Tag Archives: General Motors

Review – 2011 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Platinum: What A Cadillac Should Be

Cadillac latest advertising campaign pegs the brand as “The New Standard of the World.” But are they really? Over the past 10 years, there is no question that they haven’t been. But do vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade Platinum stand to change that?

The Cadillac Escalade Platinum stands for all the right things at the wrong time. With 22″ wheels, three TV screens and a 6.0-Liter V8, the Escalade is what many would say is wrong with America. Wait a second, what’s this? It’s a hybrid!

GM launched its two-mode hybrid system in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon full size SUVs. Both of those full size SUVs share the GMT-900 platform with the Cadillac Escalade, making an Escalade hybrid model a no brainer.

The exterior of the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid and the GMC Yukon Hybrid both feature slightly tweaked exteriors for enhanced aerodynamics. The Escalade hybrid does not feature a different front end or body work, but the Platinum edition does.

The grille is an egg crate-like design that is more in-line with the rest of the Cadillac line-up. The headlights are fully LED with a unique design exclusive to the Platinum edition. I actually like the grille design on the Platinum better than the regular Escalade.

While the headlight design is certainly unique, I’m not sure if they are better or worse. The LED headlights flood the road with natural blueish white light. This clashes with the yellow light that hits the road from the halogen fog lights. I wish Cadillac has fitted LED lights in the fog lights along with the headlights. This would give the front end a much more cohesive look at night.

The Platinum also features 22″ chrome multi-spoke wheels which put the Escalade up in the air. To help get into this land barge you have automatic step bars. They deploy as soon as any of the doors open. Around back, the Escalade Platinum features all-LED lighting.

Visually the Escalade is already an in your face, over the top vehicle. The Platinum edition takes that all one step further and in reality it looks better than the regular Escalade in many regards.

The interior takes the regular Escalade to the next level. Everything is pretty much real wood, real aluminum or one of two different kinds of real wood. The doors and top of the dash are both wrapped in leather while the center stack and anything on the dash that isn’t wood is aluminum.

The steering wheel features a nice combination of all three materials. While the Platinum features a heated steering wheel, the Hybrid Platinum does not. Cadillac decided to forgo this feature due to the energy draw. Too bad, with aluminum and wood on the steering wheel, chilly doesn’t begin to describe the feeling in your hands when it is zero degrees outside.

The fist two rows are covered in a very nice aniline leather, while the third row settles for nuance leather. In all reality, both are very nice looking and feel great. As mentioned before, the Platinum Escalade features two different types of wood inside. Both olive ash and walnut burl adorn the dash with an intricate yet tasteful break to switch from one to the other.

The gauges are white with blue needles. Chrome surrounds the gauges, which I might have thought would be distracting in sunlight, but I am happy to report it is not.

Navigation is standard, though slightly dated. The system is DVD-based which means it is not instant when changing map views and such. The navigation system does have live traffic,which is provided by XM. The main navigation screen is also home to most of the settings, the sound system and the hybrid drivetrain graphic, which shows you where the power is being routed and from what source. The sound system is Bose branded and sounds alright, but it isn’t mind blowing by any means. The Harman Kardon and Pioneer sound systems that GM has been using in other vehicles sound better.

The Escalade Hybrid Platinum features a rear seat entertainment package. This consisted of not one or two, but three screens. Why three? Because this is the Platinum. Two of those screens are seven inches in dimater and are mounted in the front two headrests. The third screen is eight inches and drops down from the top of the Escalade. There were remotes and headphones galore.

If you haven’t already decided from the pictures and all the above, the interior of the Escalade Hybrid Platinum is definitely a nice place to both be for both the driver and passengers. I would go as far as to say, the interior of the Platinum is exactly what a Cadillac should be. Granted I would give it a technology update, but that is beside the point.

The Escalade Hybrid’s powertrain is a 6.0-liter Vortec V-8 with active fuel management paired to two 60 kilowatt electric motors. The power goes through a 2-mode transmission, which is essentially a four speed. Two speeds are for city speeds, while two speeds are for highway speeds. The cutoff is at 40 miles per hour for switching from city to highway mode.

I was highly impressed with the system. It is smooth and overall very seamless. During the week I had the Escalade Hybrid it was around zero degrees the entire time. This meant that the battery pack had to work harder to hold a charge.

