2008 Cadillac STS
2008 Cadillac STS. Click image to enlarge

Story and photos by Norm Mort

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Photo Gallery: Showcase – GM’s 2008s

Novi, Michigan – GM’s travelling road show, known officially as the “GM Collection 2008,” stopped at the company’s 80-year old Milford Proving Grounds just northwest of Detroit before moving onward to the west coast.

The one day program held on Tuesday, September 25th was to provide the opportunity for the press to experience the newest of the 2008 GM models.

Present were dozens of local journalists and a few select eastern Canadian journalists, as well as a number of striking UAW workers at the entrance. All was peaceful, but the thought of a possible long strike certainly was on the minds of the army of GM personnel present.

GM feels it’s on a roll upward for a change, having won the prestigious 2007 North American Car of the Year and North American Truck of the Year with its Saturn Aura and full-size Chevy/GMC Pickup trucks.

Certainly, what has been subsequently unveiled at the auto shows since January ’07 looks good and thus GM was hoping any sales and excitement momentum wasn’t suddenly going to be derailed by a strike action. Fortunately, things worked out in their favour.

2008 Saturn Sky
2008 Saturn Sky. Click image to enlarge

Getting to the actual test site involved some high security similar to crossing the US/Canadian border. At Milford we were transferred by bus to a secure area known as Black Lake. Although a picturesque 4,000 acres of countryside there is no Black Lake, but rather this is a name applied to the huge paved tarmac at the test centre. It was regularly coated with a black finish until it was discovered that Canada Geese were continually mistaking the “shimmer” for water. When the subsequent mess became a regular problem the asphalt was no longer coated, but the name was not changed to Grey Lake.

This large paved area was covered with cones to create roads leading to the actual test routes designed to simulate North American driving conditions. There was everything from high speed sweeping curves to washboards to pot holes and everything in between.

Gary White, General Motors North American Vice-President Line Vehicle Executive, Full-Size Truck Vehicle Development Team
Gary White, General Motors North American Vice-President Line Vehicle Executive, Full-Size Truck Vehicle Development Team. Click image to enlarge

Before testing, a presentation was made by Gary White, General Motors North American Vice-President Line Vehicle Executive, Full-Size Truck Vehicle Development Team. He started-off stating he felt the entire industry was “…on the cusp of radical change.” As for GM, “We are in the process of transformation. We have transformed into a global company with the ability to market quickly.”

The GM transformation is clearly evident with the new, soon to arrive Australian, Holden-based, rear-wheel drive Pontiac G8 and the German Opel, front-wheel drive Saturn Astra differing only slightly in meeting safety and lighting regulations, minor trim and badges. No longer are so-called “world cars” being completely re-engineered with different engines, suspensions, etc. for the North American market – it’s now at the point where these models are similar in name only.

White went on to say that that GM has adapted the viewpoint that design drives culture and as a result, all of its new models will be big on “eye candy, backed by vehicle dynamics.”

With the environment finally becoming a major issue, White also noted that a key priority for General Motors is reducing the industry’s reliance on petroleum and petroleum imports, as well as reducing carbon emissions.

2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

To that end, the 2008 model year features the world debut of the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon full-size SUVs equipped with GM’s Two-Mode hybrid system, which delivers up to a 40-percent fuel economy improvement in the city and up to a 25-percent gain in combined city and highway driving.

These models join three other existing hybrid vehicles and the twelve E85 ethanol FlexFuel cars and trucks in the overall GM line-up.

White continued to emphasize that GM has committed to producing electrically driven vehicles that help diversify energy sources, reduce emissions and improve efficiency. Along with hybrids they include extended-range plug-in electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and, ultimately, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

GM is also is the first automobile manufacturer to join the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a group of global companies and non-government organizations committed to slowing, stopping and reversing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions over the shortest period of time reasonably achievable.

GM’s new entries for 2008 include the following models:

2008 Cadillac STS
2008 Cadillac STS. Click image to enlarge

Cadillac – The second-generation RWD and AWD Cadillac CTS luxury sport sedan gets more powerful-yet-efficient engines in the form of the standard 263-hp, 3.6-litre V6 or optional 304-hp, 3.6-litre Direct Injection V6. For the first time, CTS offers the choice of rear-wheel (standard) or all-wheel drive. The CTS also offers the choice of a six-speed manual and automatic transmission. Inherited from Cadillac’s STS-V, XLR-V and Escalade, the six-speed automatic features driver shift control, which enables on-demand clutchless manual shifts.

