The Truth About Cars » Chevrolet The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Chevrolet 2014 Chevrolet SS To Pace 20th Running Of Brickyard 400 Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:00:46 +0000 Actor Chris Pratt To Drive Chevrolet SS Pace Car At Brickyard

Monday, we alerted you that the 2015 Chevrolet SS will come with a manual transmission and Magnetic Ride. Today, the current SS has thrown on some red and silver pace-car clothing to lead its tube-frame brethren over the strip of bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 20th running of the Brickyard 400.

Autoblog reports the driver behind the wheel of this SS will be none other than actor Chris Pratt, whose latest film, Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” will be in theaters August 1. Pratt said it was “a dream come true to drive the pace car” for the Brickyard 400, renamed the John Wayne Walding 400 by sponsor Crown Royal in honor of the Army veteran who lost part of his right leg during the Battle of Shok Valley in 2008.

The silhouette Sprint Cup version of the SS is doing well for itself since the start of its racing career in 2013, winning 16 out of 36 races in the previous season, and claiming nine of the first 10 events in 2014. Meanwhile, the Camaro and Corvette will take up pacing duties for the support events around the Brickyard 400.

Actor Chris Pratt To Drive Chevrolet SS Pace Car At Brickyard Actor Chris Pratt To Drive Chevrolet SS Pace Car At Brickyard Actor Chris Pratt To Drive Chevrolet SS Pace Car At Brickyard Actor Chris Pratt To Drive Chevrolet SS Pace Car At Brickyard ]]> 7
2015 Chevrolet SS Order Guide Confirms Manual Transmission, Magnetic Ride Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:00:24 +0000 Chevrolet SS

Those who were waiting for the Chevrolet SS to have a manual transmission to go with its Australian power, they can now breathe: The order guide confirms the 2015 model will that, as well as the Magnetic Ride suspension.

Jalopnik reports one of their commentariat had looked through General Motors’ online Fleet Order guide when they came upon the revelations. In addition, more of the commentariat pointed out a number of new colors 2015 SS owners could drool over, including Regal Peacock Green and Alchemy Purple; Dodge and SRT may have to dust off a few oldies to keep up.

2015 Chevy SS Form A 2015 Chevy SS Form B ]]> 95
From Czech Republic to Normandy in a Chevy Suburban Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:30:43 +0000 IMG_3227_8_9_tonemapped

My Czech employer sent me to cover the 70th D-Day Anniversary celebrations in Normandy. And since I had to take three more guys with me, as well as massive pile of camera equipment, we decided I need a big vehicle. And the biggest thing we could find was my boss’ 2010 Suburban Z71. Which is obviously an excellent choice for rural roads in France. Here’s how it went.

As you probably noticed from my previous articles, I’m a sucker for large, rear-wheel-drive, body-on-frame boats with massive V8s under the hood. Unlike average European, I consider such a vehicle to be the norm and the ideal for the daily transportation. And it made me extremely sad to see the BOF sedan being wiped out from the American automotive landscape with the end of Panther production in 2011.

So, naturally, when I got the chance to spend a few thousand miles behind the wheel of the spiritual successor of the body-on-frame sedan/wagon. I was extremely interested in finding out how’s the Suburban in real life. I hoped that it would be close enough to a “modern day Caprice STW” for me to serve as a family car in the near future, when I’ll start caring about child seats, safety and space to put a stroller in.

Before we set off to Normandy, I had already driven the Suburban for a couple hundred miles to serve as a camera car for some motorcycle video shoots, so I had a general idea about how the thing drives, and how it works on (relatively) tight Czech roads.

My feelings about it were a bit mixed. The positive part was that the Suburban still retains the incredible maneuverability of the wagons of yore – with a narrow, longitudinally mounted engine, the front wheels can turn in an improbable angle, giving the truck a really excellent turning radius. Couple this with a squared-off body with easy to see extremities, and you can turn around or park in spaces that would present a severe problem for many European MPVs, SUVs or even larger wagons (imagine something like a Passat Variant).


But there was also the negative. With all the “SUVs are the new wagons” talk, I kind of imagined that the Suburban, with all the improvements of the last two decades, will drive much like somewhat higher, more modern Caprice. But it doesn’t. Not in the slightest.

Those of you living in America will probably find it amusing, but I was quite surprised that Suburban drives like what it essentially is. A truck. Yes, you can think that I’m just stupid European, who’s used to driving our tiny little wagons, and thus I’m naturally flabbergasted by the sheer size of this Chevy. But remember that I consider a Town Car to be a perfect, ahem, town car, so I was a bit surprised that something not even a foot longer, using similar suspension and drivetrain, drives so much different.

I’m not even sure what exactly causes the difference. Maybe it’s the height of your seating position, looking eye-to-eye with bus drivers and truckers. Maybe it’s the heavy controls, which make you feel that you really have to manhandle a great deal of weight. And maybe the Z-71 off-road package did its part, making the car quite stiff. While the old Caprice or Cadillac did have its unique way of getting around, with ultra-assisted steering and huge wheel lock working together to make it extremely easy to fling the car around, the Suburban feels much more unwieldy than it really is.


Packing up for the Normandy trip, we also saw the better side of the Suburban. If you need to carry four people and still keep enough cargo space for all the stuff you need for a six days of video shooting, the Suburban is one of the very few cars that will fit the bill. With third row seats removed, the trunk is absolutely bloody cavernous. With our remote controlled drone, cameras, tripods, more cameras, personal luggage of four people and many other things, we would be totally screwed if we used any European SUV. Touareg, Disco or X5 may look big in European traffic, but compared to this monster, they are like tiny little toy cars. The biggest problem of the Suburban was that if you put anything anywhere deep in the trunk, you have to climb inside to retrieve it – which, frankly, gets old very fast, but it’s a small price to pay for being able to haul so much stuff.

The huge cargo capacity also made up, at least partially, for the biggest practical drawback of the Suburban in Europe. After years of reading about wonderful fuel economy of the 5.3 Vortec, I was maybe a bit too optimistic about the amount of fuel needed for the 950 mile trip from my hometown of Pardubice to Merville in Normandy. I kind of expected that with all the developments in aerodynamics and engine technology made in the last two decades, the huge SUV can return numbers comparable to the old Caprices I have been used to driving.

But I was wrong. Very wrong. On the way to France, I tried to drive as gently as possible, keeping the cruise set at 70mph and hoping for something like the 20 mpg my old Caprice would get at similar speeds. The reality was 17 mph, which is not that terrible, knowing that an European SUV with gasoline V6 or large diesel engine would be just marginally better. But still, seeing the fuel needle falling with astonishing speed through the gauge was a bit shocking, as were several fuel stops on the way there, each costing about $200-250. As with the dimensions and maneuverability, I’m used to large American cars – but even compared to my Town Car, this was brutal.

On the other hand, if you don’t pay for fuel (which I didn’t), the cruising experience with the Suburban is pretty nice. Even on the stiff Z-71 suspension, it’s comfortable enough, and I imagine that some more comfort-oriented version would really soothe its driver with plushness.

Being used to the nearly silent 4.6 Modular under the hood of the Lincoln, I was a bit surprised by the levels of noise made by the Vortec. Not that I had anything against it – it’s still one of the best sounding engines available, and with its suprising (for OHV plant) hunger for revs, it was really fun to drive, especially in towns or on smaller roads. Power was more than adequate, even for a vehicle that, fully laden, must have weighed 6000 lbs.

When we got to Normandy, we were faced with a lot of driving on tiny, medieval roads, and I soon understood why so many people say that American cars do not fit European roads. In Czech Republic or Germany, most roads are plenty wide enough for fullsize American cars, and 5er BMWs, Ford Mondeos about the size of a Ford Fusion), VW Passats etc. are considered fairly normal cars. In France? Bark was right. Mini Coopers, DS3s, Peugeot 208s and other tiny cars everywhere. Most BMWs were 1 series, Audis were usually A3s etc.


Even so, it was reasonably easy to drive. The same factors that help with parking in the Czech Republic helped in driving on narrow French lanes. I just had to drive really slow, if I wanted to avoid rolling over, or melting the brakes (which are, to be honest, awful). A less welcome surprise was the four-wheel drive, which I had to use when driving on Omaha and Utah beaches for the purpose of filming. In the sand, it worked well.

But when I forgot to switch of the “4Hi” mode and was greeted by terrible screeching noise in the first corner, I was a bit surprised. I doubt that typical Suburban owners anywhere will venture in any kind of off-roading terrain, but I’m pretty sure that lots of them will encounter icy roads, wet roads and other adverse conditions, which would make full-time 4×4 pretty useful. I know that Escalade has full-time four-wheel drive, and I guess that Suburban has it available as an option, butthis configuration makes it basically a huge rear-wheel-drive wagon with terrible fuel economy and center of gravity somewhere in the ionosphere.

All of this would be pretty much excusable, as the Suburban offers unbeatable space inside, making it perfect for long trips with lots of people and things. But the return trip, for which I finally relegated the driving duties to someone else and went to sleep in the second row of seats, revealed one last, and for me hardly believable downside of the huge SUV.

That there is no damned space on the second row seats. Maybe there’s some way to move the second row further rearward, but I haven’t found it and my boss, the owner of the truck, insists such thing is not possible with this configuration. Which means that the rear (second row) legroom is severely lacking for me (about 5′ 11”) to sit “behind myself”. Which would be excusable in a compact SUV, based on a B-segment car. Or in a large coupe. Or in many other things, but definitely not in a nearly 6-meter long behemoth of an SUV.


So, what’s the verdict? I really wanted to like the Suburban. I wanted it to be a worthy Caprice STW replacement. I even wanted it to be my next family vehicle in a few years. But I don’t, anymore. The Suburban is, above all, the perfect illustration of why CAFE sucks. Had it not been for stupid regulations, America could’ve still produced large, practical wagons with reasonable fuel economy, reasonable handling and brakes good enough to stop the car more than once without overheating.

Instead, you got this. It’s not a bad truck per se. In fact, it’s pretty good at what it’s designed to do – haul or tow loads of stuff, look and sound imposing, and keep doing it for long time without breaking down. But as a family vehicle? It sucks ungodly amounts of gas, it doesn’t handle, it doesn’t brake and it makes you feel like a trucker.

