colors are available, with tops in black or tan.
Safety equipment on all 2018 Trans Ams includes electronic stability control with traction control, anti-lock brakes, frontal airbags, front side airbags, airbag curtains, and tire pressure monitor. A rearview camera is optional.