The Chevrolet range around Kaylami

There are few things better than thrashing somebody else’s car around on the roads. The fact that it isn’t yours, means you’ll red line it, stomp on the brakes and not really care how you park. What’s even better, is when you get to do this in an entire range of vehicles at your disposal…around kyalami racetrack

GM afforded us the opportunity to test drive their entire range of Chevrolet vehicles around Kyalami last week. They had every vehicle from Chevy Spark Lite, all the way up to the Chevrolet Lumina SS CSV & CR8 Special (not yet released in SA)

Overall I was particularly impressed with the Chevrolet Lumina SS sedan and SS Ute, the 6.3 V8 motor has incredible torque in all gears (I found 3rd and 4th ideal for the track) and the chassis is something to behold. Not once, pushing 140km/h into most corners, did the ESP intervene. The grip levels are something akin to Quattro vehicles. Interior is also well equipped, every amenity you would need, however it is more plastic than Lego Land. Something which is strange, considering the guys at GM claim this competes against the BMW M5 in terms of performance. Interior was clearly not part of this comparison.

This said, you’ll have little time to touch the plastic bits as you’ll have your hands glued to the steering wheel in fear.

I’ll get back to the performance vehicles later, but want to tell you, the surprise of the day, was by far the Chevy Cruze. This is the car heralded as the “saviour” of GM’s financial woes. A true worldwide seller, competing against the likes of Toyota Corolla, VW Jetta and the like. Tough competition if you ask me. I really thought it was going to be the usual crap from the states…wow was I wrong.

Interior is of quality feel, fit and finish. Everything well thought out, well laid out, and simple. The engines (I drove both a 1.6 and a 1.8) have strong pull through all the gears, and work will with the 6speed manual gearbox employed. (I wouldn’t get an automatic, it’s a 4speed) We thrashed these “rental cows” around the track as fast as they would allow and they genuinely surprised in terms of handling, steering feedback and general enthusiasm around the track. Something I really didn’t expect from a mid-size family sedan (see Group C Intermediate at Avis) Genuinely a far more exciting ride than Toyota could ever muster, and by a more competitive package than the VW Jetta in terms of pricing and spec levels.

Something, I would however not recommend you do, is take the Chevy Corsa Bakkie around Kyalami. The 1.8litre is probably best suited for this in terms of engine, but the 1.6 and 1.7diesel are just not up for the task in terms of performance, and neither of them with regard to handling. Yes, I hear you, these cars aren’t make for a track, but it’s a damn scary feeling sliding from apex to apex in these workhorses. Overall a great car on the road I’ve heard, so take this with a pinch (read bag) of salt.

The highlight, however was the Chevrolet Lumina SS CR8 “Cop Car spec”. The details : 306KW, 550NM and a 0-100km/h time of 5 seconds flat, rear wheel drive behemoth. It ups the ante from the standard Lumina SS by adding a surpercharger to the mix (like it needed more power) It basically puts the SS on steroids, and gives it a vitamin B injection with a shot of Red Bull. Uprated suspension, Brembo brakes, some ESP tweaks (race mode etc), and of course the obligatory body modifications, produce a far more hardcore racing machine. It sticks to the road like a fat kid to a cupcake. Once again, Quattro type handling, with little to no understeer even when pushing incredibly hard.

Something I really appreciate about this car, is that you can feel the feedback from every inch of the car. Suspension, steering, brakes all communicate to you in one chorus, which is something a lot of modern performance saloons have lost. I must say, that the CSV & CR8 are incredible packages for what are supposed to be a price way below the cars they compete against in terms of performance.

A final highlight was the hotlap in the passenger seat of the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 – A true American supercar that actually CAN go around corners! What obviously impressed at first was the 0-100 time of 3.8seconds. You literally cannot sit up once the car’s at full throttle, it just pastes you against the seat. The 377kw motor does wonders with the light body, and makes it possible to fling the car around Kaylami with eager aplomb….the massive rubber 325/30 Goodyears no doubt adds to the impressive handling characteristics.

It was an incredibly quick lap, but taking some of those corners at 160km/h with no tire squeal and the ESP switched off, was akin to some of the best rollercoaster rides I’ve been on in the US.

Overall an incredible experience, and a huge thanks to the guys at Williams Hunt GM for the invite and GM SA for the great morning!