Maybe it will be cool in 10 or 20 years, in the same way finned monsters from 50s or absurdly huge personal luxury coupes from 1960s and 1970s are cool now. But now? Nope.

IMG_3227_8_9_tonemapped IMG_322 10444556_10203201451511605_6223039164841691093_n 10365947_10203201207945516_6310008170277470817_n 10345849_10203191911353107_384142668236823968_n 10418977_10203191911153102_4097715072918992549_n 10428710_10203191910633089_6138278676817282828_n 10442499_10203191909513061_9010808636248838053_n ]]> 45
Clean-Diesel Sales Up 25 Percent In The US For 2014 Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:00:18 +0000 2015-Volkswagen-Jetta-13

Though hardly any of the offerings can be found in a brown wagon with a six-speed manual pushing power to the back, U.S. sales of clean-diesel vehicles have climbed up 25 percent this year.

Autoblog Green reports clean-diesels are set to double their current 3 percent of total vehicles sold in the U.S. by 2018, according to Diesel Technology Forum. The group also noted the 25 percent jump is besting overall sales thus far in 2014, having only seen a boost of 4.2 percent in comparison.

As for the cause of the leap into oil-burning, consumers seeking better fuel economy find a 30 percent gain when the engine quietly purrs, especially when 27 of the 46 available clean-diesel models for the U.S. market are cars and SUVs. Winners include Audi and Chevrolet, both moving 8,100 and 3,000 units through the first half of 2014. Meanwhile, Volkswagen, lost 8 percent in sales during the same period, though still lead the way with 42,000 vehicles leaving the lot.

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Corvette Stingray Bests Viper, 911 In Sales Through First-Half Of 2014 Thu, 17 Jul 2014 10:00:28 +0000 2014-chevrolet-corvette-stingray-convertible-red-front-end-in-motion-05

The current Corvette is doing well for itself as of late, not only moving off the lot at a greater clip between January and June of this year than last, but also besting the SRT Viper and Porsche 911.

GM Authority reports 17,744 Corvette Stingrays made it to the highway during the aforementioned sales period, over three times what was sold during the first six months of 2013. Meanwhile, only 354 Vipers managed to do the same — thanks to its high price and the velvet rope surrounding the one or two models available in most showrooms — as well as 5,169 of Stuttgart’s finest during those months. Nissan’s 370Z, priced much lower than the Stingray, also fared poorly against the Kentucky-built thoroughbred, 4,114 sold this year thus far.

Within the Chevy dealership, 2,723 convertibles and coupes left the lot in June, down from 3,328 in May. National Automobile Dealers Association forecasts the Corvette Stingray is on pace to hit 35,000 sold by the end of 2014, aided by the improved 2015 model and the introduction of the Z06.

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Reuters: GM Ignition Woes Came As Early As 1997 Fri, 04 Jul 2014 12:00:29 +0000 GM RenCen Downtown Detroit

It may have taken nearly 14 years for one ignition switch issue to finally find attention, but General Motors’ ignition woes go as far back as 1997, when Chevrolet Malibu owners had their own switch problems.

Reuters reports one of the earliest complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was in April of that year, when a New Jersey woman said she had been stuck on the road seven times with her new Malibu due to the switch’s inability to turn and the key stuck in place. The defective part was replaced twice, but to no avail. Other complaints include the key being easily removable while the power was still on, and power suddenly cutting out.

By 2001, when the 2000 Chevrolet Impala experienced its own ignition issues similar to those in the Malibu and, further on, the Cobalt and Saturn Ion, GM sent a pair of service bulletins to its dealership network, offering potential solutions to remedy the problems in both vehicles. However, no recall would be issued until Monday’s order of 8.4 million vehicles.

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Capsule Review: 2013 Holden Commodore Ute Thu, 03 Jul 2014 12:00:12 +0000 ute


Luke Vandezande, Managing Editor of, submits his review of the Holden Ute.

What if I told you that there’s a parallel universe where Europeans love muscle cars, have their own country music artists and care less for political correctness than Howard Stern in his heyday. Welcome to Australia.

Holden is a subsidiary of General Motors that develops, builds and sells cars for the island. Much the same as the fierce yet faded loyalty to old Detroit iron is found among Michiganders, Aussies harbor a passion for Holden as a beacon of the country’s once-glorious auto industry.

Now, most of Holden’s products are re-badged global products. For example, there’s a version of the Spark sub-compact and Colorado mid-size pickup truck bearing the lionized badge.

Genuine Aussie cars are failing to stack up against cheaper imported products. The Holden Commodore is one of the last legitimately domestic vehicles down under and it’s sold in several variations. There’s a sedan, wagon and most notably the uniquely Australian “Ute.” It’s a modern day version of the Chevrolet El Camino, muscle car status and all.

It also might be one of the most heavily hyped obscurities among automotive enthusiasts. It has all the right stuff: an available 6.0-liter V8 powering the rear wheels, a manual transmission and looks mean enough to curdle milk. With virtually no weight over the rear end, breaking the tail loose is easier than slipping back into smoking cigarettes.

Having spent over 30 hours travelling (including layovers), I couldn’t help but wonder if I was in for a disappointment. To a certain extent, I already knew things wouldn’t be as sweet as I had originally planned. The range-topping SS-V Redline model was booked by other members of the media until long after my planned departure. So instead I borrowed the SV6 model with an automatic transmission.

It seemed the sort of hooliganism I had been dreaming of for so long would have to remain a fantasy. Still, it will be a cold day in hell when I forget exactly how fortunate I am to be in the position to borrow cars in the first place. Color me grateful for the chance to drive one at all.

I set about familiarizing myself with the car by spending two hours bombing through the winding roads west of Adelaide. The 3.6-liter V6 and automatic does not disappoint. It makes about 280 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque (converted from metric figures advertised there). It’s still worth noting that the stick is a better choice for more than the fun it offers. The SV6 is Holden’s entry-level sport Ute and as such it comes with a suspension better tuned for sporty driving than you’d expect. Manual models also come with a limited slip differential, but the automatic doesn’t.

I wasn’t in a position to drive anywhere near the point at which that sort of equipment would yield dividends, but it’s hard to ignore nonetheless. Consequently, I can’t speak to its merits. I can tell you how the slushbox V6 drives: surprisingly well.

Throttle tip in feels natural and linear. A light foot delivers moderate power while speed builds progressively when pressing the pedal further toward the floor. It allows driving for fuel economy to be easy without sacrificing any of the spirit that makes the Ute so much fun.

Electrically boosted steering essentially mutes feedback from the road, but the act of actually turning the tiller still feels responsive.

The SV6 model also comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring, reverse traffic alert, sport seats trimmed in either faux suede or leather and a soft tonneau cover. A rear-view camera, parking sensors, hill start assistance, six airbags, trail sway control, dual-zone climate control and a remote starter (auto only) are also all included in the standard equipment list across the model range.

The blind spot monitoring and parking assistance are both welcome features in the low-slung vehicle with challenging sightlines. Large a-pillars can make it tough to see through tight corners and looking for oncoming cars while waiting to turn is equally tough. At least the rear-view camera and radar sensors both make navigating tight spaces easy.

Of course, it isn’t a full-fledged truck and its ability to serve in that capacity is limited. It has almost no ground clearance and a payload capacity well under one ton, meaning any legitimate pickup truck will beat it on a job site with one proverbial hand tied.

In an effort to test how the pseudo-truck drives with a heavy load, I put approximately 525 lbs worth of beer and wine into the bed. Yes, Australians love to drink. No, this wasn’t a normal Thursday. I was helping a friend prepare for his wedding the next day. Impressively, the car’s trip computer reported 9.1 liters per 100 kilometers in fuel consumption (25.8 mpg), including cargo that would make Bo and Luke Duke blush.

Even with the multi-link rear suspension squatting under such a heavy burden, passing tractor-trailers on the highway presented little difficulty. Everything about driving it feels understandably more sluggish when loaded up, but performance remains admirably intact. Six cylinders are enough; the other two are like Vegemite on toast. It’s a lot of extra flavor, but you might not want it every day.

The two-seat trucklet is pretty tight on cabin storage space depending on driver and passenger height. You’ll have some storage to speak of with the seats slid back for maximum legroom, but it’s sparse.

Even halfway around the world, General Motors’ penchant for “frugal” interior materials is alive and well. That’s probably not enough to scare off patriotic purchasers, but the widely-used hard plastics are a weak point. Cheesy checker-pattern faux carbon fiber accents don’t help though the light blue accent lighting in the interior door latches is a nice touch.

With power adjustable lumbar support for the driver and well-bolstered sides, it might be a bit of a tight ride but at least its comfortable. You’ll feel bumps and imperfections, but it’s a pleasant place to be; even over dirt roads littered with little ridges from rainwater.

With a relatively low entry-level price and the potential for hair-raising hoonage, it’s hard not to agree with the Holden Ute’s generally positive reputation. Despite that, it’s a far-fetched option as a primary vehicle. On the other hand, it would make a hell of a supplemental choice.

And to a certain extent, it’s priced that way. Holden dropped the price of its SV6 Ute by $5,500 (AUD) for a suggested starting tag of $32,990. Strangely enough, that means the base version and uplevel SV6 carry the same MSRP. For some perspective, an SV6 Commodore sedan costs almost $5,000 more.

In an unusual twist, the current VF Commodore is much cheaper than the VE it replaces. In some cases by almost $10,000. Holden’s big rear-drivers are struggling to sell and it’s a damn shame.

GM won’t ever offer what would likely be a new El Camino to the U.S., but if that ever changed it would sure be a tempting alternative for anyone with a taste for muscle cars and a need to haul heaps of junk.

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General Motors Recalls 8.4 Million Vehicles Mon, 30 Jun 2014 22:05:04 +0000 GM RenCen Storm Clouds

General Motors has issued a total of six recalls affecting some 8.4 million vehicles in North America, the majority of which have ignition-related issues.

