Texas®

 

For most of my life I’ve been familiar with the phrase “His potential is unlimited, if he would only apply himself.” Such was said about me while I was napping in Geography class, staring out the window in Math class and daydreaming in Biology lab. I heard it so much that it became like the sound of the teachers in Charlie Brown “WahWah Wah Wah Wah.

Now, I’ve found myself using the same phrase over and over when referring to General Motors marveling at how the biggest corporation in the world could continue to build the kind of cars they did and yet, still keep going. I think the same answer applies to both myself, and GM, really. I was never challenged by school, it came easy to me and I never tried. GM, in a position of overwhelming market dominance in the early 1970’s, never felt challenged either. They built what they built and people would buy their products simply because it was a GM vehicle.

For me, it wasn’t really until I got out on my own and had to pay for my own schooling that I decided to focus some real effort. For GM, however, it took a near death experience.

There’s nothing quite like nearly dying that can make you appreciate living.

Long before the bankruptcy, GM was trying to right the ship, but it turned out to be too little, too late. There was too much rot; the company had become overburdened and they simply couldn’t pull it off any longer.

I first realized what they were capable of when the first Cadillac CTS-V showed up at my place, I couldn’t believe it was a GM product. It was too solid, too well designed and too fun. It moved my preconceived notions and expectations for what the General was capable of to an entirely different place.

Then during the tumultuous years around the debate of whether the global economy could survive GM’s death, there were still glimmers of hope. The truck range was great, cars were better than they had ever been and GM began to embrace their global abilities, bringing Pontiac a couple of products developed in Australia. It was such a refreshing change, and I began to relax, but literally the week I was driving the exceptional Pontiac G8 GT, Pontiac got axed. At that point, I saw the potential evaporate before my eyes.

Today there is a great deal of attention being paid to the exceptional, game-changing, and innovative Electric Chevy Volt and how it’s going to effect how we think about driving. That’s all well and good, but I have to tell you: I’m more excited about the 2011 Chevy Cruze sitting outside my window. It’s the car Chevy has been capable of for years and now they have finally built it.

The reason I’m excited: Chevy has finally built a “meat and potatoes” car that is just plain great.

The small sedan market is the sweet spot of the automotive business. This is the market segment where you sell in bulk and sales are measured in hundreds of thousands of units per month. Honda’s Civic, Toyota’s Carolla, Ford’s Focus and Chrysler’s 200/Dodge Avenger, among many others, share this big chunk of the sales pie chart. The competition is rather heated, but in every way the Cruze is up to the challenge.

On first blush the Cruze is a good looking chunk of metal, which is where the bizzaro world of the new GM starts altering my life’s expectations. The design is fresh, clean and efficient with curves and creases sculpting around wheel arches and windows and gives the Cruze what one should expect from a more expensive European car. The somewhat sported-up LTZ version has some aero bits in front, fascia and rear deck lid treatments which, again counter to my experience, look like they belong on the car rather than hot glue-gunned out of day-old marshmallows.

Even the simple act of opening and closing the drivers door makes someone experienced in all-things-automotive mutter to himself, “It’s a Chevy? Really?” But in reality, it is when you sit in the handsome, well laid-out and functional interior that you might begin to develop a slight facial tick as you try to process the idea that GM has been capable of building something this good all along, and yet they gave us the Lumina. Such a realization almost makes you angry.

My trip through bizzaro world continued when I fired up the little sedan’s engine. It’s quiet, boasts 24-36 MPG ratings, and has 138 horsepower coming out of a little 4-cylinder turbo. These are really good numbers, even in this fuel-sipping segment, but it is the fact that GM has built such a stout power plant that’s really worth noting. In the past their “Little 4’s” managed to get nicknames like the “Iron Duke” and the “Quad-4”. The Duke was at one time considered innovative (in 1973) when it came. The Quad-4 was GM’s first real foray into multi-valve, non-pushrod engines and it ended up being a poster child for underpowered, noisy boat anchors like the GrandAm and Olds Achieva.

