Friday, February 10, 2012


I have mixed feelings about GM.
I don’t really like the fact that the company went to the government for a bailout a few years ago, but I also think the government had at least something to do with putting the company into the position where it had to go begging for financial relief. So there was some justification for it.
Still, there were other options. Even bankruptcy could have offered a way out for the company.  
On the plus side for GM, however, I see the company putting out some very good products these days across the line, and when it comes to “affordable” performance, it’s tough to beat.
There’s no question that the Chevrolet Corvette remains the iconic American sports car after more than half a century. And if you’re looking for American sports car panache in a slightly less expensive package and with a tad of practicality (need a backseat?), Chevy offers the Camaro.
They share one common characteristic. Forget about the refined luxury you find in European and Asian sports cars. Both the Corvette and the Camaro are about in-your-face brashness, power, and performance. I wouldn’t call their interiors crude or even spartan by any means, but refined luxury is not what they’re all about.
Especially the Corvette.
The moment you fire up the Corvette’s engine, the cabin becomes awash with testosterone.
How much testosterone depends on which 'Vette version you happen to be firing up, of course. The supercharged ZR1’s 6.2-liter V8 pumps out a whopping 638 horsepower and 604 pound-feet of torque. Numbers for the 7.0-liter V8 in the Z06 are 505 and 470, respectively.
But you get a lot of punch, too, in the base and GS (for Grand Sport) Corvettes and just as much fun. The 6.2-liter V8s in those models send 430 hp and 424 lb.-ft. of torque to the the rear wheels, slightly more in models with the optional exhausts.
Unless you're going racing, the base and Grand Sport coupes should satisfy your need for speed.
Both the ZR1 and the Z06 also require premium fuel which is consumed at a rate of 14 miles-per-gallon city, 21 highway for the former and 15/24 for the former.
According to the company, premium fuel is recommended but not required for the base and GS with the EPA numbers checking in at 15/25 when mated with a six-speed, paddle-shift automatic transmission and 16/26 with the six-speed manual.
My recommendation?
Use premium fuel anyway and go for the six-speed stick shift.
Driving the GS with the stick, I found the shifts rather smooth to make and not requiring the labor that I found when driving the
Dodge Viper around town.
While the Viper is wonderful on the track, it is a bear to handle on the street. I suspect it might be the same with the ZR1 and Z06 when it comes to the Corvette, but not so with the GS (or base, for that matter). There is a nice blending of street/track experience with the GS.
There are differences between the two. The GS and the base both have the same wheelbase (105.7 inches), but the GS is an inch longer in overall length at 175.6 inches. It's wider as well by about three inches at 75.9, an its overall height is slightly less at 48.7 inches. And the GS Coupe is more than 100 pounds heavier at 3,311 pounds curb weight.
The interior volume is the same for all of the Corvette models with the same legroom (43 inches), shoulder room (55), and headroom (38).

That, too, sets the Corvette apart from its foreign competitors, which generally check in at smaller sizes, and the overall size also adds to the bold, brash, masculine appearance inside and out as well. (A quick word here; I’m not saying women can’t drive this car. I’m just saying that you’re probably going to find more women in Miatas when it comes to sports cars than you are Corvettes. Nothing wrong with that. I like the agility of the Miata.)
Though cargo hauling is not exactly what most have in mind when it comes to the Corvette, the car does offer a pretty spacious 22 cubic feet when you lift the rear hatch.
As for cost, the base price of the GS I had was $55,,925. Add in extras like the special Centennial Edition package (which includes Carbon Flash Metallic paint, special graphics and wheels featuring the image of Gaston Chevrolet, and other features), the dual-mode exhaust, transparent removable roof cover, pedal covers, and the battery protection panel, not to mention the $975 destination and delivery fee, and the total cost came to $70,185.
Hmmm, did I say something about affordable?
The base model starts at under $50,000 and the Z06 at under $76,000. The ZR1 starts in six-figures territory at $112,600.
There are various trim levels and packages with each model as well.
A few words about the Camaro.
I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about the Camaro when Chevy brought it back for the 2010 model year after a 10-year hiatus. It was a Muscle Car in every word, from looks to sound to performance, and that I like, but I just thought the venerable Ford Mustang was at the top of the class.
Frankly, I still do think that, but I am a bit more open to the virtues of the Camaro. Perhaps that is because I am over the fact that not once but twice the driver’s side door swung out of my hand and put door dings in my wife’s Passat wagon parked next to it.
Usually, when you open a car door, there is a slight catch at certain points to keep that from happening. That didn’t seem to be the case with the first Camaro I had, and, especially with the traditional wide doors on coupes, it was a problem. (I know, I know. If it happened once, shame on Chevy. If it happened twice, shame on me. But it still ticked me off, not to mention the $100 it cost me to get the dings out.)
But I have grown to appreciate the Camaro a bit more. The one I had late last year provided a good experience overall. A friend who was riding with me in it after a few minutes remarked, “You really enjoy this car, don’t you?” I had to admit I did.
The 6.2-liter V8 sent plenty of power (426 hp, 420 lb.-ft.) to the rear wheels of the 2012 2SS via a six-speed manual transmission, and the sound from the dual exhaust was the kind of deep, throaty bass that is so distinctive to the genre.
The cabin is nicely designed -- no longer is Chevy/GM putting out interiors that seem to be built around $1.98 worth of plastic -- and roomy enough upfront.
Drawbacks include a somewhat cramped rear seat and the contortions you have to put your body through to get back there. Visibility all-around isn’t the best either, though the rear-vision camera -- standard in some trim levels, optional in others -- mitigates that somewhat.
The trunk is about what you expect to find in a coupe with a capacity of 11.3 cubic feet, but the opening itself to get things in there is rather on the small side.
The 2SS model I drove, which did include the rear-vision camera and features like rear parking assist, power front seats, and satellite radio as standard, started at $35,450. The 45th anniversary package, which include specific hood and deck lid striping, badging, and 20-inch wheels (over the standard 18 an 19), ran the total cost to $37,725.
The 2SS model is the top of the Camaro line. You can get into a six-cylinder base Camaro starting at just over $23,000.
So do the Corvette and Camaro justify what the company -- and you and I as taxpayers -- went through to “save” the company? I guess so, but I still think it would have been better had the company explored other options. And if the company had been putting out products like this it might not have been in such a state in the first place.

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