Main Street in Motion is a free promotional event put on by GM where anyone can come test drive their cars and some of their competition on a closed course. It is a bit of an automotive traveling circus that travels to cities all over the country. As I said it is completely free, even the refreshments, so all you have to do is sign up online and go to the event to take part. Al and I went to their recent event in Philly, here is what I have to say about it.
The event always takes place in a large parking lot everywhere it travels. This one took place in the stadium area of Philadelphia. Various tents are set up and there are multiple cone courses arranged all over the lot with different types of vehicles at each one. When you check in, they scan your license and make you sign an insurance waiver, then you are ready to go.
At the test booths there are lines, much like at an amusement park, for each model of car. The whole thing is obviously a contrived marketing technique though. There are multiple GM models and only one of the competitor’s cars each, so the lines for the competition are always longer. On top of that, generally the GM models are all well equipped and the competition is usually bare bones cars with few or no options, obviously they want the GM products to look as good as possible by comparison. So, if you do attend this event just bare all of this in mind.
As far as driving the cars goes, there is no limit to how many times you can drive each car except for at the performance booth where you are limited to three per person. Also, for someone of the enthusiast sort like myself, it is hard not to see the cone courses they have set up as autocross tracks. In fact they function beautifully as such and there was a lot of honing going on, but since this is on a closed course there aren’t any real laws governing how you can drive. I myself took the liberty of driving every car like my pants were on fire, and was only asked to slow it down once, when I had perfected my technique on one of the courses in an Acura TSX. They do let you get away with quite a lot of mischief though, and overall it is just fun to try out all of the cars at their limit. It is a lot of fun.
As for the cars there, I was only able to learn the cars to a limited degree but I did come away with some very real impressions:
Buick is really coming up in the world, all of their models were certainly very good cars and were leagues ahead of their predecessors in quality on all fronts. I was a bit underwhelmed by the Regal Turbo, in that I felt its badge suggests it should drive better than it does–unfortunately, it doesn’t. The Buick Lacrosse I thought was very good, and a very solid luxury car all around, even with it’s front wheel drive. Overall the Buick lineup did impress me more than I had expected and I would recommend one to someone, however I still wouldn’t buy one personally.
The main competitor at the Buick booth was Acura, and I have to say I was extremely impressed by all of the Acura models. The TSX was fantastic to drive in a sporting manner, very nimble and responsive on the course that was set up (something the Regal lacked). The TSX became my hot lap car, and I wound up really flying through the course flat out until I was eventually asked to stop by an official. I was really pushing it though and the car took it brilliantly. The Acura MDX was also fantastic. Despite it being an SUV, I was very impressed with how it handled hard driving, it really felt like a car. Finally there was the Acura TL; although I spent less time with it than the TSX, the TL was my favorite car at this booth for sure. It did everything the TSX did but better–more power, even sharper steering, and rock solid handling through corners. The TL is fantastic.
Overall with Acura there is a level of quality across the board that the Buicks cannot even match. The cars are just better in the interior and comfort areas and in the build of the cars and the way they drive. Honda’s racing experience really does show in the way the Acuras handle when driven hard. GM should leave Acuras out of this event because they absolutely blow away the Buick products in all regards.
At the truck section, I was impressed with the GM products, but when I got into the Rams afterward it was still clear that the Mopars are by far my pick in this department, especially the Cummins diesels.
In the small car section GM really did shine. The Cruze is leagues better than any of its Japanese or Korean competitors in all areas of quality and driving feel. GM has really done a bang up job with the Cruze and it showed big time. I did however notice that lack of a Ford Focus at this event.
In the Midsize sector, GM still is crap. The Malibu and Impala are both garbage and need to be replaced. The Accord and Maxima reign supreme here with the Ford Taurus close at their heels. There was however a lack of a Hyundai Sonata at the event, which I’m sure would be right up there. It is interesting to see what vehicles they include and which ones they don’t.
There was a special tent for the Chevy Volt, and its test drive consisted of going out onto public roads for a few minutes so they could really show you the car. I was very surprised by how good the Volt was, not only is it very economical but it is also quite sporting in the way it drives. Read my full review of the Volt here.
The most fun area of the event was of course the high performance tent. Here you can drive only GM vehicles but that includes the Corvette Grand Sport, and the Camaro lineup, so it is hardly a let down. It should be noted that all of the cars are automatic though, but in the end you still have fun. The course is larger than the others with a decent straight at the beginning to open the cars up on and some solid varying corners on the way back. There are people who ride with you here, some of whom are racing instructors who can coach you through the best driving line, and some who may scream for their life if you know how to drive a car fast.
I started with a Camaro V6 so I could learn the track and get the most out of the V8 cars. The V6 felt solid in the power and handling departments, with the automatic transmission being the only crutch on the driving experience.
Next I drove the new Camaro SS Convertible. I lucked out here because the person riding along was a racing instructor who asked if I wanted to drive the car fast, I of course said yes. He coached me through the course well and I got a much better feel for the SS than I had for the V6. Overall I was very impressed by the way the Camaro cornered, it is far from a brutish muscle car only meant for the straights, and of course it hauled a bit of ass with its 426hp V8 too.
Lastly I hopped into a yellow Corvette Grand Sport convertible, the lady in the car was not too friendly and had a bit of “tude” about her. We got to the starting line and I floored it wide open. I kept on the gas hard through the first moderate corner without braking at all, the Vette handled it beautifully but the lady did not. As we approached the next tight corner she told me to brake way early and I of course broke late and threw the car in properly, getting the tail a little loose on the way out before the traction control sadly kicked in (I was fully prepared for some opposite lock). I kept on the gas hard, going off of what my previous instructor, Eduardo, had told me to do in the Camaro because I realized this lady had not the slightest idea what she was doing. Flat out driving to the end of the course and then calmly parked the car in its space. I thanked the lady, who was breathing quite heavily and looked pale, and got out of the car laughing.
So, overall Main Street in motion is a fantastic experience for anyone to enjoy. I may have been driving quickly but there are many folks who just get in the cars and put around slowly like sane human beings. You will learn that GM has really stepped up their game in recent years and that they really do deserve a look in any car purchase you are going to make. It is a fun experience and I urge anyone to try it out.