Ford and Chevrolet have been competing since the beginning and with today’s challenging economic times, the rivalry has grown even more fierce. It was not so long ago that car dealerships were selling hundreds of vehicles a day and running out of inventory. Ford and Chevrolet could produce any vehicle of any quality level and have it be a top seller. As the consumer has grown more conscious and more knowledgeable, the business of selling automobiles has grown more difficult.
It is hard to negate the fact that the American auto manufacturers have made leaps and bounds in terms of quality and sustainability for the vehicles they produce. These companies have begun to emerge from the financial crisis and are plotting their return to dominance. New marketing tactics have helped lead the charge and get the consumer thinking about their products. One of the best ways to do this is by having the consumer be able to test the vehicles in a non-sales environment.
At the Barrett Jackson auction in Orange County, both Ford and Chevrolet had ride and drive events set up to stimulate the car enthusiasts at the auction. Without paying any money or being hassled by a greasy car salesman, I was able to test drive the full range of new General Motors products as well as several different Ford rides. After completing some test drives, I was then whipped around the track by a professional driver in a Corvette ZR1 which left little doubt in my mind that these companies know how to show off their stuff.
Hit the jump for more details on the Ride and Drive experience.
The General Motors tent was set up in a much better way for the company to display various models. After presenting your driver’s license and weaving through the line, you had the choice of driving one of their more economic models. At first I was a little upset because all I wanted to do was drive the Cadillac CTS-V sitting in the parking lot. Nonetheless, I was given the chance to drive the new Chevrolet Volt. This electric car made a big splash in the market after its debut and has been leading the company’s green initiatives.
Once I stepped into the Volt, I was greeted by a Chevrolet employee sitting in the passenger seat. Luckily he was there as a chaperon around the track rather than to push me towards buying one. The car’s interior was spacious and modern with a futuristic looking instrument panel and dash board. The Volt uses electricity to move the wheels at all times and speeds. For trips up to 40 miles, the Volt is powered only by electricity stored in its 16-kWh, lithium-ion battery. When the battery’s energy is depleted, a gasoline/E85-powered engine generator seamlessly provides electricity to power the Volt’s electric drive unit while simultaneously sustaining the charge of the battery. Surprisingly enough, the car had plenty of power to make it around the track faster than the Chevrolet employee felt comfortable with. According to GM’s preliminary specification, the 2011 Volt’s electric drive unit delivers 150 hp and 273 lbs-ft of torque. It is capable of a top speed of 100 mph.
After passing through the next set of turnstiles, I was given the choice to drive something a little more exciting. There was a yellow Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport, a Camaro SS, and a Cadillac CTS V. I am a huge fan of the ridiculously fast sedans produced by BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi. Cadillac has clearly set its sights on its German rivals and even completed much of its testing for the new CTS V in Germany on the famous Nurburgring. The award winning Cadillac CTS-V is powered by an LSA 6.2 Liter supercharged Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 V8 that makes a maximum output of 556 HP and 551 lb-ft of torque and is mated to either a Tremec TR6060 six speed manual with a twin plate clutch to handle the extra horse power or a Hydra-Matic 6L90 six speed automatic complete with paddle shifters on the steering wheel that allow you to push button your way from 0 to 60 MPH in only 3.9 seconds. After pushing it around the small track, I can certainly vouch for the fast 0-60 mph time and wish my drive time had lasted all day.
Luckily I had made it to the last section of the event which was the chance to be driven around the course on what Chevrolet was calling a “Hot Lap.” The Ron Fellows Performance Driving School had been contracted to take passengers on a 60 second thrill ride in the most powerful Corvette ever produced. Needless to say, I was thrilled! As soon as I bucked myself into the thickly bolstered passenger seat we were off to the races.
Under the hood of the Corvette ZR1 is a LS9 supercharged 6.2 liter V-8 engine rated at 638 HP and 604 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine is backed by an upgraded, stronger six-speed manual transmission and a twin-disc clutch that provide exceptional clamping power. With a curb weight of 3,333 pounds, the Corvette ZR1 makes the 0 to 60 mph sprint in 3.4 seconds and can hit a top speed of 205 mph. The exhaust let out a huge wail as we flew down the straightaway, followed by the screech of tires losing traction and the rear end sweeping out around the bend. This was certainly going to be a hot lap to remember. We would get nowhere near the 205 mph top speed, but being flung around corners and thrust into the back of my seat in one of the most legendary Corvette’s ever produced was enough for me.