Except it wasn’t. I can’t remember the exact numbers now and they don’t really matter. What I do remember is not being able to get within two or three-tenths of Chevrolet’s claim for the car, and we’d brought our heavy but accurate Datron timing equipment in the boot of the BMW, so there was no doubting the data. I tried again and again, the photographer sitting next to me as ballast, for once not enjoying his role as passenger quite so much. But still, the numbers didn’t come. I must have done 20 standing starts, probably five times as many as I’d do in normal circumstances, but it just wasn’t working. But at least the car was strong: anything else would likely have blown its clutch, gearbox or other driveline components by then.
So I concluded that Chevrolet was being a touch economical with the truth and, to test my theory, I invited the chief test driver to try and replicate his claimed numbers. It was only then I discovered they did their tests with only the driver on board, saving the 75kg of passenger or ballast we always carried. But that couldn’t account for it all.
But he duly smoked off in the car and when he came back, the numbers spewing out of the machine needed no interpretation: they were exactly what the company had claimed. I couldn’t believe my eyes, so much so I insisted he did it again, but with me on board. ‘Sure,’ he replied.
He squealed off the line just as I had, but when that gearchange came I couldn’t believe what he did next. Or didn’t do. He didn’t lift. Leaving his right foot nailed to the bulkhead and dipping the clutch only long enough to make it disengage first, he wrenched the gear lever back, forcing it into second while the engine repeatedly headbutted the limiter. I’d always wondered what powershifting was, and now I knew.
And I also knew that when I had thought that car was strong, I hadn’t known the half of it. How that transmission put up with the treatment I’ll never know. But that’s how they got their numbers. But it did leave me with a dilemma. Did we print our figures in the knowledge they did not reflect the car’s ultimate capability, or did I re-run the test Chevy-style and get a set of numbers that would look fabulous on the page, not least because they’d probably show the car outperforming Ferrari’s flagship. What do you think? We ran with the slower numbers because to do anything else would be to confer an unfair advantage on the car not enjoyed by any other we’d tested, all of which were evaluated within strict testing protocols including having two people on board. And taking your foot off the bloody throttle while changing gear…