Tag Archives: GM

Review – 2011 Chevrolet Cruze: GM Finally Builds A Competitive Compact Car

Back in September I had the opportunity to attend the press drive for the new 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. At the time I was enamored with the fact that Chevrolet might have built a compact car that didn’t suck.

You see in my lifetime (that I can remember), Chevrolet hasn’t had a class leading compact sedan. Heck, not even a really competitive compact sedan. The Cruze is set to change all that. But is it really class leading, and if it is, how long can its reign last?

The exterior of the Cruze is a mix of good and bad. The front is aggressive with swept back headlights and Chevrolet’s dual-port shield grille. The hood has a nice crease that runs down the center and around the sides. This adds to the aggressive look of the swept back headlights.

Below the headlights sit two black blank pieces of plastic. This is where the fog lights would go if you optioned for the RS package. It seems downright silly that even an Cruze LTZ (the highest trim level) wouldn’t have fog lights without an optional RS package. The front is aggressive, but they could have taken it even further.

The sides have a strong character line that sweeps from the front fenders back into the rear taillights. The bottom of the doors also have some sculpting that visually make the Cruze look less slab sided.

Around back is the most disappointing part of the Cruze exterior. Visually it will not offend anyone. The flip side of that is the rear is quite boring. It is like the designers of the front ran out of energy. Maybe they got tired one night and said, just call it good and be done with it. While I’m not sure exactly what happened, at the end of the day it’s bland. The rear blends in with the sea of cars on the road.

At one point I stated that the current generation Malibu might be the tightest screwed together car GM makes. The Cruze definitely is giving the Malibu a run for its money. It also has tight panel gaps and a solid overall feel.

Chevrolet has been bragging about the interior in the new Cruze quite a bit lately, and I must say, they have every right to do so. The materials all feel high quality and look terrific. While there is quite a bit of hard plastic inside the cabin, it all looks nice with low shine and nice graining.

ThefFront seats are very comfortable, and are highly adjustable for being manual seats. It is easy to find a comfortable driving position with the tilt and telescoping steering wheel.

Chevrolet is touting midsize sedan room for the Cruze, even though it is a compact sedan. That extra room is felt in the rear seat. Foot and leg room is more than ample and it also has a decent seating position.

The center stack features black high gloss plastic in the shape of a flux capacitor. The buttons all have a high quality feel to them. I found it notable that the climate control knobs had no wiggle and that they felt solid.

Chevrolet knows that Ford has been touting its Microsoft SYNC system loud lately, so they had to do something. The new Cruze might be one of the most tech savvy cars out of GM in recent years. The Bluetooth system downloaded my phonebook, so every time someone called, the screen showed the callers name. You can also scroll through your contacts on the screen. The USB port will read almost any device that you plug-in – my iPhone 4 worked seamlessly with the sound system.

I found it unique that the dashboard featured cloth that matched the material on the seats. The Cruze I was in featured red cloth both on the seats and on the dash. All models that have leather feature a leather-like material on the dash instead of cloth. If GM had not added this unique touch, the dashboard would be a sea of hard plastic like most of the competition. It is clear that a ton of thought was put into the design and quality of the interior.

Two engines are currently available in the Cruze, but most will be sold with the 1.4-liter turbo inline four-cylinder. This engine produces 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. This powertrain is rated at 24/36 mpg but I averaged 25 mpg in mixed urban suburban driving and a disappointing 29.4 mpg on a holiday highway trip.

Sadly, as it stands the only transmission choice is a six speed automatic. The transmission is fine, but I would’ve liked to have seen a manual option for those that like to row their own gears. Initially, reports flowed out that the transmission was poorly programmed. Chevrolet has since performed a firmware upgrade to the transmission that helps with these issues.

Overall I found transmission to be fine, though it hesitates to downshift. Acceleration is acceptable but don’t go street racing a Cobalt SS at the stoplight. Passing is its one weakness. The power just isn’t there to fling you forward, it builds slowly. Also, that manual shift capability? Don’t bother. It takes about half a second to register before it will perform the shift.

Cruze features electric power steering to help improve gas mileage. The application is probably one of GM’s best to date. Steering is light at parking lots speeds, but firms up once on the highway.

The Cruze 1LT I tested featured: connectivity plus package, 16″ alloy wheels, crystal red metallic tintcoat, and a compact spare tire. The total sticker price on this particular Cruze 1LT was $20,240 after destination. That places the Cruze at the high end of the compact car class. The Cruze isn’t a cheap compact, but it is a substantial compact car.

