Tag Archives: Chevy

Review: 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco: 40 Is The New 30

You know what they say…,..40 is the new 30. Well it is sure is when it comes to miles per gallon these days. With gasoline well over $4 per gallon in many cities, consumers are starting to look to fuel efficient cars, and 40 mpg is quickly becoming the new standard.

Back when I reviewed the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, I deemed it the most competitive compact car on the market. Thing is, quite a few competitors have launched new compact cars since then, with more on the way. I spent a week with the Eco model of the Chevrolet Cruze to see if it is still top of the compact class, and to determine if that 42 mpg highway rating really realistic. Read More…

AutoBird Podcast – Esp 33: “Take Your Top Off Episode”

Episode 33 starts with introducing this weeks guest Nick Salvatore from SpeedSportLife.  Moving into the garage we talk about the 2011 Porsche Cayenne and 1967 Ford Mustang I drove since the last recording. We also heard about the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS and Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T R-Spec Nick was in.  We then move along to the major news of the week segment.  This week included-

  • NADA picks vehicles with best cost of ownership (Link)
  • Nissan vs. Hyundai – Who is going to be the #2 Asian Automaker (Link)

This week we continue with the newer segment called car spotting.  Justin spotted a Chevrolet Corvair.  Nick saw a Alfa 159 Wagon when in Europe and his new Glut Orange Audi S5.

Next came our main topic which was discussing ownership “stigma” or stereotypes that go with certain convertibles.  We also hit on some positives/negatives along with reliability, and cost of ownership. (Link)
Last we plug our respective blogs, SpeedSportLifeCheers and Gears,  AutoBird Blog and Accelerate Mpls.

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Chevrolet Venture Exhaust Fail

Yes, that is dual exhaust pipes sticking out the back of this Chevrolet Venture.  Yup…..Sadly I was not around when this beast was started as I would have loved to record the exhaust note.

AutoBird Podcast – Esp 32: “In Your Dreams Episode”

Episode 32 starts with introducing this weeks guest Tony Pimpo from GM Inside News.  Moving into the garage we talk about the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze press launch I attended last week. We then move along to the major news of the week segment.  This week included-

  • New Ford Explorer Debut (Link)
  • Leaked Jeep Wrangler Interior (Link)
  • 200C drawings out and 900 new workers and second shift at Chrysler plant (Link) (Link)
  • 2011 Porsche Hybrid (Link)
  • Chevrolet Captiva Photos with no cammo (Link)

This week we continue with the new segment called car spotting.  Justin spotted a 1980 Corvette Indy Pace Car, Detomasso Pantera, 1960s jaguar e type convertible, Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, possibally a Pagoni Zonda.  Tony & I lead boring lives the last few weeks in comparison to Justin, thus we spotted nothing exciting.

Next came our main topic which was discussing features we would like to see in all cars. (Link)
Last we plug our respective blogs, Cheers and Gears,  AutoBird Blog and Accelerate Mpls.

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First Drive – 2011 Chevrolet Cruze: Bringing Good Vibrations?

Chevrolet Cavalier and Cobalt, both cars that well……you know that song Good Vibrations?  What is the opposite of that song?  That is what comes to mind.  There isn’t exactly a stellar legacy left by those nameplates.  Saying Chevrolet has not been competitive in the compact car segment in a while would be telling it to you straight.

Chevrolet recognizes this and is looking to not only be competitive in the segment, but they say class-leading with the new 2011 Cruze.  Have they over-promised again, or do we finally have good vibrations?

The Cruze has been trotted out at plenty of auto shows last season, so we know the basics.  The base car (LS) will come with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder, while the rest of the line up (LT1, Eco, LT2, LTZ) will come with a 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder.  This will be the volume engine.

The 1.4-liter turbo puts out an estimated 138 horsepower and 148 pound feet of torque.  The base engine and Eco models will come with a six-speed manual standard.  A six-speed automatic is optional on the LS and Eco, and standard (being only option currently available) on the other models.  I’ve heard that a six-speed manual will be available with the 1.4 liter turbo later on.

They are expecting the Eco model to earn an EPA rating of 40 mpg on the highway.  I am not sure if you have been paying attention, but that is a really really good number, and a class leading figure.  The real question is whether the car will really get 40 mpg in real world driving.

In the Cruze it was easy to find a comfortable driving position with the tilt/telescoping steering wheel. The dash design is unique.

Flowing across the dash is a swath of the same cloth material found on the seats. On LTZ cars with leather seating, leatherette replaces the swath of cloth on the dash. The design is fresh and somewhat consistent with newer Chevrolet’s.

I found there to be plenty of room inside, with an airy feel inside the cabin.  One thing I found annoying was the center armrest between the front seats.  The arm rest slides fore and aft, but when in the forward position it does not lock.  It should have more tension.  When two people rest their arms on the arm rest, the slider can slide back, which becomes quite annoying.

