2 April 2007

The 10 Best GM Vehicles Of The Past 25 Years

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.

Up next...


If I can find 10 bad examples that is.


Anonymous said...

The GNX should be #1 on the list.

1990-1994 Cadillac Devile should be somewhere on the list. Pre-Northstar, although the northstar is great, the 4.5/4.9 liter engines almost always have 200k+ miles without anything major done.


If GM doesn't want to be crushed in the market, they need to revert back to V8 with MPG technology like the Corvette and have more RWD platforms.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mags,
Was wondering why you were no longer posting at GMI. Did they finally ban you. Even though I didn't agree with everything you had to say, I did enjoy reading your comments.

Mags said...

I left GMI of my own accord... apparently Branden has a 'no links to The Mags Report' edict on the site now, which is quite funny... spread the word to those you know!

Ghrankenstein said...

Interesting choices. I agree with most of them.

On the GTO: I really liked the 2004 GTO/LS1, and the comparison with the 2005 LS2 model is one of the examples I used in contrasting personality with performance. The '04 had clumsy pedal placement. The '05 was faster but dumber, with almost as clumsy pedal placement. They fixed the exhaust on the '06, though the shift action is still as lousy as the '05's.

CTS-V: Axle-hop was fixed rather easily by replacing some rear suspension bushings, which the dealers did for free. As in the GTO, the shifter has all the feel homogenized from its action.

SRX: Great vehicle that sells in not droves because someone up there went high-brow and chose not to make it look like a fake SUV. Cadillac also got the idea of selling value instead of discount, so it's not getting any help from the established old-school Cadillac clientele.

RWD Impala: It's a wonder what a normal wheel arch does for a car. '94 and '95 aren't sexy because of their column shifters.

I think you'd have to make room for the GMC Syclone.


Old Dood said...

(Off Topic As Well)
I do not understand why it is such a big deal about links to anyone else's site. If one is secure in what they do then there should be no "worries" as to what others do...

Now I must read this entry...looks interesting.

Slack said...

Good reading, as usual. And all fine choices. One thing though, did not the Impala SS have and LT1, not an LS motor?

Mags said...

Slack- thanks.

And yup, you're right. Thanks. Fixed now!

Anonymous said...

I don't see what the big deal is with the CTS-V. Yes, it looks even better than a regular CTS and it's one of many cars that get an LS when the standard version is boring and underperforming, as most standard GM V6's are.
It may be fun to drive...that is... until you drive an STS-V. Now that car belongs on the list. A monster of a car, a fantastic engine, and so absolutely exhilarating to drive- yet it's criminally underrated. The STS-V does look great, it has a superb interior far superior to the CTS's. In no way is the CTS-V better than the STS-V.

FordRules said...

Since im not on GMI I can say that its BS that you can post a link to another site...

Anonymous said...

Ah the Saturn SL. I have experience with a 92 SL2. It was a pretty good car while it lasted, the twin cam 1.9 engine was spunky, and the handling was pretty good. Then it started to fall apart, and at just under 150,000 miles it made its final trip, to the toyota dealer(After our mechanic got the engine restarted by banging on something inside of it(timing chain I think) with a hammer.

Chris said...

I've heard that CTS-Vs progressively get more and more play/slack in their drivetrain as they get older. That's caused me to not really consider buying a used one, plus the likelihood that a used one might be beaten up by a "loving" owner.