The Truth About Cars » Chevrolet http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 25 May 2015 18:21:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Chevrolet http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/chevrolet/ NYT: GM’s Barra Declined Meeting with FCA’s Marchionne to Discuss Possible Merger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/nyt-gms-barra-declined-meeting-with-fcas-marchionne-to-discuss-possible-merger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/nyt-gms-barra-declined-meeting-with-fcas-marchionne-to-discuss-possible-merger/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 18:21:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1075162 Sergio Marchionne sent Mary Barra a detailed email in the middle of March in an effort to start merger talks. Barra, CEO of General Motors, was disinterested in the offer and rebuffed Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. It was the first time the two executives had ever spoken, but it wouldn’t be the last Barra […]

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sergio-marchionne

Sergio Marchionne sent Mary Barra a detailed email in the middle of March in an effort to start merger talks. Barra, CEO of General Motors, was disinterested in the offer and rebuffed Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

It was the first time the two executives had ever spoken, but it wouldn’t be the last Barra would hear of Marchionne’s merger desires.

That’s the story being told by the New York Times today, detailing the lengths to which Marchionne is going to trigger consolidation within the automotive industry.

During a routine analyst conference call on April 29, Marchionne brought his plea to other executives through the media with a 25-page PowerPoint presentation.

“I think it is absolutely clear that the amount of capital waste that’s going on in this industry is something that certainly requires remedy. A remedy in our view is through consolidation,” Marchionne said.

Marchionne’s overture of a merger with GM includes no less than 14 brands between North America and Europe, not including the many other brands each company markets in China and other emerging regions. But, to date, the overture has been played to an audience wearing earplugs.

Even with the vast number of brands, that isn’t what bothers Marchionne. Instead, it’s the amount of money poured into redundant R&D work that could be shared by multiple automakers.

“It’s fundamentally immoral to allow for that waste to continue unchecked,” he said.

[Source: New York Times]

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Greetings From Belle Isle: Crashed Camaros and Brakeless Bimmers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/greetings-belle-isle-crashed-camaros-brakeless-bimmers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/greetings-belle-isle-crashed-camaros-brakeless-bimmers/#comments Sat, 23 May 2015 15:06:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1073698 Chances are if you have an Internet connection and even a passing interest in automobiles, you’ve heard about the “Jalopnik Camaro crash.” If not, here’s a quick catch-up: Patrick George, who covers a variety of topics for Gawker’s cars-and-planes-and-wow-just-wow blog, managed to understeer his way out of a lead-follow pace lap at Detroit’s Belle Isle […]

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Chances are if you have an Internet connection and even a passing interest in automobiles, you’ve heard about the “Jalopnik Camaro crash.” If not, here’s a quick catch-up: Patrick George, who covers a variety of topics for Gawker’s cars-and-planes-and-wow-just-wow blog, managed to understeer his way out of a lead-follow pace lap at Detroit’s Belle Isle Grand Prix course and into a wall. Damage to the car was relatively minor. He was then removed from the event by GM security, in marked contrast to the kid-glove treatment given About.com writer and part-time The Onion-wannabe Aaron Gold after Mr. Gold managed to put a Camaro ZL1 in the tire wall at VIR for no reason whatsoever.

The veritable blizzard of publicity for both Jalopnik and GM in the week that followed has caused some of the more jaded observers of the autojourno game to wonder if perhaps the whole thing isn’t a masterstroke of guerilla marketing. I have to admit I had my own doubts as to the authenticity of the incident, doubts that have not been completely erased by discussions with Patrick and other members of the Jalop staff.

After watching the video a few times, however, I’ve come to believe that it’s probably genuine. I’ve also come to believe that many of Patrick’s harshest critics on YouTube and elsewhere might have found themselves “in the wall” given the same set of circumstances. So if you want to know what Patrick did wrong, why the incident unfolded as it did, and how it relates to an off-track incident I witnessed myself the day before Patrick’s crash, then click the jump and I’ll explain it all!

If you haven’t already watched the Jalopnik video, please do so now – and also, please watch the video above featuring a BMW driver who just can’t seem to remember to use his brakes. The second video was taken by the Performance Data Recorder (PDR) in a 2015 Corvette Z51 I was driving around Summit Point’s Shenandoah circuit last Saturday. In many ways, it’s the same incident seen two different ways. In both cases, the driver fails to slow down enough and then exits the track surface at an angle. The primary differences between Patrick’s video and mine are the Belle Isle circuit is surrounded by walls, and the M3 is going much faster.

What I’d like to suggest is that the cause for both incidents was the same. That cause was what I like to call the “out of bandwidth problem”. This is not to be confused with Iain Banks’ Outside Context Problem. Rather, it’s a product of the way the human mind works.

I frequently tell my driving students they can really only learn one thing per instructional session. They can also really only focus on one problem in any given session. To show you why, I’ll give you an exercise you can do at home, slightly modified from an exercise given to me by Ross Bentley in a driver-coaching class and also demonstrated in his book, Inner Speed Secrets.

Sitting at your desk, take your right hand and place it on your left knee briefly before removing it. At the same time, raise your left leg off the chair a few inches to meet your hand. Then do the same thing with your left hand and your right knee. Then return to the right hand and left knee. Try to do that in rhythm for a moment. Got it? Now, while continuing your alternating hand-and-knee motion, start counting backwards from 100 while you do it. Still good?

Now try counting backwards from 100 in increments of seven.

confused-man

I’ve never had a student who could do it on the first try without some problem. Usually, they say, “100… uh… 93… uh… um…” After they struggle for a few minutes, I show them I can do it effortlessly. I’m not the most graceful or elegant individual, so this is confusing. I then explain I’ve memorized the numbers. 100 – 93 – 86 – 79 – 72 – 65. I’m not doing the math in real time, I’m reciting a memorized series of numbers I already know.

The brain is very good at doing several things at once, as long as all those things are familiar to it. That’s why older drivers aren’t as likely to crash while texting or eating or operating the infotainment system. They have more experience with the primary task (driving) and therefore they have plenty of processing power for secondary tasks.

By contrast, how often have you been on the phone with someone who is driving somewhere and is lost? What does that conversation sound like? There are usually a lot of pauses as the person tries to compute new directions or evaluate their surroundings. “So, I was… uh… talking to Bob, and… uh… he said that the numbers look good but… uh, hold on, I just want to see if this is my turn.” Talking to someone during their daily commute is very different. We all know our daily commute very well, often to the point that we don’t quite remember how we got to the end of it. It’s all handled by subconscious routines.

Those of you who have been on a racetrack before probably remember just how confusing your first time was. There was so much to look at, so many new rules, and so many cars that seemed to appear out of nowhere behind you. To make things worse, your car didn’t behave the way you expected it to, because it was being operated at a much higher speed. This is why I make my novices stay in fourth gear for their first few sessions, and why I “take the mirror away” by adjusting all mirrors so that I, not the student, watch for traffic. Doing so reduces the number of things on which the student has to focus, and allows him to have more success doing the limited number of tasks remaining. When he can remember the layout of the track, and when he has learned the basics of looking around him in this new environment, I’ll let him start shifting before corners, and I’ll let him use his own mirrors – but not until he’s mastered those other tasks.

Sensory Overload

Human beings have a limited ability to process new information and perform new tasks in real time. It’s a bandwidth problem. You can only focus on a certain amount of sensory data. If a small part of that data is unfamiliar – say, a new car on a well-known track – you can deal with that new data. If you have more than that – a new car, on a new track, with traffic around you – then you have a problem. No matter how experienced you are. You still have a problem. Even Formula One drivers often experience difficulty performing at their best at a new track and developing new features of a car at the same time.

In the case of the BMW who went off-track ahead of me, it turns out that he was “driving his mirrors”. He’d been holding me up for nearly an entire lap and I’d been flashing my headlights at him. Instead of letting me by, his ego got involved – That’s some bearded hick in a Corvette! – and he decided to try to stay ahead of me and win the trackday. Therefore, his entire attention going into that hairpin turn was focused behind him, on me. How close was I? Was I going to try a pass? Was I going to tailgate him? He was so busy watching me that his mind had no bandwidth left. Therefore, faced with the necessity of slowing down for the corner, his mind chose the more familiar program – let’s call it Street Braking – instead of the unfamiliar program of Track Braking. In his effort to watch me, he underbraked and drove off the track into the dirt.

Had he been a more experienced driver, with some racing time under his belt, he would have been better able to multi-task between the challenges of operating the car at its limit and watching my position. But although he was a “black group” advanced driver, he still did not have a lot of experience running nose-to-tail at over 100 mph, so he ran out of processing power and had an incident. This sort of thing is monotonously common at open-lapping days, by the way.

What about Patrick? He’s an experienced track rat by media standards, with dozens of lapping days and events to his credit. But listen to his voice as he talks to the camera. Do you hear the bandwidth shortage? In the “uh” and the pauses? What’s going on? It’s as simple as this: he was trying to do all of the following:

  • Operate an unfamiliar car
  • On an unfamiliar course
  • While evaluating that car in the context of its predecessor
  • And describing it to the camera

That’s too much to ask out of nearly anyone. I’ve done it myself, and it’s mentally exhausting. To make things worse, our expectations for in-car videos are set by the scripted, high-budget Top Gear episodes where the actors recite a couple of well-rehearsed lines to their cameramen, interspersed with footage of professional drivers. So Patrick is under pressure to make a one-take video sound as polished and insightful as a million-dollar television episode.

No wonder he can’t focus on the proper line, or he fails to listen to what the car is trying to tell him about available grip. Those two tasks require bandwidth he doesn’t have. By the time the incident starts, he’s already mentally maxed-out.

The YouTube commenters on this particular video like to focus on the fact that Patrick has his arms crossed. That’s the one thing that he does right on his way to the wall. His consistent hand positioning is the sign of a driver who has received some training at least. But let’s analyze the final moments of the crash for a second. He could have avoided the incident by doing one of two things:

  • Reducing steering input and braking input, allowing the car to steer out of the situation
  • Unwinding the wheel to straight and engaging ABS at full strength.