What we did not know before was how the Cruze drove.  I was going into this with an open mind, but I have driven both a Cavalier and a Cobalt.  Neither impressed me for the segment.  In the Cruze, you turn the key and slam the gas – the 1.4 liter turbo hits max torque at a mere 1,850 rpm.

From a stop the Cruze is decent off the line, but by about 10 mph the turbo has spooled up and you are off.  The power is more than adequate for driving around town, and there is no worries about making a pass on the highway.  However, this is not a sports car, and isn’t meant to be.  The electric steering is very light at parking lot speeds (almost too light?) but it firms up a little once under way.

We were let loose in the “back country” where there was quite a few hills. In those circumstances, I found that the six-speed automatic was not always hunting and seeking top gear immediately like other six-speeds.  Much of this can be attributed to the torque from the 1.4-liter turbo engine.  Since torque is so readily available, constant shifting is not necessary.  Without question, the powertrain makes a strong statement.

The Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla were on hand to do back-to-back comparison drives with the Cruze.  The first thing you notice is that the Cruze is more spacious then the Civic. In the Civic, I felt so close to the driver’s door and cramped side-to-side compared to the Cruze.  The reason for this is because the Cruze is both wider and longer then its competitors.

The materials in the Civic interior were very mixed. Some pieces were nice and soft touch, while others were cheap and unattractive looking.  The Civic’s transmission also seemed to hunt more when driving on the hills, and the engine was noticeably less powerful (less torque).

The Corolla’s interior is – well, almost a joke- and it drives like an appliance with a missing Kenmore sticker.  The Cruze is much more enjoyable to drive then the Corolla.  The suspension feels more controlled and almost European (especially with the 18-inch wheels).

Chevrolet sees the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra as key competitors.  They recognize that both the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra are about to be redesigned or refreshed.  For that reason, they did not have those two vehicles on hand for comparison.

Worth noting is the pricing.  The Cruze starts at $16,995. That is over $1,000 more then the Mazda3 and current Honda Civic.

Honda has a new Civic coming towards the end of next year, along with the Volkswagen Jetta, with a base price that is also about $1,000 less then the Cruze.  The Cruze is one of the most expensive vehicles in this segment.

The Cruze’s on hand were all pre-production vehicles.  Thus, the fit and finish was not 100%, however the exteriors were nearly flawless.  On the interior, I did find the cowl covering the gauge cluster was not flush with the piece of plastic it connected to.

Also, the center console had a little cubby in front of the shifter that seemed to have a large gap in between the panel it sat with.  Again these were pre-production vehicles, so we’ll see if these two small gripes are corrected in production vehicles. Of note is that Chevrolet only had Cruze’s on hand with the 1.4 liter turbo, not the base 1.8 liter. They were also LTZ  or LT models – no Eco or LS models were available.

So back to the original question, does this car deliver on the promise of a good compact sedan? Chevrolet makes the claim that the Cruze brings midsize sedan amenities and quietness to the compact car segment.  I truly believe that claim is justified.

The car is definitely competitive with the current competition. With the new Focus and Elantra on the way though, is it enough?  For once, the main problem is not the car – it will be getting people in the car.  The current perception in the segment is not good for Chevrolet, so they will need to get butts in seats. Good marketing will be essential for the Cruze to succeed.  For now though, the new Cruze brings good vibrations to the compact car segment.

Full Disclosure – My travel and accommodations were provided by General Motors

Video – Overview of the 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid

Massive Pile of Chevrolet Venture Fail

I know I know, but seriously when I laid eyes on it my heart told me I must share this with the world on the interwebz. This lovely piece of fail was spotted outside the local Macaroni Grill. In fact after taking pictures I saw it later on the highway. It is as if the fail itself is stalking me. As if having the front of a PT Cruiser and the rest of a Chevrolet Venture was not bad enough, someone decided to give it a stretch! Just horrid. By the way, up close the fit an finish on that front end…yea not so much. Where do people come up with these ideas? Seriously…

AutoBird Podcast – Esp 31: “Full Spectrum”

Episode 31 starts with introducing this weeks guest Jeremy Sally from Cheers and Gears.  Moving into the garage we talk about the 2011 Lincoln MKT I was in for the 4th of July weekend, along with the 2010 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport I was in the past week. We then move along to the major news of the week segment.  This week included-

  • New 2011 Nissan Quest Minivan Images (Link)
  • Wall Street Journal believes Kia isn’t long for the U.S. (Link)
  • Mitsubishi plans on selling electric car for under $30,000 (Link)
  • California ends HOV lane access for Prius and other hybrids
  • 19 year old steals bus and crashes it (Link)
This week we continue with the new segment called car spotting.  Justin spotted a Model A Ford convertible and a Corvette ZR1 in Yosemite.  I spotted a Cadillac CTS-V sedan.
Next came our main topic which was discussing the top 20 vehicles for June 2010 (Link)
Last we plug our respective blogs, Cheers and Gears,  AutoBird Blog and Accelerate Mpls.