The entirely new cabin is pleasing to the eye and the touch. Metallic finishes, chrome accents and available Sapele Pommele wood envelop the interior. The instrument panel sweeps forward and away from passengers unlike the previous barrel design.

David Caldwell, Cadillac PR rep, speaking about the new CTS
David Caldwell, Cadillac PR rep, speaking about the new CTS. Click image to enlarge

The more sculpted fenders emphasize the CTS’s wider track and enhanced chassis dynamics. The front fenders feature side air extractors that recall a styling element from Cadillac’s past that was revived on the Sixteen concept and the new Escalade. Speaking with Cadillac Public Relations man David Caldwell, he noted the fender extractors are now being fitted by tuners as the hot styling cue that is sweeping the industry. Those fitted to the new Cadillac CTS provide that little added performance look. If you liked driving the old CTS you’ll love the newest version.

Buick – The elegant Buick Enclave luxury crossover and the return of the Buick Super designation on LaCrosse (Allure in Canada) and Lucerne are the big news in this division. The all-new, high styled Enclave luxury crossover SUV has all the typical Buick DNA, plus eight-passenger accommodation and good space for gear. It is built on GM’s all-new large crossover architecture and powered by a V6 engine.

2008 Chevrolet HHR SS
2008 Chevrolet Malibu
2008 Chevrolet Malibu. Click image to enlarge

Chevrolet – As well as the soon-to-arrive all-new Malibu, there’s a more powerful Corvette; a more powerful version of the Equinox, the Equinox Sport; and an all-new more full efficient, Two-Mode full hybrid Tahoe full-size SUV. The new Chevy HHR line-up includes new models for 2008. The Chevy HHR SS is powered by a turbocharged and inter-cooled engine that produces 260 horsepower (194 kW), unique exterior styling and a SS-specific interior. The vehicle was developed by GM Performance Division (GMPD), with a team of engineers and designers dedicated to crafting nothing but high-performance vehicles.

Unfortunately the only Chevy Malibu present was a static display example. The new Malibu is scheduled to appear in showrooms by early November and should prove to be a winner. Clean styling, smart two-tone interiors, four large doors for ease of entry with generous headroom and plenty of luggage space combines with a good choice of powerplants, including a hybrid powertrain.

GMC – The Two-Mode full-hybrid Yukon full-size SUV, like the Chevy Tahoe Two-Mode hybrid, achieves up to a 25-percent gain in fuel economy over non-hybrid models. GMC is GM’s second largest division and the new 2008 Acadia SUV already in showrooms is apparently in big demand. Keith Mueller, Crossover SUV, Ride and Handling Engineer for the past twelve years stated, the standard wheels on the Acadia are 18-inch, while 19-inch are factory options and 20-inch are a dealer installed option. “The suspension was designed for those options and was fully tested in snow, dry, etc. conditions.”

2008 Hummer H3
2008 Pontiac Torrent
2008 Hummer H3 and 2008 Pontiac Torrent. Click image to enlarge

Hummer – A more powerful H2 with a redesigned interior features a new powertrain combination that consists of a 6.2-litre all-aluminum small-block V8 engine rated at 393 horsepower – an increase of about 20 percent over the previous engine, and a Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission. The H3 Alpha is the second member of Hummer’s exclusive Alpha series. It comes with a new, 5.3-litre V8 engine that delivers 300 horsepower and 320 lb.-ft. of torque. It is partnered with a four-speed automatic transmission and enables a maximum towing capacity of 6,000 pounds (2,721 kg) – an increase of more than 33 percent over other H3 models.

Pontiac – Two new performance GXP models are available in the form of the G6 GXP and Torrent GXP

Saturn – An all-new Saturn Vue compact SUV and larger Outlook are already in showrooms, and Saturn will unveil a version of the Vue Green Line that uses GM’s new front-wheel-drive Two-Mode hybrid system, expected to achieve up to a 45-percent improvement in composite fuel economy compared to the non-hybrid Vue.

2008 Saturn Vue
2008 Saturn Vue. Click image to enlarge

GM also has future plans to produce a Vue plug-in hybrid – depending on available battery technology, that could achieve up to 70 mpg.
Saturn will also be introducing the Opel-based Saturn Astra three- and five-door sport compacts.

Saab – New, more powerful 9-3 and 9-7 Saabs sporting numerous exterior enhancements now evoke the popular Aero X concept.

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