The Cruze is propelled by a six speed automatic in a front-wheel drive configuration that at one time would have been a tremendously bad idea with old school turbo’s creating lane hopping torque steer issues, but GM has managed to shed so much of its old, bad tendencies that when driving the Cruze, it’s just hard to believe that it’s really a GM product.

The transmission is seamless, but does have just the slightest turbo lag between pedal application and motivation, but the ride and dynamics of the car are as good as any car I have ever driven in this market, and far better than most.

A few weeks ago I was a little harsh on Dodge’s Avenger and in driving the Cruze, I have come to the conclusion I should’ve been harsher. I said at that time that I believed the standard of care in the Economy car market needed to be higher and GM just delivered on that expectation. This is a packed-full-of-options car that only rings out at $24,500.00 with a base price of $17,000.00, which is exactly the price point of the Avenger. There is simply no comparison. GM has almost embarrassingly trumped the Dodge and even equals the Civic sedan. I think you even get more car for the dollar with the Cruze than even the Civic or Carolla which is a statement I never ever thought I type.

Over the years, GM has done more to harm their once-dominant place in the market than any competitor could. They seemed to forget the reason they became such a colossal corporation was they built pretty good cars for much of their history. It was someplace along the way that they seemed to change from a “car company” to a “financial services company” that just happened to build cars as one of their core business units.

After their near death experience GM seems to have clarified their mission like I’ve never seen them do before. They put a real car guy, Bob Lutz, in charge of developing world-class cars and he has done just that. The Chevy Cruze really is the product that Chevy has been able to do all along and I am so happy they are now using the tremendous talents and abilities they have at their disposal.

Now, if I could just do the same.

The three-way battle for the Heavy Duty segment of the pick up pruck market just got considerably more interesting.

All three domestic players, Ford, Dodge and GM, have, over the last few months, rolled out their big guns. They are all packing new or updated power from big, stump pulling turbo diesel engines.

This is not the segment of the full sized market the others play in. Both Toyota and Nissan, who offer excellent 1/2 ton options, do not have vehicles in the 3/4 ton market and do not offer diesel alternatives in the North American market. It is one of the few arenas in which the domestics do not have Pacific Rim competition.

It has become a hotly contested segment where each is scratching for advantage touting “Better” towing, “Better” interior, “Better” horsepower and trying to parse the most miniscule advantage into a marketing bonanza.

The most coveted of all potential customers is the convert. The convert is one who has always bought a Ford who decides to go against trend and opt to by a Chevy instead. That doesn’t sound that farfetched to most but this is the most loyal consumer in the most loyal market segment in the automotive business.

Especially in Texas, which is the largest market in North America for trucks, where brand loyalty takes on a near religious fervor in some quarters, I have actually witnessed fist fights that began when one’s truck gets insulted. It is the Texan equivalent of telling ‘Yo’ Momma’ slap downs.

The general more than takes this profitable and competitive market seriously and offer both GMC and Chevy truck labels that are essentially the same rolling stock with slight variations on branding theme. The Chevy Silverado 2500 HD 4WD LT provided to Any Driven Sunday is one of the nicest riding large trucks in the market.

Powered by a wonderfully quiet and powerful DuraMax 6.6 V8 Turbo diesel mated to a strong and seamless Allison 6-speed automatic, the Silverado is a fantastic place to either watch highway miles disappear or slowly slip past trees and turf off road. The interior on the test truck was as it should be LOW maintenance, just simple fabric and vinyl – a no muss, no fuss affair.

Not that the Chevy was devoid of options. With the “On the Job” package, it came equipped with bed mounted tie down hooks, rail liner protectors, a slip resistant bed liner, and 18” polished aluminum wheels brightening up the exterior. It is as it should be: a work truck that looks great.

The premium uptick on the diesel for any of these HD trucks is usually a $5-7 grand ticket inflator that keeps all but those who need the power of this tool from experiencing how wonderful going to the pump with the green handle can be. A regular Silverado HD 4×4 with a big gas motor will hit you squarely in the 10-14 MPG area, where the diesel was consistently pulling 18-22 MPG numbers regardless of how hard I was throttling it down the road.

