HomeFeatured VehiclesPick of the Day: 1988 Pontiac Bonneville SSE

Pick of the Day: 1988 Pontiac Bonneville SSE

The return of excitement


Ever since 1971, the Pontiac Bonneville has been through the wringer, being demoted by the Grand Ville, then finding its way back to the top, only to ignominiously be transferred to the LeMans’ platform. Cooler heads prevailed a few years later as the Bonneville was revamped and redesigned, now full of verve that had been missing for years. Our Pick of the Day, a 1988 Pontiac Bonneville SSE, is one of the best of these revitalized Pontiacs. It is listed for sale on by a private seller in St. Francis, Wisconsin. (Click the link to view the listing)

1982 Pontiac Bonneville

We recently highlighted the story of the Bonneville in a recent Pick of the Day for a 1972 Grand Ville. The Bonneville returned to the top of the full-size Pontiac hierarchy as the Bonneville Brougham, which was downsized in 1977 in General Motors’ sweeping program for more efficient space utilization and better fuel economy. These cars were a success but, come 1982, Pontiac discontinued its full-size platform, replaced the G-body LeMans with the 6000, and moved the Bonneville to the G-body platform. Pontiac now lacked a full-size car until the Canadian Parisienne saved the day. This poseur of a Bonneville lasted through 1986, upon which irony would prevail as GM’s quest for downsizing and front-wheel drive would result in an all-new Bonneville worthy of its name.

1988 Bonneville SSE interior from brochure

The 1987 Bonneville was based on the H-body, which first appeared in 1986 (Buick LeSabre and Oldsmobile 88) and followed the practically identical 1985 C-body (Buick Electra, Oldsmobile 98, and Cadillac DeVille). While not quite exciting initially, Pontiac built excitement, as the ad campaign would say, and that would be coming for 1988 as the sporty SSE. The SSE featured monochromatic “Euro styling” with special aero ground effects, anti-lock brakes, electronic ride control, WS6 suspension, SFI 3800 V6 with 165 horsepower, headlamp washers, 10-way adjustable seats with lumbar support and adjustable headrests, steering wheel-mounted radio controls, and complete instrumentation including compass. While the Bonneville SSE came off a bit over-the-top in the best 1980s Pontiac tradition, it arguably was more appealing than other overdone Pontiacs of the era.

This incarnation of the Bonneville continued through 1991. A handsome, redesigned Bonneville launched in the summer of 1991, with the SSE being slightly demoted to mid-level status because the new SSEi made a splash with a standard supercharged 3.8-liter V6 with 205 horsepower. Another redesign for 2000 ditched the SSE, with the SSEi lasting through 2003. In 2004, a 4.6-liter V8 was added to the new top-of-the-line Bonneville GPX, with the Bonneville series continuing through 2005 when it was discontinued.

This 1988 Pontiac Bonneville SSE could be seen as part of the reemergence of the Pontiac brand after being saddled with so many disappointments during the Malaise Era. “Purchased on consignment from the original owner,” says the seller. “Runs, drives, and rides like new – zero mechanical issues.” Over $5,000 has been spent in the past year professionally refreshing the paint.

In case you haven’t interrupted your read by checking out the ad, you should note that this Bonneville has only 14,300 miles on the odometer. With so few seen on the street anymore, this may be the one to get for your Pontiac fix. For $14,000, it’s almost one dollar per mile.

Click here for this Pick of the Day.

Diego Rosenberg
Diego Rosenberg
Lead Writer Diego Rosenberg is a native of Wilmington, Delaware and Princeton, New Jersey, giving him plenty of exposure to the charms of Carlisle and Englishtown. Though his first love is Citroen, he fell for muscle cars after being seduced by 1950s finned flyers—in fact, he’s written two books on American muscle. But please don’t think there is a strong American bias because foreign weirdness is never far from his heart. With a penchant for underground music from the 1960-70s, Diego and his family reside in metropolitan Phoenix.


  1. I had one of these exact cars and another ’90 model in gray. Loved em! Never see them on the road anymore.


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