Autoblog reports the following group totals 7,610,862 — 6,805,679 in the United States — and are being recalled for unintended key rotation:

  • 1997-2005 Chevrolet Malibu
  • 1998-2002 Oldsmobile Intrigue
  • 1999-2004 Oldsmobile Alero
  • 1999-2005 Pontiac Grand Am
  • 2000-2005 Chevrolet Impala
  • 2000-2005 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
  • 2004-2008 Pontiac Grand Prix

The second group totals 616,179 — 554,328 in the U.S. — and are being recalled for unintended key rotation due to bumping of key fob:

  • 2004-2006 Cadillac SRX
  • 2013-2014 Cadillac CTS

The third group totals 20,134 — 2,990 in the U.S. — and are being recalled for potential damage to the engine block heater power cord’s insulation under extreme cold conditions:

  • 2011-2014 Chevrolet Cruze
  • 2012-2014 Chevrolet Sonic
  • 2013-2014 Chevrolet Trax
  • 2013-2014 Buick Encore
  • 2013-2014 Buick Verano

The fourth group totals 117 — 104 in the U.S. — and are being recalled over the Superjoint fastner not being torqued to spec prior to leaving the assembly line:

  • 2014 Chevrolet Camaro
  • 2014 Chevrolet Impala
  • 2014 Buick Regal
  • 2014 Cadillac XTS

The fifth group totals 12,002 — 9,731 in the U.S. — and are being recalled due to the underhood fuseable link potentially melting through electrical overloading, leading to smoke and fire damage to other electric wiring components:

  • 2007-2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD (with auxiliary battery)
  • 2007-2011 GMC Sierra HD (with auxiliary battery)

The sixth and final group totals 188,705 — 181,984 in the U.S. — and are being recalled over the potential for an electrical short to the driver’s door module disabling the power lock and window switches, as well as overheating the module itself:

  • 2005-2007 Buick Rainier
  • 2005-2007 Chevrolet TrailBlazer
  • 2005-2007 GMC Envoy
  • 2005-2007 Isuzu Ascender
  • 2005-2007 Saab 9-7X
  • 2006 Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT
  • 2006 GMC Envoy XL

In the press release issued by the automaker, CEO Mary Barra said her company undertook what she believed “is the most comprehensive safety review in the history of [GM] because nothing is more important than the safety of [GM's] customers.” She added later on that if any other issues come to the automaker’s attention, GM would “act appropriately and without hesitation” to recall and repair those vehicles. The automaker has recalled a total of 28 million vehicles since January of this year.

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General Motors Digest: June 30, 2014 Mon, 30 Jun 2014 13:00:14 +0000 GM Renaissance Center

In today’s General Motors digest: GM recalls over 700,000 units globally; Siemens VDO Automotive urged the automaker to look into airbag data in 2004; product chief Doug Parks was aware of the ignition problems in 2005; Feinberg compensation plan will have no payment cap; and Delphi is under the gun from both Congress and the IRS.

Autoblog and The Detroit News report the following vehicles are under recall:

  • 2013 – 2014 Chevrolet Cruze: Takata airbag inflator defect; 29,019 (U.S.), 4,066 (Canada)
  • 2014 – 2015 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra; 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, Surburban/GMC Yukon, Yukon XL: Transfer case electronically switching to neutral without driver input; 392,459 (U.S.), 53,607 (Canada), 20,874 (Other Markets)
  • 2013 – 2014 Chevrolet Caprice, SS: Potential for windshield wiper motor gear teeth to become stripped; 4,794 (U.S.)
  • 2014 Chevrolet Corvette: Insufficient welding in rear shocks of FE1, FE3 suspension-equipped vehicles; 1,939 (U.S.), 33 (Canada), 82 (Other Markets)
  • 2009 – 2012 Buick Excelle GT: Potential for high-beams to remain on under extreme circumstances; 194,107 (China)

Automotive News says in 2004, Siemens VDO Automotive engineer Douglas McConnell wrote a report urging GM to look into a possible link between airbag sensors and the loss of power via the ignition cycle. The GM-commissioned report was penned a month before the first Chevrolet Cobalts left the assembly line, and shown to five engineers working for the automaker at the time, including Matthew Craig, who currently works for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as its chief of human injury research. Declining to elaborate on the report, representative Greg Martin stated “there were several missed opportunities for GM to properly identify the problem,” citing the Valukas report to back his statement.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Doug Parks, appointed to the post of vice president of global product programs by CEO Mary Barra, was a vehicle chief engineer for the Chevrolet Cobalt program in 2005. In that role, he was a part of the cost debate over whether or not to redesign the ignition switch that would be put into the compact, stating in a May 2005 email that changing the design “appears to be the only real, quick solution.” Parks had been invited to attend two meetings in the first half of 2005 over the issue, though nothing could be determined as far as attendance was concerned.

In the present, Kenneth Feinberg’s compensation program for those injured or killed as a result of the ignition switch will pay claims to all drivers, passengers and bystanders involved in an accident with an affected GM vehicle. Further, claimants will have few hurdles to go through in being paid, including alcohol use and lack of physical evidence. Finally, the program will have no cap on the amount of money paid in total, though no word has been given by Feinberg and his time about how much will be paid per victim and their families. Claims will be accepted beginning August 1.

Finally, Automotive News reports Delphi, already under investigation by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee over its part of the February 2014 ignition switch recall, is now under the gun from the Internal Revenue Service over whether or not the supplier can be taxed as a domestic corporation. Upon emerging from bankruptcy in 2009, Delphi set up its tax base in the United Kingdom, though it retained its headquarters and executive team in Troy, Mich. Should the supplier lose its appeal with the IRS, its tax rate could rise to 22 percent effective rate, up from the 17 percent Delphi pays currently. In 2013, it paid $256 million in taxes; under the new rate, an additional $75 million would need to be paid, bringing the total to approximately $331.3 million.

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BMW M235i Bests Corvette, 911 In Consumer Reports Road Testing Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:00:17 +0000 BMW M235i HR 04

BMW’s M235i has earned the highest marks ever bestowed upon the German automaker’s lineup from Consumer Reports, while also besting the Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette in road tests whose results were recently released online.

Bloomberg reports the coupe earned a 98 out of 100 in its road test, falling one point short of the all-time leaders, the Tesla Model S and Lexus LS460L. The 911 and Corvette, packing more firepower with less comfort than the M235i, earned 95 and 92 out of 100 in their respective road tests.

Deputy editor Jon Linkov proclaimed the M235i a “dual-purpose car” that anyone “could drive to work every day of the week” without leaving the driver in pain, followed by a weekend at the track taking on the likes of the 911 and Corvette. He added that this particular BMW “has almost a direct lineage” to BMWs of the past that lived up to the marketing of “Ultimate Driving Machine.”

Neither of the trio were recommended by the publication, however, as the BMW and the Corvette were too new for reliability reports, while the 911 has below average reliability according to those surveyed.

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This Is A Rental Chevrolet Cruze With 55,000 Miles On The Clock Sat, 28 Jun 2014 15:56:35 +0000 IMG_6761

Across the vast and majestic gulf of time and space, the jimmies rustled softly when I had the nerve to review a rented FIAT 500L with four thousand miles under its affordable alloy wheels.

“OMG,” I was told, “after that monstrous amount of vicious rental abuse, which probably included everything from ‘sparking’ to ‘mudding’, there is no way any car would be anything but a floor-pissing mess.”

Imagine my terror, therefore, when I arrived at Louisville’s airport three days ago and saw this:

With nearly fourteen times the mileage of that poor abused FIAT, surely this Cruze would be a complete fright show, right?

A few years ago, I attended the Cruze preview and wrote this:

The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is a good car, although at least part of its goodness comes from the fact that it isn’t really that small. It’s well-positioned against the Civic and Corolla. I believe that it beats both of those cars in significant, measurable ways. This is what it is: a good car, a bold car, a car for which no purchaser need make an excuse or feel any concern. This is what it might be: great. That’s for the buyer to decide. This is what it is not: American.

How right was I? Only the most dedicated of GM PR people and Source Interlink publications continue to maintain the facade that the Cruze is anything other than a warmed-over Daewoo. Nor it is a small car: it weighs within seventy pounds of a Honda Accord and feels more solid than its fellow Ohio-assembled sedan on the roll. The question that I had at the time was how well the materials and assembly would hold up.

So here’s a gallery of detail photos I took. Remember, this car has fifty-five thousand miles of uncaring rental abuse on it:

IMG_6759 IMG_6754 IMG_6755 IMG_6752 IMG_6756 IMG_6751 IMG_6758 IMG_6760 IMG_6757

What do you see? I’ll you you what I see: materials that last. From the cloth on the airbag cover to the touch points where the steering-wheel leather wraps around the spoke, this car is just flat holding up. The seats have no cracks: I can’t say that about the pampered 46,000-mile examples on my Porsche Boxster Anniversary Edition, which has been Lexoled and garaged its entire life. The cloth, vinyl, and leather are staying colorfast. The shiny plastic hasn’t faded, cracked, or indulged itself in that weird sparkly delamination that a lot of modern aluminum-alike plastic seems to get after a few years.

How did it drive? Well, my initial judgment might have been clouded by the fact that I was getting out of a 1981 Impala, but the next day I drove the newest and most premium-aspirational midsizer on the market and when I returned to the Cruze my opinion hadn’t changed. It drives like a new car. I’m pretty sure the tires were replaced at some point, since the tread was deep and even across the surface of all four, but there weren’t any wrench marks on the suspension under the vehicle so I’m guessing it’s never even been properly aligned.

Smooth, silent, and heavy, just like you always get with a Cruze. Half a lifetime’s worth of hard riding hadn’t changed its fundamental qualities. I never heard a rattle and I never heard a squeak. As always, the gutless normally-aspirated four had to reach for fifth and fourth on even moderate hills in Kentucky and there was a concomitant thrashing from deep beneath the Daewoo-sculpted bonnet, but the transmission was sure and strong in the shifts, never slipping or lurching or betraying any signs of abuse.

As I drove the big little Chevy from Lousiville to Montgomery, AL and back, the usual virtues and faults declared themselves. The audio and Bluetooth system in the 2012 LT model left a lot to be desired. The seats aren’t really that comfortable, even if they are hard-wearing. And a few traffic incidents that called for heavy braking reminded me that I’ve never liked the way this car stops. But it remains a competent highway companion. The difference in noise and fatigue between the Cruze and a Civic, Focus, or Elantra is significant. No wonder the Buick people thought this would make a great Buick; it’s a great Buick even when it wears a Chevrolet emblem.