Either would have been okay. The proximate cause of the accident is that Patrick reacted to a loss of steering traction by winding on more steering – first to the limits of his crossed arms, then further by shuffling – while also braking. This overloaded the front wheels. A more experienced driver would have reduced steering and brake pressure and searched for grip. That’s the process that a race driver goes through in every turn: trail-braking until the maximum cornering grip is achieved. When my students make Patrick’s mistake, I reach over and unwind their steering until the car grips and we make it through the turn correctly.

But Patrick had no instructor – he had a cameraman and an assignment to discuss the vehicle with that cameraman. That was the ultimate cause of the incident: bandwidth overload. Too many tasks. In a conversation with me, Patrick readily identified that as the problem, with no prompting from me. I doubt he’ll do it again.

And in the long run, it was harmless. Nobody was hurt. The car that received damage would have been crushed eventually anyway. There was plenty of publicity to go around and everybody will make money as a result. So if a car crash hurts nobody and benefits everyone involved, is it really a car crash? Process that for a moment, why don’t you?

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GM Putting $2,000 on Hood of 2015 Camaro Z/28 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/gm-putting-2000-on-hood-of-2015-camaro-z28/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/gm-putting-2000-on-hood-of-2015-camaro-z28/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 14:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072658 Just after the 2016 Camaro was introduced at Belle Isle last weekend, General Motors upped incentives on the current generation car. The best part? The General has placed the highest incentive amount directly on the hood scoop of the 2015 Camaro Z/28. According to CarsDirect, General Motors has combined two incentive offers: a $1,000 rebate that applies […]

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2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

Just after the 2016 Camaro was introduced at Belle Isle last weekend, General Motors upped incentives on the current generation car.

The best part? The General has placed the highest incentive amount directly on the hood scoop of the 2015 Camaro Z/28.

According to CarsDirect, General Motors has combined two incentive offers: a $1,000 rebate that applies to all Camaros and an additional $1,000 specifically for Z/28. If you are leasing a non-GM vehicle, an additional $500 can be applied.

The car shopping website says the rebate might be due to the Z/28’s availability – currently there are more units in the wild than its supercharged brother, the ZL1 – and limited appeal due to being a manual-only affair with few creature comforts.

While Camaro has typically outsold Ford Mustang since 2010, this year the bowtied offering is struggling to keep up with the blue oval pony car.

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2016 Chevrolet Camaro – Same Recipe, New Ingredients http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2016-chevrolet-camaro-same-recipe-new-ingredients/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2016-chevrolet-camaro-same-recipe-new-ingredients/#comments Sun, 17 May 2015 20:22:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1069698 “From every angle, you’ll never mistake this for anything but a Camaro,” said Tom Peters, design director for the sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro. That’s probably because it hasn’t changed that much, at least visually. Yet, under the skin, the new Camaro drops some 200 lbs thanks to its new Alpha platform bones and gains a new […]

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The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro was introduced May 16, 2015, at a special event in Detroit. The all-new muscle car is approximately 200 pounds lighter than the current model and offers more powerful V-6 and V-8 engines.

“From every angle, you’ll never mistake this for anything but a Camaro,” said Tom Peters, design director for the sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro. That’s probably because it hasn’t changed that much, at least visually. Yet, under the skin, the new Camaro drops some 200 lbs thanks to its new Alpha platform bones and gains a new base engine – a 2.0L turbocharged Ecotec four-pot.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS

The new Camaro introduces a turbocharged 2.0L Ecotec powerplant for the first time, bringing with it more horsepower and the same torque figure as the same engine in the Malibu. That puts the new base model Camaro at 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of twist. GM says 90 percent of those torques will be available between 2,100 rpm and 3,000 rpm, making the sixth-generation Camaro good for a 60 mph sprint in under 6 seconds while still returning 30 mpg by their own estimates.

Note that I said “base model” above. Unlike Mustang, the Camaro will offer up their four banger as the economy option instead of a premium lightweight option like in Ford’s pony car.

An all-new 3.6L V6 will join the piston party as well with 335 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque. The most notable addition to the now mid-range engine offering is cylinder deactivation. The system will shut down two cylinders effectively turning the V6 into a V4. While the V6 does offer up more output versus its predecessor (323 hp, 278 lb-ft) and claims best-in-class power, it should also return better fuel economy.

A new-to-Camaro 6.2L LT1 V8 will be the headliner, boasting 455 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque, just 5 lb-ft down from on the Corvette.

All engines will be mated to either a six-speed manual transmission (SS models receive Active Rev Match for downshifts) or all-new Hydra-Matic eight-speed automatic (8L45 in LT, 8L90 in SS) with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, further enhancing fuel economy and performance. Also, unless there’s a change to the preliminary output figures, it seems GM won’t be penalizing customers by slashing engine output for those who choose the automatic transmission in SS models.

Unfortunately, the new platform is so sound dead, all Camaros will have their engine note pumped in one way or another. All four-cylinder models will have active noise cancellation. If you opt for the Bose audio system, you’ll receive the aforementioned faux engine noise delivered by speaker. Thankfully, it can be disabled at the whim of the driver. V6 and V8 models will offer up “enhanced” sound through mechanical means by pumping analog audio into the passenger compartment. A dual-mode exhaust will also bypass the mufflers under hard acceleration for better performance and “better” sound.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS

Underpinned by the same Alpha platform as the Cadillac ATS and CTS, the new Camaro does shed some unneeded weight, but its dimensions shrink only slightly. Think of the new model as a nip-tuck job over the last generation.

GM claims the Camaro, depending on the model, will lose “200 lbs or more” mass – meaning no matter what the trim, we should expect at least a 200 lb weight reduction. We will see about that when official curb weights are published. The skeptic in me thinks this will not be the case.

The brakes bringing everything to a stop are about the same size in LT (I4/V6) models as the previous generation, but SS models see their brake disc diameters shrink from 14/14.4 inches (front/rear) to 13.6/13.3 inches (front/rear).

With a new platform also comes new suspension setups. Up front are new multi-link MacPherson strut solutions while the rear sees a new five-link independent suspension GM says reduces “squat” during hard launches. Also for the first time, the Camaro SS will be available with Magnetic Ride Control, a much welcomed enhancement over the crashy previous-gen SS suspension.

Another first for Camaro will be an assortment of driving modes, including Snow/Ice, Tour, Sport and Track settings. The latter setting is only available on SS models. The following table provided by GM outlines the different settings in each mode.

DRIVER MODE SELECTOR SETTINGS
Snow/Ice Tour Sport Track
(SS only)
Electronic throttle progression SNOW/ICE NORMAL NORMAL TRACK
Automatic trans.
shift map
NORMAL NORMAL SPORT TRACK
Automatic trans. Performance Algorithm Shift N/A N/A AVAIL. AVAIL.
Engine sound management
(if equipped with dual-mode exhaust)
STEALTH TOUR SPORT TRACK
Electric power steering calibration TOUR TOUR SPORT TRACK
StabiliTrak – Competitive Driving and Launch Control N/A N/A AVAIL. AVAIL.
Magnetic Ride Control
calibration (if equipped)
TOUR TOUR SPORT TRACK
Ambient lighting
(if equipped)
ICE BLUE BLUE RED ORANGE

An all-new, driver-focused interior in the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro features performance-optimized ergonomics, including new seats, a new, flat-bottom steering wheel and a new center console designed for easier manual-transmission shifting.

One thing needing as much attention as the “My 600-lb Life” levels of bloat was the incredibly cramped, cheap interior. Judging from the photos, the quality of materials has gone up, but issues still remain.

Those not fans of the dual-pod gauges will be pleasantly surprised. While the dual-pod hood remains, the remainder of the pods are gone. Instead, the Camaro is now available with an optional 8-inch screen in the instrument panel. In addition tonavigation and infotainment details, the screen will also provide a location for new digital performance gauges, taking them away from their previous location in front of the shifter where they were virtually useless. And, as before, another 8-inch screen will sit mid-dash.

Another improvement – and this one is quite ingenious – is a redesign of certain HVAC controls, turning them into rings around the low mounted air vents. This gives driver and passenger an easy way to make adjustments through a physical control while still saving space like the touchscreen controls used by other manufacturers.

However, there are two downsides to the new Camaro cabin. One – you won’t be doing any emergency brake induced drifting in the new-gen car thanks to its electronic parking brake. The other, and more crucial issue, is GM seems not to have done anything about visibility. With a fairly high beltline and even taller rear deck, the new Camaro continues its trend of being the worst pony car for rearward visibility.

All in all, the new Camaro has conformed to the new normal by being a more economical, lighter weight and nimbler offering. However, its execution is still decidedly traditional, providing an American coupe shape that prioritizes style over functionality.

The 2016 Camaro will be bolted together in Lansing, Michigan and goes on sale later this year.

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Oshawa Camaro Production Ceases November 20, Reduced To Three Shifts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/oshawa-camaro-production-ceases-november-20-reduced-three-shifts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/oshawa-camaro-production-ceases-november-20-reduced-three-shifts/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 17:50:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1057122 First announced December 19, 2012, GM Canada’s Oshawa Assembly facility will officially cease production of the Camaro on November 20, 2015 in conjunction with the car’s next generation, GM announced today. Camaro production remained at the Oshawa plant a year longer than initially promised in 2012. Assembly shifts will be reduced from four to three […]

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2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible at the Oshawa Assembly Plant

First announced December 19, 2012, GM Canada’s Oshawa Assembly facility will officially cease production of the Camaro on November 20, 2015 in conjunction with the car’s next generation, GM announced today. Camaro production remained at the Oshawa plant a year longer than initially promised in 2012.

Assembly shifts will be reduced from four to three between the “Flex” and “Consolidated” lines. Currently, the “Flex” line is on three shifts while the smaller line is on one shift. GM Canada will “begin a voluntary retirement canvass” to reduce worker head count before implementing any layoffs. GM Canada President, Stephen K. Carlisle, stated “60 percent of our hourly workforce are nearing retirement” age and the company will offer incentives to eligible employees looking to retire early.

