Driver Mode - 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ Long-Term Road Test

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Long Term Road Test

2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ: Driver Mode

March 15, 2011

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Like this detail: a belt guide for the rear seat belts. Good for shorter passengers or kids in boosters, so that the chest belt doesn't strangle them. Nice little sheath they can slip under when not needed. A small detail, but illustrative of GM's effort to make the Cruze interior feel appointed.

Too bad they didn't extend that effort to the six-speed slushbox.

Other staffers have discussed and written about it, Jordan articulated it, reader/owners have confirmed it: the Cruze automatic just plain sucks. Up, down, up, up, up. Down. The Cruze's constant gear laddering makes it suitable only for the driving which inspires its name. If you mostly travel flowing, freewheeling highways and interstates, you may love it.

Its bones and joints feel taut and substantial, surprisingly so for a compact. Steering feels crisp and direct. Good seats, nice material quality inside. The multimedia interface is clean and intuitive, a snap to scroll through terrestrial and sat radio stations or iPod playlists (although the center stack button layouts for A/V and climate control are a directional jumble).

We've been kicking this idea around the office. With fuel economy and CAFÉ restrictions narrowing the margins for engineers, this is only the beginning of cars built first to satisfy some government weenie, then the prospective owner. So we'll have more of these jumpy, erratic, boggy cogs in the future.

But maybe there's a silver lining. We're already seeing more cars with adjustable modes: Eco, Normal, Sport. Eventually we'll see one mode to earn some regulatory toad's signature, then the rest of the modes for the driver! Power to the Pedal People, man!

And what the automakers don't provide us, the aftermarket will. Already there are caffeinated, sleep-deprived mad code hackers re-calibrating factory powertrain control modules, some of whom are on this very board and contribute to the discussions. In the interim, of course, the Factory will punish you and void your warranty until some clever, lead-blooded attorney spins a variation on the Magnuson-Moss Act.

Until then, we lurch and surge, lurch and surge…

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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