The engine stop-start function didn’t really kick in until the vehicle and battery were both thoroughly warmed up. So short drives did not get the full benefit of the hybrid powertrain. When I had the Tahoe Hybrid it was spring and warm. I saw an average of 19.6 mpg in mixed urban/suburban driving. With the Escalade Hybrid Platinum I saw an average of 15.3 mpg. While the weather definitely impacted my mileage, this is better than the 12 mpg I probably would have seen with the non-hybrid version.

The Escalade Hybrid Platinum I had for a week had a sticker price of $89,090. That is a lot of coin for an SUV, or any vehicle for that matter. The Hybrid Platinum is the highest trim model of Escalade that you can purchase. Is it worth nearly $90,000? Probably not. Then again I wouldn’t spend nearly $90k for a BMW X6M either, and that has 555 horsepower. The price tag seems a bit unreasonable.

With all that said, this is absolutely without a question the nicest Cadillac Escalade available, and it is a little greener to boot. There is no question that the Hybrid is more fuel efficient, especially when it is not 0 degrees outside.

I’m going to stick with my statement from earlier, defining this vehicle as what a Cadillac should be. A really nice interior filled with leather, real metal and wood, and a powerful yet somewhat green powertrain. If Cadillac can build vehicles like this and push the boundaries of technology further, they might have a chance at yet again becoming the standard of the world.

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

AutoBird Podcast – Esp 35: “Some Humor, Some Serious, Some Green and Some Kia!”

Episode 35 starts with introducing this weeks guest Craig Cole also known as the skinny one on the RoundAbout Show. Moving into the garage we talk about the 2011 Kia Sorrento EX I was in this past week along with the 2011 Honda Odyssey that just landed in Craig’s driveway.

We then move along into the major news of the week segment. This week included:

  • EPA releases fuel economy ratings for the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt
  • Electricity providers excited and nervous about possibilities of electric cars (Link)
  • Flying cars? Yes! (Link & Link)
  • GPS and iPhone radar detectors? (Link)
  • Ten worst new cars (Link)
  • Lil Pete and Lil Kenny (Link)

Next came our main topic which was discussing General Motors playings matchmaker for current Saturn and Pontiac owners. (Link)

Last we plug our respective blogs, RoundAbout Show,  AutoBird Blog and Accelerate Mpls.

Download this episode (right click and save)

First Drive – 2010 Saab 9-5: Holy Crap Saab’s Alive!

Do you remember a car company called Saab? Don’t worry, I won’t fault you if you don’t. Just this past year they almost shuttered their doors forever. Crazy when you think about it. Well, they didn’t close the doors. In fact, they were bought by another car company called Spyker. Some of you haven’t heard of Spyker either, but that is for another post.

When Spyker bought Saab, the new 9-5 was already done, ready to roll down the assembly line and into dealerships. The production process was shut down during negotiations and then restarted once the deal with Spyker was inked. With new 9-5’s showing up in dealerships right now, I was eager to get behind the wheel and take one for a spin. Let’s go for a quick drive.

Exterior-

It’s funny, because I swear I’ve seen this look before. Oh that’s right, the new front end is very similar to the Aero X concept from a few years ago. The headlights have a light pipe on the bottom and the entire lens has a blue tint to it. The front clip is aggressive but not overly so.

There is slight sculpting on the side, tightly integrated near the bottom of the doors, while a character line runs the length of the vehicle. The rear is just….gorgeous, With the Saaby (yes, that is now a word) C-pillars and light pipes that run the entire width of the rear, I’m in love. The tail lights feature LEDs which play a part as a significant design element. The rear deck lid is short, but not odd looking in person. Overall, the exterior is a huge win.

Interior-

Take a Saab 9-5 interior that you imagine, throw great materials in it, terrific seats and a flat bottomed steering wheel. You now have the new Saab 9-5 interior.  And yes, there is a flat bottom steering wheel! The navigation unit is a touch screen, but it has plenty of buttons to get you around.

While the ignition is now a push button, Saab has not forgotten its roots. The ignition button is on the console in between the driver and passenger, just like it used to be. The night panel button (another Saab tradition) also remains. Let’s not forget about the green lightning and egg crate vents with single rotating knobs. There is a few GM parts bin items, like the wiper and turn stalks, but they work just fine. The gauge cluster has that trick round center screen also found on the Cadillac SRX. The rear seats have plenty of legroom for people over six-feet tall.