Chevrolet Impala, Buick Regal and Cadillac XTS production will continue on the “Flex” line for now. Regal production is scheduled to move to Germany by 2017 while the XTS will be discontinued at the end of its lifecycle in 2019. Both the XTS and Impala are also produced in Michigan. The “Consolidated” line currently builds the Impala Limited – a previous-generation W-body sedan – and the Chevrolet Equinox, the latter which is also produced in Ingersoll, Ontario.

GM Canada and Unifor are working together to “examine a range of longer-term opportunities and competitiveness enhancements for Oshawa Assembly,” stated the release today. The future of Oshawa will be announced after Unifor national bargaining next year.

On the same day, GM also announced $5.4b in investments aimed at the company’s Pontiac, Lansing, and Warren, Michigan facilities.

The announcement comes after GM Canada committed $800m to Ingersoll and another 100 jobs toward expanding connected car and green technology development at GM Canada’s Oshawa Engineering Centre.

 

 

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2015 Chevrolet Malibu LT Rental Car Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/rental-review-2015-chevrolet-malibu-lt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/rental-review-2015-chevrolet-malibu-lt/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 12:30:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052513 He was a nice young man working the Enterprise counter, but I wasn’t buying his upgrade spiel. “Ya know, if you’re going to Joliet, there will be a lot of big trucks on the highway, I can upgrade you to a full size for just $15.”  Thanks, but no thanks, I will take my Kia and […]

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He was a nice young man working the Enterprise counter, but I wasn’t buying his upgrade spiel. “Ya know, if you’re going to Joliet, there will be a lot of big trucks on the highway, I can upgrade you to a full size for just $15.”  Thanks, but no thanks, I will take my Kia and be on my way. But when I met Anthony at the parking lot I was told; “Mr. Ward, I see we have you for an economy car, but I have none left. How about this Chevy Malibu?”

Ka-Ching!” I win, looks like I’ll be saving that $3 a day for coffee.

Despite the upgrade, I wasn’t exactly pumped about the Malibu, I was hoping for a Charger or even a 300. I hadn’t tried the Malibu, but the previous generations had left me wanting. There, the gleaming silver bullet, sat with just over 13,000 miles. I was in a much better mood than my trip to Houston last month, and Enterprise had managed to get me in and out in less than 15 minutes, including the bus ride from Midway Airport.

So when I climbed into the stripper ‘Boo, I was prepared to give it a fair shake. The trunk had already swallowed my bag and would have taken two more full size bags and probably three backpacks as well.

With the engine already running, MyLink connected to my phone is less than 5 minutes and I eased onto Chicago’s surface streets headed south to Autobahn Country Club. As you would expect, the Chevy was quite comfortable soaking up the potholes around the airport. Not outstandingly so, but well. I actually liked the steering. It felt weighted with a nice on center feel. Good feedback; not quite to Accord standards, but that may be a matter of preference.

I eased onto the freeway and started to make my way southwest. I made it almost 4 whole miles before I encountered traffic. There I would stay, in one form or another, for the next 2 hours. It gave me a chance to spend a little Q time with this weekend’s ride. As superior as I was feeling when I rejected the upgrade offer, this car would have been worth the extra money. The big seats in the Malibu are more comfortable and offer a greater scope of adjustment than the Altima and certainly more than the econobox I reserved. The stereo was pretty good – lots of cubbyholes for things and even a space behind the stereo screen.

That evening I ended up with three passengers, my 6 ft. frame the shortest of them. Despite some criticism of a lack of rear seat room, the Malibu took all of our gear and us to the hotel that night and track the next day. I was actually surprised at how well the Ecotec handled the additional weight. With only 196 hp, the real advantage is 191 lb-ft of torque through the slick shifting 6-speed auto. You won’t win any stoplight sprints against its competitors (unless it’s a Altima), but that doesn’t matter much when you quadruple the passengers.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu

With the size upgrade, I only had to return the tank ½ full, so I didn’t observe any real fuel numbers. But, after driving over 150 miles in a mix of freeway and surface, the tank barely broke the halfway mark. So the claimed 25/36 is probably accurate, which was another pleasant surprise.

This was absolutely the stripper base rental car fleet model, but a “build and price” excursion on GM’s website tells me its $22,465 before the $825 destination charge. It showed me 17 in stock units around the Atlanta metro that match the build ranging from $23,300 to $23,600. With $2,400 down and $1,000 cash back, the Malibu can be had for $294 a month at 1.9%. This places it squarely in the price point of a similar Camry or Accord, but slightly above a Chrysler 200 and under a Ford Fusion, which is kind of where it lives.

I expected disenchantment because that is what GM sedans have always delivered. But the Malibu surprised me. It’s not a market-shattering bargain propelling GM to the top of the market, but it is a good, competent vehicle, competitively priced in a very difficult segment. It offers good value by every measure of a car for the investment. The clear choice in this segment really comes to flavor and the aggressiveness of your chosen dealer to put you in their car rather than the competition.

Which means “Ka-Ching” for anyone looking to buy in this segment.

Photography courtesy Nick Boris

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General Motors contributed nothing to this review. But Enterprise did rent me the car and offered outstanding customer service in doing so. Speaking of great work, how about these photos?  No crappy iPhone pics for the B&B this time. As I promised my buddy Nick Boris gets credit for every shot. 

Christian “Mental” Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is married to the most patient woman in the world, lives in Atlanta and is racing his silly Nissan truck in the 24 Hours of LeMons this weekend at Carolina Motorsports Park. You can follow that and all his other shenaningans on Instagram, Twitter and Vine at M3ntalward. 

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Capsule Review: 2003 Chevrolet Zafira CD 2.0 8v http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/capsule-review-2003-chevrolet-zafira-cd-2-0-8v/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/capsule-review-2003-chevrolet-zafira-cd-2-0-8v/#comments Sun, 19 Apr 2015 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046586 The last time I saw this car it lay bare and gutted in front of me. The seats had been pulled out, the dash taken apart and wires dangling. The carpets were in the process of being removed. All of this in an effort to find the source of an infestation that had plagued it. It was […]

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The last time I saw this car it lay bare and gutted in front of me. The seats had been pulled out, the dash taken apart and wires dangling. The carpets were in the process of being removed. All of this in an effort to find the source of an infestation that had plagued it.

It was a fun ride taking the car to the mechanic. Having been smoked with toxic gas in an effort to get rid of the pests, the smell (and undoubtedly some of the chemicals) still hung in the air. What’s more, the extermination effort had agitated the pesky insects. As I drove, I could see them coming out of the vents and felt them crawling over my feet.

The car had been taken by cockroaches. Big, brown, ugly, dirty, urban roaches. More worrisome was not only were big ones seen, little ones also abounded. The exterminator’s chemical attack had been insufficient. The next step would be to strip the car and physically remove the root of the infestation: the beasts’ nest.

That had been over four years ago and now the car was back in town. Taking a break from work in São Paulo, the family hit the road in their 2003 Chevrolet Zafira CD, on their way to our hometown to visit family and friends. As the women settled down to talk and the children made friends again and started playing, I made my escape. I asked them what was needed and offered to go to the supermarket. They made their list and I asked for the keys to the Zafira, joking about that ride of those many years ago. I warned them it would be a long, long supermarket raid. And just like that, I spent the day with the Zafira and reacquainted myself with it.

The Zafira is a minivan based on the same platform of the Astra (Golf and Focus sized competitor). Developed by GM Germany, also known as Opel, it seats seven. That made it a favorite of families anywhere the car was offered. It’s a longish car at 4.3 m (169.3 in), wide (1.75 m, 68.9 in) and tall (1.69 m, 66.5 in). The long 2.7 m (106 in) wheelbase means it offers lots of legroom for first and second row passengers and, due to its boxy minivan shape, head and shoulder room is excellent. With 7 seats up it can still hold 150 L of luggage (competitive with a modern Fiat 500 for one), increasing to 600 L of trunk swallowing space for family accoutrements with the third row tucked. Folding the second row, the Zafira becomes a veritable moving van.

That sort of space is the reason this particular family bought the Chevy Zafira. With three little girls ranging in age from 3 to 9, the car suits their parents’ needs fine. On the highway it’s a cruiser that can take them all in comfort, while in the city it is large by Brazilian standards, but still not quite as bulky as some modern CUVs. Windows are large and the Zafira’s shape makes it quite easy to drive, even in crowded city environs as visibility is excellent.

Under the hood is part of the reason why some of the daddies don’t mind the car either. This version was the CD, meaning it has a 2.0L 8v engine that puts out 116 hp (other versions came with either a 2.0L 16v or a 1.8L) and, in traditional GM fashion, it has lots of low down torque. Those horses are more than enough to move the car with aplomb as it reaches its top speed of close to 180 km/h. The dash to 100 km/h was made in the mid 12s – so its a fast van. As it weighs a little over 1,400 kg (3,086 lbs), the engine is enough. Being that it’s an old engine, fuel economy is not stellar. In fact, it can be quite abysmal in the city, in stop and go traffic, loaded, AC on full blast, especially as this one is equipped with a 4-speed automatic with some tricks up its sleeve – like the ability to “learn” a driver’s style. Also, as these days it makes financial sense to fuel up with ethanol, the fact this car only takes Brazilian gasoline (E27) is another sore point for the family.

So what the car takes with one hand (bad fuel economy) it gives with the other as it offers a soothing drive for this family, most especially taking into account they live in perpetually gridlocked São Paulo. This engine’s tendency to develop bad seals and leak oil is well-known as it has been around for ages. In this way, preventive maintenance is easy to do as mechanics know what to look for.

On my drive I noticed the gearbox was working well. It held gears as needed and downshifted fast when solicited. I didn’t notice any undue thumping in the transmission, which means it’s probably healthy. In a country like Brazil, an automatic rebuild is a non-trivial cost and fear of that still keeps many away from such systems. In this 12-year-old car, so far so good. In fact, the main driver of this car, the lady of the house, has been won over and will seek another auto when the time comes for a replacement.

