Back in February, General Motors announced it was putting its High Performance Vehicle Operation (HPVO) team on an indefinite hiatus and that it would be cutting back the number of performance vehicles it offered. Within the last couple of weeks, GM has started laying out which vehicles would survive the cuts and which models wouldn't. Besides obvious vehicles like the Pontiac G6 GXP (pictured), GM has announced more shocking discontinuations such as multiple Chevrolet SS vehicles like the Cobalt SS sedan, Chevrolet HHR SS panel van and Impala SS as well as Cadillac's XLR-V and STS-V. Thankfully, GM has reassured the public that there will be a few high profile performance vehicles that will continue as planned.
In an attempt to cut costs and return to profitability, GM is halting most HPVO projects on indefinite hold. HPVO created performance vehicles for GM's Cadillac, Chevrolet and Pontiac divisions as well as non-performance oriented vehicles such as the V-8-powered Chevy Colorado pickup truck. GM has repeatedly stated that HPVO will not be completely disbanded, but rather it is just being scaled back for now to focus on improving fuel economy for the automaker's four core brands (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC) moving into the future. Like Ford's performance Special Vehicle Team (SVT) that was once put on the back burner, GM did not rule out future HPVO vehicles. With the entire Pontiac division being shut down, vehicles like the G8 GXP and Solstice GXP will obviously be lost in addition to the G6 GXP.
Although the loss of the Impala SS may not cause too much of a stir at Chevrolet, both the Cobalt SS sedan and HHR SS panel van were potent vehicles that also had an old-school sleeper image. The Cobalt SS coupe and HHR SS wagon will soldier on, but it's not clear yet as for how much longer. Both cars feature a 260-horsepower turbocharged inline-4 under the hood and provide surprising acceleration, handling and performance from such a small package. GM claims that the HHR SS can run around the NÃ¼rburgring Nordschleife in a blistering 8 minutes and 43 seconds. Just this week, we compared the HHR SS against its main rival, the Caliber SRT4, and chose the HHR SS as a clear winner. As for the Impala SS, the 303-horsepower 5.3-liter V-8 model will be dropped for the 2010 model year leaving the 224-horsepower 3.9-liter V-6 Impala LTZ as the new top of the line offering.
For Cadillac, the XLR-V was already doomed following the announcement that the entire Corvette-based XLR line would be discontinued at the end of the 2009 model year, but the loss of the STS-V is aimed at increasing the popularity of the smaller, faster CTS-V. The supercharged STS-V offered an impressive 469 horsepower but was underpowered and overpriced against the 556-horsepower CTS-V. In addition to the Cobalt SS coupe and HHR SS wagon, the remaining HPVO-tuned vehicle that will survive the cuts is the Cadillac CTS-V. The starting price of the 2009 CTS-V is $60,700, while the STS-V starts at $84,320 and the XLR-V starts at $106,055. Besides its price point, another reason for the demise of Cadillac's drop top coupe is that the XLR and XLR-V may have been cannibalizing the Corvette's sales.
GM's performance credibility won't be completely lost, however, seeing as how some of the most powerful GM vehicles weren't even created under HPVO. Vehicles such as the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and Chevrolet Camaro SS were all developed as a part of their regular design process so these vehicles will live on. With the discontinuation of the XLR, the 638-horsepower Corvette ZR1 is now not only the most powerful GM vehicle, but it is also the most expensive with a starting price of $104,920. Compared to the ZR1, the 426-horsepower Camaro SS seems like a relative bargain starting at just $31,040.