I was going to post this as a comment here but figured it would be better as its own post. Working at a dealership gives me daily access to every vehicle currently made by GM. Here are my impressions of them all, starting with the super-cheap and working up.
Unfortunately I haven’t yet driven one of the new redesigned models (are they sending those to dealers yet?) so this will have to do. It’s hideous but the interior is suprising for an economy car. Spartan but well thought-out. Due to the short wheelbase and light weight it’s a fun little tossable thing that I wouldn’t mind commuting in. Manual is vague as hell, automatic is adequate.
Decent looking for how long the design has been around relative to all the other GM models getting facelifts, though the sedan is pretty fugly. Has a neat motorcycle-inspired gauge pod that is actually quite readable. In turbo trim it can get out of its way but don’t expect to win many races with it in a straight line. Seats are alright but could use better lumbar support. Uses a unique version of Chevrolet’s touchscreen infotainment which has minimal buttons to control it and I find myself continually frustrated with the lack of a volume knob/mute button. Very spacious and practical interior for its size. The manual version has a slightly numb shifter but isn’t terrible for an OEM FWD stick shift offering.
Probably the most popular sedan that GM makes, and also one that I think desperately needs a facelift at this point. It looks alright in photos but is super bland in person. Available with or without a turbo, though the non-turbo versions would lose to a reasonably fresh NA Miata in a drag race, which makes onramps an adventure. Handling is adequate and prone to safe understeer, though body roll is minimal and turn-in is quick enough to give the impression of better handling than is present. Same notes on the manual transmission here, though the Cruze has a much nicer infotainment and I honestly really like the interior. It’s plastic, sure, but there are accents that can be customized with vinyl, fabric, or this weird mesh that looks like you would find on a hiking backpack for a unique look that, for once, isn’t face carbon fiber or wood. I wouldn’t want to road trip one of these, though. The seats don’t agree with my back very much. Still, it looks dated inside and out and I’m excited to get the next-gen Cruze in my grubby mits. Especially the hatch.
I expect good things.
This one was going to get destroyed, but then Chevy refreshed it and all of my complaints disappeared. The outside looks like a miniature Impala, though the slop of the front bumper above the grill is far too steep and makes it look like it has a protruding brow. The lights and grille should have gone higher up on the car, but that’s a minor thing. The interior is a huge step up from the Cruze and not a very big downgrade from its big sister the Impala. A glass touchscreen replaced the plastic and sports a much higher resolution and a VERY nice weighted metal volume knob that actuates with very satisfying clicks. The redesigned steering wheel is chunky and comfortable to hold, it has a trick sunroof and very comfortable seats. I’m not sure if a manual is available but the automatic is, again, adequate for what the car is. Handling is the same as the Cruze, but in a heavier car.
My personal favorite of Chevy’s offerings is the Impala. Big, comfy, with a confident face and a delicous styling cue at the hips, this is a very solid design. Pictured is the “Midnight Edition” which basically means “we made it black, gave it black bowties, and then put some hideous wheels on it”. Good job, lads. The interior is large and spacious with controls falling easily to hand and leather/vinyl surfaces all over the damn place. It’s not a race car, but it holds itself in a composed manner around corners and has enough oomph to hold its own in the land of highway commutes and horrid short onramps. If given the choice between a specced-out Impala and its sibling a specced-out LaCrosse I would probably choose the impala. It’s less braggy, far more attractive, and the interior is comfy without trying too hard. I feel like it will age the best out of the current GM offerings.
Okay, let’s get this out of the way: OMFG ELECTRIC CAR. Ok, now that this is done, I have some problems with the Volt. Fortunately, none are about the drivetrain. Driving a Prius C, a “regular” Prius, and then a Volt revealed just how amazing GM’s hybrid system is. The Prius twins were constantly switching on the rattly, loud, vibrating gas engines as I stopped and started moving around town. It was frankly invasive and annoying trying to keep the car under 30% throttle so I don’t have to listen to the anemic shitbox engine struggling to charge the laptop battery that makes the car go. Contrast with the Volt, where I can hammer the throttle all day long as long as the digital dash tells me I have adequate battery and it will be a pure electric experience. No waiting for a kick-down on the highway, no shifting at all. Surprising, smooth power, very quiet. When the gas engine comes on it’s nothing to write home about, the car’s manners don’t change any but it sounds much louder and, frankly, cheaper than I’d expect.
My problem is the interior.
It’s cool as hell, but literally everything except for volume/HVAC knobs are capacitive buttons that only work 50% of the time you touch them, and you HAVE to take your eyes off the road to make sure you hit them. Frustrating and stupid design decision because “muh future”. Other than that the Volt is basically a Cruze with a hatchback and a cooler design.
Scroll up and read my words about the Sonic. Now scroll back down. This is that, but you sit up higher and it’s a bit more wallowy. Congrats. Needs a refresh, but not as bad as some of the others.
When I say “Equinox” you say “dated”. This thing looks straight out of 2010. Pass me some hallucinogenic drugs and botox so I hopefully don’t have to look at this thing any more. The rear window screams “Buick Rendezvous” and the rest of it screams “boring”. The interior is similarly outdated and rubbish, but it continues to be one of Chevy’s better selling offerings because people like to have sex and that produces kids and then they are somehow led into thinking that having two crotch-spawn means they have to drive a tall crossover. Despite being dated, it is a decent highway mile-eater. The seats aren’t awful, and the steering exists in a way many things have existed in the past.