This Brazilian Zafira rides on 15 inch wheels fitted with 195 mm wide tires that still have some side wall (65 mm) for city comfort. Everything that was not broken was working well without undue hesitations. All controls have a nice, tactile, damped feel. Though the interior design is very conservative, everything is logically laid out and the instrument cluster is complete. The seats are large and offer excellent support. The fabric, though stained in some areas, still feels supple. Lumbar support is available and the telescoping wheel, as well as the very adjustable driver’s seat, aids in finding a nice driving position.

The suspension still feels good after all these years. Equipped with a sub-chassis and a stabilizing bar upfront, it makes short work of the bad pavement prevalent in Brazil. Body roll is controlled and the Zafira doesn’t feel like it is going to roll over navigating most curves. Of course, it’s a tall, wide, long car, so care must be taken in more acute corners. It is not an Astra to be sure, but it’s also not a car that will scare a responsible driver – though it can be driven with more gusto than, say, an SUV.

The go pedal offers excellent modulation after all these years, and the brakes (equipped with ABS and EBD) felt fine and progressive. The gear lever falls naturally to hand. The electro-hydraulic steering was also fine as turning the wheel was met with very light resistance, but it still retains some communication between it and the driver. Though the steering wheel itself is near the end of its life, working it was a pleasure.

Yep, this Zafira is a far cry from the norm of Brazilian cars, mostly of the compact and subcompact variety. And it should be. It cost a pretty penny when new, and its modern substitute – the GM Korea-developed Spin – costs from around R$50,000 (~$16,500 USD) all the way to more than R$70,000 (~$23,000 USD). The Zafira cost even more than that in its time as General Motors do Brasil also offered the smaller Meriva with seating for five. It’s one of the reasons there are so many Opel widows in Brazil. They refuse to acknowledge the Spin as a real Chevrolet and say GM Brazil has back stabbed consumers. I think the Spin is a credible substitute as it does just fine, uses the same engines, a more modern 6-speed auto and the interior is simpler, but still above average. On the used car market, according to Fipe (a sort-of Brazilian Blue Book), this 2003 Chevy still fetches about R$22,500 (~$7,400 USD). Being that a simple 1.0L compact hatch with the bare necessities of life hovers around R$30,000 (~$9,900 USD) nowadays, the Zafira still offers a lot of value.

As I drove the car I reflected on its life. Mechanically sound, it has suffered in the hands of two families. According to the current owners, they bought the car from another 3-kid family, already showcasing some stains and wear. Scuff marks, dings and scratches are all over the exterior. However, this Zafira is like a lady who has led a full life. The “damage” to it is akin to what’s usually seen on a woman who has chosen to have children and lead her life to its greatest extension. Stretchmarks usually found on such a woman should be worn with pride, just as the marks on this minivan shows it, too, has led life to the fullest, dutifully serving families and bearing the marks of little ones with pride.

In that light, a few tens of thousands of cockroaches and some toxic gas is nothing. Just par for the course.

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Capsule Review: Chevrolet Spark EV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/capsule-review-chevrolet-spark-ev/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/capsule-review-chevrolet-spark-ev/#comments Thu, 02 Apr 2015 14:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1034073 There comes a moment when it’s time to try something new. Like switching to an iPhone after using a Nexus and promptly learning that the iPhone can bend. Or wearing a mechanical watch rather than a quartz watch, only for it to stop ticking after it was on a nightstand for the weekend. Moving to […]

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There comes a moment when it’s time to try something new. Like switching to an iPhone after using a Nexus and promptly learning that the iPhone can bend. Or wearing a mechanical watch rather than a quartz watch, only for it to stop ticking after it was on a nightstand for the weekend. Moving to a house from an apartment and dealing with the perils of home ownership, such as property taxes, having to clean gutters, and the inability to have the building manager fix the broken kitchen faucet. My trying something new involved testing an electric vehicle for a week.

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After all, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to Tesla Motors and ZAP (the hard-core TTAC B&B should know them; there’s even a road test on here of their cars from way back when), and home to dinner parties with prolonged debates about whether electric car ownership is worthwhile. “What if you’re coming home from work and you forgot your phone? You’ll run out of charge retrieving the phone and then there’s no way of getting home.” an attendee might say, while his counterpart might reply, “Well, I’ve saved hundreds of dollars on gas and I haven’t had to visit a gas station. And are these chips and dip vegan?” Since I get asked the electric car question a lot as the “car guy” among my friends, I decided once and for all to test an electric car.

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To live out my electric car experience, Chevrolet had a Spark EV available in the Northern California press fleet, which was delivered to me with 301 miles on the odometer. 55 of those miles involved delivering the car to my driveway from the press car place. So I was effectively testing a brand-new car. Additionally, it should be noted at this point of the review that most of the country cannot buy the Spark EV. It’s only sold in California and Oregon, where the metropolitan areas tend to have a more developed electric vehicle infrastructure. As a result, this review applies to less than fifteen percent of the population, so those of you not within a 10-hour drive of San Francisco don’t have to care as much.

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The first thing I did when I got the Spark was test the performance of the car using the 22 miles of range it arrived with. Its performance was surprisingly good thanks to the torque from the electric motor. It could go from 0-60 miles per hour in around seven seconds, which is on par with most six-cylinder midsize sedans. Chevrolet also got the suspension tuning very right, making the Spark quite fun to drive at low speeds. There’s even a “Sport” button which sharpens up throttle response. With this car, it’s actually possible to create an autocross course around your housing development, and have actual fun doing it, without waking up the neighbors. Just make sure there isn’t too much tire squeal.

Secondly, since spirited driving tends to use up much of the battery, I needed to ensure I could charge it at home. Now, to make electric car ownership worthwhile, it helps to have a 240V outlet in your home to ensure your electric vehicle charges faster. Usually, an electric car can go from empty to fully-charged in one night (usually within 8 hours) with the 240V setup. Thankfully I had the means to “improvise” a home charging facility for the Spark with the 120V outlet that came with the Spark. However, most homes have 120V outlets, which is what my house had. With a 120V setup, it usually takes about 12 to 18 hours to go from empty to a full charge.

Regarding styling, the Spark EV more or less looks like any other Chevy Spark on the road. For me, that’s not necessarily a good thing, as many people will believe your car is a lot cheaper than it actually is. Most people will also believe that you’ll be driving a rental car. I had the fortune to have a Jaguar XF Sport in the driveway before I got the Spark EV, and most of my neighbors did a double take when passing by and noticing the red Spark in place of the XF. Personally, I don’t think homeowners’ associations will tolerate a Spark EV in the driveway.

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Inside, the Spark is airy and has plenty of visibility. It is a narrow car though, with the potential to rub shoulders with your front passenger and the rear seat only accommodating two people, but there is plenty of headroom. The trunk only has enough space for two airplane carry-ons. My test car had the “leatherette” (I consider it vinyl) seats that I didn’t like, largely because of how the material felt and I didn’t like sitting in them after the car had been out in the sun. Personally, I’d try to get cloth seats, but that involves “downgrading” to the 1LT trim level for around $400 less, though the steering wheel won’t be leather-wrapped.

On the highway, the Spark had no trouble keeping up with other cars or getting up to speed quickly. However, you will definitely hear the road noise at speeds above 45 mph. If you’re driving on the highway in periods of low traffic with speeds of 65 to 70 miles per hour, you will hate being in the car. I tried to turn up the stereo to compensate for all that road noise, but it didn’t help things and added to the noise pollution. As a result, the Spark EV is a car you’ll prefer in traffic jams and off-highway environments.

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I have to admit I didn’t use OnStar with the car (the OnStar Turn-by-Turn navigation is free for 3 years), so I don’t know if it’s a viable alternative to an actual navigation system. To get navigation maps projected onto the dashboard screen, Chevrolet MyLink can connect to your smartphone and garner the necessary information using the BringGo app. Downloading and installing the app on my smartphone would have been $50 so I didn’t try it out.

As for the money saved on fuel costs by buying the Spark, the car’s Monroney sticker states that it’s possible to save $8,500 in fuel costs over 5 years compared to the average new vehicle which gets 24 mpg and costs $11,000 to fuel over five years. The $8,500 figure comes from driving 15,000 miles per year at 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. On the other hand, when researching potential cost savings on FuelEconomy.gov, the website gives me an estimate of $5,250 saved over five years, but that’s based on “45% highway, 55% city driving, 15,000 annual miles and current fuel prices.” I’m assuming the Monroney value estimates the price of gas becoming higher with time while the FuelEconomy.gov number tends to fluctuate. But only you can estimate how much money you can save based on your driving habits and knowledge of local charging stations.

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When I had to ensure the Spark had a full battery, I fully charged the Spark EV at my house twice during the week I had it, and the electric bill only went up $10 compared to the same period last year. I’m not quite sure if the Spark contributed the extra money to the electric bill, but I did charge it during peak usage hours once, which may have contributed to the total. Also, many of my local hangouts had charging stations where I could park and charge the car for free for a limit of 2 or 3 hours. As a result, I largely didn’t have to pay for the car’s electricity when running errands. (On a side note, the Plugshare app came in handy when finding charging stations.)

Also, my test car had the “fast provisions” charging capability option, it enables the Spark EV to recharge 80 percent of the battery within 20 minutes utilizing the SAE Combo DC fast charging stations. Unfortunately, there were no SAE Combo DC fast chargers near me to sample. Nevertheless, having one of these nearby will help tremendously with range anxiety, especially if your daily commute is more than 60 miles round-trip.

The MSRP of my test car was $28,785 (before the $7,500 tax credit), with the sole option being the $750 “fast provisions” charging capability and an $825 destination charge. It also includes two years of maintenance. At that price point, Nissan has the Leaf which starts at $29,860 including destination, Ford has the Focus EV at $29,995 with destination, and FIAT’s 500e at $31,800. With the $7,500 federal tax credit and a California tax credit of $2,500, the Spark EV can easily come in below $20,000. (Unfortunately, Oregon doesn’t offer an electric vehicle tax credit.) Furthermore, the Spark EV’s lease rates are reasonable and close to the lease rates of the aforementioned electric vehicles, though their advertised leases are for 36,000 miles. On Chevrolet’s website, the current offer is $176 a month (plus taxes and fees) with $0 due at signing for a 3 year, 30,000 mile lease.

