GM Offers Triple Play of Performance, Safety — Post and Courier (Charleston SC)

This is the fourth in a series featuring new cars for 2011. Previous reviews included Asian cars, European cars and Chrysler Corp. Next week is Ford Motor Co. Today: General Motors Co.

CHEVROLET: With all the hype for the Chevrolet Volt, the electric car with a range of 40 miles on batteries but with a gasoline engine as a relief-valve, it is difficult to sort out other 2011 Chevys.

However, there IS other big news for the motor car named after famed racer, Louis Chevrolet. The 2011 Cruze comes to market having already been tested around the world, with 250,000 already sold.

Sam Mitani of Road & Track writes, “The smooth-revving turbo engine produces 138 hp, but the most impressive thing about the Cruze is its handling. But the big story is the Eco model, which General Motors execs say will achieve 30 mpg on the highway. The excellent economy comes from weight savings, For instance, it uses lighter forged-aluminum wheels instead of cast alloys. Officials told us the Cruze will match or exceed the competition.

“Another strong point is that, unlike the Cobalt it replaces, the Cruze looks very good from every angle. Along with its excellent fuel economy, class-leading safety equipment and low price tag ($16,995), the Cruze should definitely give the imports a run for their money.

“Chevrolet is so confident of Cruze’s success, it is encouraging its 3,000 dealers to buy import rivals, such as a Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic for comparison purposes with prospective buyers.”

The Volt, by the way, goes on sale in selected markets — Charleston is not on the list — in November. The base price: $41,000; take some off thanks to a federal tax credit of $7,500.

As a contrast, the Impala, an all-time Chevrolet favorite with buyers, has a base piece ranging from $25,275 to $30,755. The 2011 Impala has a luxury package that consists of leather-heated front six-way power bucket seats, flip-and-fold rear seat, Bose eight-speaker audio, auto-dimming rearview mirror and heated power side mirrors.

BUICK: This GM division must have read this column, in which the craze for alphabet and numerical names are so abundant. The Regal is back — a real name! Gosh, that is something with which we can identify.

You may recall the original Regal had a 1973-2004 run at Buick; Motor Trend called the former Regal “Buick’s last enthusiastic car.” According to the magazine, “the 2011 Regal is one of the most important Buicks ever launched. The Regal checks those pension cards marked Park Avenue and Roadmaster at the door, banishes those unfilled promises labeled Century and Reatta and Lucerne to the basement.

“The Regal is much more than just the first Buick with a manual transmission since the 1989 Skylark, more than the first Buick with a turbocharger since the head-banging 1987 GNX. This is the first Buick in history with internationally chic sheet metal and sophisticated road manners to match. This is the first Buick in history that truly is likely to appeal to young, affluent, trendsetting import buyers.”

In Motor Trend’s opinion, “The closest thing to the Regal is the Acura TSX,” says chief engineer Jim Federico. “And for once, this isn’t PR spin. The Buick, of course, is a re-badged version of the Opel Insignia. The Acura is a re-badged version of the European Honda Accord. The cars are direct rivals in Europe.”

Of major interest is Regal’s mpg: 20 city, 30 highway. The first cars are imported from Germany. In the first quarter of 2011, products shift to Oshawa, Canada. Base prices range from $26,995 to $29,485.

CADILLAC: The third automotive member of GM’s current lineup. “The Cadillac CTS-V coupe is the most desirable Caddy in decades,” Motor Trend reports.

Already auto writers who have test driven “the V” say it’s the best-handling performance four-door this country has ever built. Ed Piatek, the CTS program engineering director, says the coupe’s body is “significantly stiffer” than the sedan’s.

The coupe’s rear track has been widened, which “allows you to power out of corners more quickly,” Piatek said. The CTS-V coupe will be identified by its unique grille that doubles air-intake volume and its V-only front and rear fascias.

Another unusual feature of the CTS-V is a center-mounted stoplight, which is “pretty pronounced” and doubles its function as a rear spoiler. The base price for this front-engine, rear-wheel drive, five-passenger, two-door coupe is $62,000.

EPA fuel economy is estimated at 12-14 mpg in the city and 18-19 mpg on the highway. A final comment from Road and Track: “Cadillac limits the CTS-V automatic’s top speed of 179 mph by not allowing it to upshift into sixth gear (manual versions can hit a claimed 191 mph). After coming close to 180 mph on the autobahn, German correspondent Jueren Zoellter declared the Cadillac … ‘the king of the autobahn.’ His decree may put his citizenship in jeopardy.”

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