My boss and I drive the same style rental slug Toyota over here, but when his was due for service, instead of a replacement Fortuner, I spotted a 2011 Chevy Caprice in his parking spot. Having spent almost a year without a proper V-8 under my foot, I convinced him we needed to take that one out.
The staff and contributors here get a fairly standard rash of comments about perceived anti-GM bias. I don’t think it’s accurate, but it’s hard to not get annoyed with GM. Not because of their vehicles, but what they do with the good ones.
This car is maddening. It works, and it works very well. When GM recognized the need for a RWD platform for LEO sales, they imported this version after Pontiac and its impressive G-8 left the landscape. Bark M recently pointed out the god-awful job GM has done to promote this car, even after it became their primary NASCAR platform.
This particular sedan was a 2011 with just over 54,000 kilometers (33,500 miles) on the clock. 2011 was the introduction of a “new” interior and standard features. This base model had the standard rental quality plastics and faux wood but Bluetooth stereo and dual climate controls are standard features. Both are excellent, once I realized the volume was on the other side of the stereo (Australian, remember?)
Without the leather interior, remote start or full integrated navigation system; stateside this would be a great mid-priced sedan. Given the NASCAR tie in, this car would sell itself, not just to rental fleets, but to GM loyalists who believe they don’t need leather and fancy interiors but do absolutely need a V-8. Trust me, those customers are out there, I am related to a lot of them. The fact that Chrysler sells a ton of non-SRT/8 Chargers underscores my point.
I showed my southern roots very quickly after slipping behind the wheel, I had deftly turned off the stability control before making the hard 90 degree right onto the expressway. Exiting the turn I planted the throttle and was rewarded with a proper growl from under the bonnet and controlled wheelspin until the transmission shifted. My boss held the syllable he was speaking at the time as the big sedan pulled. By the time I let off he was giggling with me.
Oh Blessed Lady of Acceleration, please forgive me. I did not mean to stray from your house, I was pulled away kicking and screaming into a midsized SUV. I have missed your song and your touch. It’s so pleasant to speed up without downshifting. Just a toe prod onto the pedal and off she goes. The LS series is such a wonderful engine.
An airport pickup left me with the chance to sample the traffic manners of the big Chevy. It was fine, this is not a BMW or a Mercedes but it’s a solid platform and well mannered. It is what a RWD Caprice has always been. Here, you can option these cars to the stratosphere or just get the trim level you need. The seats are comfortable enough but not side bolstered. The driver’s seat will extend far enough back to pull my feet off the pedals completely, the rear seat is usable and I haven’t seen a trunk as big in any of my beloved German offerings. This is why it’s maddening as a fan of GM. Why does this car start in Cadillac pricing territory? Why can’t I just order a mid-level trim car?
After dinner I gave the keys back to my boss, who took the chance to mimic some of my shenanigans. Rolling slowly through a puddle from a sprinkler he floored it. Dual wheelspin and a delightful sound had all three of us grinning.
When the G8 was introduced, I was impressed but not interested. But before it all came crashing down, there was talk of the Aussie-designed ute coming to US shores. For the first time in my life, I began to save for a down payment for a new car. When it all went wrong, I was heartbroken.
The G8 was not the strong seller it should have been for a variety of reasons, and now GM is making the same marketing mistakes with this car.
On the way home, the excellent Bluetooth was streaming iTunes top downloads. Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” came on. A 550 AMG passed us, and with the slightest prod the LS put us in its wake, drafting the big German saloon without breathing hard.
“I’m feelin’ electric tonight, Cruising down the coast goin’ ’bout 99”
The next morning, it was back to the Toyota.