At the end of the trip, I checked the self-reported economy:


That’s just a bit better than what I’d expect from my V-6 Accord on a route like this, but the hills really hurt this car on economy because it’s underpowered. What the Cruze needs is sort of a P-51 Mustang thing. That plane needed the Merlin engine to shine; this sedan would truly shine with the Honda 2.4 under the hood. Economy, performance, and enjoyment would all soar.

I have to admit it: when I saw what I’d drawn from the rental fleet, I was excited because I’ve been waiting to see how the Cruze would do with some mileage on it. Would it fall apart, J-car style, or would it retain its construction and quality? It’s reassuring to see that the latter is the case.

At that launch event nearly four years ago, I heard Scott Burgess “interviewing” a few of the GM engineers. “Why don’t you guys take more credit for what you do on these cars?” he asked. At the time, I chuckled loud and long because anybody could see the the contributions of the American team were pretty much limited to the bumpers and the placement of bowtie emblems. But after a few years, I’m inclined to wind that cynicism back a bit. The American team did have responsibility for supplier selection and assembly design here in Ohio. The design may have come from their Korean small-car overlords, but at some point in the process somebody had to look at everything from the piston rings to the shift lever and give it the imperial thumbs up or down.

When they had to, our guys delivered. Years and miles after that delivery and its own delivery, some of them no doubt beneath the whip of the callous or deliberately hateful, the Cruze keeps on keeping on. Would I recommend one as a used car now? Absolutely. Get the ignition fixed; the rest of it’s ready for prime time.

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General Motors Digest: June 27, 2014 Fri, 27 Jun 2014 13:00:34 +0000 Mary Barra at 2014 Detroit Auto Show

In today’s General Motors digest: The automaker rescinds its stop-sale of 33,000 Chevrolet Cruzes over Takata air bag issues, recalls 29,019; Delphi turns over documents to a federal grand jury; Kenneth Feinberg’s compensation plan will be revealed Monday; and CEO Mary Barra says more recalls may be coming, but no more people will be fired as a result of the Valukas report.

Automotive News reports GM lifted its stop-sale order of 33,000 2013 – 2014 Chevrolet Cruzes due to a defective airbag inflator found in units provided by supplier Takata once the automaker accounted for all the affected vehicles by comparing VINs to the parts list. Detroit Free Press adds GM then recalled the affected units, totaling 29,019, all of them still under its new vehicle warranty. The defect, if not treated, could result in the inflator — and the airbag unit overall — catastrophically exploding or non-deployment of the airbag in an accident.

Speaking of suppliers, The Detroit News says Delphi delivered hundreds of documents related to its part of the February 2014 ignition switch recall to the U.S. Justice Department via grand jury subpoena. The supplier also sought confidential treatment in turning over the requested documents. Meanwhile, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee made public 80 emails and other documents by the automaker and the supplier illustrating GM’s struggles with the ignition switch, painting “a disturbing and devastating picture, a beyond-worst-case systemic breakdown that led to lives needlessly lost,” according to U.S. Representatives Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania and Fred Upton of Michigan.

Automotive News reports Kenneth Feinberg, the victim-compensation expert hired by GM to compensate victims of the defective ignition switch, will announce his plan Monday at 10 a.m. in Washington, D.C. Though no dollar amount will likely be pegged in the announcement, the terms of the plan could sway victims into accepting compensation over filing a lawsuit against GM. The automaker did not provide its own estimate, as well.

Finally, Reuters reports CEO Mary Barra said during an interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s “The Today Show” that more recalls could come down the pike, based on data received. She also commented on the Feinberg plan, stating her company wants “every single person who either lost a loved one or has a serious physical injury to be a part of that program.” Detroit Free Press adds that when Lauer asked if there would be more firings linked to the ignition switch, Barra proclaimed everyone who would be let go has been let go. She emphasized that the “silos of information” that obfuscated the issue were being torn down, with employees taking notes during safety meetings that are then presented to her for review.

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Impaladventure Part 2: Jamming It Home, More Details Fri, 27 Jun 2014 13:00:14 +0000 IMG_6634

After over nine hundred miles in a single night, the Impala and I bedded down in my little subdivision to wait for Mark and his U-Haul to catch up, which he did later Tuesday afternoon.

Come the sunrise on Wednesday… well, I was still asleep. But a few hours later, after airing-up the flat left rear and the flattening right front, we got on the move.


83,929 miles: Down the street from my house, I put nine gallons into the Impala. At the counter, the clerk notices my “PRS Signature Club” T-shirt. “You play a Paul Reed Smith?” he asks.

“Oh yeah,” I respond, “I have four Private Stocks, some Wood Libraries, two of the Korina Collection, a Brazzy-neck Modern Eagle, some other stuff.”

“Man, I would love to have any of those,” he offers. We chat a bit more, and I talk to him about starting my own business in my twenties and the risk/reward equation inherent in doing so. Then I walk out to the car. When I drive past the window in the ’81 Impala, I see his face drop in disappointment as he realizes he’s obviously been talking to a poverty-stricken congenital liar. It’s all I can do to not run to the house, load the Chevy’s dingy cloth interior with guitars, and return. I feel like I’ve let him down. I imagine him in prison, twenty years from now, blaming his downward spiral on me. “Yeah, man, for one shining minute I thought hard work would pay off, but then I saw that the guy was actually driving a crappy old domestic. So I started harvesting copper pipes from senior-citizen housing.”


84,190 miles: At the Love’s travel stop down the street from Kentucky Speedway, the racing vendors are out in full force and a surprisingly number of stunningly beautiful women are just milling around. I get the feeling it’s a meetup of the Bud Light girls before they work the event. Being painfully close to the Young MC lament of having no money and no car, I keep my mack game to myself. In any event, I’m more shaken than stirred; filling the tires all the way has revealed a dashboard-earthquaking periodic vibration in the Impala’s running gear. It’s enough to make my spleen hurt.


I’ve come to a realization about this 1981 Impala, and that realization is like so: There’s absolutely nothing about it that would surprise or confuse the owner of a 1955 Chevrolet sedan. The twenty-six years between the tri-fives and this B-body barely exist. The technology is basically the same. The controls are the same. The amount of available power is the same. The cars aren’t that dissimilar in size, the 1977 “downsized” car basically returning to the 1963 form factor after a decade’s worth of bloat.

Where was the progress in two and a half decades? There wasn’t any. Disc brakes standard in front, better suspension geometry. That’s it. I love these cars, I love the GM full-sizers, I love the Panthers when I’m not recovering from side-impact accidents in one, but it’s no wonder the Japanese kicked our ass. A 1977 Accord is like a spaceship compared to this thing. You can’t sit still for nearly three decades and expect the competition to do the same. The fact that the 1984 FWD fullsizers were garbage just made it worse. YOU HAD ONE JOB, guys. The pace of change in cars, even GM cars, in the years between 1981 and 2007 completely dwarfed what happened in the quarter-century before. The ’55 Chevy owner wouldn’t have any trouble operating this Impala, but fast-forward the 1981 buyer to 2007 and he’d be unable to figure out ninety percent of the ancillary controls. Bluetooth? CD player? Tiptronic shift? Push-button start? How does all this work? How do you fix it when it breaks?


Look at that trim blank. Who signed off on that? Who installed it? At any point in the enterprise, from drawing board to pre-sale inspection, did anybody give a shit? Who thought this would be good enough for the American people? The only part of this car that really holds up is the exterior styling, which is still light-years beyond the porky-pig-looking crap GM is trying to sell today. In 1977 General Motors led the market in design, if nothing else. Today they lead it in government assistance.


84,219 miles: It’s been drizzling off and on. My biggest fear on this trip was that it would rain enough to make standing water the order of the day; the Impala doesn’t have enough tread on the back tires to maintain highway speeds in those conditions and I’d be a sitting duck for semis running up behind me with the hammer down. But as the rain fades and my concerns ease, I see traffic come to a halt ahead. For the next fifty minutes I bake in the sun while the 229 V-6 stumbles and fumes, moving ahead five feet at a time. I remember the phrase “vapor lock” and I think about how the Variable Venturi carb in my Marquis wouldn’t have been able to cope with this situation at all.


Just when I think I’m going to start getting physically sick from the heat and the sitting and the general cumulative effects of the past two days, I make it past the closed lane. Just this one time, I pin the accelerator to the floor and let the big coupe fly for twenty or so miles, the windows down, pulling the heat and the agitation out, leaving it behind.


84,255 miles: Nearly there! I’m confident enough to take a detour to the amphitheater in New Albany, Indiana for some photography and a brief look around. The tires have held pressure, the engine has run as well as I could expect. A few miles off the route can’t hurt.


After some photos, it’s time to take the Impala the rest of the way, to Greenville, Indiana.

84,271 miles: Mark’s father is waiting for me as I roll slowly up the gravel driveway, waving me to a stop behind his ’67 Thunderbird. “You know,” he offers, “I think the ‘Bird is in better shape than this one.” He’s right. But that didn’t stop us from making the trip. While I unpack the car, he and I talk about the plans he has to work on the car with his son. For years, they owned a trucking firm together; now they’ll be working on this Impala in the evenings.

Here’s the thing when you write about cars, and it isn’t something you realize right away. Yeah, the new-car press events and the road tests and whatnot are primarily about the fresh metal and the specs and the performance and the plastic quality and the warranty and half the time we’d serve the reader better by just reprinting the press materials. But in the long run all of that stuff is meaningless. In the long run what matters is how we interact with cars, our human stories, the way they carry us, steel and rubber, down the skeins of our lonely existences.

This Impala has had a lot of stories. Some we cannot know; they are lost to us, though they may be vivid to the people who lived them. For the last 1,249 miles, the story of the Impala has belonged to me, and I’ve shared it with you, so it’s yours now, as well. The next chapters will be written by Mark and his family, and I can’t wait to read them.


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GM Issues Chevy Cruze Stop-Sale Over Defective Airbag Units Thu, 26 Jun 2014 11:00:10 +0000 2014-chevrolet-cruze-model-overview-diesel-cnt-well-1-980x476-01

Airbag supplier Takata’s woes continue as General Motors has issued a stop-sale of 33,000 2013 and 2014 Chevrolet Cruzes equipped with the supplier’s airbag units.