There is a lot of black surfaces in the new 9-5. This leads to a somewhat darker cabin. That isn’t a bad thing, but it is something I noted. The heads up display was easy to see in sunlight and you can turn it off if it proves distracting. Did I mention the comfy seats? I’ve gone on and on. The interior isn’t perfect, but it is worlds better then the last 9-5.

Powertrain-

The first 9-5’s will come in the highest trim level (Aero XWD) with the 2.8-liter turbo V-6 as standard. This setup puts 300 horsepower to all four wheels. 2010 is a very short model year for the 9-5, and the 2011s are slated to show up very soon. MY 2011 will bring a lower priced model, with a standard 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder making 220 HP. It will be available in front-or all-wheel drive forms.

The 2.8 liter turbo in my tester builds speed quickly, hitting 0-60 in around 6.8 seconds. This isn’t a “OMG that’s fast” feeling. It is more of a silent thrust forward. You will never be thrown into the back of your seat. While I haven’t had the chance to drive the 2.0-liter turbo yet, I heard that might be the engine for the enthusiasts. While down on power, it is also down on weight. Also, you can get the smaller engine with a six-speed manual – the turbo V6 is available only with a six-speed automatic.

The bottom line? This is the car that is supposed to help save Saab. It was developed by General Motors and is being launched by the new owners Spyker. With the right marketing this car could work. Of course, the company can’t survive off one car, but that is another story. The new Saab 9-5 is everything I hoped for. Comfortable, sporty and darn good looking.

Review – 2010 Corvette Grand Sport Convertible: A Nice Slice of Pie?

Most boys when they are young dream of two things: hot girls and fast cars.  One of those fast cars typically includes the Corvette (though your situation may vary).  I distinctly remember when growing up thinking about the Corvette, although it was not until the C6 (6th generation Corvette) introduced in 2005 that my interest was truly piqued.  The Corvette has always been somewhat of a performance bargain, and that is still the case to this day.  For the 2010 model year the question is simple – is the new Grand Sport Package all that and a slice of pie, or just another trim option not worth the price of entry?  Let’s find out.

Exterior

The first thing you notice about Corvette is that Chevrolet ditched the flip-up headlights (years ago).  This gives the car a clean look day or night, and the projector lenses provide crisp cut off lines at night.  The front end is low, with a slight plastic lip attached to the front clip (careful when parking!).  Directly above the Corvette emblem is an air inlet like those found on Corvette Z06 and ZR1 models.  Directly behind the front wheel wells are two gills topped with Grand Sport lettering.  The rear quarter panels have a rear brake duct and the door handles are hidden (as with all C6 Corvette’s).  The rear features four round taillights and quad exhaust tips poking out from the center of the car.   The exterior is aggressive and taught.  More then one person noted that the headlights reminded them of those on Ferraris, and I can see how they make that comparison.  The Grand Sport hash marks on the front fenders I could go without, but they are not terribly gaudy.  The soft top is power operated, however you have one latch inside to release before lowering.  The top stows in the rear, eating into trunk space, which is surprisingly still enough for a nice weekend getaway (tested).  The rear deck is clean and flat when the top is down.  Overall, the exterior is good looking with an aggressive stance.

Interior

The interior of this car is such a love-hate drama.  I love that it is functional.  I hate that is dated.  Let’s start with the functional part – with more then enough leg room, the interior is comfortable.  The seats are comfortable for everyday driving and the ergonomics are excellent, with switchgear in easy reach and everything laid out nicely.  The head up display is terrific day and night.  OK, I am done with the good – now the bad.  This interior has aged.  The plastics are fine but nothing to write home about. The optional leather wrapped dash and door panels do their best to kick things up a notch, and it is an improvement.  The electronics are another story.  The $1,750 optional navigation system is disc based, not the newer hard drive-based system used in many of the current General Motors cars.  You want to listen to your iPhone/iPod? Too bad, there is no USB port.

Want to use an auxiliary in? Nope not available.  You pretty much need a radio transmitter to play such advanced devices.  I realize that those things aren’t what this car is about….but come on, it is 2010!

I cannot decide if I am being too picky or unrealistic but I will say on a road trip down to Iowa I pretty much just settled for XM radio since I was not going to obviously listen to my iPhone.  I would like to note that for 2011 I have heard the Corvette will get both an auxiliary port and USB port.

Just want to warn you, the center tunnel seems to get nice and warm, which you will notice if you rest your leg against it.  Oh, and those comfy seats?  They are comfy, but in no way up for what this car is capable of on a track.