All in all, if you’re among the fifteen percent of the American population considering the Spark EV, I would advise buying it as strictly a commuting and errands car. It would make the perfect second or third vehicle if fuel costs are getting out of hand, you drive around 50 miles every day, and you would like to minimize trips to the gas station. With its $176 per month lease deal with $0 due at signing, the Spark EV is worth thinking about if considering a Leaf, the lease rate of which doesn’t come close. Even if you plan to buy an electric car, the Spark is a good candidate as the net price can go below $20,000 with the federal and California tax rebates.

And if you don’t live in California and Oregon and you’re still considering the Spark, come to nice and sunny California and make a vacation out of test driving the Spark EV. Though be wary of any dinner party invites you come across if you tell people your reason for visiting California. The menu has a good chance of being completely vegan.

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. He also learned that it’s surprisingly easy to sneak up behind people in an electric car, especially cyclists. 

 

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2015 Chevrolet Colorado: Reviewed! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-chevrolet-colorado-reviewed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-chevrolet-colorado-reviewed/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1033177 The Chevrolet Colorado is a good little truck, certainly sturdy enough, leading me to believe that it is a capable enabler of various human endeavors that involve catapulting, hurtling, or generally straining one’s body across hill, dale, snow-capped extremity and Ace Hardware parking lot alike. But its obvious novelty—one that so enraptured a certain publication’s staff […]

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2015 Chevrolet Colorado front side 1

The Chevrolet Colorado is a good little truck, certainly sturdy enough, leading me to believe that it is a capable enabler of various human endeavors that involve catapulting, hurtling, or generally straining one’s body across hill, dale, snow-capped extremity and Ace Hardware parking lot alike.

But its obvious novelty—one that so enraptured a certain publication’s staff to bestow it a pair of calipers that will hardly strain the Colorado’s 1500lb-plus payload—lies in its rejection of the idea that every pickup truck must be the approximate size of a Normandy landing craft.

That’s right—our cars are creeping ever so bigger, ever so clumsier, and if all cars must expand then trucks must do so exponentially, until comes the day when a Silverado rear-ends a Ram, causing Santa Monica to fall into the ocean. But we can do good to admit, even against American exceptionalism, that not every man, woman, and child needs a full-sized truck. (Are those black helicopters I’m hearing?) Until the day that we stop believing in the weirdness of the front-drive mini-truck, a Southern Hemisphere vestige as bizarre as cuy chactao and the Plymouth Scamp, this conveyance in Red Rock Metallic is exactly what some of us deserve: a vehicle that can’t haul as much, can’t tow as much, can’t be ordered with High Country leather the color and texture of your grandfather’s elbows—but something so refreshing that it snaps us awake from thinking that every new pickup needs to be bigger, squarer, more chrome-laden, more ready for ramming than the last hulking beast it replaces.

And yet, the Colorado still manages to dwarf a jellybean F-150 from the Clinton administration—that tenth-generation F-150, has a 10-inch shorter wheelbase and length in its smallest configuration than even the shortest Colorado. Think about that.

Long truck is long.

Long truck is long.

Meanwhile the Colorado seems to defy spatial logic. It looks enormously long but feels small; it feels narrow but it’s hamstring stretching tall; it’s long and narrow and tall but it drives with surprising nimbleness. Yes, even this four-doored long-box. (Remember when such trucks only belonged to railroad companies?) Those coming out of a full-sized Silverado will find little culture shock within its cabin, which is scaled down, sure, narrower now, but never snug and never cramped.

I didn’t get a chance to take the Colorado off-road, or to Colorado, or even to the nearest Canyon. Instead, I drove it around Los Angeles, committing occasional errands, then a sprint up the 101 Highway to a stupendously lavish hotel where the valets asked excitedly not about what I would be driving but about what I was.

The 3.6-liter V6 is a stout little engine, usually relaxed—but ask it firmly and it’ll muster up 305 horsepower with enthusiasm and a nice noise. The six-speed automatic transmission takes some time and a lot of throttle to react, but when on the move it’s plenty smooth. Brakes are very controllable and very powerful, and the accurate and evenly weighted steering isn’t just pretty good, for a truck—it’s pretty good, period. Body motions are nicely reduced to the occasional rumble and jostling, reinforcing the feeling that it’s Like A Bob Seger Song.

Plenty of USB ports! Switchgear feels reassuringly imbued with quality.

Plenty of USB ports! Switchgear feels reassuringly imbued with quality.

Inside, it’s a quiet place to be. Nice and roomy. MyLink dominates the center console, same as in your Impala, y’know—all square buttons and sharp gradients, homely but effective. The flat, two-color gauges are easy to read but also gravely stark. Seats are firm like a doctor’s waiting room, while the rear bottom cushions flip up to stash various unmentionables, just like the Silverado’s. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is terrific to behold.

The rear benches flip up, but clearly not in this photo.

The rear benches flip up, but clearly not in this photo.

Praise to Corvette for its trick temperature gauges, an idea so neat it’s trickled down to every Chevy product, with a retrofit for the 1987 Celebrity Eurosport VR available sometime next Monday—evidently the same people who design showerheads figured out the Colorado’s automatic climate control, because the temperature swings wildly from the ass-freezing cold to Florida-esque mugginess within a single knob click.

The Colorado starts at a hair over $20,000. Which is good. Because the one I tested was nearly twice that—and for $38,870 you get sweet darkened five-spoke wheels ($1,000), leather seats ($950), MyLink ($495), lane departure and frontal collision warnings ($395, and remember, the life you save could be mine), and another thousand-dollar luxury package, which means the aforementioned touchy automatic controls and chrome bits. Humans love shiny things, and pick-em-up truckers even more so.

Sure is shiny!

Sure is shiny. And handsome. But also shiny.

Macho posturing aside, the Colorado is far more accessible than any full-sized truck out there—small enough for a city, even one with four-lane boulevards, yet big enough to trick you into seeming invincible. Chevrolet’s marketing department imagines armies of scruffy young men in artfully cuffed denim and Target Merona plaid shirts staining their pits as they heave entire REI storefronts into the back, giving hardly a worry to the optional factory spray-in bedliner, before cranking the Black Keys through the seven-speaker Bose audio system (a $495 option!) and setting off to reclaim their manliness in lofty and Walden-esque ways, or at least tubing at Mt. Baldy. I don’t disagree with any of that. I know I’ve certainly helped load plenty of tents into tiny pickups during my time with Boy Scout Troop 227 of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, before heading off to summer camp and bounding down dirt roads at McRae-aping speeds while passing branches play drum solos off the A-pillars. Big trucks lumber, small trucks bound.

That would make a pretty good bumper sticker. Get me Chevrolet’s marketing department.

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“The new Colorado: guaranteed to fit into 65% of Los Angeles parking garages!”

We imagine such possibilities of vehicles like the Chevrolet Colorado, the Nissan Frontier, the Toyota Tacoma—both of which are getting upgraded, soon enough—and, of course, it may be the nostalgia portion of my mind that remembers the 2001 Nissan Xterra of my childhood that enabled so many trips, so many adventures, so many ideas of taking the next off-ramp from the 101 and winding up thoroughly and wonderfully lost, so far away from water. Is it a truck, or a call to arms? The easy-access Colorado carries forth a go-get-’em lifestyle that that sneakily guilts us into getting off our asses, to take up mountain biking or drywall installation.

Which makes sense—because pickup truck.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-chevrolet-malibu-ltz/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-chevrolet-malibu-ltz/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 20:35:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029937 The Malibu was pretty good. It looked good. It drove nicely enough. It sold in decent numbers. But that was between 2008 and 2012. • U.S. Market Price As Tested: $33,380 • Horsepower: 196 @ 6300 rpm • Torque: 191 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm • Observed Fuel Economy: 23.5 mpg The 2013 Malibu wasn’t so […]

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2015 Chevrolet Malibu Butte RedThe Malibu was pretty good. It looked good. It drove nicely enough. It sold in decent numbers.

But that was between 2008 and 2012.


• U.S. Market Price As Tested: $33,380

• Horsepower: 196 @ 6300 rpm

• Torque: 191 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 23.5 mpg


The 2013 Malibu wasn’t so great. It didn’t look good. It didn’t drive so nicely. It wasn’t very pleasant inside. It didn’t sell so well.

But with the speed of a cat lover furiously favouriting tweets of bathing felines, GM refreshed the Malibu for the 2014 model year. Verdict: the refresh was inadequate.

GM deserves credit, and I’m not even kidding, for understanding that the 2013 Malibu wasn’t good enough, and even more brownie points for realizing that the updated 2014/2015 Malibu is unsatisfactory, too. GM will therefore introduce a new Malibu for model year 2016, fast-forwarding to the next generation with all due haste in a market that sees Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys linger for at least five years.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu rearI’ll be honest, I didn’t think the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ loaned to me for a week from GM Canada was a bad car, not at all. I don’t say that because, as some would suggest, “There’s no such thing as a bad car in 2015,” but rather because a CAD $35,810 midsize sedan is likely a half-decent place to spend time in 2015. This is not a Mitsubishi Mirage. Nor is it a 2007 Chevrolet Malibu.

But there are big issues. Combined, the issues led me to believe that most intermediate cars in 2015 are better than the Malibu in most ways.

The 2016 Malibu must not suffer the same fate.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu LTZIn order to make the current Malibu more fuel-efficient – the base 2012 Malibu was rated at 22/33 mpg, this car is 25/36 – a stop-start system was put in place to stop all the idle guzzling. That’s fine, or it would be, but the stop-start system in the Malibu is the worst I’ve encountered. Stop-start systems are supposed to reignite the engine mellifluously, even surreptitiously. In the 2015 Malibu, in order to pull away from an intersection when the light turns green, the car cranks up as though it’s the first time on a winter’s morning in Winnipeg. This needs to be fixed for MY2016.