Yay! More dated cars! Not near as bland as the Equinox, thankfully, or I would have fallen asleep while reading this. Not a bad-looking car for a crossover, unless you opt for Champagne which would make a Ferrari Berlinetta look boring. I’ve put stupid amounts of miles on one of these and it’s pretty standard crossover faire. You sit high, you have a radio that does things, you have obnoxious capacitive buttons for the Driver Information Screen on the dash, you have a dated interior that does its job of interior-ing, and fairly comfy seats. It’s quiet, it’s slow, it handles like a pig, but you can set the cruise control then lie back and think of England and ignore the kiddies screaming in the back.
This joins the Impala as being one of Chevrolet’s strongest designs. A commanding presence, strong lines, an indifferent face and a size that tells all lesser cars exactly where to shove it round out the Burban/Tahoe twins. This car is big, this car is comfy, and this car holds a lot of stuff. I should also stop calling it a car. Handling is alright, it rolls a bit and wallows a bit but it also has a curb weight of four thousand tons. The 5.3L direct-injected V8 will toss you back in your seat harder than something with this much mass ever should, leading to the possibility of hoonage with the traction control nannies disabled. Moving on to the interior, I notice something odd from GM: Their trucks and full-sized SUVs interiors rival that of any of their other offerings, even trumping some from luxury brands like Buick and Cadillac. The Lacrosse, Verano, Encore, SRX are all “luxury” vehicles with interiors that I disliked more than what is present in the Tahoe/Suburban and high-end Silverados and makes me very eager to experience a current-generation Escalade. Leather can be found all over the place on higher trims, a speaker system that would make Beethoven weep because he couldn’t hear it (not because he’s dead, but because he was deaf), tons of storage, and reasonably ergonomic controls. Very well done from the boys at Detroit.
Harking back to the late 90s with the somewhat awkward Chevy S10 four-door is the new Chevy Colorado. A sporting rakish stance and eager front fascia pleasingly devoid of chrome makes the Colorado certainly one of the best looking light trucks on the market. Decent approach and departure angles as well as the available Z71 off-road package mean it has the ability to do some legwork when the pavement ends, but the ride remains comfortable enough for your backside while the pavement is still going. Inside the Colorado is unoffensive and simple. Not much to be said, really, though I do wish a column shifter was an option. It drives like a truck and handles like a truck. A decent trucklet, though I wish it was a bit smaller and available as a single-cab.
Chevy has done something I rather like with the new Silverado: Body colored grilles. EVERYWHERE. I’ve seen more body-colored grilles than I have chrome ones, and as someone who despises chrome on modern non-luxury cars this is very good news indeed. Someone at Chevrolet raided Pep Boys and tacked LED strips all over the Silverado, because reasons, and someone else was playing Need For Speed Underground 2 and decided their truck line needed a hood with an astonishing number of creases and bulges and random lines. Childish, but if that’s your thing more power to ya, I suppose. The square wheel wells will continue to draw controversy, but I personally like them. With the 6.2 liter Ecotec V8 pushing 420 (yo) horsepower to the rear wheels the Silverado can sprint from 0-60 in a ludicrous 5.5 seconds. It handles and drives much like a Tahoe, with a similar interior. On the High Country you get leather, and more leather, and some embroidery. Boomin’ sound systems are present, as are previous-gen touchscreen controls with the plastic screen. You can have a diesel, you can have plastic floors, you can have 4x4, and you can have 6 speeds or you can have 8 speeds.
Is it a car? Is it a trim level? Yes! And I’m glad it exists. I didn’t get much time in one of these, but the interior is basically if an Impala and a previous-gen Malibu had a lovechild. It has a manual that feels very nice, it makes a noise that is very nice, it goes like hell, corners pretty well for its size, and has four doors so you can terrify the wife and kids on every clover leaf interchange. If you can plonk down the money for the privilege, that is.
Cut that mullet off, because the 2016 Camaro has done a great job continuing the ongoing transformation from hillbilly go-kart to an excellent sports car. It’s lighter, it’s noticeably smaller in person, and the interior is an enormous improvement over the previous models. Personally I prefer the RS exterior to the SS, but they both look rather nice. The interior is luxurious, with the same very nice touchscreen I mentioned in the Malibu. The steering wheel is comfortable and the steering is light, the manual transmission engages VERY nicely on both the V6 and V8 models, the clutch is a bit stiff, and the roof is far too low. By the time I had raised the seat enough to see very well over the expansive hood, my curly mop on top of my noggin was gently caressing the Camaro’s headliner. I’ve driven automatic and manual variants of both the V6 and V8 and they’re both brilliant and make a great noise. Handling is crisp with controlled body roll and excellent responsiveness. There were still some weak points to the interior build quality but they weren’t enough to ruin the experience.
I saved the best for last. While every other car up to this point has some alternative from another manufacturer that someone could go out and buy instead for a similar price, the Corvette has no such option. I’m going to sound like a Chevy advertisement, but the interior is fantastic, the gearbox is engaging, the sound is intoxicating, the acceleration is fantastic, the handling is okay, the braking is brutal, and the looks are stunning. My only complaint is it has a bit more body roll than I would like and that the Z06 is so damned expensive I’m not allowed to drive one.
Much like a children’s book, go draw your own.