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Latest GM lineup shows some Spark, muscle

From heavy-duty trucks to minicars, domestic automaker covers all the bases.

Published July 20, 2012

From the tiny Spark right up to an assortment of heavy-duty trucks outfitted with the latest mobile workshop units, GM’s 2013 lineup appears to have all its automotive bases covered.

During a recent preview in Brampton, we had a first look at some of the 2013 models that will arrive later this year — as well as a chance to drive some of the currently available 2012 vehicles.

Perhaps anticipating that the new 2013 Cadillac ATS would shortly make North American headlines when a U.S. journalist rolled one during a test drive program, GM was keeping a firm grasp on the keys for it and the XTS, both on display.

The ATS represents GM’s first foray into the luxury sports segment — one currently dominated by the BMW 3-series. Since BMW has sold over 94,000 3-series in its various configurations, this could prove a very lucrative jump for GM indeed. The rear-wheel-drive sedan was designed to appeal to enthusiasts with an adaptable sports suspension and three engine choices — topping out with a 3.6L V6 producing 318 horsepower. It’s a tough segment — one that includes the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but the ATS, with its base model buy-in of $35,195, offers a clear price advantage. It should arrive in showrooms late this summer.

On the other hand, Cadillac’s XTS, a luxurious top of the line saloon, is a front-wheel drive that’s slotted to take on the mightiest rear-wheel-drive sedans that Germany has to offer. That’s a tall order. But it offers an upscale design, a cabin replete with all the hedonistic cosseting one could possibly desire, adaptive suspension and the latest suite of Cadillac safety systems — including a new “haptic seat” that vibrates in warning of possible collision.

2012 Camaro SS Convertible

Little has changed with the big brawny muscle-car, other than a gussied-up interior that includes Chevy’s MyLink connectivity and an available 7-inch touch-screen display. Available only on the SS coupe, is an FE4 sport suspension package that promises better response and handling. But Hallelujah — they finally got rid of that ridiculous, deep-dish steering-wheel with the offset spokes, replacing it with one that’s more user-friendly. The last time I’d gotten behind the wheel of this hairy-chested boulevard bruiser, I gave up trying to hold it in the proper 9-and-3 position — and ended up with one hand on the wheel, other arm on the door, the way the good Lord intended muscle cars to be driven. Look for a completely revamped interior in 2013.

2012 Centennial Edition Corvette

Funny isn’t it that a company bearing the name of a Swiss-born engineer has become the “Heartbeat of America?” But there you have it, and commemorating that momentous occasion when Louis Chevrolet joined General Motors, is the 2012 Centennial Edition Corvette — a package that’s available on all Z06, Grand Sport and ZR1 Corvettes.

It’s a good thing that it looks deliciously menacing in “Carbon Flash Metallic” because that’s the only colour you get. The satin-black wheels are devilishly trimmed in red, with large red calipers peeping through the spokes. On the haunches of the Grand Sport available for testing was a special decal featuring Louis himself superimposed over “100” — this same graphic is repeated on the wheel caps and steering wheel centre and in a slightly altered version of the hood’s traditional crossed-flags badge. The black and red colour scheme continues into the cabin, with red stitching on leather upholstery and microfibre suede inserts on wheel, seats and shifter boot.

Nothing says “sports car” like a cockpit devoid of pampering niceties, and this one’s no exception. There’s no blind-spot monitor, no pre-collision warning system — all extraneous effort went into performance and handling: Which is OK by us.

During a short test drive that took in some of Brampton’s most uninspiring scenery, the Corvette felt supple and composed thanks to its Magnetic Ride adaptive shocks. With 6.2L of LS3 V8 under that long snaky hood, and an output of 436 hp/428 lb.-ft. of torque, it’s surprisingly docile when driven conservatively — especially given our tester’s paddle-shifter-equipped six-speed automatic. But step on the gas pedal and the optional dual-mode exhaust erupts in deep, masculine bellows.

2013 Chevrolet Spark

Garnering much of the attention was the Chevrolet Spark — GM’s next foray into the minicar market after the Sonic. The Spark isn’t a new car; it’s been available in European, Australian and Asian markets for a couple of years now, and in fact we spotted several on the road while in Korea last year.

Overlooking the rather feeble attempt to appeal to the youth market by offering a “street-cred” rated model “hooked up with 15-inch dubs,” the Spark has a lot going for it as an urban runabout.

Despite its diminutive size (3.7 metres from tip to tail) the Spark is the only A-segment hatchback offering four doors and adequate seating for four adults. With a projected base sticker price of $13,995, that puts it well below competitors Fiat 500, Scion IQ and Smart Fortwo, while offering greater versatility. Surprisingly, even the base Spark comes standard with air and power windows; features that are optional on vehicles costing thousands more.

Given that our drive consisted of approximately 10 minutes in a parking lot, negotiating through a tangle of cones ensuring that we never got much over 20 km — it’s not really fair to form a conclusive driving impression. Suffice it to say that although the Spark is far from the penalty box experience associated with this price point, the interior is budget-minded if roomy. Its tall outline provides plenty of headroom and air space, but it also means that you can expect some body-roll in the corners. If its 1.2L Ecotec engine fails to overwhelm with its paltry 83 hp, it makes up for it by claiming fuel consumption numbers of 5.1L/100 km. It should arrive in dealerships later this summer.

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