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Video – Watch the Supercharged LS9 V8 Being Built for the Corvette ZR1

General Motors just announced the new Corvette build experience.  This is a program where customers can option to hand build an engine that will later find its way into their shiny new Corvette Z06 or ZR1.  The cost for the “do it yourself option” is $5,800.  These engines are hand built in the Wixom plant in Michigan.  Above is a time lapse video of a ZR1 engine being made.

Source- YouTube

Review – 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid

I wanted to start this review off by stating how much I really like the current Chevrolet Tahoe. As far as larger body on frame SUV’s go, I like it a lot. When I received word I would have a Tahoe Hybrid to review, my first thought was how interesting it would be. Since I like the regular Tahoe, would I like the hybrid? After a week, lets dive in and find out.

The exterior of the current Tahoe is terrific. Changes were necessary in many areas on the exterior for the Hybrid model. These changes were for improvements to aerodynamics, which include a different grille, new lower air dam which is much lower to the ground, slight sculpting in the rear rocker panels and other little things. The wheels are also a different design, and are wrapped in low rolling resistance tires. The Tahoe is a sharp vehicle but the lower front air dam on the hybrid looks somewhat awkward to me. The lower ground clearance in the front meant I scraped the front end on a few driveway entrances. This is a full-size SUV in which I can scrape the bottom front air dam on a driveway entrance. That somewhat bothered me! I also like the non-hybrid grilles slightly better. Other then the front end and wheels, you will not notice a huge difference between the hybrid and regular Tahoe aside from the hybrid badges. Though I am not a huge fan of all the necessary aerodynamic changes, the Tahoe is still a looker and the hybrid model is not that much worse.

I also like the interior of the regular Tahoe and not many changes were made for the hybrid.  The battery pack resides under the second row of seats.  They can tumble fully forward.  The third row tumbles forward but does not fold flat like the current generation Ford Expedition and can be fully removed, but they are not light.  Make sure you do not have a bad back!  Also make sure you have somewhere to store them.  The front seats are very comfortable and will be easy to take a long road trip with.  The navigation unit is still disc based and the resolution on the particular unit in this Tahoe hybrid had a somewhat fuzzy aspect to it.  The words and everything just did not seem as crisp as other units I have seen from GM of the same variety.  You do have a hybrid mode screen where you can see exactly what is happening with the powertrain.  I found that,while it was cool, ultimately I would rather have the navigation map up or the radio station presets.  I found that to be more useful.  The gauge cluster has plenty of information to inform you what mode you are running in and how much power is coming from where.  The rest of the interior is standard Tahoe, which is nice – however a power lift gate on a SUV with this price tag would not be a lot to ask for.  Not to mention the lack of telescoping steering wheel!  Overall, the interior is a nice place to spend your time, but small changes could be made to enhance it.

The powertrain is a 6.0 liter Vortec V8 with active fuel management, along with two 60 kilowatt electric motors.  This was a four-wheel drive model, so the power can be pushed to the rear wheels or all four depending on the mode.  The transmission is a “2-mode” system that was developed in collaboration with Daimler and BMW.  The transmission essentially works in two modes, one in the city at speeds below 40 miles per hour an one at speeds above 40 miles per hour. Essentially one is a city mode and one is a highway mode.  They are trying to maximize both conditions with less compromises. It is a somewhat unique approach, seeing as most hybrids do not focus on highway mileage as much as city mileage.  I was highly impressed with the overall system.  The switching between battery and gasoline, as well as the combination of both, was very smooth.  I noticed the engine was operating in four-cylinder mode a lot more often then the Silverado I recently had with active fuel management.  This tells me that the settings are much more aggressive due to the battery and electric motor assistance.  The EPA rates the mileage at 21/22 mpg.  I saw an average of 19.6 mpg in mixed city driving.

The battery pack

The total bill for this Tahoe after options and everything was $56,810 including destination.  The only two options on this particular vehicle was the entertainment/destination package which was $2,390 and the red jewel tintcoat paint for $395.  Many features that are optional on non-hybrid models or that you need to upgrade trim levels for normally, are standard on the hybrid model – including the navigation package.  The base price for the Tahoe Hybrid with four wheel drive is $53,525.

So at the end of the week, did I like the Tahoe hybrid as much as I like the Tahoe?  The reality of it is that the powertrain and driving experience is much more seamless and refined then I imagined it would be.  I was highly impressed in that regard.  The bottom line, if you are in the market for a full-size (body on frame) SUV and care about the environment mileage numbers, then the Tahoe Hybrid delivers on the promise of better fuel economy with a refined hybrid experience.

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors