The Truth About Cars » Zeta http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 01 Oct 2014 16:21:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 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 is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Zeta http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Capsule Review – 2011 Holden Commodore, Pontiac G8, Chevy SS, Chevrolet Caprice http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/capsule-review-2011-holden-commodore-pontiac-g8-chevy-ss-chevrolet-caprice/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/capsule-review-2011-holden-commodore-pontiac-g8-chevy-ss-chevrolet-caprice/#comments Tue, 26 Nov 2013 16:01:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=664226 My boss and I drive the same style rental slug Toyota over here, but when his was due for service, instead of a replacement Fortuner, I spotted a 2011 Chevy Caprice in his parking spot. Having spent almost a year without a proper V-8 under my foot, I convinced him we needed to take that […]

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Courtesy of GM Middle East

Courtesy of GM Middle East

My boss and I drive the same style rental slug Toyota over here, but when his was due for service, instead of a replacement Fortuner, I spotted a 2011 Chevy Caprice in his parking spot. Having spent almost a year without a proper V-8 under my foot, I convinced him we needed to take that one out.

I also introduced him to a new term…hooning. Mental's Abu Dhabi Dispatches

The staff and contributors here get a fairly standard rash of comments about perceived anti-GM bias. I don’t think it’s accurate, but it’s hard to not get annoyed with GM. Not because of their vehicles, but what they do with the good ones.

You can't control me! I'm a hoon!

You can’t control me! I’m a hoon!

This car is maddening. It works, and it works very well. When GM recognized the need for a RWD platform for LEO sales, they imported this version after Pontiac and its impressive G-8 left the landscape. Bark M recently pointed out the god-awful job GM has done to promote this car, even after it became their primary NASCAR platform.

This particular sedan was a 2011 with just over 54,000 kilometers (33,500 miles) on the clock. 2011 was the introduction of a “new” interior and standard features. This base model had the standard rental quality plastics and faux wood but Bluetooth stereo and dual climate controls are standard features. Both are excellent, once I realized the volume was on the other side of the stereo (Australian, remember?)

No seriously, how do I turn up the radio?

No seriously, how do I turn up the radio?

Without the leather interior, remote start or full integrated navigation system; stateside this would be a great mid-priced sedan. Given the NASCAR tie in, this car would sell itself, not just to rental fleets, but to GM loyalists who believe they don’t need leather and fancy interiors but do absolutely need a V-8. Trust me, those customers are out there, I am related to a lot of them. The fact that Chrysler sells a ton of non-SRT/8 Chargers underscores my point.

I showed my southern roots very quickly after slipping behind the wheel, I had deftly turned off the stability control before making the hard 90 degree right onto the expressway. Exiting the turn I planted the throttle and was rewarded with a proper growl from under the bonnet and controlled wheelspin until the transmission shifted. My boss held the syllable he was speaking at the time as the big sedan pulled. By the time I let off he was giggling with me.

IMG_3410

Oh Blessed Lady of Acceleration, please forgive me. I did not mean to stray from your house, I was pulled away kicking and screaming into a midsized SUV. I have missed your song and your touch. It’s so pleasant to speed up without downshifting. Just a toe prod onto the pedal and off she goes. The LS series is such a wonderful engine.

An airport pickup left me with the chance to sample the traffic manners of the big Chevy. It was fine, this is not a BMW or a Mercedes but it’s a solid platform and well mannered. It is what a RWD Caprice has always been.  Here, you can option these cars to the stratosphere or just get the trim level you need. The seats are comfortable enough but not side bolstered. The driver’s seat will extend far enough back to pull my feet off the pedals completely, the rear seat is usable and I haven’t seen a trunk as big in any of my beloved German offerings. This is why it’s maddening as a fan of GM. Why does this car start in Cadillac pricing territory? Why can’t I just order a mid-level trim car?

IMG_3415

After dinner I gave the keys back to my boss, who took the chance to mimic some of my shenanigans. Rolling slowly through a puddle from a sprinkler he floored it. Dual wheelspin and a delightful sound had all three of us grinning.

When the G8 was introduced, I was impressed but not interested. But before it all came crashing down, there was talk of the Aussie-designed ute coming to US shores. For the first time in my life, I began to save for a down payment for a new car. When it all went wrong, I was heartbroken.

The G8 was not the strong seller it should have been for a variety of reasons, and now GM is making the same marketing mistakes with this car.

On the way home, the excellent Bluetooth was streaming iTunes top downloads. Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” came on. A 550 AMG passed us, and with the slightest prod the LS put us in its wake, drafting the big German saloon without breathing hard.

“I’m feelin’ electric tonight, Cruising down the coast goin’ ’bout 99”

The next morning, it was back to the Toyota.

Sigh.

