As posted late last week, I was fortunate enough to be invited by GM to an exciting event. The event started with GM showing some of the products and technologies coming in the near future. Pictures were not allowed in the design center.
Front and center in the GMC design studio was a design concept, a Denali trim of the Acadia crossover. It had a body kit and larger chrome wheels with the mandatory chrome grill and wood inside. I can see this trim level coming soon and it was rather good looking. Next up was the 2010 Terrain the GMC version of the new 2010 Chevy Equinox. The exterior of the Terrain is better looking in person than it is in pictures. The interior had soft materials and a clean look. Equipped with the four cylinder, the Terrain will achieve 32 mpg on the highway, quite impressive. The most interesting vehicle was a clay model without a name. It looked reminicent of the Kia Soul. It was boxy and short with little to no overhangs and like no other current GMC. Even though is was not bad looking, I do not see it fitting in with the rest of GMC unless the future products are considerably different than the current lineup, which could happen.
The center vehicle in the Buick studio was the new 2010 Buick Lacrosse which should be hitting dealerships soon. The new Lacrosse is gorgeous with tight panel gaps and great character lines. It is a car that will be competing with the Lexus ES350, the lines on this Lacrosse are much bolder. The interior has a soft touch dash and has a quality feel. Impressive! I felt the seat tracks looked unfinished. They were completely uncovered and looked as if things could get caught in the tracks. We viewed four other vehicles, two crossovers and two sedans. One of the crossovers was basically a re-badged Saturn Vue which will be launching as a Buick next year, and it will come as the first plug-in hybrid suv in 2011. It was truly unsightly and reminds me of things (re-badging) that was wrong with the “old GM.” The other crossover will launch in 12-16 months as a baby Enclave which itself is a good looking vehicle. The other two vehicles that are coming within the next 10-24 months include a midsize sedan based on the European Opel Insignia. This midsize sedan could very well wear the Regal name. The second vehicle will launch later and will be based on the new the European Opel Astra. They had two interior styling bucks for the two sedans, both of which were as good looking as the new 2010 Lacrosse. Buick seems to have gotten their mojo back in the styling department other then the re-badged Vue.
The predictable future vehicles, such as the convertible Camaro coming 2nd quarter of next year and the Chevy Spark small car, was there as well. I was surprised to see a next generation Aveo, which happened to be a hatchback. The rear end was practically the same as the current generation while the front end was much more aggressive. The front end reminded me of the current generation Mitsubishi Lancer. The headlights were good looking but not very aerodynamic. The vehicle that caught me off guard was the next generation Malibu. It is drop dead gorgeous! It has a little BMW in the rear end and the front end is straight European design. The exterior was impressive and the interior had three real interior styling bucks. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would never believe it was a Chevy interior. Keep in mind that these were production designs, not concepts. Arriving in 2011 as a 2012, the next Malibu is going to be a winner.
The Cadillac CTS coupe will arrive next spring. It will be accompanied by a CTS-V coupe which, of course, is exciting for any enthusiast. Next the new 2010 SRX and CTS sportwagon, both of which should be arriving in dealerships now. I personally love wagons. After the presentation, I asked the director of Cadillac about the possibility of a CTS-V sportwagon. During our conversation, he informed me that there was a CTS-V sportwagon on campus and it is a shade of black. He also said that “if” a CTS-V sportwagon was to go into production, he would guess it would be in dealerships next summer. I would not say that is a promise but darn closer than “no we have no plans on making one and have not studied it as a business case.” Here’s hoping for a CTS-V sportwagon.
Three new Cadillacs were revealed to us. The first was the sportwagon. The next was a BMW 3 series fighter dubbed ATS, which will come in both coupe and sedan forms. The car is similar looking to a CTS with a more evolved look. I could see the ATS coming with a turbo and naturally aspirated four cylinder as well as direct injection six cylinder engines. The proper wheels (rear wheels) will be receiving the power and all wheel drive will be a option. The last was a car that will compete with the BMW 7 series, dubbed XTS. It will replace the quickly aging STS/DTS sedans. The styling of the XTS is reminiscent of the Cadillac Sixteen concept from years back but without the long hood. Both cars were good looking and have real potential.
I had a conversation with Bob Lutz and questioned him about the future of the now dead Pontiac G8. He informed me that the response to them killing it has been overwhelming, and they are working hard to figure out how to incorporate it in the Chevy lineup in the future. Mentioning how it will die with Pontiac but could be coming back as a Chevy. He went on to say it would have big brakes, a big V8 and quickly adding, no V6 option. This would be an aggressive sports car without a doubt, the four door of Corvettes (no it will not wear the Corvette name). Though he mentioned it would most likely be expensive and probably a niche product, making only enough for demand. My question is when and how much!? I asked about the Caprice name and styling of the Asian market Caprice and he said it was not aggressive enough and would not happen. This conversation was informal and is in no way a final green light for production.
Lastly the Millford proving grounds. I drove the Camaro SS with the 6 speed. First order of business was to turn off the traction control completely. Dropping the clutch and smokey burn outs are easy to accomplish. The car is definitely heavy but carries its weight well through the slalom. While the brakes definitely got toasty and you could smell the burn, they never gave up or made me nervous of losing effectiveness. Had I been on the track longer it could have been a different story. Next the CTS-V with a automatic. I felt this handicapped the cars potential on the track. On the other hand, the automatic shifts quickly and zips around when driving it in the city on a daily basis.
After this event it is safe to say, I can say I feel GM has a real future and great product in the pipeline. The only true questionable vehicle was the re-badged Vue. Two big take aways here are that the G8 may not be dead after all and the CTS-V sportwagon is more then a possibility! I would say Toyota should be put on notice because the next Malibu and new Equinox are truly world cars.