Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Driving Dead: 2014 Chevrolet Captiva LT2

Zombies. Back from the grave, they roam among us. Don't believe me? Then you don't know about the Captiva.

I'm not surprised. It's not like there's ever been an ear-worm of a Captiva jingle by (insert asshat pop artist here) proliferating your prime time TV watching. There are no annoying, animated ads flashing a speeding Captiva in front of your face as you stream obscure indies and cat videos, either. Why? Because Chevy won't sell you one, regardless of how strongly you profess your love of the bland and mundane to them.

Where do they come from, you didn't ask? Back in 2008, GM's Saturn brand had just introduced a second generation of the Saturn Vue CUV. Betraying Saturn's roots of producing sub-par, all-American vehicles, the new Vue was a German-designed, South-Korean-built car sold in Europe as the Opel Antara. If that didn't make sense to you, go get your passport renewed and read it again. In GM's 2009 Government-ordered recession re-org, the Saturn brand got the axe, along with Pontiac, Saab, and Hummer. The one-year-old new Vue was dead. Or so it seemed.

While struggling through those hard times, GM had just introduced a second generation Chevy Equinox and its first-gen stablemate, the GMC Terrain, for 2010. But their tightened belt wouldn't allow them to produce enough of those to satisfy both consumer and rental fleet demand.

Without releasing engineered viruses or insidious biotoxins upon the population, GM conjured a captivating plan: Zombies. Breathing life back into dead Vues through golden bow tie badges and a new moniker, the Captiva arose. Sold exclusively to rental fleets, the only way you can own one is to buy one at the end of its tour of duty at Enterprise, and the like. But you'd only want to do that under certain circumstances. Read on, please.

The Captiva, thankfully, runs on gas. Not brains.

There's not much to discuss, in terms of style and driving experience. This low-level sample, with minimal equipment and lethargic four cylinder truly did the undead justice. From a design perspective, its beigeness makes it virtually invisible, which is good if you're on the lam. The best I can say is that the layout is completely logical, and it does handle very well. It's not uncomfortable and size-wise it's bigger than it looks - ostensibly every bit the size of a Chevy you CAN buy, the Equinox.

At worst it's painfully sluggish at low speed. Heave the giant, heavy steering wheel around in a parking lot as you stab at the accelerator for signs of life under the hood and you'll agree. Things eased up on flat Illinois highways, but you have to constantly remind this car to move. The high beltline and slab sides make backing into a parking space challenging, as well.

There are better-equipped 2011 and 2012 examples out there, in top LTZ trim. I hear these models have a capable V-6 and a good equipment list. Given that the Antara is still produced in Europe, and the Captiva has been selling in Central and South America for some years, buying a used Captiva LTZ won't leave you hunting for spare parts like some other departed GM unicorns (Pontiac G6). For that matter, you could also shop used '09 Saturn Vue V-6's and Redlines. But the 4-cylinder models are just utilities, best reserved for those who want solid A-to-B, and can probably be had for an attractive price on the used market, due to their complete anonymity and guaranteed zero resale value.

If there's such a thing as a hot zombie, Chevy has one in the works. Just when Pontiac finally got a car worthy of its "Excitement Division" title, the axe swung and the awesome G8 got its wings. But it's back, in two forms, as the Caprice PPV (police use only) and the upcoming SS sport sedan. The latter is a V-8, rear-drive badass that unfortunately lost a ton of visual appeal during its resurrection.

If you are captured by a Captiva at the rental lot, don't be afraid. You won't need Rick, Daryl, or Michonne to bail you out. No need to sever your own limb if ever scratched by a loose piece of trim or quarantine your children upon arrival at your hotel. This zombie is toothless and harmless.

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