The 196-horsepower 2.5L-four-cylinder isn’t a great powerplant aside from its diseased stop-start system. Coarse above 4000 rpm, also known as 2300 rpm shy of the 2.5L’s power peak, the 2.5L causes the Malibu to feel slower than it actually is because you won’t want to rev it and it doesn’t want to rev.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ interiorOh, but of course you can upgrade the powerplant to GM’s 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder (63 extra horsepower and a hefty 295 lb-ft of torque), and at this price point, why haven’t you? Forego some of the LTZ’s features in favour of an LT with the proper engine and the Malibu erases one of its key faults.

A different engine won’t dramatically alter the ride and handling, and that’s not the end of the world. The Malibu doesn’t ride poorly, but there is some stiffness that lacks a commensurate return in handling agility and precision. Honda’s Accord and the Mazda 6 also transmit impacts into the cabin, but they pay dividends on a back road. When pushed, the Malibu fees larger to drive than it really is. Nevertheless, in mundane driving, the light steering and surprisingly responsive and progressive brakes cause no offense.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu rear seatOffense may well be taken by people behind the driver, however, not just inside the Malibu but in the vehicle abaft. Subjectively speaking, the front end of the Malibu is handsome, but the rear is cartoonish and heavy-handed, thus causing the driver of the car behind you to avert his eyes. As for rearward occupants, scalloped front seats introduced for 2014 offered little noticeable improvement for rear seat passengers. A massive centre hump severely restricts three-across comfort. There may be no Malibu demerit more egregious than its compact car-like rear cabin.

Up front, the interior is laid out effectively, but we had some annoying moments with Chevrolet’s MyLink, an experience that didn’t occur during the prior week with a Buick LaCrosse. Turning the knob to cycle through satellite radio stations periodically accomplished nothing, but then a glance back at the screen a moment or two later revealed an intense scrolling, presumably caused by what I perceived to be my unsuccessful attempt at scanning through the list of channels. Overall, the system continues to be sufficiently intuitive but was persistently laggy in this car.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu interior storageIt all adds up to an undesirable machine, a transportation device that is unlikely to cause undue harm but struggles to do its job as effectively as its rivals. Still, I’d argue that a devoted GM buyer doesn’t need to look outside the Chevy showroom. A Cruze, particularly a loaded one that’ll still cost thousands less than this Malibu test specimen, does a faithful impersonation of a big car in dynamic terms. The Cruze’s interior is only 5% smaller. And if big car space is truly required, a V6-engined Impala is only slightly more costly than this specific Malibu. Forget the Malibu LTZ’s features: space is luxury.

Or you could just wait. As we’ve come to learn, there’s always a new Malibu around the corner.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Pulling From Volt Playbook http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2016-chevrolet-malibu-hybrid-pulling-volt-playbook/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2016-chevrolet-malibu-hybrid-pulling-volt-playbook/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 14:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029809 Pulling a few pages from the Volt playbook, Chevrolet will offer a “strong hybrid” version of the 2016 Malibu set to bow in New York next week. Power for the Malibu Hybrid comes from a 1.8-liter direct-injection four-cylinder paired with a modified two-motor drive unit from the 2016 Volt meant to aid the engine during […]

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2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Lithium-Ion Battery System, 1.8L En

Pulling a few pages from the Volt playbook, Chevrolet will offer a “strong hybrid” version of the 2016 Malibu set to bow in New York next week.

Power for the Malibu Hybrid comes from a 1.8-liter direct-injection four-cylinder paired with a modified two-motor drive unit from the 2016 Volt meant to aid the engine during acceleration. Total horsepower comes to 182, and its estimated combined mileage is projected to be 45 mpg. Electric power comes from an 80-cell lithium-ion pack providing 1.5 kWh to the hybrid system, which can allow the Malibu to travel up to 55 mph on electric-only travel.

The gasoline engine is also Chevrolet’s first to have exhaust gas heat recovery, improving fuel economy and engine warm up as well as providing heat to the cabin. Further fuel economy improves come from exhaust gas recirculation, while its regenerative braking system — also shared with the 2016 Volt — helps maintain charge in the pack

The hybrid will leave Kansas City, Kan. for showrooms next spring.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Lithium-Ion Battery System, 1.8L En 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid 1.8L Engine and Drive Unit 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Lithium-Ion Battery System

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Report: ‘Hundreds’ Of Recalled New Vehicles Sold Without Prior Repairs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/report-hundreds-recalled-new-vehicles-sold-without-prior-repairs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/report-hundreds-recalled-new-vehicles-sold-without-prior-repairs/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 13:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1025769 In an investigative segment on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday, ABC News purchased a vehicle under recall from a dealer who had not repaired it. Automotive News reports the vehicle, a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado, was purchased by an undercover producer from Hawthorne Chevrolet in Hawthorne, N.J. The truck was under recall for a potential risk […]

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In an investigative segment on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday, ABC News purchased a vehicle under recall from a dealer who had not repaired it.

Automotive News reports the vehicle, a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado, was purchased by an undercover producer from Hawthorne Chevrolet in Hawthorne, N.J. The truck was under recall for a potential risk of rolling away while the transmission was in neutral, as well as the possibility for the transfer case to switch to neutral while being driven, leading to loss of power and an increased crash risk.

The recall, issued in June 2014, affected 467,000 2014 and 2015 Chevrolet and GMC Silverados, Suburbans, Tahoes, Sierras, Yukons and Yukon XLs. Per General Motors, 86 percent of the trucks and SUVs — 402,000 units — have been repaired thus far. The Silverado purchased by ABC News was not among them, however, in violation of federal law that requires dealerships to repair vehicles with a safety defect, including those under recall, prior to delivery.

GM representative Alan Adler said his employer spoke with Hawthorne after the segment aired, stating that no disciplinary action is planned. Adler added that while the incident occurred at a Chevrolet dealership with a GM product, such incidents aren’t exclusive to the automaker. ABC confirmed this in its report, having found “hundreds” of new cars from various manufacturers in New York and New Jersey that were under recall, but were not repaired prior to sale.

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Sixth-Gen Chevrolet Camaro To Be Revealed Mid-May In Detroit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/sixth-gen-chevrolet-camaro-revealed-mid-may-detroit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/sixth-gen-chevrolet-camaro-revealed-mid-may-detroit/#comments Tue, 17 Mar 2015 11:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1023905 Want to see the sixth-gen Chevrolet Camaro? You’ll have to wait until mid-May, when Chevrolet reveals the vehicle in Detroit. The brand is inviting 1,000 fans to witness the unveiling in Belle Isle, which also includes a meet-and-greet with those behind the new Camaro, Camaro-only parking for owners, hot laps in a 2015 Z/28 around […]

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Want to see the sixth-gen Chevrolet Camaro? You’ll have to wait until mid-May, when Chevrolet reveals the vehicle in Detroit.

The brand is inviting 1,000 fans to witness the unveiling in Belle Isle, which also includes a meet-and-greet with those behind the new Camaro, Camaro-only parking for owners, hot laps in a 2015 Z/28 around the course that will host the Belle Isle Grand Prix in late May, and a display of vehicles from nearly 50 years of the car’s existence.

The catch? One must register online to attend the free event, with priority given to Camaro owners.

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General Motors Cutting Back 100K-Mile Powertrain Warranty http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/general-motors-cutting-back-100k-mile-powertrain-warranty/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/general-motors-cutting-back-100k-mile-powertrain-warranty/#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 12:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1021025 Due to lack of interest, General Motors is cutting back its 100,000-mile/five-year powertrain warranty for 2016 Chevrolet and GMC models. Automotive News reports the new warranty will cover the powertrain for up to five years or 60,000 miles, with courtesy transportation and roadside assistance still available for the period. The new standard matches those of […]

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Due to lack of interest, General Motors is cutting back its 100,000-mile/five-year powertrain warranty for 2016 Chevrolet and GMC models.

Automotive News reports the new warranty will cover the powertrain for up to five years or 60,000 miles, with courtesy transportation and roadside assistance still available for the period. The new standard matches those of Toyota, Ford and Honda. The coverage’s two-year free maintenance scheme will also be cut from four free visits for oil changes, tire rotations et al to just two.

Though the original extended warranty was meant to give consumers more confidence in GM products when first introduced for the 2007 model year, the memo sent out to dealers this week stated the following:

Through research, we have determined that when purchasing a new vehicle, included maintenance and warranty rank low on the list of reasons why consumers consider a particular brand over another. As a result, we have benchmarked our competitors, reviewed our current offerings and have concluded the following modifications to align closely with our customers’ needs and expectations.

Only the Chevrolet Volt will retain the 100,000-mile powertrain warranty for its battery pack and drive unit; Buick’s and Cadillac’s six-year/70,000 warranty will remain unchanged, as well.

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NYIAS 2015: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Teased Again Prior To Show http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/nyias-2015-2016-chevrolet-malibu-teased-prior-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/nyias-2015-2016-chevrolet-malibu-teased-prior-show/#comments Thu, 12 Mar 2015 12:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1020433 It was teased earlier, and now the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is teased again, this time in anti-spy camo. AutoGuide reports the photo above shows the new Malibu undergoing wind-tunnel testing, part of the vehicle’s overall 1.5-million-mile stress test. General Motors adds that the new model will lose 300 pounds and gain 4 inches in its […]

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The all-new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu spent thousands of hours fine

It was teased earlier, and now the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is teased again, this time in anti-spy camo.

AutoGuide reports the photo above shows the new Malibu undergoing wind-tunnel testing, part of the vehicle’s overall 1.5-million-mile stress test. General Motors adds that the new model will lose 300 pounds and gain 4 inches in its wheelbase, while the steep rear roofline is meant to help the Malibu fare better against its contemporaries.

The 2016 Malibu will make its debut April 1 at the 2015 New York Auto Show.

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Reuss: Low Priority For Ford Raptor Competitor http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/reuss-low-priority-ford-raptor-competitor/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/reuss-low-priority-ford-raptor-competitor/#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2015 14:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1018018 Will there be a Silverado or Sierra ready to battle the Ford Raptor in Baja Valley anytime soon? Not quite, according to General Motors. Edmunds says GM doesn’t have current plans to build a Raptor competitor, despite speculation that Chevrolet and GMC are working on such a beast as of this writing. The brands themselves […]

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Will there be a Silverado or Sierra ready to battle the Ford Raptor in Baja Valley anytime soon? Not quite, according to General Motors.