So while comfy for everyday driving and highway trips, the interior is overall just fine, but it is definitely aging.

Powertrain

It is truly amazing how quickly any negatives I just previously stated fade away once you push the start button.  The pushrod V-8 comes to life with a nice raspy burble.  The 6.2 liter LS3 V8 pushes 436 horsepower and 428 pound feet (with optional exhaust), while six-piston brake calipers up front clamp down on cross-drilled rotors.  The brakes shed speed off quickly.  That power was put down (you sitting down?) through a six-speed automatic transmission.  I will state that more Corvettes then you want to believe are actually sold with automatic transmissions.

A sad but true fact.  Do not worry too much because we have paddle shifters (that might be out of a Malibu).  I will say this, while I would personally never buy a Corvette with an automatic transmission, it behaved better then expected.  It did what I wanted it to do 95% of the time.  Still, I would skip that pesky $1,250 option.  One option I would not skip is the $1,195 for that optional exhaust.  Dual mode exhaust combined with a drop top is a combination for pure awesome.

The exhaust note is tame and deep when you mash the go pedal, until about 3,300 RPM and then the baffles open up and it sounds like the devil.  You can not help but grin like an idiot.  That is just it, while driving this car it hard not to smile.  By the way, how many cars with 436 hp do you know of that are rated at 15/25 mpg?  Try that in a Ferrari!  In the city I averaged 15.4 mpg with plenty of spirited driving.  On the highway trip down to Iowa I averaged 24.1 with the cruise control set at 77.  That is nothing short of impressive!

The current Corvette has been on the market since 2005.  That is over 5 model years, and we probably will not see the next Corvette (C7) until 2012 at the earliest (probably later then that).  The first question is, does the Corvette still compete on the same level as it used too?  It has certainly aged, yet it can still keep up with the best of them.

The base price is hard to argue with too,  though the Grand Sport model I was in had a sticker price of $75,740.  That is close to a brand new Z06.  Part of that problem was the $16,210 in options.  You could pare that down easily and still have a great performing car.  I would say without a doubt the Corvette Grand Sport optioned lightly might be a better value then the base Corvette in many regards.  So yes, it is all that and a slice of pie – just be careful on those options

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

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

What if Buick Made a LaCrosse Wagon?

Have you ever wondered what it would look like if General Motors made a Buick LaCrosse wagon?  Until now neither had I.  With that said, Nick Wilcox over at Automotive Renderings did wonder just that and decided to draw one out.  Taking inspiration from the LaCrosse and the Enclave, he put together this sketch.  Not too shabby.  Suddenly I would like to see a Buick LaCrosse wagon, that is, if GM could make it look this good.

Source- Automotive Renderings

The First Time I Met The 2011 Fisker Karma – Thoughts And Impressions

I have read all the brochures and online materials, I have seen all the pictures – and the reality is none of that does the Fisker Karma justice.  I could sit here and list all of its specifications, but I won’t.  Mainly because that is not what this post is about.  Many of you have not had the opportunity (yet) to see the Fisker Karma in person.  When you do, you will remember it.  The lines and curves on this car are just gorgeous.

Lets back up a minute.  What the heck is a Fisker and what is the Karma?  Funny you should ask.  Fisker Automotive is a new car brand founded by Henrik Fisker, who is also the current CEO (funny how that works).  He was previously known for being the design director for Aston Martin and the president and CEO of BMW’s Designworks USA.  Maybe that does not mean much to you, but it equates to this: he is responsible for cars such as the BMW Z8 (one hot piece of metal), Aston Martin DB9 and the V8 Vantage (also both hot pieces of metal).  Needless to say, he has a sense of style when it comes to designing a car.

The Karma is the first car from Fisker Automotive.  With demo cars arriving at the end of the year, production should (if it stays on track) start in the very beginning of next year.  The car will be built overseas in Finland initially.  In fact, it will be built in the same factory as some Porsche’s and other vehicles.  In 2012 production will move to the Wilmington Assembly plant in Wilmington, Delaware.  This plant was recently purchased by Fisker from General Motors.  With the plant already up to date with tooling and a local trainable workforce, it is an ideal location.  The plant was previously producing the Saturn Sky, Pontiac Solstice and Opel GT.