Back to the beginning, I was initially impressed with my first experience with the Cruze. After spending an entire week with a 1LT model, am I still as impressed? In one word, yes. I was slightly disappointed with the gas mileage, but the engine is smooth and quiet.

As for the question about the Cruze being class leading, the short answer is yes – for now. The competition is all getting refreshed and the Cruze has been on sale across the world for over a year. The new Hyundai Elantra is rated at 40 MPG on the highway across the board, the new Focus has some impressive technology available, and we don’t even know what the new Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla will bring. At the end of the day, the new Cruze is currently one of the most competitive compact cars on the market.

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by 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

Fail – Introducing The GM Escalado

Spotted by none other than the great Mark Boyadjis in Columbia Heights, MN, this mid 90’s Chevrolet Silverado has a second generation Cadillac Escalade front clip grafted onto it. Paint is for suckers. Either the front clip is still just primed and not painted, or else the front clip is black and the donor truck is white. Either way it is hideous. For the awesome blend between luxury and redneck, the GM Escalado is the only way to go.

Thanks for the tip Mark.

Video: Classic Debate – Duramax Vs. Power Stroke

In a debate as old as time, we take a moment to discuss the new Duramax and Power Stroke diesel engines in the new Ford and GM heavy duty pickup trucks. This classic debate ignites the passion in many enthusiasts.

On the left we have the new Duramax hooked to the Allison transmission. Pumping out 397 horsepower and 765 lb-ft to the rear or all four wheels, this engine is by no means a slouch. Slamming the go pedal at 30 mph will throw the traction control into a frenzy.

On the right we have the new Power Stroke which is all new and was developed in house by Ford. Pumping out 400 horsepower and 800 lb-ft to the rear or all four wheels, this engine is on paper, king of the hill. It is worth noting this engine has already received a factory software flash to upgrade the power to exceed the new Duramax power ratings.

So take a moment watch the video below and make your call, which side are you on?

Side note- I did this video clip in one take. I know it is lb-ft not ft-lb when referring to torque. I also know it is diesel not gas. I slipped on those two occasions and did not have time to do another take. Just wanted to mention those two mistakes before the war started in the comments.

Review – 2011 GMC Sierra Denali HD: King of the Luxury Heavy Duties?

The heavy duty truck wars are heating up, and until recently the Ford Super Duties have been the only place for luxury truck buyers to go. Not anymore though – General Motors has decided there is no reason they shouldn’t fight for their share of the pie.

The Denali nameplate already exists in the GMC showroom on the half ton Sierra. Making the leap from half ton to the three quarter ton and one ton pick-ups was nothing if not logical.

The Denali HD is more of a trim package then a complete package. The exterior has the same lines as the regular Sierras. It has a blunt front end that is squared off nicely and a rear tail gate that incorporate some sculpting.

The front and rear bumpers are painted , while the upper and lower grilles are finished in signature Denali chrome. The twenty-inch wheels look terrific and really set the stance correctly on this vehicle. You can only get the Denali HD in three colors: black, silver and white. Overall, the Denali trim is a very nice looking package on an already good looking truck.

The interior of the Denali HD is similar to any other loaded up GMC Sierra. There is more “wood” splashed around the cabin and leather covering the seating surfaces, making the interior a nice place to spend your time. With plenty of storage cubbies strewn about the cabin you  definitely won’t be lacking storage space.

The optional navigation unit (which the Denali HD I was in did not have) is somewhat dated, though it gets the job done. Since I did not have the navigation screen, the rear back up camera had the screen integrated into the left hand side of the rear view mirror. I noted the lack of auto up window function on any window, and only express down on the drivers window. This seems out of place on a truck of this price. The automatic climate control is easy to operate and has decent size buttons for the most part, though a few are tiny and might be hard to operate with gloves on.

One friend commented on how well the seat warmers worked on a chilly evening and was surprised to see the availability of cooled seats. The friend also commented on the fact that they have three heat intervals, which is quite nice as the competition has just on or off. The interior is a very understated place, but still “classy” as some would call it. Sometimes the competition could be viewed as over the top. This truck would not fall into that category.

The engine really is where this beast oozes awesome. The new Duramax is a 6.6-liter V-8 turbo diesel pumping out 397 horsepower and 765 pound feet of torque. That is channeled through an Allison six-speed automatic transmission. Even with that much power I still managed to average 14.6 mpg in mixed driving. While going 60 mph on a straight stretch of highway, I was curious to see how high I could get the average fuel economy up to. Resetting the trip computer, I was able to average 23.5 mpg on a highway stretch cruising at exactly 60 mph.