Edmunds says GM doesn’t have current plans to build a Raptor competitor, despite speculation that Chevrolet and GMC are working on such a beast as of this writing. The brands themselves also won’t confirm if the “Badlands” name filed in February with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is meant for a high-performance full-size off-road pickup.

Per GM global product development boss Mark Reuss, his company has the capital and a lot of priorties on the table, of which a Chevy/GMC Raptor is among the lowest in priority. Reuss added that he would not rule out such a thing, citing the Colorado ZR2 concept from the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show as where GM may go if it so chose.

Meanwhile, Buick-GMC vice president Duncan Aldred had this to say about the “Badlands” name:

When you are looking at terms, or names and phrases, the first thing you do, even if it is a speck of an idea, you trademark the name because it can become a legal mine field. If someone says, “I like that,” you generally go for it and work out if you might use it later. We’ve probably got hundreds, if not thousands, of names (we) don’t use.

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Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Trail Boss Newest Addition To GM Truck Trim Lineup http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/chevrolet-colorado-z71-trail-boss-newest-addition-gm-truck-trim-lineup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/chevrolet-colorado-z71-trail-boss-newest-addition-gm-truck-trim-lineup/#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2015 10:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1017898 Bowing at the 2015 Cleveland Auto Show this weekend, the Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Trail Boss is the latest in a series of trim packages for GM’s truck line. The Trail Boss trim pairs the Z71’s off-road suspension package with “more aggressive tires and additional appearance enhancements” on Colorados in extended and crew-cab configurations with either […]

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Bowing at the 2015 Cleveland Auto Show this weekend, the Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Trail Boss is the latest in a series of trim packages for GM’s truck line.

The Trail Boss trim pairs the Z71’s off-road suspension package with “more aggressive tires and additional appearance enhancements” on Colorados in extended and crew-cab configurations with either a short or long bed and optional 4WD. Power remains the Z71’s 3.6-liter V6, which sends its 305 horses to either the back or all corners through a six-speed automatic.

The aforementioned “aggressive tires” are Goodyear Wrangler DuraTracs mounted over 17-inch painted cast-aluminum wheels. Front fog lamps, projector beam headlamps, spray-on bedliner, automatic locking diff, and GearOn cargo accessories are some of the additional features included.

Those who opt for the Trail Boss trim can expect to pay an additional $3,320 over the price of the standard Z71 package — starting at $34,115 — when the trim hits showrooms this spring.

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Ford Readying Chevrolet Bolt Rival For Los Angeles Reveal http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/ford-readying-chevrolet-bolt-rival-los-angeles-reveal/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/ford-readying-chevrolet-bolt-rival-los-angeles-reveal/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 13:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1015938 Not one to be left in the dust, Ford is preparing a rival low-cost EV to go after the Chevrolet Bolt for a Los Angeles reveal this year. AutoGuide reports the plug-in EV would be a stand-alone model instead of a repurposed product like a Fiesta or Focus. Ford hopes to beat Chevrolet to the […]

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Not one to be left in the dust, Ford is preparing a rival low-cost EV to go after the Chevrolet Bolt for a Los Angeles reveal this year.

AutoGuide reports the plug-in EV would be a stand-alone model instead of a repurposed product like a Fiesta or Focus. Ford hopes to beat Chevrolet to the punch with a production version before the Bolt hits showrooms in 2017, though both vehicles would likely reach customers before Tesla’s low-cost Model 3 sees the light of day.

Though little else has been found on this project, a concept version of Ford’s Bolt is expected to bow at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

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General Motors Cutting Production To Relieve Inventory Glut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/general-motors-cutting-production-relieve-inventory-glut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/general-motors-cutting-production-relieve-inventory-glut/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1008274 Facing growing dealer inventories, General Motors is cutting back production at two of its plants to adjust supply and demand. Automotive News reports Orion Assembly in Detroit and the Flex line at Oshawa Car Assembly in Oshawa, Canada will be idled in March and April, respectively, each plant to idle for four days. Orion is […]

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Facing growing dealer inventories, General Motors is cutting back production at two of its plants to adjust supply and demand.

Automotive News reports Orion Assembly in Detroit and the Flex line at Oshawa Car Assembly in Oshawa, Canada will be idled in March and April, respectively, each plant to idle for four days. Orion is responsible for the Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano, while the Flex line handles the Chevrolet Camaro and Impala, Buick Regal, and Cadillac XTS.

The reduction in production comes amid consumer demand for trucks and crossovers over said vehicles, of which the Sonic and Regal hold the highest inventory levels at 216 and 213 days as of February 1, 2015. The Sonic’s inventory level is the highest since the subcompact’s August 2011 debut, while the Regal jumped to its level from just 96 days back on January 1.

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Autoleaks: Sixth-Gen Chevrolet Camaro Side-Panel Die Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/autoleaks-sixth-gen-chevrolet-camaro-side-panel-die-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/autoleaks-sixth-gen-chevrolet-camaro-side-panel-die-revealed/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 13:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1003658 The side-panel die for the sixth-gen Chevrolet Camaro was revealed via a leak Tuesday, providing the best view thus far of the car’s evolving style. Appearing on Camaro6.com, the die has the roofline entering a more tapered angle than on the current model, with the rear quarter window gaining more distance between itself and the […]

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The side-panel die for the sixth-gen Chevrolet Camaro was revealed via a leak Tuesday, providing the best view thus far of the car’s evolving style.

Appearing on Camaro6.com, the die has the roofline entering a more tapered angle than on the current model, with the rear quarter window gaining more distance between itself and the fender line. The greenhouse remains cozy with the doorline, as well.

Meanwhile, AutoGuide says General Motors hasn’t set a date for when the new Camaro will debut, with speculation pointing toward the 2015 New York Auto Show now that Detroit and Chicago have come and gone without an appearance.

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Chicago 2015: Refreshed 2016 Chevrolet Equinox Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chicago-2015-refreshed-2016-chevrolet-equinox-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chicago-2015-refreshed-2016-chevrolet-equinox-revealed/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 18:17:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=998234 Before arriving in showrooms this spring, the refreshed 2016 Chevrolet Equinox paid a visit to the 2015 Chicago Auto Show. The crossover gains not only revised styling and a fresh set of wheels for the occasion, but also a larger touchscreen to better navigate its 4G LTE WiFi system, a standard rear-view camera for all […]

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Before arriving in showrooms this spring, the refreshed 2016 Chevrolet Equinox paid a visit to the 2015 Chicago Auto Show.

The crossover gains not only revised styling and a fresh set of wheels for the occasion, but also a larger touchscreen to better navigate its 4G LTE WiFi system, a standard rear-view camera for all trims, and improved cloth upholstery. Power remains unchanged, derived from the base 2.4-liter four or 3.6-liter V6.

A bigger change for this year’s model is the elimination of the 1LT and 2LT trim levels, leaving just four from which to choose: L — which is now the new base model — LS, LT and LTZ. All trims gain projector beam headlights, LT and LTZ add daytime running lights with chrome accents, and LTZ brings new fog lamps to the party.

No pricing was announced as of this writing, though it may likely begin around $25,395 with delivery, the starting price for the outgoing base LS trim.

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Chicago 2015: Chevrolet Silverado Shows Off Custom Trim http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chicago-2015-chevrolet-silverado-shows-off-custom-trim/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chicago-2015-chevrolet-silverado-shows-off-custom-trim/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 17:49:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=998210 Just like it did in Detroit, General Motors showed off a new trim package for the Chevrolet Silverado at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show. The Silverado Custom trim package — targeted at customers who want a fancier pickup without spending their life savings to do so — throws chrome all over the Silverado LS, including […]

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Just like it did in Detroit, General Motors showed off a new trim package for the Chevrolet Silverado at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show.

The Silverado Custom trim package — targeted at customers who want a fancier pickup without spending their life savings to do so — throws chrome all over the Silverado LS, including the bumpers, door handles and mirror caps. Body-color top cap and 20-inch aluminum wheels make up the rest of the exterior enhancements.

Inside, front occupants will be greeted by a 40/20/40-split front seat and access to the truck’s 4G LTE WiFi hotspot. Cruise control, power locks and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel complete the picture within.

The Custom trim will be offered with either 4.3-liter V6 or 5.3-liter V8 engines, with a well-equipped V8 model expected to start at $33,820.

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2015 Chevrolet Trax: Reviewed! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/2015-chevrolet-trax-reviewed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/2015-chevrolet-trax-reviewed/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 14:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=996354   The plan was simple. Fly into New York City at some ungodly hour, a time when only drunks and degenerates are still awake. Drive to Massachusetts. The wedding, my buddy Jay’s, with whom I grew up in Boy Scouts, started that evening. Drive back to New York. Fly back to LA at 9pm. Land […]

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The plan was simple. Fly into New York City at some ungodly hour, a time when only drunks and degenerates are still awake. Drive to Massachusetts. The wedding, my buddy Jay’s, with whom I grew up in Boy Scouts, started that evening. Drive back to New York. Fly back to LA at 9pm. Land at some ungodly terrible hour, thereby earning my jet-set stripes: from the Best Coast to the Beast Coast, sneering at flyover country the entire way. How trendy!


People were freaking out about the impending blizzard that I was flying into: twenty feet of snow, roads clogged with snowdrifts, cars abandoned in the street, New Yorkers huddled around barrels for warmth. Cats and dogs living together, you know. But it was not to be. By the time our flight landed, the mercury had risen to a positively balmy 35 degrees—any impending doom snow had conveniently turned itself to rain. The sort of thing East Coasters just shrug off underneath our Burlington Coat Factory peacoats. It was 5am. The world was aglow in amber, and the air was crisp yet warm, and I was landing with probably two hours of sleep—but there was to be no sleep til Brooklyn, so I climbed into the bright orange Trax LTZ AWD and set off.