One last thing before we get to the actual Karma –  If you have not seen pictures I will tell you that this the car is a saloon.  It will fit two sets of golf clubs in the trunk, but getting in and out of the rear seat isn’t exactly graceful.  Another car is coming in 2012 from Fisker, and it will be a more mainstream, higher volume vehicle.  Currently the project is code named Nina and it will be a midsize sedan.  I was informed it will be about the size of the BMW 5 Series, but with much more usable interior space (read really practical).  The Nina should come in somewhere around $45-48k.  Also coming sometime between the 2012 Nina and 2011 Karma is the Karma Sunset.  The Karma Sunset is essentially a convertible version of the Karma, featuring a retractable hard top.

Upon seeing the Karma in person, I really was stunned.  Yes, from the front it looks somewhat like the Joker from Batman.  It still looks great though.  Some of the design cues from the front translate to the rear and interior.  This gives the car an overall cohesive design.  Each rear fender has a “fuel” door.  On the passenger side is the gasoline, while on the driver side is the plug-in for the rechargeable lithium ion battery pack.  The front headlights feature LED running lights, while the rear tail lights are also LED.  The roof features a full length solar panel to help charge the car and provide cooling for the interior cabin while the car is parked.  I remember the early 2000’s Audi A8s had this as an option on their sunroof.  The wheels are 22 inches (!) and are made from a  lightweight alloy.  The brakes are the same Brembo setup used in the Cadillac CTS-V.  The door handles have a electronic push pad under each handle that you merely push and the door opens.  This is similar in concept to the Chevrolet Corvette and new Cadillac CTS Coupe.  As you can see in pictures, the exterior is just gorgeous.  Some might say breathtaking.  I do suppose some could say it is controversial but I am in the “it is definitely gorgeous camp.”

Ok, I can understand how someone might be mixed on the exterior of this car, but the interior is simply stunning.  This is a whole new take on luxury.  This interior feels so different from all the other luxury sedans out there.  When I think of high end luxury cars (we are not talking small volume cars like the Rolls Royce Phantom), I think of cars like the Audi A8, Lexus LS 460 and many others.  This car is completely different inside.  To be honest, when I got inside of the Karma I felt like I had just stepped inside one of the older Chris Craft boats.  With rich thick leather and real wood, the interior just felt so natural and polished, yet elegant.  Keep in mind this was a pre pre-production car.  The 10.2″ center touch screen, which controls most of the cars functions (A/C, Radio, etc) was stuck in a black loading screen (I’m guessing the software was not ready) and the car could not turn on, though the gauges were lit up and the windshield wipers worked (I checked).  Oh something to note, the engine in the Karma is being sourced from GM – though that is not the only thing.  I noticed both the turn signal/cruise control stalk and the windshield wiper control stalk were both parts bin GM.  In fact, I am 99% sure they are the very same stalks in the Cadillac STS.  Whether these are the exact stalks found in the production sedan is yet to be seen.  Also, the rear view mirror is GM sourced too.  The gear shift level (if you could call it that) has a button on the left that I assume starts the car due to it’s power symbol and the lack of any other power button on the console or near the steering wheel.  The right hand part of the gear shift level is actually a switch that gets flipped into different positions to select your gear (PRND).  Down the center of the interior is the battery pack, but it is packaged beautifully behind glass and leather.  The front seats are downright sporty, comfy and are terrific.  The rear is awkward to get in and out of, but once in the car, the seats are comfortable.  Leg room is acceptable but not amazing.  The roof line does cut into rear headroom.  Overall, the interior is stunning.

The power will come from a battery pack with a 50 mile range.  Beyond that 50 mile range, the 2.0 liter turbo range extender engine kicks in and produces 260 horsepower.  This motor is sourced from GM and is the same engine used in the Saturn Sky Redline and the Pontiac Solstice GXP.  The total range between the battery and the gasoline engine is 300 miles.  You can forget range anxiety –  this is a series hybrid just like the upcoming Chevrolet Volt.  That means the gas engine is in no way driving the wheels. Rather, the engine is connected to the battery which powers the two electric motors connected to the rear wheels.  We will get into all the technical stuff in another post some other time.

The cars sticker price before tax rebates is $89,000 and change.  I know there is a government tax rebate and certain states (I think Minnesota does) also has tax rebates on qualifying vehicles.  The dealership here, which is the one and only one for the state of Minnesota has pre-sold and took deposits for 3 Karmas.  I was told varying numbers for how many total cars the dealership has pre-sold, but the most common number I heard was 17.  Not bad at all.