Automotive News reports the driver’s side inflator module “may have been assembled with an incorrect part,” according to a notice sent out by GM to Canadian and U.S. dealerships. Unlike the Takata inflators recently recalled by Honda, Toyota et al, the Cruze’s units may fail to inflate the airbag in a crash. Those affected are either in the showroom or already in customer possession.

The stop-sale comes at an inopportune time for dealers as the end-of-the-month sales push kicks into high gear, especially since the Cruze is GM’s best-selling car. Cumulative 2014 sales of the compact total 119,330 through May, and are currently backed by $2,500 in incentives through July 30. Meanwhile, dealers are in pursuit of big wins this quarter under the automaker’s Standards of Excellence program, where small dealerships can receive a $10,000 bonus and $150,000 for the biggest stores.

The stop-sale order may be just the beginning: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spokesman Jim Cain says GM will file an official recall notice with the agency “soon,” piling onto the 44 recalls already affecting a total of 20 million units globally since the start of this year.

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Impaladventure Part 1: 905 Miles Overnight, Just Three Mechanical Issues Wed, 25 Jun 2014 13:00:09 +0000 Impaladventure 002

Drive an ’81 Impala across half of the country? What a great idea! Do most of the driving in a single stint, after spending the day flying out to Maine? Not so great!

83,022 miles: This morning, I took a pair of Southwest 737s from Columbus, Ohio to Portland, Maine, to meet “Mark In Maine”. Well, I left in the morning, anyway. After the transfer in Baltimore, it ended up being nearly seven o’ clock in the evening when I actually get to Mark’s house. He’s pulling his third-generation droptop Camaro RS behind a U-Haul; his wife is in his high-mileage, manual-shift Outback wagon. We’re heading for Greenville, Indiana, about 1,168 miles away.

First impressions of the Impala: it’s honest and sound, but rougher than the pictures showed. This is truly a base-equipment car: the only options I see are a cloth bench seat that doesn’t adjust far enough back to fit me and a right-side rearview mirror that isn’t working. There’s no rearview mirror on the windshield, but that isn’t because it didn’t originally come with one. This is a replacement piece of glass. Luckily, there’s a replacement mirror left on the seat. Unluckily, it’s there because it was glued together incorrectly. Time for duct tape. Now I can see behind me. Something’s weird: the view is like, REALLY clear behind me.

Oh. No defroster. Funny. You don’t realize that the lines are there until they aren’t. The Impala starts with a single twist of the key and settles into an odd truncated-musclecar rumble. The transmission shift indicator is broken, but every Gen-Xer knows the PRND23 column shift on these cars by heart, right? Off we go.

Impaladventure 012

83,042 miles: Alternator light’s on already. We come to a halt, make a few calls ahead to make sure there’s another alternator available at a place that will stay open for a bit, then proceed. But not before we realize that the big coupe is seriously leaking gasoline. Like, a five-foot puddle in a minute. This is the first time Mark’s filled the tank since buying the car. Looks like we can’t do that.

“I guess we have to turn back,” Mark offers.

“Nonsense. Tell my son,” I say, swinging the wide door open with what I imagine to be a flourish, “I loved him.”

83,055 miles: The O’Reilly guys think the battery is bad. We swap it. No change in the light. But it’s charging fine. A bad ground? We buy an extra alternator just in case. The circle of stinking fuel is almost as big as the car by the time we leave. The engine smells hot. This is remarkably like a Lemons race. There might be weather ahead, and I want to beat it, so I push the 229 V-6 until the speedometer is pegged and drop Mark’s U-Haul.

83,284 miles: How fundamentally different this is from a modern automobile. It’s hideously sensitive to crosswinds, it requires a sort of tacking motion with the steering to keep it going straight, and despite its size there’s less available space for the driver than my Accord offers. I have a little “Jambox” on the dashboard, but it can’t keep up with the roar from the lowered windows. If I roll the windows up, the fuel fumes are intense. Still, by the time I do the first fillup, it’s not leaking any more. I fill it to the 3/4 mark, at which point it doesn’t seem to leak.

83,449 miles: I’m genuinely tired by now. It’s way past midnight and I’m still in New York. Finally able to roll up the windows, I put an old 10,000 Maniacs record on the Jambox and think back to my 1980 Marquis. It wasn’t a direct competitor to this Impala, not with its full complement of equipment, its 302 V-8, and its luxurious velour interior. Still, dynamically… Hate to admit it, B-body fans, but you’re right. This is a better car than the early Panther. By some distance. Even on three different kinds of tires, even with 83k miles and thirty-three years on it. It’s more connected to the road, the packaging is marginally better. Boo hiss.


83,630 miles: I think we’re doing nearly 23mpg on the trot here, but I’m driving as conservatively as I can. Time to short-fuel yet again. Briefly, I imagine that I’m an F1 driver. Ross Brawn is on the radio: “Now, Jack, we’re going to short-fuel you to get you ahead of Alonso in the rotation. But we need the maximum. Ten qualifying laps.”

“Ross,” I reply, “for sure.”


83,801 miles: The speedometer cable whines and wobbles the needle and sometimes, according to my imperfect GPS app, 85mph indicated is really 68mph and sometimes it’s 90. I become paranoid about police, slow way down, and wind up getting buzzed by a few trucks, which blows the Impala all over the place.

I’m finally in Pennsylvania but I’m beat. The sun’s up but I’d prefer to be asleep. Two cans of NOS energy drink aren’t keeping my eyes open or on the road. I make an executive decision: this trip will end in Powell, Ohio today. That will mean I’ll only be awake thirty hours in a row. I call Mark to tell him the decision and find out that due to issues with the U-Haul he’s seven hours behind me.


83,920 miles: Fuel economy’s dropped through the floor and the Impala’s become genuinely unstable in crosswinds. Something’s wrong. But I’m almost home. It’s noon and I’ve arranged for a lunch date at a sandwich shop down the street. When I walk into the place, I’m frankly filthy from sixteen hours driving a car with a dirty interior and having my hands under the hood. The khaki-clad sausage-festers having their business lunch are visibly uncomfortably standing next to me.

What a surprise for them, then, to have a six-foot redheaded Dutch girl come in and give me a big hug all over my dirty self.

“You look, um,” Kiki says.

“What you’re supposed to say,” I cut her off, “is…”

“Hmm,” is all she can muster. “Your tire’s flat.” And it pretty much is. The left rear is way down. Explains the low economy and the handling problem. There’s something very entertaining about having lunch with a very corporate-looking girl in a very corporate-looking place full of corporate-looking people while wearing the Hidden Part Of Icebergs shirt and stinking of hot oil. Everybody looks at us. Maybe they think she’s my GRE tutor.

On the way out, as I’m driving the flat-tired Impala past a group of incredulous khaki-clads, I yell back at Kiki, “I’M SORRY I DON’T HAVE A JOB!” Then I go in search of a place to put air in the tire. The only gas station with an air hose has three cars waiting. The driver of the second car in line gives me an obviously contemptuous glance as I cruise by. He’s sixty-five years old and is seated behind the wheel of a Chevy Venture. Not even an Uplander. This is what my life’s come to: being dissed by old people in the worst minivan of all time. The hell with this. I’ll drive it home flat.

83,927 miles: In the Ohio summer heat, the burble of the Chevy 229 is decidedly uneven and once or twice it seems that we might stall. Up the long hill of Powell Road, some Boomer in a CR-V honks impatiently because I’m doing 15mph. A funny thing: when I was a kid, old people drove Impala coupes. Now old people drive CR-Vs and Ventures and all this high-seat low-power no-style utter garbage. As I stick my middle finger out of the rolled-down left window, I think this: old people were cooler back then.

Finally, I’m home. Time to sleep for one million years. Tomorow, I’ll take her the rest of the way. But first, a session with the air hose. Likely the first of many.

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JD Power Initial Quality Study Shows GM, Hyundai, Porsche Leading The Pack Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:00:29 +0000 2013 Buick Encore, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

J.D. Power has released their U.S. Initial Quality Study for 2014, where General Motors, Hyundai and Porsche earned top marks despite consumers still struggling with the gizmology taking over their vehicles.

Autoblog reports GM’s Buick, Chevrolet and GMC captured more awards than anyone else in the 2014 IQS, with six vehicles winning in their segments. Meanwhile, Hyundai and Porsche were ranked best overall mass-market and premium brand, respectively, where the former reported 94 issues per 100 vehicles reported in the first 90 days, 74/100 for the latter. Porsche also dominated the IQS, having the best score of all brands surveyed.

On the other end of the scale, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ranked poorly in the study, with Fiat holding dead last at 206 problems per 100 vehicles reported in the survey period. Jeep came second-to-last with 146/100, while Dodge was just below the industry average at 124/100. Only Ram and Chrysler fared the best, matching or just exceeding the average of 116/100.

Part of the results may be due to automakers pushing the envelope on technology and new features to make consumers’ lives easier. J.D. Power Vice President of Global Automotive David Sargent says “almost all automakers are struggling” to introduce these pieces “without introducing additional quality problems.” In turn, some consumers are noting the technologies involved are “hard to understand, difficult to use, or [do] not always work as designed.”

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GM Fleet Order Guide Reveals More On 2015 Colorado, Canyon Twins Wed, 18 Jun 2014 12:00:52 +0000 2015-Chevy-Colorado-3

Small pickup fans considering the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado or GMC Canyon may like what they see once they comb through General Motors’ Fleet Order Guide, including more power and other niceties.

Autoblog reports the two midsize models will receive a 2.5-liter, direct-injected I4 good for 200 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque in extended cab models with either a six-speed manual or automatic, and a 3.6-liter V6 delivering 305 horses and 269 lb-ft of torque through a six-speed automatic for those who prefer crew cabs. Towing capacity for the extended cab twins is expected to be 3,500 pounds, 7,000 pounds for the crew cab variants.

Inside and beyond, occupants can avail themselves of the trucks’ infotainment system — in either 4-inch or 8-inch form, depending on trim chosen — rearview camera, as well as options like locking rear differential, hill descent control et al.

Future owners can have a look for themselves into what’s available for either the Canyon or Colorado. Meanwhile, diesel fans pining for information on the 2.8-liter Duramax will have to wait until 2016 to learn more about the powerplant.

