2011 Chevrolet Cruze ECO Sedan
August 4th, 2011Written by Kevin "Crash" Corrigan Added August 4th, 2011
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I don’t know how many people I’ve said this to, but I’m going to repeat it again… “If you want to call yourself a proper driver, then you have to learn to drive a stick-shift”!
Now there are several good reasons behind this, one being the fact that many desirable sports models are only made available in standard. Another stems from the thought, “What would you do if you were a passenger in a stick-shift vehicle and your driver became injured?” After all, this is North America where you could be a hundred miles from civilization at any given time!
Then there’s the fact that, and I don’t care what some of the car companies have told you, you’ll get better fuel economy out of a manual gearbox than you ever will from an automatic transmission. Naturally, that’s providing you know how to drive one!
Of course, this brings me nicely to my test vehicle of the week, the new 2011 Cruze Eco Sedan, because it comes as a 6-speed manual, and that’s actually a large part of what makes this vehicle so eco-friendly.
Yes, the Cruze has gathered huge praise since its launch (2011 AJAC Car of the Year), and choose any model in the lineup and you’ll come away happy, but this one is rather special, and let me explain why.
First, it’s powered by the new 1.4L ECOTECC turbocharged 4 cylinder, which by the way is a sweet little engine. It also boasts something called an Automatic Air Shutter System, which basically adjusts the airflow into the engine bay as and when required for engine cooling purposes. Now we have to look at that as a smart idea. After all, you need much more airflow around the radiator in heavy downtown traffic than you do whilst cruising along the highway. That’s simply common sense, so why add to the wind resistance when you don’t need to?
However, that’s not the real news with this vehicle, at least not as far as I see it. No, what I really like about this vehicle is what’s attached to the 6-speed gear lever. GM must have been reading my mind, because I often go searching for another gear on the highway only to discover that aren’t any more left! Come on now, I know there are a few gear jockeys out there reading this, and I’m sure that I’m not the first to go searching for a 6th gear on a 5-speed gearbox!
Well that won’t happen with the new GM Eco Sedan, because there’s a fairly long jump in gear ratios from 4th to 5th, and then a whopping great huge one from 5th up into top gear! Honestly, it’s like driving a 5-speed with an extra overdrive gear. It’s wonderful, and I can’t for the life of me understand why this idea hasn’t been done before.
Well actually it has, because it reminds me of a rear-engined VW 411E station wagon that I owned a decade or three back. The vehicle sported a 5-speed gearbox, but the 5th gear was designed predominately for highway cruising. The rest of the time, you simply drove it as a standard 4-speed, which was pretty much the norm back in the 70s anyway.
Now if you’ve been paying attention lately, you’ll have heard news of new 7-speed automatic transmissions. In fact, 8-speed units are now becoming popular. Great, but then why did the manual gearbox get to six-speeds and then suddenly stop? Of course, applying 7 or 8 gears raises one or two issues. Firstly, where do you put all those gears, and how close together would the shifts need to be before it became impossible to drive? Then there’s the fact that not everyone wants to be constantly changing up and down through the gears.
Of course, it doesn’t take Einstein to work out that the higher the top gear ratio, the lower the RPM, which then equates to less fuel. So why have overdrive gearboxes not been made standard within the industry? After all, wouldn’t everybody enjoy saving a little more fuel?
Well one reason could be that taller gearing puts a lot more strain on an engine, and perhaps manufacturers see this as raising possible warranty issues (Obviously GM must place a lot of faith in its new ECOTEC power plants). Another is that it tends to lower ones feeling of performance, and we live in North America where power is thought of as King!
All I can say to that is, educate drivers on how to drive for economy, and teach them how to change gears properly. After all, most youngsters who have experienced stick-shift vehicles in their youth and enjoyed the pleasure of paying for their own gas already know how to drive economically. You just change up when you feel the engine is capable of taking the next gear. At other times when you want power, you simply hold the gears for longer and let the engine rev out! Any good driving instructor could teach that in a matter of minutes.
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