So what are my final initial impressions?  Well, I can not wait to get my hands on a production model.  Considering I did not get to drive or start this one, and the infotainment system did not work, I cannot give a full impression post.  I can say it does not feel “kit car” in anyway.  The interior is just ridiculous (in an amazingly good way).  The exterior I love, but some will not.  This is for sure a legitimate automobile with a company that I frankly hope succeeds in many ways.  As for the Karma, I’ll see you soon!

Review – 2010 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ

Lets be frank, the last two generations of the Chevrolet Malibu were underwhelming to say the least.  That is actually probably being nice.  Were they transportation?  Sure, that does not mean that they would have been on my list of recommended cars.  That is all changed with this latest generation Malibu.  Chevrolet has taken this seriously and really wanted to show something with this car.  They wanted to show they could really build a good car.  This was one of the cars that started this new wave of good product.  So how good is it really?  Is this top of its class or back at the end of the line again?  Lets find out.

Exterior-

The exterior of this car is terrific.  I like the lines, the design, the greenhouse, the front, the rear, ok you are getting the picture.  I personally really like it.  I have heard some say the rear looks truncated and too short.  I like it.  The rear C-pillar is great.  The A-pillars are not ridiculously oversized like some of the newer General Motors cars.  The rear taillights on the LTZ model I had featured LED lighting and I personally think they are much better looking then the plain unit found on the lower trim models.  The headlights have a great design to them and the dual port Chevrolet grille works well on the front end.  The panel gaps are all ridiculously tight!  I do wish the four-cylinder model would get dual exhaust like the V6, especially in LTZ trim.  Overall the exterior is a win.

Interior-

Like the exterior the interior is sharp looking.  The particular Malibu I had was a loaded up LTZ model which featured a two-tone brown and cream color scheme.  The leather seats looked great and were supportive.  The fit and finish was terrific just like the exterior.  The top of the dash has soft touch material (lesser trim models do not feature soft touch material).  The wood is definitely fake.  The upgraded Bose branded sound system sounded fine but not mind blowing.  A USB port was on the head unit and connected to my iPhone quickly without an issue.  The front seat backs are scooped out to increase rear seat leg/knee room.  The automatic climate control is simple to use and the radio is the General Motors black tie unit.  Overall the interior looked nice but I know the materials fall slightly in the lower trim models.

Powertrain/Driving Dynamics-

The Malibu I was in was equipped with a 2.4 liter inline four pumping out 169 hp and 160 ft-lb to the front wheels.  This power is channeled through a six speed automatic transmission with no manual transmission as an option.  I wanted to note the base trim Malibu (LS) is equipped with a four speed automatic transmission while all over trim levels have the six speed.  The loaded Malibu LTZ I was in had paddle shifters.  I have to ask the question (you know you are thinking it) of why?  I have no real answer.  The four-cylinder model has electric power steering instead of a hydraulic set up.  I will say it never feels ridiculously over boosted at parking lot speeds and has decent on center feel on the highway.  Mileage is rated at 22/33 MPG, which are decent ratings though no longer class leading.  I came close on the city rating averaging 21.2 mpg but on the highway I could only eek out an average of 27.2 mpg.  It is worth noting that my highway average was cruising at 75 mph, which leads me to believe that if I was cruising at 65 mph I would have come closer to the rated 33 mpg average.

Ok now for some gripes.  First and foremost this car has a bad combination.  I know you are thinking what could it be.  It is simple; this is one of the heaviest and one of the least powerful cars out of its direct competitor set.  This is not a great combination to have.  This is most reflected in passing power on the highway.  Also you cannot—in any trim level or options package—get dual climate control.  The closest you will come to navigation is your iPhone or OnStar.  While such things did not matter as much a few years ago when this generation Malibu made its debut, it matters now.

Final Thoughts-

The original question was, is this car best in class or back at the end of the line again?  After a week with the car I can whole-heartedly say it is a good car.  With that said, it has flaws and that holds it back from being best in class.  That is not to say it is back at the end of the line again.  This is a good car.  Quite possibly the Malibu is the tightest screwed together car Chevrolet produces.  The panel gaps are insane, and the interior is good.  The car is showing its age as the competition has upped the ante in the powertrain, technology and feature department.  This Malibu is a good car, but the competition has stepped up their game and that is what keeps this car from being great.