The new powertrain does utilize Urea injection into the exhaust system. This is the same type of exhaust cleaning system that Ford now utilizes in the new Super Duties. With this system the days of black smoke pouring out of diesel exhaust pipes is dead. The RAM Heavy Duty is the only one of the three heavy duty trucks that does not use Urea injection in the exhaust system. GM likes to note in their new marketing campaign that the Duramax and Allison transmission combination have been put to the test. With many work trucks on the road, over twenty million miles have been logged. That is no small feat. It is also worth mentioning that Ford is now on the fourth PowerStroke engine.

The power train can tow 13,000 pounds in this configuration, which is no small number. With my family’s cabin up north closed and the boats put away, I had no boat of my own to tow. My friends had also put away their boats for the season so that was not going to work. I had tried setting something up with the local Airstream dealer, but that fell through (seeing a trend?). I did finally have something rather cool planned for my last day with the Denali , but a miscommunication caused that plan to fall through (hopefully that plan will work out next time I have a heavy duty truck sitting in my driveway). So unfortunately I did not get haul something ridiculously huge with this more-than-capable truck.

Driving the Denali HD was an enjoyable experience. With more then enough power on tap, slamming the go pedal at a stop light would immediately kick the traction control into a frenzy. The steering was light, with decent on center feel for a truck of this size. You would think a truck of this size would be a handful in the city, but you would be surprised. Handling was good and the ride was comfortable. It is truly amazing how far the ride and handling of these trucks have come in the last ten years, especially considering their capabilities.

With an as tested sticker price of $58,199, is the new Denali HD king of the luxury trucks? Until now the Ford Super Duties in King Ranch trim has held that crown with no disputes. Mainly because there has been no one in the marketplace to dispute with. I have to say, it seems to me the Denali HD and the King Ranch have very different approaches to how they execute luxury and styling.

The Denali HD is a very understated type of luxury, while the new Super Duty King Ranch is a very in your face, larger-than-life luxury. Seeing how these trucks have different approaches, one might think they will attract different types of buyers. I believe that having options in the marketplace is a great thing. Between the terrific powertrain and great looks, this new Denali HD really does turn heads. As to whether it is the king of luxury heavy duties, it will come down to what kind of luxury are you looking for.

Be sure to check out the gallery below for more terrific pictures of the Denali HD.

Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

Photography – Alex Bellus

Buick Dropped The Ball And Created #GSFail

I wanted to write this editorial on Thursday night, but decided it was better to wait a few days and see how the dust settled. How would the fans react? Would my emotions on the topic change once I calmed down? The answer is no.

Buick announced the production version of the Regal GS in Miami, Florida last Thursday. It wasn’t without a few surprises. The biggest surprise of which was a lack of all-wheel drive. Most people assumed the 2.8 liter turbo V-6 from the Opel Insignia OPC would not make the trek across the Atlantic. As for the all-wheel drive, that is a different story.

Lets not forget about power output. The 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder will put out 255 horsepower and 295 pound feet to the front wheels (no, that was not a typo). This engine has also done duty in the Chevrolet Cobalt SS, HHR SS,  Pontiac Solstice GXP and Saturn Sky Redline. For all of these models you could purchase a $650 factory upgrade at the dealership that would kick things up a notch, pushing out 290 hp and 340 lb-ft, all while keeping your factory warranty. The engine has the potential.

The Regal GS will feature GM’s terrific HiPerStrut front suspension system, which in theory, should curve most of the torque steer which this beast is sure to feature.

So where are the two main problems? Well, it’s a combination of power and drivetrain. The engineers said they did not need all-wheel drive for the Regal GS. Their reasoning was the added weight wasn’t necessary and the power output did not require it. Wait, the power output did not need it? Hey, we stumbled onto the second problem!

It was initially thought that Buick wanted the Regal GS to take on the likes of the BMW 335i and the Audi S4, like the Opel Insignia OPC does in Europe. These power numbers do not put it even close to competing with those vehicles. Zero to sixty is quoted as “under seven seconds.” Are you joking? That’s slower then the Acura TSX V-6. Did I mention the new Hyundai Sonata Turbo has more horsepower and posts better fuel economy? That isn’t even a “sports car.” Don’t even think about getting close to a BMW 335i or Audi S4 in race away from that stop light.

Also high on the disappointment list is the removal of the terrific Recaro seats. The Opel Insignia OPC features them, as did the Regal GS Concept. I sat in them at the Detroit Auto Show last year – those were comfy seats.