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GM Recalls 3.36M Vehicles Over Ignition Problem Tue, 17 Jun 2014 10:00:55 +0000 GM-building-US-Flag

In today’s digest: General Motors issues another ignition-related recall; has fixed a handful of those affected by the original ignition recall; and unveils plans for three new compacts to be sold in emerging markets.

Autoblog reports GM has issued six total recalls of some 3.41 million North American vehicles built between the start of the new century and the present:

  • 2000 – 2005 Cadillac Deville; 2004 – 2005 Buick Regal LS, GS; 2004 – 2011 Cadillac DTS; 2005 – 2009 Buick Lacrosse; 2006 – 2008 Chevrolet Monte Carlo; 2006 – 2011 Buick Lucerne; 2006 – 2014 Chevrolet Impala: Ignition switch; 3.36 million recalled
  • 2013 – 2014 Cadillac ATS; 2014 Cadillac CTS: Shift cable/bracket separation in automatic transmissions; 68,887 recalled
  • 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500/3500 HD; 2015 GMC Sierra 2500/3500 HD: Potential poor connection of power steering hose clamp connection to power steering pump; 57,192 recalled
  • 2011 Cadillac CTS AWD: Premature rollover airbag deployment linked to gasket leak between constant velocity joint and rear propeller shaft; 16,932 recalled
  • 2014 Chevrolet Corvette: Premature passenger seat side airbag deployment linked to unbelted child and door trim in models with the Competition Sport Seat option; 712 recalled
  • 2014 – 2015 Chevrolet Silverado; 2014 – 2015 GMC Sierra: Movement of driver-side all-weather floor mats due to missing attachments in vinyl-floor models; 184 recalled

The automaker expects to take a $700 million charge in addition to the $400 million already forecast for Q2 2014.

Regarding the original ignition-related recall of 2.6 million vehicles back in February of 2014, Bloomberg reports 154,731 of the affected models have been fixed thus far. GM has also shipped 396,253 repair kits around the world to help dealer service bays repair the problem. Production of the parts has been non-stop for its supplier Delphi, where the line has been going strong through multiple shifts seven days a week.

Finally, Just-Auto says the automaker plans to unveil three new compact vehicles under the Amber project. The new compact sedan, SUV and hatchback will be designed in Europe and assembled in Brazil, with the finished products heading for emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India, Mexico et al. Potential global production is expected to reach between 1 million and 1.2 million units annually beginning around 2018 at the earliest.

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Tow Rig Capsule Review: 1999 GMT800 Silverado 2500 3/4 Ton Wed, 04 Jun 2014 13:00:41 +0000 10150805_10152175963728579_5737863623707006165_n
The last time I looked at my 1969 Chevrolet CST/10, it was a pile of disappointment. After reviving it and replacing a freeze plug, it proceeded to pop three more freeze plugs during warm up. Time was beginning to run out, my dad’s house had gone up to market and quickly sold. The truck was a long way away from driving out of Houston, and I needed to get it out of town. Time and money were a factor, I didn’t have time to spend money running a truck and trailer to Houston, just for the CST/10. Thankfully, three things lined up: A truck, a trailer, and a reason to drive to Houston. The truck is a customer’s, who loans the truck out in return for a few favors on the truck’s maintenance. The trailer came from my friend’s rally shop, which I moonlight at. And the Lone Star Region Porsche Club had invited me to partake in their refreshed autocross program at Houston Police Academy just before the closing deadline on my father’s house. Win-win, right? I packed the suitcase, tools and dog, hemorrhaged a gas pump to fill the truck, and blasted to Houston.

The biggest tool for this expedition was a venerable 1999 GMT800 Silverado 2500. A tried-and-true work truck, with no options other than power locks. Extended cab, with an eight foot bed – this is one of the longer wheelbase configurations, superceeded only by the four door “quad cab” with the eight foot bed.

The drivetrain is a gas 6.0L V8, the early all-cast iron version. Later 6.0′s and “LSx” truck engines moved to iron block and aluminum heads. The all-iron build of the early ones is a bit more stout against abuse. 300 hp and a flat 360 ft lb of torque work well at sea-level, providing excellent passing power and low end torque. To this day, it’s one of the friendliest gas engines in towing with its flat torque curve and excellent midrange power for highway use, and returns excellent fuel economy for a gas engine. I find the Ford 5.4 Modular and Dodge 5.7 Hemi from the GMT800 era were never quite as comfortable under load.

The transmission is a 4L80E, essentially a modernized overdrive version of the Turbo-400, the racetrack and workhorse hero for GM since the late 60′s. It also features a Tow/Haul mode, which changes the transmission mapping to ensure an easier day for the transmission and driver. Primarily, it holds third gear longer during climbs, and waits to lock the torque converter during hill climbs allowing the torque converter to torque multiply, allowing the 6.0L gasoline V8 to work harder under load. Four speed automatics seem archaic, but the gearing is well matched to for the 6.0.

Despite the air conditioning needing a recharge after a compressor replacement, the weather was pleasant enough for windows-down driving. In the GMT800′s, extended cabs do well with the rear vent windows open, which smoothly pull hot air out of the cab, negating the buffeting and noise with fully open windows. Cruise control was set at 70 mph, and three hours later, I arrived in my dad’s driveway.

trucks That weekend happened to be an impromptu Chevy truck convention. The charcoal short-cab/short-bed is my godfather’s, serving duty in Houston with my dad during his move. It’s a plane Jane Silverado 1500 half ton, with a 4.3L V6 and a 5-speed NV2500. The NV2500′s gearing allows the 4.3 to work well in its torque band, and even makes for a great short-distance tow rig with its compact dimensions and small turning radius. These positive attributes in the city detract from its appeal on longer drives. It simply doesn’t have the wheel base and weight for highway towing in adverse conditions. That said, it has towed 7 cars for me in the past six months.

Around town with the trailer unhitched, the Silverado 2500 rides well. The chassis soaks up irregular roads, never bucking and kicking -the rough and overly-stiff ride often associated with 3/4 and 1-tons is nowhere to be found. Think of something that rides like a firm Cadillac: It has the big-body teutonic feel with firm, well-controlled suspension movement. Brakes are excellent, with a firm and progressive bite from the hydraulically assisted power brakes — unique to the Silverado 2500 and 3500, as the regular Silverado 1500 uses traditional vacuum assist. This provides stronger brake boosting, and constant boost under heavy load where engine vacuum is low. The steering is well weighted, and with a direct but soft feel when centered. It’s never twitchy or sensitive, but does translate minor adjustments accurately. Sway bars thicker than Goldberg’s neck ensure that the Silverado 2500 feels well planted on the road.

And here’s the real trick of the GMT800 pickups: Supreme visibility. With a low belt line, and shorter overall height than most modern pickups, the GMT800s are very easy to drive in tight situations. Even when hitched to our 24 foot deck trailer, vehicle placement is a breeze. Interior ergonomics have always been great, for me. Everything is in excellent reach of the driver, and there’s ample storage. It’s basic GM plastics, but this 290,000 mile Silverado 2500 managed to stay pretty quiet inside. The gauge cluster is comprehensive and very easy to read. Real oil pressure, water temperature, voltage, and transmission temperature gauges flank the speedometer and tachometer. Dummy gauges, like “Cool” to “Hot” gauges you commonly see, are useless to me. They are often highly inaccurate, and wild swings in readings are not accurately counted by them, at times. With a comprehensive set of numbered gauges, a driver can spot a problem before it becomes detrimental. While mostly sharing the same cluster with the Silverado 1500 1/2 ton, the additional transmission temperature gauge for the Sivlerado 2500 and 3500 models is very much welcomed.


But where these ingredients truly shine is on the highway with a load. Sunday, after the LSRPCA autocross, my dad and I packed up the CST/10 with boxes of spare parts, and loaded it onto the trailer.

The CST/10 weighs just under 5,000 pounds, and the trailer is about 2,400 pounds. Properly loaded, the chassis is largely unaffected by the weight. There’s more heave in the suspension over large movements, but the truck is rarely jarred by trailer movement. Braking stability is excellent “panic” stops proved stable, dead-straight, and with aggressive and effective ABS action. Everything is well-managed in poor weather, high winds and wet roads do not easily upset the Silverado 2500.


The drive out of Houston was smooth. Thankfully, over the weekend my father and I recharged the A/C system. Life was much better after that, happily trucking along with the windows sealed tight. I took a 20 mile jog  to Cypress to visit my mother’s place, and stayed the night with a fresh start on Monday. This ended up being a good choice, as 15 miles outside of Cypress my trailer lost a wheel bearing – the hub cap had fallen off somewhere along the way. With no grease, the outer bearing fell apart, dumping the outer race and rollers on Highway 290, and quickly began to overheat. I caught it early after glancing at the mirrors to find plums of smoke coming out of the fender, and pulled aside.

Thankfully, I was only 2 miles past Hempstead, a podunk farming town off the main highway. And with an extra dose of luck, I managed to break down in front of a custom golf cart shop, which managed to have tons of space to drop trailer and backtrack to Hempstead. My dog, Quesa, happily wondered around the gravel parking lot, taking in every smell possible. Hempsted is still the old south, in the “yes sir, yes ma’am” tradition. It’s a place where you can leave a truck running while inside a parts store, to keep your dog cool, and not have to worry about anyone tampering with it.


10313830_10152176743973579_8805478268548247443_nBack on the highway, the Silverado 2500 is a smooth towing missile. With the cruise set at 70, we hummed down to San Marcos, where the truck would stay at a friend’s rally shop. A sleeping dog is a good sign of a smooth drive. Even with 20 mph crosswinds, the Silverado 2500 maintained a steady heading at all times. The overall fuel mileage for the entire trip, about 75% highway and 25% city, was 16.2 mpg, roughly $120. Not terrible.


Though late, I rolled into San Marcos around sunset, and quickly unloaded the CST/10. Back to back, you can see the strong styling elements of the CST10 in the GMT800 Silverado.

The price for one of these? Just a few grand, near me, anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 for a fantastic and livable budget tow rig. Excellent road manners, ease of service under the hood, and low running costs — these old GMT800 trucks are one of the best used-truck buys out there. With only a minor compromise in ride softness compared to the Silverado 1500, the additional hardware is worth the 2500 nameplate and both are valued near the same. Truly the last of the modest fullsize pickups.

