GARRISON, N.Y. (MarketWatch) — Given what you may have read on the MarketWatch.com Web site and in the pages of The Wall Street Journal of late, you might be surprised to read this next sentence. Namely, there’s lots of life left in General Motors.
To be sure, the months ahead — perhaps even years — will be tough ones for U.S. automakers given their problems with pensions, employee pay, overcapacity, parts suppliers’ misfortunes, Asian competition, etc, etc. However, we’ve had a chance to gaze into the future, GM model wise, and can safely say they have some neat stuff coming for ’07 and ’08.
What’s more, they’re not all trucks. We can’t go into specifics — GM execs swore us to secrecy — but we’ll go so far as to say you should keep an eye on Saturn for much more than the poor Ion. And look for a new emphasis on interior charm in the 20 new products planned in the next two years.
Now for the stuff we can tell you about.
We had about 45 minutes in the driver’s seat of the new Corvette Z06. Try these numbers on for size, kids: a 7.0-liter, small-block V8 that knocks out 505 horsepower. There’s a 7,000-rpm red line on the tach. The Z06’s price is less than half of the Ford GT with comparable acceleration. Try zero to 60 in 3.8 seconds, and to 100 in about eight seconds. And the sound — guttural, raspy and throaty, all wrapped up in a whole lotta soul — that it makes doing it!!!! The handling is out of this world (GM engineers claim a one g or better). We found a little-used rotary for our test run and had so much fun, we went around again! Well, we’re on record as saying the last Corvette was the best one — but this one is better. Oh, baby, it is soooo sweet!
We also had some seat time in the new Chevy HHR, modeled after one of our all-time-favorite trucks — the 50’s-era Chevy panel job. (HHR, after all, stands for “Heritage High Roof.”) Our test vehicle, a pleasant drive with a five-speed manual, promised an ample ability to carry kids and all their stuff, within some reason. It stands out in traffic, and Chevy claims to be selling a bunch of them in Southern California. You don’t need me to remind you that if it sells there, the hope is it will transfer to the rest of the country as well. We could see one of these loaded down in Malibu or Santa Barbara, where it would look right at home. As an added inducement, the price is right, starting at a hood latch under $16,000. (Look for a full road test soon.)
In addition, we spent a most delightful time at the wheel of two versions of the new Pontiac Solstice. Just imagine: A two-seat sports car from the General that’s fun to drive, realizes the impact of $3-a-gallon gas and handles like a good sports car should. (All hail Bob Lutz, because without him this baby would have never seen the road.) Amazingly, the Solstice felt comfortable enough for a long day at the wheel for this six-foot male. The base price is $19,420, but we’d recommend a more upscale “Lutz so-lay,” at say $24,000 and change. (We have a nice dark blue one in our Maryland driveway as this is written, so look for a full report shortly.)
We also climbed around and over the new GMC Yukon, Chevy Tahoe and a nicely disguised Cadillac Escalade during our trip to Garrison, outside New York City. They’ll hit showrooms in January or early February.
Some may argue that with the price of gas these days such vehicles don’t make much sense, but remember there are those among us who must haul trailers full of boats and horses (hopefully, not at the same time) and such, and who can afford the gas to boot. We liked the new models, which are clearly an improvement over the current crop of offerings in GM showrooms.
In short, it appears that while GM undoubtedly has some vitally important bottom-line issues to be resolved, the automaker’s committed to moving all ahead full on the new-products side.
Ron Amadon is an auto writer and morning news anchor on the MarketWatch Radio Network.