Fans on Buick’s Facebook fan page were outraged. Many have claimed how this car just got knocked off their list. I was told by someone that three people in Detroit that were waiting for this car called the dealership and are no longer interested. My own cousin who has a 2002 Audi A6 2.7t was waiting for this car – I had convinced him this might be the replacement. Now? Not so much.

The Twitter community was just as outraged. The hashtag #GSFail was created quite quickly and really spread fast. Enthusiasts across the nation shared their disappointment.

I still remember standing three feet away from Bob Lutz at the Detroit Auto Show last year. I overheard him talking about the Regal GS to a reporter – he was smiling ear to ear, proud of what Buick was transforming into. What I wouldn’t give to hear Bob Lutz’s candid thoughts on how this car turned out.

My garage has a poster in it of the Regal GS concept car from last years auto show season. The car is something I was looking forward to.

The fact that I have not driven the car is not lost on me. Without a question, the car looks the part. In fact, it probably is still fun to drive, but that isn’t the point. The point is the car is not what was expected from the GS. It has been slightly watered down in all the wrong places, and the enthusiasts know it. The GS model is meant to be niche, meaning it is meant for enthusiasts.

Buick had the opportunity to really make a move here. This car could have stood for something, having the potential to truly ignite enthusiasts and maybe even convert a few past Pontiac owners. Now, it is another watered down product we are getting from Europe. In a discussion this weekend with Nick Saporito, I think he said it best: “the car is “good enough” with excuses.”

Sound off in the comments and we are also running a poll over at Motor Authority about whether the Regal GS meets your expectations. Check it out and vote here.

Review- 2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD: All New In All The Right Places

Big trucks and Americans – they go together like McDonalds and fries right? Well until recently, they certainly did! With the crash of the economy, the rise of gasoline prices and many people selling their recreational toys, a lot has changed.

Not as many people are buying big trucks to haul big toys around while still using them for daily driving. The overall cost is just too much.

Where does that leave us? People that really need them are buying more and more of the big trucks we see on the road. Construction workers, contractors, mechanics, and the list goes on. These are the people that rely on their trucks day in and day out, through the heat and the cold. They need the truck to get the job done.

GMC recently launched their all-new 2011 Sierra 2500HD to compete with the refreshed competition. Looking at the truck, you might not notice that it is all-new. The money was spent where it should be (for a truck), mainly on the powertrain and the frame/suspension.

The sheet metal itself is essentially the same. The main changes to the exterior consist of a larger grille up and air inlets up front for better cooling. Luckily for GMC, the Sierra wasn’t a bad looking truck to begin with.

The interior is also essentially unchanged. With a functional design, the interior is terrific for its larger buttons and gauges. It makes the truck a great work truck for people that are wearing gloves.

Plenty of storage cubbies are strewn about the cabin and the seats are firm and supportive, though a little flat on the bottoms. Like the last generation heavy duties and the current Silverados, the interior has quite a bit of hard plastic. I am glad they decided to spend the money elsewhere though instead of gussying up the cabin.

The frame of a truck along with the powertrain and suspension are, in my opinion, the three most important aspects. GMC agrees and that is where the focus was laser pinpointed. A new fully boxed frame sits beneath the sheet metal. The front suspension is independent (unlike Ford and Dodge’s heavy duties), while the rear has wider leaf springs. The ride is fairly impressive, even when unloaded.

The truck I was in was equipped with GM’s 6.0 liter gasoline V-8. It pushes out 397 horsepower and 400 pound feet to the rear (or all four) wheels, through a one choice six-speed transmission. I was impressed with the transmission programming, as it wasn’t jumping at the chance to upshift every second.

Instead, it did its best to stay in the meat of the power band almost all the time. The programming clearly is focused more on towing rather then absolutely maximizing fuel mileage, which for this type of vehicle is terrific!

I take full responsibility as I messed up – I planned poorly for having this truck. Being so swamped with Fireball Run planning, the ball was dropped on making arrangements for some awesome towing. I assure you when I have another large truck (that’ll be soon), it will not happen again.

Is the new GMC Sierra 2500HD the king of the super duty hill? Well, I honestly can’t answer that. It is without a doubt a highly capable, heavy duty hauler though.

It is refined and powerful.  However, the competition has all upped their games and I have not had the opportunity to drive all of them. I will say this – if you are buying a new heavy duty truck, you would be making a mistake to at least not take a look at the new GMC Sierra 2500HD.

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

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