In my mind, the greater fuel economy and more efficient power delivery afforded by a diesel engine is worth the increased price. I know there are ways via tax incentives for Commercial vehicles and especially for “Alternative” fuel vehicles that can help take the sting out of that price jump. However you do it the diesel it the way to go, hands down, in the large truck market.

After all, with a Heavy Duty truck it is not about the show it is about the go and this Chevy goes very well, it handles far more like a car and has a very comfortable and well laid out interior. This is the kind of truck that owners keep for a long time and use the hell out of.

While driving around the Melissa area of North Texas, where the pictures were shot, it became obvious the simple but elegant lines of the Silverado carried well down side roads with minimal drama. The steering is light and the handling, braking and road manners Chevy brings to the table are second to none.

I really liked the Dodge HD 2500 we had a couple of weeks ago it was a great truck, but for the option of heavy duty I found my preference started to shift to Chevy, but alas it had to go home.

Thankfully, my truck fetish will be sated by the Ford Super Duty that has taken its place outside the front door of my home.

Earlier this year as the first 2011 Chevy Suburban’s started rolling down the Arlington, Texas’ General Motors Assembly line, Any Driven Sunday had the chance to sit down with one of the big kahuna’s at the helm of “The New GM” to talk about the longest lasting line of vehicles in the market and the future of GM.

As Global Vice President responsible for Chevrolet’s Domestic Sales and Service in the United States, Allan Batey has quite a daunting task most brave souls would run from as GM has gone through government supervised bankruptcy and Batey is partially responsible for billions of dollars of public bailout money. He and the company are also under the magnifying glass of the press and every politician trying to make a brownie point with frustrated voters.

“Really, it is a great time to have this job,” Batey says with his working class English roots showing in his accent and scrappy attitude, “We have a product line that is better than it has ever been in the history of this company. The reality is, it is a far better product than most people think it is. That is a great thing, now we have to get some seats in our seats to prove it.”

Batey started in the Global GM world with England’s Vauxhall, then. as one of many executives being groomed for higher places, he was sent in to Germany’s Opel operations eventually living and working in seven countries and earning a reputation as a man who can handle complex problems.

Bringing a company through restructuring and out of bankruptcy is no small task, but Batey has a unique bit of experience on his resume. Back in the 90s he was part of the team working for GM Asia dealing with the purchase of the then bankrupt Daewoo Motor Company in Korea.

Daewoo was once the value leader, darling of the super hot South Asian market, but like cross-town rival Kia, Daewood was decimated by dealings with Tommy Suharto, the son of the onetime Indonesian strongman. Tommy was largely responsible as the straw that broke the Asian economy’s back, plunging Korea’s small car rivals both into a death spiral. Kia ended up being folded into Hyundai and Daewoo became one of the asset rich prizes being pursued by both Ford and GM. GM won and Batey was part of the team tasked with sorting out the collected mess.

“Daewoo was a very unique challenge,’ explains Batey, “We had to be exceptionally careful of which assets we took on. The company had a global influence and has become the basis of many of our best selling cars throughout Asia and in particular in china where we sell a number of cars based out of the Daewoo operations.”

The reason Batey was in Dallas was the launch of the 2011 Chevrolet Suburban and he brought along a couple of things. One was a 1935 Chevrolet Suburban Carryall wagon the other was multiple NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, Jimmy Johnson.

While most of the local media was clamoring for Johnson’s attention, Alan Batey sat down with Any Driven Sunday to talk about the bumpy road GM has endured and the tremendous opportunities the New GM had in front of it.

Even after emerging from bankruptcy GM is still one of the largest corporate entities in the world with global commitments and challenges.

The Suburban is very much the ideal vehicle to illustrate one of the more complex challenges ahead. It is the big boy on the street both figuratively and literally defining the Super Sized SUV market that grew up around it and siblings Tahoe, Yukon, Denali and Escalade. All are built in Arlington Texas, at a plant that has had to compete with other plants across the country to hold on to production and the millions of dollars of primary, secondary and tertiary jobs associated with it.

