Tuesday, May 11, 2010

First Drive: Chevrolet Cruze Eco

Chevy Cruze Eco

Hybrids are a great way to max out on MPG, but a new breed of conventional gas-powered cars are promising better than 40 miles to the gallon�at least on the highway. The all-new Chevrolet Cruze Eco, due out in late 2010, is one of those contenders. Last week, we gave it our first drive on a closed course at GM�"s Milford Proving Grounds.

The Cruze Eco will be marketed as a compact, but nothing about it felt cheap or undersized to us�except maybe the expected price, which GM folks hinted will be in the mid-teen range. The car had the exterior dimensions, cabin space, trunk volume, amenities, and overall presence of a quality midsize sedan.

GM says the Cruze Eco will get 40 miles-per-gallon highway, and 27 in the city. (Official EPA numbers are not yet out.) Chevy engineers are still tweaking things in pursuit of a coveted 30/40 rating.

Gearing Up

The Cruze Eco uses GM�"s new Ecotec 1.4-liter Turbo, outputting 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. A turbo delivers the performance attributes of a larger displacement engine while maintaining the fuel economy of a smaller one. Despite the low fuel consumption, we experienced more than adequate mid-range acceleration and passing power. The Eco version is only available with a specially geared 6-speed manual transmission; the Cruze Eco�"s fourth, fifth, and sixth gears have been set to overdrive for improved fuel economy.

Chevy Cruze Eco

Improved aerodynamics is another key strategy. The Eco version of the Cruze uses lower grille air shutters that open and close based on speed of the car and cooling needs of the engine�and to reduce aerodynamic drag at highway speeds. This is the first use of active air shutters for a compact car in the United States. Other functional add-ons include specific front grille closeouts, a lowered front fascia air dam, mid-body aero panels, a deck lid spoiler, a lowered suspension, and ultra low-rolling resistant tires on lightweight aluminum wheels. The use of high-strength steel across the Cruze line helps to reduce mass and weight.

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Read More... [Source: HybridCars.com]

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