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Akerson: Barra Did Not Know About Ignition Defect Before Becoming CEO Thu, 29 May 2014 13:00:03 +0000 Dan Akerson

Automotive News reports former General Motors CEO Dan Akerson proclaimed in an interview with Forbes magazine that current CEO Mary Barra had no knowledge of the out-of-spec ignition switch that led to the February 2014 recall of 2.6 million vehicles, going as far as to bet his own life on the statement. Barra added the fallout from the recall is a chance for GM to not only “do the right thing and serve the customer well through” the crisis, but “to accelerate cultural change” within the company. Akerson passed the torch to Barra in December 2013 to take time to care for his ailing wife, and has since rejoined Carlyle Group as vice chairman on its board of directors.

Within the company, Detroit Free Press reports morale is up despite the numerous recalls levied upon the automaker, according to global product boss Mark Reuss. He states the results of an internal survey among GM’s global employees are higher than those found in 2012, citing a renewed focus on corporate transparency since the recall crisis began. Finally, Reuss told reporters at an event focused upon this weekend’s Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix that the C8 Corvette is now being developed, and did not rule out the possibility for electric and/or hybrid power for the upcoming sports car.

Speaking of GM’s recall parade, Ward’s Auto says the automaker released a document of its recall activities thus far in 2014, which is available to interested parties through a special site set up by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The document focuses on recalls in the United States and North America through Q1 and Q2 2014, with the current totals as of May 21, 2014 standing at 13.8 million in the U.S. and 15.8 in North America.

In compact car news, Automotive News reports GM India will begin exporting compact and subcompact vehicles during the second half of 2014 to help better use capacity of the Talegaon plant as the local market slows down. LHD variants of the Chevrolet Beat — Spark in the U.S. — will be the first to see a trip to the docks, destined to arrive in Chile Q1 2015, a reflection of the boosted confidence in quality at the plant, according to president Arvind Saxena. GM’s utilization rate is the lowest among all automakers in India at 28 percent, contributing to an overall local industry total of 55 percent production capacity used in 2013; the automaker’s two factories produce a combined capacity of 282,000 annually.

Finally, CarNewsChina has new spy shots of the upcoming Chevrolet Aveo hatchback set to enter the market July 10. The automaker’s best-selling compact will retain the 1.4- and 1.6-liter engines of the outgoing models, with five-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions available to deliver between 103 and 121 horsepower to the front wheels. The hatch will follow the redesigned sedan, the latter due next month.

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Barclays: GM Recall Parade To Last Into Mid-Summer Fri, 23 May 2014 10:00:04 +0000 Blurry Renaissance Center

Automotive News reports General Motors’ recall parade could, according to Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson, last well into the middle of the summer season. The data mining conducted by the automaker’s team of 60 safety investigators on 10 sources reporting potential problems — including consumer complaints and reports from its dealership network — will likely bring more recall requests before GM’s senior executives. Johnson adds that the investigators are working on likely defects on a per-issue basis instead of per-vehicle, which may mean a number of vehicles will be called back multiple times as the recall parade marches on; he also notes that its hard to discern if recalls of past vehicles have already peaked.

Detroit Free Press says GM product chief Mark Reuss will be leading a new team of five execs in choosing who all will be on the parade route, determining when and if a recall should be issued on any given vehicle with a potential problem. The team’s creation aims to accelerate the automaker’s response to said safety concerns, as well as better enable communication with its consumer base and the federal government. In addition, the 60 investigators, led by global safety boss Jeff Boyer, will comb social media to gather evidence of problems that haven’t been found from within.

Over in Canada, Reuters reports government officials are investigating GM Canada over the possibility that, much like the mothership across the border, it, too, delayed product recalls. Transport Minister Lisa Raitt instructed her group of officials to ask GM Canada “when did they find out” about the out-of-spec ignition switch, proclaiming that if they knew before the recall was issued, the Canadian subsidiary “could be in violation of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.” If found guilty, GM Canada could be fined anywhere between $100,000 and $1 million CAN depending on the conviction issued, far less than the $35 million levied against GM by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration earlier this month.

The Detroit News reports those affected by the recalls of newer vehicles, including the 2014 Cadillac CTS and 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, are receiving free loaner vehicles much like those affected by the February 2014 ignition switch recall. In the case of Cadillac, however, the free loaners are standard practice for recalls related to the brand’s products, as they fall under warranty. Meanwhile, the Chevrolet and GMC loaner programs, according to spokeswoman Ryndee Carney, was at the automaker’s discretion; as the recall involves tie-rod defects — including a park-it-now notice — GM made the decision “to offer owners of those trucks courtesy transportation.”

Finally, Automotive News says those who purchase a 2015 Chevrolet Impala with the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder will include stop-start technology as standard equipment, which aims to boost the engine’s fuel efficiency by 5 percent. According to spokesman Chad Lyons, the stop-start tech “will become more prevalent in GM vehicles” as time goes on; the 2.5-liter Impala is the second to have the tech standard, after the 2014 Malibu. Those who prefer their Impala to come with more power via the 3.6-liter V6, stop-start won’t be available standard due the engine’s heavier weight negating potential fuel savings.

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EVs, PHEVs Faring Better Than Hybrids In Fourth-Year Sales Comparison Wed, 21 May 2014 12:00:06 +0000 chevy volt cop car_l

Though it may appear EVs and PHEVs aren’t flying out of showrooms in comparison to Toyota Camrys and Ford F-150s, IHS Automotive says that in comparison to hybrids, the electrified offerings are faring better in their fourth year of sales.

Autoblog Green reports the research group found that in 2013, cumulative sales of the Nissan Leaf reached 100,000, while those of the Chevrolet Volt hit 70,000 in the same four-year period. Meanwhile, the first-generation Toyota Prius only managed 52,000 after four years of accumulated sales. Unlike the Prius when it first arrived, though, EVs and PHEVs have had help from federal and state tax credits, inflating sales more than where they would have been otherwise.

That said, IHS notes the market is still in the early stages of growth, with most EV/PHEV owners still in possession of their first such vehicles. Analyst Ben Scott, however, states 2014 will be the year PHEVs pull ahead of their fully electric siblings thanks to their gasoline-powered range extenders. Scott added that by 2020, the ratio between the two approaches to automotive electrification will be 55:45 in favor of the PHEV.

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GM Ready To Introduce Seat-Belt Interlock System In Select 2015 Models Wed, 21 May 2014 10:00:11 +0000 GM and OnStar Aim to Help Buckle Up America

Automotive News reports General Motors is preparing to launch a belt assurance system in a number of MY 2015 vehicles later this year, including the GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Cruze, Colorado and Silverado. The system prevents the vehicle from shifting out of park until both driver and front passenger are buckled, using weight information gathered from the sensing and diagnostic module to lock the brakes and transmission until compliance is achieved. The system is currently optional, and will be provided free of charge for those who are willing to become beta testers for GM’s latest technological offering.

The Detroit News reports the company is facing down 79 lawsuits linked to the February 2014 ignition switch recall, with plaintiffs asking for as much as $10 billion in lost resale value. Some of the lawsuits are aimed at tying “New GM” to “Old GM” by dissolving the liability protections established in July 2009 when the automaker exited bankruptcy, leaving behind responsibility for accidents linked to the out-of-spec switch that occurred before “New GM” emerged. Supplier Delphi is also named as defendant in a number of the suits for their part in manufacturing the switch. All of the lawsuits are currently on hold by federal judges in California and Texas pending ruling on which of the claims will be allowable.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the February recall may upend the U.S. automotive industry as a whole, especially in its relationship with the federal government. GM’s credibility, already perceived as lacking among the public, isn’t being helped with the hiring of “Old GM” executives, the retirement of engineers with ties to the switch, or the status quo maintained in the automaker’s legal department. As the spotlight shines brighter on GM’s problems, it will likely face the same sledgehammer used by the U.S. Justice Department when the latter levied a $1.2 billion settlement upon Toyota for its own recall issues. In turn, more recalls, cautious product development and reduced profits will be experienced by all automakers, while consumers may see satisfaction from the heightened scrutiny.

Finally, Edmunds says GM and Google are partnering for ride-share pilot program at the latter’s Mountain View, Calif. campus, featuring the 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV as the vehicle of choice. The EV was chosen thanks to its “small footprint” along with its ability to seat four while cornering past the ARCO and connecting with the Google mothership. GM says the program will combine “commuting data, analytics, telematics, navigation and smartphones to run a smart, real-time system that mixes and matches drivers, riders and cars during morning and evening commutes,” with convenient door-to-door service and flex-scheduling the main goals expected.

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Reader Ride Review: 2014 Chevrolet SS Tue, 20 May 2014 20:30:27 +0000 ss8

t’s easy to forget that the vast majority of TTAC readers have never commented on and never will comment on any article. While there are many usernames that are familiar to me, there are thousands upon thousands more anonymous readers who come here each day to peruse our virtual pages. Some may be one-time visitors who come here as a result of a Google search for a review. Others might stop in every and and then to see what crazy things we are up to.

Finally, there are those who stop in every single day. To those readers, this site and this community are just as much a part of their lives as their morning cups of coffee. But we’ll never know them. They’re simply content to read and enjoy.

It was from one of these everyday anonymous readers that we recently received this email:


I just bought a 2014 Chevy SS. It has ~ 300 miles on the odo.

I live in Alexandria VA. If any TTAC’er would like to review the car, can get here to do it, and ‘promises’ not to abuse the dear thing, then… You’d be welcome to do so for a day.


As luck would have it, I had plans to be in the Baltimore/Washington area not too long after that, and I made arrangements to meet Gene at BWI Airport to drive his newly purchased big Bowtie.

Although I have no idea what GM was thinking with the packaging and marketing of the SS (as I’ve made plain here on this site before), I feel certain that Gene was not representative of their target audience. He’s an adjunct professor at a large Washington, D.C., university and a consultant at a high-powered firm. His other two cars? A pair of Lexuses (Lexi?)—an SC 430 that belonged to his wife and a CT200h. He’s also approaching retirement but is in better shape than I am.
Gene pulled into the Arrivals area of BWI in his grayish-green Q ship, and I flagged him down. I realized that it was the first one that I had ever seen on the street. Those who complain that it looks like a Malibu…well, I won’t say you’re wrong, but you’re not exactly right either. It has a presence about it in person that surpasses that of its GM relatives, including the ones sporting big, tacky Cadillac badges.