Dodge never really entered the Premium super sized SUV market and Ford all but abandoned it when they killed the Excursion leaving the Suburban alone with a 75 year heritage and a reputation for being one of the rally flags of conspicuous consumption uniting the environmental movement of all things wrong with the world.

The newest Suburban’s are still larger than most Manhattan apartments but are now available with “Flex Fuel” technology and most importantly 2-mode Hybrid options. These options make a huge difference in the “Carbon Footprint” of a vehicle that has become not just the choice of families but also has become a commercial staple.

In movies and in reality the altered Suburban chassis is probably the most modified vehicle in service today. Thousands of “Civilian Contractors” Secret Service and military operators have been driving Armored Surburbans in some of the harshest places for vehicles and human cargo. The big truck frame and heavy-duty construction are modified by companies like San Antonio’s Texas Armoring Corporation (www.texasarmoring.com) for use in Iraq, Afghanistan and other dangerous places around the world.

GM has a unique struggle on its hands trying to reintroduce and in some cases introduce its product line to a consumer who for years has a preconception of what the General is. Prior to the bailout, Bankruptcy and restructuring Federal Auto Czar Steve Rattner’s assessment of the company was right on the money when he said on PBS’s Charlie Rose show, “It has a product line that is far better than anyone knew it was and a corporate culture that was simply the most dysfunctional thing I have ever seen.”

Even before the removal of Rick Waggoner as CEO, the shift to change that corporate culture had begun.

At the same time as GM tries to get people to try their product, which really is equal to the challenge, they can’t completely walk away from their heritage. Over 100 years of car building creates some great linage but more than a few black eyes to go with it. GM is trying to capture the good, like the new Corvette Grand Sport’s homage to the glory days of racing, and hope people can forget the lost generations of the 70’s 80’s and 90’s dreadful designs (Aztek) and monumental build quality and labor issues of the Roger Smith era.

The Suburban is one of those vehicles that came out of the mess GM brought upon itself stronger than you might think. Sitting alone in the market with a restructured and reenergized corporation behind it the GMC/Chevy product line is positioned to win back customers who seem willing and hopeful the General really is better.

There are very few vehicles out there that I would rather take, along with all my possessions for an extended voyage. The Suburban’s long wheelbase, solid frame, and seamless transmission make the journey effortless as long as you have the resources to stomach the 14/19 MPG. Dropping $5 in the gas tank is like spitting in a swimming pool and coming up to the cash register at $60,500.00 it is not a lightweight in price or 5835 pound curb weight.

“People who are in the car business want to build great cars, that is why you are in the business. I’m a third generation guy and I am in the car business because I love it,” Batey enthusiastically points out the challenges are great but at a time where the product is so strong he knows the New GM will rise from the last year much stronger, “The one thing that will trip us up is if we somehow become complacent and start to believe our own press and our own propaganda. We absolutely have to keep pushing forward, get results on the board, and get results that do not have to be explained. If we do that the brand will move very fast.”

It will be interesting to see if GM can follow through and continue to develop this new found entrepreneurial spirit into lasting success. Scrappy, experienced executives like Batey seem ready for the fight and the challenge of making a truly massive global company act like a small responsive underdog.

I can’t remember the last time a North American car has had the impact the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe has had, not just on me, but on everyone who has spotted it.

Quite simply the CTS-V Coupe is the evolution of and proof that a North American car manufacturer can build a car that equals any car from anyplace in the world. It is stunning, following the hard edge design philosophy first introduced on the first generation CTS Sedan, how the lines become kaleidoscope intersections that slice the wind and dazzle light like a prism.

The extra letter “V” on the CTS is a very important one. It signifies a very special car equipped with a 6.3 liter Supercharged V8 with a whopping 557 horsepower and equally impressive 560 foot pounds of torque. It is mated to a six speed manual transmission and is one of the fastest, most powerful engines ever put in any American production car.

The six-speed is wonderful: the throws are short and it handles the power with great flourish. Even the shifter knob is covered with grippy, open grained suede and is integrated into the cockpit layout exactly as it should be. The interior, two toned leather and suede wrapping the steering wheel, power adjustable Recaro Sports seats, dark ebony stained wood and a pop up navigation system, reinforces the feeling that you are driving a space ship.

The first time I drove the CTS-V coupe was at a pre-introduction event with Cadillac’s marketing guys and my first impression triggered a thought that my week with this car came back. I immediately thought that this car looks like something Darth Vader would be driving. It is aggressive and striking, you will never mistake it for another car.

That stunning exterior and distinctive look results in people catching a glance as you flash by and for me resulted in people following the car into parking lots to get a better look. There is an amazing amount of anticipation people have been holding for this car. I had it before any of the production cars were shipped to the dealerships, so for many it was the first chance they have had to see it “in the flesh.”

I think there is a pent up desire to see GM succeed. It’s kind of a tie back to the days when GM was so big and so integrated into the American economy and identity that the line, “What’s good for GM is good for the country,” echoed from the halls of the Senate. It was attributed to Charles E. Wilson during his confirmation hearings as Secretary of Defense.

After the last couple of years teetering in humiliating bailouts and bankruptcy restructuring it can be hard to reconcile that GM with the way the General looks today. As they move towards what could be the largest IPO in history, the CTS-V is emblematic of why GM is different.

It takes a very long time, and a great deal of money, to bring a car to market and CTS-V is the result of a complete re-tasking of design and thinking at GM spearheaded under Rick Waggoner by auto guru Bob Lutz.

Lutz, a onetime fighter pilot and the only guy I can think of who has had keys to the executive suites of Ford, Chrysler GM and BMW, has over the years simply managed to do what no one else had managed to do. He got the engineers, stylists and designers to build a world-class car. Prior to his kick in the ass, there was an overriding attitude of we can’t do what Mercedes and BMW do, we can’t make cars with Lexus quality and solid feel of the Germans because we have to do things the GM way. Looking at the massive drops in market share Lutz simply said, “The GM way is broken, let’s fix it.”

It took a colossal effort to accomplish, but the end result is proof it can be done. GM now has some of the best cars in the market and the CTS-V coupe is second to no car in its performance, ride and feel.

The biggest challenge today is to get that message out to people, many of who have never been inside a GM dealership or have held a GM car as an aspiration. These are the folks who grew up buying Hondas and dreaming of Mercedes. With the CTS-V Coupe, the appeal and desire to see a North American car with this kind of build, fit and performance equal to the best in the world is palpable.

The CTS-V is exactly what the doctor ordered. There is a legitimate buzz out there about this car and that is beginning to spill over into the entire company. Driving a Supercharged, 8-cylinder, rear wheel drive, two door, manual six speed car that can not only hold its own with a Mercedes or BMW M6 and realizing it is a Cadillac is a pretty amazing change in attitude and execution.

The funny thing to say about a car that has an MSRP of $69,000.00 (as tested) and fuel economy ratings sub 20 MPG, but the CTS-V is a relative value in this high-octane segment of the market. Cross-pond rivals from BMW, Audi and Mercedes (and Jaguar) are pulling dollar signs far higher than 70k for performance numbers in the same spot and none of them has the electric buzz of a company and country looking for a champion.

As an example of the buzz of positive following this car, I came out of Walgreens this morning and where I had parked the silver coupe there were 3 groups of people who had seen the car from the road and pulled in for a closer look. Two guys driving in a BMW M3, a couple of young guys in a Toyota pickup and an older man driving a Mercedes. In the length of time it took me to pick up a couple of things at the drug store, these very different representatives of the market were already discussing the car. As I came back out they had dozens of pent up questions and all seemed to have that great desire to see something exciting from an American company.

Today the US Government owns a pretty sizable chunk of GM due to the bankruptcy restructuring. As GM pulls out in the direction of standing again as not just one of the biggest car companies but biggest companies in the world, that quote has never been so true: “What is good for GM really and truly is good for the country.”

The CTS-V is very, very good for General Motors.

