The bottom 10 was an easy task. The top 10 not so much. In no particular order, the 10 vehicles that GM should use as templates for future success.
First on the list, and probably a controversial choice for many. Even myself now that I think about it. Yes, the new generation GTO isn't the best looking sports car on the market. But it's also not ugly. Actually, it has a lot of Euro influence that one wouldn't expect from a Pontiac. The real point of the GTO lies in 2 letters and 1 number- LS2. And yet another number- 400. As in pound feet of torque and horsepower. Add in a very un-Pontiac interior and you've got a hell of a deal.
In 5 years, when Saturn goes and makes a larger vehicle than the Aura, and everyone starts going off on how great it is that an American company can make a vehicle to compete with the larger offerings from the Europeans, someone should just point at the Aurora and say, 'you wasted 15 years when you had this already'. So revolutionary that Oldsmobile was scared to stick an Oldsmobile logo anywhere that someone would see it. Sadly was left to rot on the vine as Olds sunk into oblivion.
The C5 Corvette was pretty good. The C6 Corvette is pretty good. The C4 Vette was a fiberglass nightmare. One could make the argument that the ZR-1 belongs on this list (it doesn't because it was essentially a regular Corvette with a bigger motor in it). There is NO argument about the Z06 however. The performance bargain of all time, with power and handling that can put vehicles costing 4 times as much to shame. The only things missing are an interior befitting such greatness, and an exterior with a bit more spark. Perhaps the SS/Blue Devil will do that job.
Someone will no doubt say that the Fiero belongs on the '10 Worst' list. For the first few years of its existence, they'd probably be right. Towards the end of its run however, the Fiero was a fantastic little sports car with fantastic looks to back it up. Ahead of its time in many ways, and unfortunately axed far too soon. Imagine if Pontiac had kept up with the idea and the design- I'm not saying it could have changed the future of the brand, but it could have changed the future of the brand.
Equal in almost every way to the Japanese competition it was created to beat, and better than it in many ways, the first Saturn SL was a great little car that actually had something that very few economy cars had and will ever have- cachet. Bolstered by its 'newness' , plastic dent resistant panels, and a dealership experience that bordered on being too cheery, the SL was also a spry performer with great handling and a willing although buzzy motor. It helped that the styling was not your usual jelly bean import mishmash.
Godzilla in luxury sedan disguise. Replace the mesh grille and the huge wheels and brakes with stock components, and no one would know what was about to hit them. The CTS-V is such an impressive performer that it will make you forget just how chintzy the interior is or how much the rear axle hops on abrupt takeoffs. Just relax and enjoy the LS purr. Not exactly your traditional Cadillac... or your traditional luxury car reallly.
I can remember how mythical the Grand National was when I was growing up. A house down the street had one parked outside all the time, and the owner would detail the thing every Sunday before taking off down the street to who knows where for his Sunday drive. We were too young to really know it then, but the guy had a collectible on his hands. Big, black and menacing- the Grand National was more or less the official vehicle of Darth Vader. And it had the performance to back it up. It didn't matter if it was just a really tarted up Regal- it hauled ass.
Along the same lines as the Grand National, the Impala SS of the 90's was another Frankenstein experiment from GM that went perfectly. Yes, it was basically a police spec Caprice with a big LT1 motor under the hood. No, it didn't handle especially well. Yes, it was still a hoot to drive. Get it in all black and you could argue it was the spiritual successor to the Grand National even. Today we have a FWD blandmobile Impala that excited no one. This Impala was the antithesis of that.
Bet you didn't see this one coming. Oftentimes people have accused me of hating the Aura. It's not that I HATE it, it's that I don't think it's as good as the leaders in the segment. That being said, it's the best affordable midsize sedan that GM has made in 25 years. World class engine and transmission, comfortable ride, and semi-lux styling. Not to mention an interior that is leaps and bounds ahead of its platform mates, the Malibu and the G6. A winning combination.
Last but not least, the unheralded champion of the Caddy lineup, the SRX. While the new Acadia/Outlook/Enclave get all the kudos and press, the SRX soldiers on as a perfect example of how a crossover doesn't have to have the stigma of 'minivan lite' attached to it. Motivate it with the 6 or the 8- either way it sings a great song, and the handling tilts heavily towards the car side of the 'car/truck' equation. With all the built in utility that the crossover body shape entails plus a gorgeous new interior, the SRX is a perfect example of GM getting it right on all counts.
If I can find 10 bad examples that is.