This week I had the opportunity to spend a day at the Texas Motor Speedway test driving GM’s 2009 lineup. There were so many gorgeous and impressive vehicles present, I would be hard pressed to say which was my favorite; but of course I had one…
An array of vehicles were present for us to drool over; most we would be allowed to drive ourselves, but there were a few we couldn’t – including this 2009 Corvette ZR1 (base price $103,300). No one was really grousing about not being able to drive this particular vehicle, because GM had Jim Mero, the ZR1 development engineer and driver who had broken the track record in Nürburgring Germany (2008), present to take us on a screamingly twisty inner Speedway course; more on that later.
For a taste of what this car can do, watch this unedited video from when Jim broke that record…
Next to the ZR1 was the extremely cool 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe (MSRP $TBA); am I the only one who sees a Viper coupe or vintage Jaguar XKE influence present in this little gem? Although we couldn’t drive it, I did sit inside; my initial impression was that a larger person would be miserable inside its tight cockpit. I am 5’10″ and although I had plenty of head and leg room, it was still a slightly claustrophobic experience; I’d still drive it, though!
Inside the garage, with all of the NASCAR driving school cars parked to our left, we were greeted by three new Chevrolet Models: the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse (base MSRP $28,900), which we would get to drive (they had representatives from all three trim packages)…
…the 2010 Chevrolet Volt (MSRP $TBA), which we could not drive. I thought this was because it was non-working, but it turned out that this was a more or less working model – it left the showroom floor under its own power. It was so quiet that if I hadn’t been watching, I would have missed it!
GM also had a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro RS (base price approximately $22,000) present for us to gawk and drool over, but we couldn’t drive it…bummer! I got to sit inside and take pictures to my heart’s content, though…
Other than those few mentioned, everything else was drivable, and after a brief welcome we were turned loose. One of the first vehicles I selected, with David Goodspeed as co-pilot, was a totally loaded 2009 Escalade 2WD Hybrid (approximate MSRP: $72,000). I am not yet used to how quiet a hybrid can be when driven at low speeds, and this full-size Escalade was no exception. One of the noteworthy features of this luxury SUV was the perforated driver’s and passenger’s seats, because they were both heated and air-conditioned. David warned me that riding around with the air-conditioned seats might give a sensation like my butt was wet, and I’ll be darned if he wasn’t right. Not sticking to the seat and getting out of the vehicle with a cool bottom was worth the weirdness, however.
Don’t ask me why, but I didn’t get an exterior shot of the Escalade. I did get a shot of the overly huge keyfob before driving, however…
The next Cadillac was one of the ones I now consider a personal dream car, the 2009 XLR Roadster (approx MSRP $82,000). One of this beauty’s many cool features was its keyless start button; an oversize Cadillac key fobs had to be present somewhere for this feature to work – like inside the center console, or in a pocket or purse in order for a button press to start the motor.
David did manage to snap this video of my test drive by using his Nokia N82…
This drive was one that made me laugh and carry on like a little girl; I absolutely loved driving this car! For the record, the surging engine and tire squeals you’ll hear while watching were not done by me; when editing the film, David (that prankster) spliced in the audio from his ZR1 ride.
The last Cadillac I drove was the amazing 556 horsepower CTS-V family sedan (approx MSRP $57,000). For some reason, a Cadillac representative had to come along for this particular drive; I guess they were worried that we might try to really stretch out its Corvette engine. I was a considerate and safe driver, of course.
The 2009 H3 (base price $33,000) is the first Hummer I have ever driven, and I was surprised by how much fun it actually was. Based on a much shorter chassis than my ranch truck (a Ford F-250), the H3 is easy to turn, narrow enough to easily pass through a bank drive through lane, and it gets better mileage than many other full size SUVs (approximately 14 city / 18 highway). I have always thought of Hummers as bloated gas hogs, but after driving and learning more about the H3 I am going to modify my opinion – at least for this particular version of the brand.
While we are talking about H3s, take a look at the 2009 Hummer H3T (base price $31,500). This is a Hummer I wouldn’t personally mind owning as the interior is roomy while there is enough room in the truck bed to comfortably carry all sorts of gear and equipment. See me standing next to the H3T? It’s not nearly as big as I thought it would be…somehow H3s seem a lot bigger when I am looking up at them from the driver’s seat of my Alfa Romeo.
Let’s get back down to some more economically sized vehicles for a moment: the 2009 Saturn Aura (base price $21,000) was a fun, nicely appointed sedan that I think will appeal to commuters with smaller families. It gets 22 in town and 30 on the highway, and the interior is comfortable.
The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Truck (base price $33,000) has been nicely updated; for the record, it gets only one mile per gallon more than the H3 in the city, and on the highway they are rated the same. Those who need (or want) to drive a full size truck while getting better mileage will want to check out the new hybrid model (MSRP $TBA). It’s supposed to achieve “40% greater city fuel economy and 25% more in overall fuel economy.”
Shifting gears once again (bad joke…sorry!), I thoroughly enjoyed driving the 2009 Buick Lucerne (base price $28,400). It is a very nicely appointed sedan, with a good bit of pep and a beautiful interior.
This was something special: GM brought out a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Chevrolet Equinox, a true zero emissions vehicle. I was allowed to drive it for a bit, and it was surprising how similar it was to…a gasoline engined vehicle. Sure it was a bit quieter, but because this was a modified existing vehicle model, it didn’t feel like some compromised little economy car. Two things on the interior made it obvious that it was an alternative fuel SUV: the display showing the hydrogen movement and the “petroleum saved” indicator.
See the crazy port which serves as the gatekeeper to the fuel tank? Hydrogen fuel is measured in Kilograms, where one kilogram of hydrogen fuel roughly equals one gallon of gasoline but gets approximately two times the mileage.
Check out the unique “tail pipes” on the back? Water is all that is ever released. Our demonstrator said that although this water could technically be considered clean enough for drinking, he doesn’t recommend it since it is still moving through pipes and greased fittings. He also said that although only two tail piped were needed, the engineers thought that four looked better; I agree.
There are extremely few hydrogen fueling stations in the US, and to the best of my knowledge they are all located in only Washington DC, New York, and California. Until the infrastructure is in place (meaning the government agrees that it’s worthy of nationwide subsidization) the Equinox will remain a pipedream for all but a lucky few.
What’s left is to tell you about my ride in the ZR1 with Jim Mero. For this, I had to wear a crash helmet…
I kept asking if we could go faster, faster, but Jim was pushing the ZR1 to its limit on the small twisty track. I wistfully said that I wished we could get on the main Speedway course, and he said he wished the same. I’m a little bit surprised by Jim’s modesty, as while we were riding he mentioned that this was the car which had broken the German track record…but he never told me that he was the guy who had been doing the driving!
For the record, he did his absolute best to scare me to death, but I was too busy grinning like a loon and holding on to notice.
I hope you enjoyed my day at Texas Motor Speedway testing the 2009 GM Collection; be sure to click the photos in the gallery to see many more – 114 total!