Side Note-

I have seen the next generation Malibu that will be a 2012 model year vehicle.  It should go on sale hopefully in the summer of 2011.  It looks terrific. I do not know what powertrain will be used, but I can naturally assume some of my complaints with the current car will be remedied while keeping the quality I saw in this one.

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

Officially Official – Buick Regal GS Confirmed For Production

It was confirmed exclusively to the Detroit News by Toms Stephens, General Motors vice chairman of global design, that the Regal GS concept has been green lighted for production.  It will most likely come with a 2.0 liter turbo charged 4 cylinder putting out 255 hp and 295 lb-ft to all four wheels through the torque vectoring all wheel drive system by Haldex.  Thankfully we will probably get to manage that power with a proper six speed manual.  Sadly there is the possibility that the concept’s awesome Recaro seats will not make it to production.  Timing and volume were not given, though I would be bet we will see the GS sometime mid to late next year.

“Buick kind of lost its way.  We built big, floaty, quiet cars — what our customers wanted at the time.  The GS would be the next step, more performance-based,” Buick spokeswoman Dayna Hart said.

Source- The Detroit News

Review- 2010 Chevrolet Equinox V6

As I mentioned in my first review, the new Equinox is class leading, improving heavily over the original version.  When equipped with the four cylinder, the Equinox is a great vehicle.  The mileage is top of the pack in the 5-seat, SUV class and exclusive features are great, but the real question is how does the Equinox perform with a V6 engine?

The interior of the LTZ tester I had was two tone black and cream.  The leather seats were comfortable and looked terrific.  The dash was hard plastic but still looked good:  hard plastic is not out of place for this segment.  The center stack lit up at night in a cool blue but is never overpowering. The center console is able to swallow a fifteen inch laptop whole!  There is no question the interior is well designed.  One of the nice features was the back seat’s flexibility.  The back seat has the ability to slide back and forth like front seats to either create more legroom for  passengers or more cargo room in the rear.

The exterior has a strong character line that runs from the front fender to the rear.  The styling is round and a more conservative appearance than its brother, the GMC Terrain.  The headlights in the upper trim levels have projector low beams with fog lamps that put out a surprising amount of light on the road.  The exterior chrome accents on the bumpers, door handles, mirrors and luggage rail inserts all add to the great exterior looks.  The exaggerated fender flares are not aggressive and yet add to the Equinox’s stance.  The dual exhaust, only available on the V6 model, peeks out from the rear bumper with the dual chrome tips, adding the perfect finish to the rear end.

The Equinox I had was equipped with the optional V6 which costs $1,500 and puts out 264 hp and 222 ft-lb.  Combined with all wheel drive, the V6 model is rated at 17/24 mpg.  I averaged 17 in the city and 20 on the highway but I am sure it would beat the rated mpg on the highway if the cruise control was not set at 77 mph.  Both the four cylinder and the V6 models put the power out through a one choice six speed transmission with manual shift capabilities.  The transmission programming is inconsistent, sometimes pulling away from a stoplight, it would rev to 4000 rpm and then perform a lazy shift while pulling away. But then I observed at the next stoplight, while pulling away in the same manner, a quick shift occurred at 2500 rpm.  This inconsistency improved under hard acceleration and the transmission shifts quickly at redline, so, it was only under light or partial acceleration that the transmission and the shifts were slow and lazy.  Even when using the manual shift, the shifts were again lazy, reacting slowly and taking its time to make the change.

The LTZ model already has most optional equipment included as standard but the model I had was also equipped with 19″ chrome clad aluminum wheels for $900.  They looked good and finished off the exterior chrome accents well.  The total sticker price on the model I had was $32,940 and had everything other then optional rear seat entertainment.

The new Equinox is selling as fast as GM can produce them and is class leading in many respects.  The V6 provides more low end torque which means less revving of the engine to get underway although you do take a hit in the fuel mileage numbers when opting for the V6.  The real story with the Equinox is the four cylinder engine, without a question.  Some of the competition’s V6 options offer slightly better fuel economy numbers than the V6 in the Equinox but that does not change the fact that the overall package is very competitive.  Overall, I would be torn with which engine to choose if I was purchasing an Equinox although I would suggest test driving both. It really comes down to what is important; extra power, especially in the low revs, or overall fuel economy.  One thing is for sure: this new Equinox is quite an upgrade.  Now if only the transmission programming was as great as the rest of the vehicle.


Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors