Las Vegas - Two hundred sixty-two supercharged horsepower from just 2.2
liters and four cylinders - it's a power-to-displacement ratio that would make
any engine builder green with envy. It's not the engine of an exotic sports
car, or even an expensive European touring sedan. It's the potent GM Ecotec
powerplant found in a Chevrolet Cavalier Z-24 concept vehicle.
The supercharged Cavalier Z-24 sedan is just one
of eight Ecotec-powered production and concept vehicles being displayed by General
Motors at the 2002 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las
Vegas. The vehicles, including Chevrolet Cavaliers, Pontiac Sunfires, and the
all-new Saturn ION, demonstrate GM's range of possibilities in the entry-level
"Entry-level doesn't necessarily mean compact
or cheap," said Mark Reuss, GM Performance Division executive director.
"Customers in this burgeoning market segment are looking for performance,
pure and simple. Look around the [SEMA] show, and the aisles of horsepower and
appearance parts dedicated to entry-level vehicles tell you customers are willing
to spend the money necessary to achieve their performance goals."
Technological efficiency garners respect among
entry-level performance enthusiasts, and GM's advanced Ecotec all-aluminum engine
delivers. It was designed to be light and compact. For example, a single roller
chain drives the twin overhead camshafts, resulting in a shorter overall engine
length than would be possible with a more traditional toothed rubber belt. Also,
a pair of counter-rotating balance shafts, longer head bolts and an oil pan
that serves as a structural member contribute strength and smoothness to the
Ecotec's operation. These attributes were also built into the engine so that
it could be efficiently modified for high horsepower and torque output.
"The Ecotec engine was destined for high-performance
on the drawing board - turbocharging, supercharging, you name it," said
Reuss. "GM anticipated the rise in entry-level performance among young
car enthusiasts, and a plan was formed during Ecotec's development to give those
enthusiasts an engine that would put GM vehicles at the head of the pack. These
customers are very conscious of technology and expect to extract a lot of power
from a small package."
The recently formed GM Performance Division worked
with the Cavalier, Sunfire and ION product teams to formulate strategies for
integrating high performance into their Ecotec-powered vehicles. Engineering
and marketing experts in the Performance Division suggested concepts that reached
farther than mere horsepower increases.
"Each vehicle represents a unique package,"
said Reuss. "It's one thing to give a vehicle more power, but in the market
we're targeting, the entire look and feel of the car is just as important as
how much power it has. The wheels, body enhancements and even the vehicle's
stance are all very important."
Involvement in sanctioned front-wheel-drive and
compact-car drag racing is another avenue GM is using to reach out to entry-level
enthusiasts and explore the limits of performance. Front-wheel-drive competitors,
such as Pontiac Sunfire driver Marty Ladwig, are turning 9-second ETs in the
quarter-mile, while venerable racer and engine builder John Lingenfelter has
run in the 7-second range with a special rear-wheel-drive racing version of
the Cavalier. Both drivers' vehicles are powered by a specially prepared, turbocharged
With the Ecotec engine as the foundation, GM Performance
Division and the other GM nameplates that utilize the advanced engine will continue
to roll out exciting and targeted entry-level performance vehicles.
"GM is aggressively pursuing the entry-level
performance arena," said Reuss. "Through special production models
and lightning-quick racecars, we're just getting started in this new world of
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