Kent RathbunYou had to feel a little sorry for Dallas Celebrity Chefs Kent Rathbun (Abacus) and Scott Gottlich (Bijoux) on Saturday. It was almost 100 degrees in the shade as they stepped into the outside preparation area assembled outside Legacy Books at the Shops at Legacy’s Cadillac Culinary Challenge, sponsored by bon appetit and benefiting Share Our Strength – a national organization working to eliminate child hunger. It was hot, but they both wore their signature chef’s clothing and had ovens and prep work surfaces to deal with. Thankfully, the folks from Cadillac had done everything they could to cool off the chef’s and the people filling the tents waiting to sample the end result of two of Dallas’ premiere food artists.

Both were tasked to use locally produced organic goat cheese as part of their menu items and you would be hard pressed to find two chef’s who look physically as different. Rathbun is a bear of a man whose giant hands manage to create delicate avocado, goat cheese and crab meat sopes. A sope (SO-pay) is traditionally a thick tortilla or tostada made of corn masa and served with a variety of meats and cheese. Gottlich, whose physical stature is a fraction of Rathbun’s, prepared crepes with corn based custard and sweet corn ice cream served with blueberries into a goat cheese blintz. All while showing the capacity crowd how to replicate each dish at home.

Cadillac offers these Culinary Challenges as a marketing device that is somewhat unique, outside the chef’s tent was the complete line up of new Cadillacs and super knowledgeable spokespeople roaming around answering questions. If you registered for the display or were invited by Cadillac they also had their complete line up ready to test drive.

This is part of GM’s overall goal to reach out to a customer base that may not have entered a Cadillac dealership in years. Their new product is simply put award winners for a reason, from the CTS-V to the SRX Crossover SUV to the New Sport Wagon and other vehicles. The cars were on the go all day and the air conditioners were cranking as the chefs finished and served their products to the crowd.

As I was leaving early in the proceedings I ended up giving three different sets of couples directions from the Shops at Legacy’s parking garage. Two of them had just parked their Mercedes’ and the third was walking from a Lexus. Between us, I would have to say these folks have not experienced how first-rate Cadillac has become as a brand and as a unique way to get people to try their product I would have to say they are really on to something.

2009 has been a year like no other in the auto business. We’ve seen two of the domestic “Big 3” file bankruptcy; while the other one just dodged Chapter 11 by mortgaging everything down to the shiny red staplers. At the end of the year, there has to be some good news out there, right?

Well, for battered and bruised General Motors, things are looking up. The pain they endured this year helped to unburden the corporation from colossal debt, allowing GM to move forward with new products and new processes. They’ve managed to work through the biggest restructuring in the history of the world and now, their biggest problem is the public perception of their product. After sending some truly awful cars to market, GM has no one to blame but themselves.

For many years it seemed as if the company’s accountants had taken over every aspect of design and managed to bleed the life out of the product in the process. However, over the last 3 years something amazing has happened, the cars have become not just good, but in some instances, great. Though I’ve been writing about the auto industry for over 20 years and a vocal, harsh critic of ‘Generous Motors,’ even my jaundiced eye is impressed with what I now see.

The 2010 Camaro parked at the Dairy-Ette on Ferguson Road in Dallas. Retro styling of a new car and an original diner first opened in 1957 and still owned and operated by the same family.

Now, into the middle of global restructuring and the redistribution of product, rides the 2010 Chevy Camaro. In one car GM has a lot riding on its wide shoulders. GM desperately needs a hit, something that can generate positive “buzz” and draw people who may have never been inside a GM store. It has been a long time since there’s been a positive vibe about a car in the GM universe, and this one is either going to be a hit or a miss, either possible. It is literally a billion dollar gamble.

The name ‘Camaro’ comes with some considerable baggage. The Camaro’s legend as being one of the premiere muscle cars in time became a prime example of everything that was wrong with the old GM. Build quality issues, massive warranty expenses and a shift in market expectations ultimately killed the “F-Body” and its cousin, the Firebird. By the last generation’s demise in the mid 1990s, the car had become a bloated, underpowered caricature of its once great self, much like General Motors.