After a friendly handshake and warm greeting, I threw my trusty Tumi luggage into the cavernous trunk and prepared to walk to the passenger side of the car. Gene smiled and redirected me to the driver’s side. Amazingly cool.
I hopped into the driver’s seat and took note of my surroundings. As a former G8 GT owner, I immediately noticed some similarities and some differences. GM definitely did a complete overhaul of the interior. While the underlying architecture may have been similar, the end result was very different. The G8 had no navigation option due to the placement of the stereo head unit—it was lower than US regulations would have allowed a nav unit to be placed. The SS has a big, full color screen right in the top center of the dash. The heads-up display was a nice addition, as well. The seats felt a little smaller and less supportive than I remembered the G8′s being.

Gene’s complaints from a few weeks of ownership were few but significant. “I hate the suede interior accents, and I don’t know why they bothered with such a tiny sunroof.” Indeed. GM appears to really be struggling with the right way to tastefully design the interior of this car. The “SS” logos in red suede that adorned the dash and the seating are not what one would expect in a $50K car. Suede. I just had to type that one more time. It’s really an Alcantara-like material, but still.
“Also, the paddles really are as flimsy everybody says they are. How much more could it have cost to put metal paddles there instead of those plastic ones? Fifty bucks?” He was right. They literally flexed when I used them to shift as we exited BWI and headed out onto the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

The plan was for me to go to the Hotel Monaco in downtown Baltimore, drop off my stuff, and then head back out to Find New Roads on which I could Drive Really Fast. The nav system was providing limited functionality at speed, so I opted to speak my destination to Siri on my phone. The parkway was a little congested, and besides, I didn’t want to scare Gene too much before I got to know him, so we kept it at or near the speed limit as we drove toward Charm City.

During our quick 11 mile jaunt, I discovered that Gene had cross shopped the SS with the predictable competitors—the 300C 5.7 and the Genesis R-Spec. He had owned both BMWs and Mercedes before, and “I will never buy one of those again. After my third ECU on my E Class, I decided I’d had enough.”

But why did he choose the SS over the competition? The answer surprised me.

“The dealership experience was fantastic.” Which made me think—$50K for a Chevy isn’t so uncommon to a Chevy store. They’re just used to seeing that price tag associated with names like “Tahoe” or “Suburban.” So maybe they do know how to treat that type of customer, after all.

The always-under-construction nature of the roads of Baltimore’s downtown provided an interesting challenge for the SS’ suspension. I found it to be a bit too soft for any serious sporting intent, but just right for daily driving around the Beltway. In day-to-day driving, or from stoplight-to-stoplight downtown, the SS never gives you any hint of what’s under the hood. It’s more Impala than Corvette in those circumstances.

However, that was about to change. After a quick check-in at the Monaco…oh hell, I can’t just give a quick description of the Hotel Monaco. It’s in the original headquarters building of the B&O Railroad, which a magnificent marble staircase and a chandelier that makes it worthy of its registration on the National Registry of Historic Places. Perhaps due to “Bodymore’s” less than stellar reputation as a tourist destination, it is easily the best hotel for the dollar on the eastern seaboard—rooms are often available for less than $200 a night. And yes, I paid for my corner suite…no sponsored content here.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes. We were heading back out onto the highway. I punched in a favorite Baltimore destination into the nav—the Arundel Mills Casino. Unfortunately, the nav wasn’t as familiar with the location as I was. It took us to a cul-de-sac on its first attempt. It then made us do two consecutive u-turns and had us headed for a third when I declared it unusable and reverted back to Siri.
But that, and every other niggling concern I had about the car, was coming close to disappearing as I re-entered the highway. The automatic transmission is full of hesitation, so rather than mess with it again, I decided to make full use of the paddles.

Holy. Mother. Of. God. This thing moved. Not in the visceral way that a Vette or a Shelby does, but not in the matter-of-fact way that a BMW 550i does, either. It sheds its pedestrian exterior like Clark Kent ripping the buttons of his polyester shirts to reveal the S on his chest. The 0-60 launch was impressive, for sure, but the car really comes to life in third and fourth gears. Feel free to look up official data and times elsewhere—what I’ll tell you is that 60-100 in this car as as good as it gets. The 6.2 liter V8 exhaust note that is nowhere to be found in first gear roared to life as I redlined the car in third gear at nearly eighty miles per hour, slicing and dicing through traffic, then shifted to fourth and continued to climb at equal pace as the omnipresent German sedans of the corridor became black and silver blurs around us.

The SS simply didn’t run out of Go. No gap was unshootable. As long as I kept the shifting decisions out of the hands of the six-speed automatic, we had no problem finding endless torque and power at the ready whenever I wanted it.

The Potenza RE050s, however, didn’t always like my decisions, especially when it came to on-ramps. The suspension that had dealt so effortlessly with the potholes of Baltimore now gave too much body roll and allowed the heavy Chevy to push its nose well past apexes. The Brembo rotors, while impressive looking, required significant heat in the brake pads to apply any serious stopping force.
Calling it a “four-door Corvette,” as other outlets have done, is pure laziness. Either that, or those journos simply don’t know what the true limits of a Vette are. The SS is much better than a Corvette as a daily driver, and much worse as a performer—which, considering its weight, is just fine.

The SS is badly in need of two things—a manual transmission and a better suspension. So guess what GM has on the drawing board for 2015? You betcha. When I asked Gene about the upcoming changes for the SS, he simply stated, “I bought it a year too soon.”

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the drive wasn’t driving at all, but the opportunity to sit down at Longhorn Steakhouse and just talk with a loyal TTAC reader over dinner. Seeing Gene’s obvious enthusiasm for his car, and his excitement about having just doubled the highway speed limit as a passenger in it, was beyond refreshing. It transcended the somewhat academic and hypothetical conversations that we as enthusiasts often find ourselves mired in.

Gene had to give a final that evening, and I had a baseball game at Camden Yards to catch, so we had to cut the evening short. As we drove back toward my hotel, something quite amusing occurred—we found ourselves behind a black CLA 250.

“Look,” I said. “A $30K Benz sharing the road with a $50K Chevrolet.” Two cars, neither what they seem to be. Maybe some would prefer the idea of the black Mercedes, as immortalized by DJ Quik. I prefer the direction taken by another Nineties rap group—the SS is, without question, a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. If you’d prefer to fly by unnoticed, the SS is the car for you. I am not sure if I can wholeheartedly recommend it over the Charger SRT-8, but it’s a contender.

Thank you, Gene, for letting us take a crack at your baby. I hope it brings you many years of enjoyment. If you, the reader, would like to have a TTAC editor review your car, contact us. We’ll find a way to get there.

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Volkswagen’s Cervone Returns To GM As Global Communications VP Tue, 20 May 2014 10:00:01 +0000 GM Next

Autoblog reports Volkswagen Group of America executive vice president of group communications Tony Cervone is returning to the GM fold as the automaker’s senior vice president of global communications. According to CEO Mary Barra, Cervone “brings an ideal mix of outside perspective and experience that compliments a deep background in GM and today’s global auto industry.” Prior to his return, he also served as the vice president of communications for United Airlines and Chrysler Group, where he spent 14 years before his decade-long previous service to GM. Cervone succeeds Selim Bingol — who resigned from the company in April “to pursue other interests,” and will report directly to Barra.

Speaking of “outside perspectives,” Automotive News chronicles the story of how a trio of Southern gentlemen helped to bring the spotlight upon the out-of-spec ignition switch at the heart of the February 2014 GM recall. Leading the charge, attorney Lance Cooper had sought answers into the death of Brooke Melton at the wheel of her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt. Cooper retained a number of experts in his case, including auto shop owner Charlie Miller and materials engineer Mark Hood, both of whom discovered the switches in Melton’s Cobalt and related vehicles performed differently than those found in 2007 and later models. The evidence gathered would help cement the settlement for his client’s family, as well as pave the way for the recall.

Moving toward the present, victim compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg may end up sorting through a mountain of data as he works out the details for a compensation package between GM and the 35 families affected by the switch. Between the time the first vehicles left for showrooms in late 2002 through 2012, 1,752 individuals died in accidents involving the vehicles under the February 2014 recall. Though the link may be tenuous in most of the cases, each one may open an opportunity for affected groups to lay some of the blame at the door of GM’s comptroller.

Looking toward the future, GM and AT&T will offer a number of 4G LTE connected-car packages beginning next month to consumers, ranging from $5 for a few hours of streaming music to $50 for several showings of “Frozen” for the little ones in the back. However, demand for the service may not be what the automaker expects, as consumers who don’t have company on the road often may wonder why they need a connected car with 4G. The concern isn’t helped by the delay of an app suite — featuring offerings from NPR and The Weather Channel — which would allow owners access without using their smartphones; the delay is over quality concerns, according to GM.

In brand news, GMC is doing very well for itself as of late, being the healthiest among GM’s four brands left standing after the 2009 bankruptcy. The “professional-grade” line of trucks, SUVs and crossovers are leaving their bow-tied brethren behind for the premium market, bumping into Cadillac more often than may be comfortable for some within GM’s hallowed halls. That said, GMC’s demographic prefers to remain low-key in opposition to the flash that brings the celebs to Escalade’s yard, even if the Yukon XL Denali is within spitting distance of the Caddy’s $72,690 base price.

Leading the charge is Buick-GMC boss Duncan Aldred, who is looking forward to where GMC will go while shaking off the shadow of Buick’s “senior citizen” image within the United States. The former Vauxhall managing director sees similarities between Buick and Vauxhall/Opel, and aims to rehabilitate its image through a marketing strategy that may use “shocking and polarizing” messaging to prove his point. As for GMC, Aldred says he sees its future “as really exciting in an Audi-esque kind of way,” with plans to push the Denali line further up the mountain toward the summit.

Finally, CarNewsChina has the first official photos of the facelifted Chinese-market Chevrolet Aveo, which takes its looks from the upcoming Cruze. The Aveo will be priced between 81,800 yuan and 114,800 yuan ($13,113 to $22,732 USD), with power from 1.4- and 1.6-liter engines under the bonnet. Made by the GM Shanghai joint-venture between GM and SAIC Motor, the newly styled compact will arrive in showrooms in June for the sedan, July for the hatchback.

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