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Silverado SS, Monte Carlo SS & SSR - GM's '04 Full Line Preview

A Glimpse At What's Behind The Curtain

Andrew Schear Dec 1, 2003
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How often have we seen a car traveling down the interstate in disguise? Probably not too often, but if you're one of those super inquisitive automotive fanatics, as we are, you've probably wondered what's on the manufacturer's plate or underneath those less than functional bras that the manufacturers use to conceal a vehicle's identity. GM's full line preview is the bible to all your questions. The Detroit-based preview is very similar to Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for car folks, minus the lifetime supply of chocolate. It's an opportunity for automotive journalists to sample first hand what GM will be offering consumers in the year to come.

The 3-day event started in high gear with a Bring Your Own Baby car show in which various GM employees and Chevrolet dealers brought their beautiful Bow-Ties out for a casual Editor's Choice car show. After GM exec Bob Lutz handed out the portable XM radios to the show winners, it was back to the hotel to catch a few Zs in anticipation for the next morning. Bright and early the second day, we were off to GM's high-security proving grounds in Milford, Michigan. When we reached the gates, it was as if we were peeking into a world that was not our own, a place were all the highways and roads were empty except for the occasional 100-mph pass of a car which we had never seen. We were taken straight to a location known only as "black lake," a large asphalt tarmac used for numerous road testing situations. After a brief introduction, we were off to location number one where we found an array of cool stuff just aching to be driven. So as any respectable hot rodder would do, we jumped into the fastest thing they had, an '04 Z-06 Vette. After taking a few hot laps on the road course, it was obvious by the look on the engineer's face in the passenger seat that he had quite enough thrashing and was ready for his next guest. After the Vette, we were quite sure that anything else would be a disappointment. We were wrong.

While not a Chevrolet, the Cadillac XLR is a close cousin to the Corvette C5, sharing many of the same suspension components. We threw down the top and went on a little testing mission to see how the speed sensitive cruise control really worked. Other than the occasional urge to nail the brakes, it offers a feeling of ease and comfort to the driver. All we have to do is figure out how to install it on a '69 Camaro! The day was concluded by something called Jennite pad testing. What is Jennite testing you say? Only the coolest way to throw a car sideways on a piece of asphalt ever imaginable. A genite spin is similar to driving in a snowy parking lot and wailing on the e-brake. After ALMOST flipping a Cadillac EXT 4x4 multiple times, we determined it was wise to quit while we were ahead. So, we piled in the bus and headed for the hills. While unsure what was planned for the day to come, were excited to say the least.

Our final day took place in Milan, Michigan, at Milan Dragway. To our surprise, GM had the entire lineup of vehicles to drive including the new supercharged Monte Carlo SS, esteemed SSR, and the Silverado SS pickup. Seeing as this was our first opportunity to get our paws on the new Silverado SS, we darted straight for the 6L wonder. After 20 minutes in the driver's seat we remembered we were in a truck only after slamming the door behind us. Sitting next to the pickup was the new Monte Carlo SS, a vehicle slightly at a loss simply due to its front wheel drive system. While it may have driven nicely, a V-8 and rear-wheel-drive system still would have been preferable.

At the end of the day, we were tired and sweaty but satisfied. While the rest of the automotive world is producing vehicles with only average performance, GM continues to strive for automotive excellence. This quick 3-day glimpse into the world of automotive engineering only wet our appetite for the years to come.

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