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The Trax is a quiet little thing, for the most part. The engine doesn’t speak unless spoken to, and its 1.4-liter turbocharged four-banger musters 138 slightly frazzled horses. But there’s precious little sound deadening from below. And in the waning hours before the snowplows, every invisible chunk of ice explodes in the wheelwells like a landmine, ka-pinging across the cabin…

There’s an expansive view out of the windshield, coupled with an absurdly upright seating position where your legs will form perfect 90-degree angles, just the way your Catholic schoolteachers intended. But the headlights, for some reason, are painfully dim. And small side mirrors are strangely shaped, and 18-wheelers to disappear in the Trax’s blind spots—somewhere out there is one such truck, headed to Massachusetts, who helped remake Duel within the span of an on-ramp.

The Trax’s steering is full of feedback, building resistance evenly, a pleasant surprise. So too is the ride, nicely controlled and cushy. You can shift your own gears, but you wouldn’t want to. The Hydra-Matic 6T40 automatic moves slowly through six gears, via a dorky button on the side of the shifter: all the power and control, in your thumb! GM loves that, for some reason, in the Trax’s only transmission. Rowing your own is so passé.

For smartphone obsessives, there is one USB port tucked away in the upper glovebox. There’s no good place to put your phone where you can see it. This is a problem, because Chevy’s MyLink runs navigation from a smartphone app. It’s called BringGo. And it costs 99 cents, which might not seem much, but still smacks of nitpicky hidden fees: “I already paid for the car, now I gotta pay for this?

This press photo of the Chevy Trax shows all of the fun places where you can misplace spare change, iPhone cables, and half-empty tubes of ChapStick.

This press photo of the Chevy Trax shows all of the fun places where you can misplace spare change, iPhone cables, and half-empty tubes of ChapStick.

The lack of phone visibility is a strike against the supposedly car-hating #millennials to whom GM must grovel. The rest of the interior is straightforward, yet strangely forced: no armrest, sure, but two weird cubbyholes on either side of the center vents, which look like vents themselves, but are instead destined to store loose change and loose rectangles of Trident gum and not much else. Sonic-ish motorcycle-aping gauges make a welcome appearance. The steering wheel is wrapped in smooth leather, but the seats are faux leather, grippy cloth evidently too plebian for eager-to-impress, moneyed types buying Chevrolet’s cheapest CUV. The Bose sound system, however, is bitchin’—sharp and punchy, especially for 90s hip-hop.

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By 8am I was in Carroll Gardens, getting a coffee and a #saturdaymorningbagelrun sandwich with whitefish and smoked salmon, which shall all go on the record, Your Honor. (It was an “everything” bagel. No more questions.) For this urban-hopping business, the Trax is quite good. It’s easy to park and has a great turning radius, both boons to the snowed-in New Yorker who has a full 24-hour weekend solely reserved for standing in line to get brunch—the two-hour wait for the still-hungover Manhattan- or Brooklynite, compounded into various Bennies and unlimited mimosas, an epicurean wonder that lasts until 2pm and a good three meals.

#saturdaymorningbagelrun

A photo posted by Jeff (@jeffjablansky) on

I didn’t have time for this. I still had three good hours of driving, in shaky weather, to get through. So around 10am I jumped back into the Trax and headed up I-95 through Connecticut, where the snow was still falling. But the storm gathered a second wind by Massachusetts, and the fresh powder was racing the snowplows on the freeways—and, truth be told, the Trax doesn’t inspire very much confidence when the snow starts falling…

A photo posted by Blake Z. Rong (@bzrong) on

The front wheels tug at every little bit of slush, following like an excited bloodhound, and the steering wheel pulls accordingly. The AWD system is fairly rudimentary, sending half the torque to the rear wheels only when needed. (At $1,500, it’s Chevrolet’s cheapest AWD option.) LTZ also adds heated seats. So even if one were to buy a Trax as a winter beater, as I suspect an adolescent New Englander will in ten years to deliver pizzas to used-car lots, one minor detail prevents it from being weather-ready: the wipers don’t flip up. I readily noticed this when pulling into a parking lot of Harrington Farm, in the foothills of Wa-Wa-Wachusett Mountain, packed full of Subarus with their blades turned skyward like anti-aircraft guns. How more New England does that get?

Alright dogg let's get MARRIED! Let's get married to a LADY!

Alright dogg let’s get MARRIED! Let’s get married to a LADY!

“We ah gathahed heah today,” said the officiant, “heaht to heaht, foah the union of Jess and Jay—” Jay, it must be noted, had become an Eagle Scout with me, who once owned a Pontiac GTO and a Subaru Legacy Spec B, in that order. I’m never going to own anything front-wheel drive, he swore over margaritas the week before. That to me sounded like a good goal to have—to have and to hold, in sickness and in health.

The cutting of the ice cream cake. Because ice cream cake is awesome.

Ice cream cake is awesome.

The next day, I drove back to New York. I filled up on the way back and found 24 miles per gallon, most of which was bounding down freeways. (The AWD Trax is rated at 24/31 mpg, city/highway.) That’s what happens, I suppose, when Connecticut drivers will curb-stomp you below 75mph while the AWD system adds 400 pounds to a car resembling a squishy shoebox.

That Sunday night, I flew on a redeye to Los Angeles. (“JFK->LAX: #TodaysOffice,” and all that.) The next day, the real blizzard hit.

Before I left, I eyeballed the sticker on my LTZ, AWD Trax: $27,995.

Twenty-eight thousand Tricky Dick Fun Buxx for a plasticky, uncharismatic Sonic that resembles a children’s toy and deserves to be $5,000 cheaper, at most—that’s what it comes down to. That’s what you get for over $300 per month. It just so happens that immediately after my time with the Trax, two other young, #hip, #activelifestyle #millennials spent time with it. Jablansky drove a red one. Patrick George of Jalopnik drove an orange one. The exact same one as me, down to the window sticker, but Texas-plated. “You can do better,” George noted, before concluding: ” I’m sure the Trax will sell in respectable numbers, possibly even great ones. But I can’t say it’s a great choice to make.”

Jablansky spoke in similar terms. “Gutless,” he said, “and way overpriced. The Trax is dumpy, like a summer camp girlfriend: she’s durable but kind of flimsy. But Becca didn’t have AWD.”

Chevy Trax donuts 2

We all know the refrain, from our mouths to God’s ears: “there are no bad cars anymore.” No, there are no bad cars: twenty, thirty years ago, the only people brave enough to drive a Korean-built car through a snowstorm would be serial killers, presumably on the way to their next victims. But believe me, there is plenty of mediocrity, sheer and yawning mediocrity, and plenty of mediocre cars that leave no impression in its users, nothing particularly negative and certainly nothing positive. Mediocrity is the enemy of the car enthusiast, but it is also the bane of the daily driver. It is insidious to spend the second most amount of money anyone will shell out in a lifetime, on a car that doesn’t do anything particularly well.

Competent but never confidence inspiring, the Trax reflects the notion that sometimes, mediocrity is more expensive than you ever expected.

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Autoleaks: 2016 Chevrolet Spark Seen Before New York 2015 Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/autoleaks-2016-chevrolet-spark-seen-new-york-2015-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/autoleaks-2016-chevrolet-spark-seen-new-york-2015-debut/#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 13:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=995330 Can’t wait until New York to see the 2016 Chevrolet Spark? These leaked photos should do. AutoGuide reports the new Spark, set to bow at the 2015 New York Auto Show in early April, will get its looks from the Cruze, and feature the brand’s signature face. The compact will be underpinned by the same […]

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Can’t wait until New York to see the 2016 Chevrolet Spark? These leaked photos should do.

AutoGuide reports the new Spark, set to bow at the 2015 New York Auto Show in early April, will get its looks from the Cruze, and feature the brand’s signature face. The compact will be underpinned by the same platform the Opel Karl will wear when it hits the ramp at Geneva next month.

Aside from the above, the Spark will remain similar to the outgoing model as far as dimensions go, and will retain the former’s C-pillar-integrated rear-door handles. More details are likely to come closer to showtime.

2016-chevrolet-spark 2016-chevrolet-spark-01

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Grandma Review: Chevrolet Sonic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/grandma-review-chevrolet-sonic/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/grandma-review-chevrolet-sonic/#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 15:50:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=995066 I haven’t owned an American car since 1992, but it’s been over 35 years since I’ve even driven a Chevrolet. In 1979, my husband bought himself a Caprice, with the biggest V8 engine available. Usually, we owned Chryslers, Dodges and once, a green V8 Mustang, like the one Steve McQueen drove in Bullitt. There was also a Mercury […]

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I haven’t owned an American car since 1992, but it’s been over 35 years since I’ve even driven a ChevroletIn 1979, my husband bought himself a Caprice, with the biggest V8 engine available. Usually, we owned Chryslers, Dodges and once, a green V8 Mustang, like the one Steve McQueen drove in Bullitt. There was also a Mercury Sable and a Ford Escort – a compact car that was probably smaller than the Chevrolet Sonic I rented in Florida.

When I booked the car, the rental agent told me that I’d be able to get a Honda Civic, but I ended up with this little black Sonic. I remember Derek went to drive the Sonic when it first came out, and he had good things to say about it. I don’t know if I liked it as much as he did.

I definitely like the hatchback style like my Honda Fit. It’s easier to see out of, though the Sonic felt nice and nimble and easy to park. The engine was a little quieter and a little smoother too, but didn’t feel as responsive as the Fit. I also like the way the Honda sits a little higher up.

The trunk space in the Sonic also couldn’t fit both my friend’s walker and the bundle buggy I use to carry my groceries, but it’s not really a fair comparison. The Sonic is a sedan, and can’t be expected to hold as much as a hatchback.

Two things I didn’t like: there’s no release for the fuel filler. You just press the door and it opens. It’s not a bad idea, but it’s very confusing for someone like me. It was also strange using a knob to turn the headlights on and off. It would have been easier if the rental company included the owner’s manual.

After driving the Sonic for a month, I never really warmed up to it. It’s a sharp looking car, and a lot better than what I expected from an American car, but I don’t think I’d want one over my Honda. So far, I have felt that way about both rental cars. Maybe if Derek lets me drive a Jaguar F-Type, I’ll feel differently (hint hint, Derek).

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