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GM Alpha Platform: All Things To All Enthusiasts? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/gm-alpha-platform-all-things-to-all-enthusiasts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/gm-alpha-platform-all-things-to-all-enthusiasts/#comments Tue, 20 Apr 2010 17:20:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=353379 First developed by Holden in 2004, GM’s Zeta platform now underpins vehicles as diverse as the Statesman/Lumina/G8/Caprice sedans, and the Chevy Camaro. Originally designed for full-sized , rear-drive Australian sedans, Zeta was downsized as far as it could be for the Camaro, which reviewers largely view as overweight and rather too ungainly for true sportscar […]

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First developed by Holden in 2004, GM’s Zeta platform now underpins vehicles as diverse as the Statesman/Lumina/G8/Caprice sedans, and the Chevy Camaro. Originally designed for full-sized , rear-drive Australian sedans, Zeta was downsized as far as it could be for the Camaro, which reviewers largely view as overweight and rather too ungainly for true sportscar status. Accordingly, GM has been developing a new rear-drive platform known as “Alpha,” which will form the basis of GM’s performance and luxury RWD models for the considerable future. Last we heard about Alpha was last August, when Bob Lutz swore there was no development underway of the platform he compared to BMW’s 1-/3-series. According to Motor Trend, work on the Alpha platform has begun… but there are already signs of trouble.

MT’s big scoop is that GM is “flexing” the Alpha platform. So what the hell does that mean in Ed Whitacre industry-novice-speak?

we’ve learned that the platform is being “protected” for a variety of engines, including four-cylinders, supercharged or turbocharged V-6s, and the small block V-8. By “protected,” we mean the bodies are designed to allow for proper fitting of the various engines, whether they are offered with all the engine choices or not. You don’t “close off” the design to make it impossible to add a different engine or transmission initially unplanned. While four-cylinder engines are smaller than sixes and eights, of course, the cars also must accommodate active engine mounts to account for less inherent refinement and smoothness in the fours.

On the surface this seems like a hefty dollop of awesome. By building flexibility into its new platform, GM will be able to offer cheap, efficient four-bangers in budget enthusiast models (the next-generation Camaro will be based on Alpha) and big V8 power in extreme V-series versions of the Alpha-platform Cadillac, known as the ATS , as well as the next-gen CTS which will also be based on Alpha. Scratch a little deeper though, and some of the problems with this strategy reveal themselves.

The major issue with making Alpha capable of a full engine range is the perennial bane of the Zeta platform, namely weight. In fact, weight concerns were the very reason Hyundai decided to ban V6s from its new Sonata sedan. As Hyundai NA president John Krafcik explains in this video, by not having to engineer V6 and four-cylinder hardpoints, Hyundai’s developers were able to trim significant amounts of weight and mass from the Sonata. And with recent breakthroughs in direct-injected, turbocharged engine technology, they’re giving up little to nothing for the added lightness.

The problem for GM is that it’s invested so much in its power-mad Cadillac V-Series badge that it can’t develop the platform that will underpin the next CTS-V without at least leaving room for a “breathed-on V6.” Which, as MT explains, means they might as well just make it capable of rocking a small-block V8 as well:

Breathed-on V-6s need engine bay accommodation for the blowers or turbos, and for intercoolers. This makes it easy to protect for a small block — overhead valves are more compact at the engine’s top than dual overhead cams with four valves per cylinder. Therefore, they fit more easily than the breathed-on sixes.

Meanwhile, there’s another problem:

These plans are fluid. GM is said to be in a quandary over the transmission designed to accommodate these cars. It’s developing an eight-speed automatic for its V-6s. The question is, will the eight-speed be designed for front-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive?

Before you say, “both, of course,” be aware that new transmissions are very expensive. Adapting an eight-speed for both FWD and RWD can double the already healthy cost of doing it for just one configuration. And while BMW and Lexus eight-speed automatics so far serve only RWD-based cars, if GM decided to design it for transverse mounting, it would serve a much higher volume of cars and trucks.

If it designs the transmission for RWD to better compete with BMW and Lexus, it probably would have to add the transmission to trucks and big SUVs in order to get enough volume

Weight and expense problems? Trying to develop a single platform that’s capable of competitively executing every RWD application across several brands? Compromising mainstream variants in order to justify the insane engine requirements of low-volume halo versions? Does any of this sound like a new day for GM’s RWD reputation to you? Don’t get me wrong: a sub-Zeta RWD platform is a great idea (in Cadillac’s case, probably an existentially necessary one), and my inner enthusiast thrills at the idea of both budget RWD treats and tiny, loony supersedans. But the last thing I want to see is GM spending taxpayer money developing a platform that tries to fill too many niches, only to end up a dud of a compromised-to-death mess. Sure, platforms are becoming more flexible but so are engines. With the Pontiac Solstice GXP’s Ecotec DI four-pot already making 260 horsepower, and with downsized, direct-injection turbo engines poised to become the short-term future of the car industry (to say nothing of CAFE), GM could make the Alpha platform four-cylinder-only and make up the performance difference with the reduced curb weight and engine technology. Too bad it probably won’t.

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