Being out of the market for a few years actually proved to be a good thing for the new Generation-5 2010 Camaro. Its absence seems to have allowed people to forget how bad the old car was…kind of like only remembering the good points of an ex lover and glossing over that time she tried to kill you with a kitchen knife. As the General brings this car to the market, they also seem to have learned from their mistakes. Instead of flooding dealers with early cars, they’ve taken a measured, even approach, insuring that demand stays high as the supply is somewhat tight, allowing them maintain a profit point in each sale rather than deeply discounting the early cars just to get them off the lot.

Front down 1The dark blue metallic 2010 Camaro GM dropped off to me was a striking car and the reactions I’ve been getting all week have included some of the most dramatic double-takes I’ve ever seen on the road. People have been flashing ‘thumbs up’, big smiles, and, every time I stop, someone wants to know more about it. I was parked outside of a sports bar one evening having dinner and by the time I headed out there was a halo of tobacco spit around the car as a collection of “dip” connoisseurs had been checking out the aggressive looking two door. If you ever want to catch a “Bubba”, just park a Camaro inside your trap and they will show up like moths to a flame. Everywhere I went guys in Bass Pro baseball hats and NASCAR T-shirts, with a protruding lip of dip, hovered almost reverently around the car.

Pricing ranges from mid 20’s to low 40’s, depending on the options, and our test car was a loaded RS six-cylinder sporting power everything, two-toned leather interior, XM Radio with Boston Acoustics package, automatic transmission and 20 inch polished aluminum wheels with Pirelli tires. As tested, this Camaro has an asking price of $34,500.

There are those who might think the six would be a shameful way to do a sport ca,r but this one is different. It boasts 304 ponies and 227 pound feet of torque – for a little perspective, that’s higher performance than the old iron slab V8’s had in the 80s – I was pulling a respectable 18-22 mpg combined driving. The six-speed automatic is mated to well placed steering wheel button shifts, if you are so inclined, and also has a sport shift mode that significantly ups the car’s performance. There are both six-speed manual transmissions and a 436 HP LS3 V8 available in the SS package, which turns “snarling beast” numbers, but you’re running a base of $30k and a similarly optioned car would be over $40k. This is still Corvette performance for around $20k less than a Corvette, so it really is how you look at your needs versus wants.

DSC_4420The interior is a flawless example of what you can do with a 2+2. Everything falls easily to hand and there wasn’t even a church mouse squeak from any of the trim. Any Camaro guy can tell you the old ones were somewhat vocal as you drove down the road. However the new model’s chassis has virtually no flex and the car handles as well, if not better, than almost any competitive nameplate on the market. The only real issue I have with the design, other than the non-existent legroom in the back seats, is the rear visibility. The rear hips of this car can only be described as Waffle House Ba-Donk-A-Donk. Yes, Sir Mix-a-Lot, this baby has got back. Unfortunately baby also has blinders of rather pronounced blind spots. Though this is something you can adapt to, it’s still something to watch for.

The trunk space is good and if not for a very narrow opening, you might actually be able to get a set of golf clubs inside but don’t expect to get a large kit bag in there.

As for exterior styling, all the attention I’ve been getting must be indicative of how good this car looks. I went back to a photo shoot I did a couple of years ago for a private collector and compared some of the lines of the 2010 Camaro with a ’68. The lines proved to be an unmistakable adaptation of the classic design while incorporating modern elements with a deft touch.

The new car is by far the best car ever to wear the Camaro nameplate. Much of that is simply that cars on a whole are better now than they have ever been. Safer, more reliable and efficient, today’s automobile choices represent a high water mark in the auto industry. The only thing I would look at are the bigger, beefier brakes, available on the V8. Though the standard brakes on the V6 are more than adequate for driving around town, more spirited and aggressive driving will find that bigger is the way to go.

For General Motors, they have what might just be a hit on their hands. I hope the positive buzz and good words the Camaro has been generating will open the eyes of the American public to how good their entire product line has become and help overcome the perception that GM can’t make a car Americans want to buy. After the last 12 months, I think everyone needs a little good news.