The leaves haven’t even changed on the trees yet and I’m already thinking about next summer’s vacation. That’s because if we want to go to Chevrolet’s Owners Appreciation days at Hershey Park in August, we have put it on the calendar early. Because as much of a thrill as the SuperDooperLooper might be, leaving rubber tire marks on a race track gets your adrenaline pumping for hours. Hours.
Free Rides, and If You’re Lucky, Free Tickets
Every summer, Chevrolet brings a fleet of vehicles to Hershey to celebrate its owners and showcase its new models. Chevrolet gives away a number of tickets to owners and Pennsylvania-area dealers, but the test track drive and in-park Chevy events are open to all park guests. Knowing this, people get to the park early and line up to take test drives around a track filled with slaloms, hairpins and obstacles, all outlined by white lines and orange cones.
And pretty much, there’s only one rule: Have fun. Drivers can drive as fast or slow as they like and test as many models as they want; from the Cruze diesel to the Spark, Sonic, Volt, Impala, Malibu and Silverado, Chevrolet brought in several of each model so there wasn’t much of a wait to take a drive. Then, once we’d driven one or more of these cars, we were invited to walk over to the Camaro tent and put its 400+ horsepower to the test. As much as we wanted—we just had to go to the back of the line each time; well worth it.
I attended this year’s event as a guest of Chevrolet. Not that they needed to twist my arm; it’s a rare chance to drive a track like the pros do all the time.
Even as we approached the track I got a whiff of what was ahead; gunning engines and squealing tires could be heard from across the park, and at the entrance to the Chevrolet drive area families were lining up to get into the cars. I started with the Sonic. A Chevy product specialist joined me in the passenger’s seat and schooled me on the car’s basics, then away we went, testing the car’s pep on a straight-away, around curves and through tight turns. Pretty sweet.
The Roar—and Lure—of the Test Track
Then, I took a turn in a slightly larger car, the Cruze. I’d been curious about the Cruze for a while; I’ve seen it around town, a stealth little work horse that Chevrolet has just introduced with a diesel option, making it all the more appealing. A zip around the course showed it’s not shy when you punch the gas and it holds its own on the curves.
But as I eyed the rest of the lineup, I noticed my husband and daughters climbing out of a Camaro, the kids looking longingly at the main gates to Hershey Park. While riding in the cars was fun, for them, the lure of roller coasters was greater. It was time for them to go.
Adrenaline Junkie Alert: The Camaro Delivers
I sent them on and got in line for the Camaro; first I tried the manual transmission. As I stood in line I heard several guys talking about its tight clutch. Apparently, they’d popped it and stalled out as they approached the track. That made me feel better; if that happened to me (which is completely NORMAL the first time you hop into a car you’re not familiar with!) I wouldn’t feel so self conscious.
Soon, it was my turn. Settling into the Camaro’s driver’s seat was like being 19 again, with all the thrills and none of the drama. I put the car into gear and eased it onto the track; I could feel its power rumbling, its steering wheel tight and comfortable. Not the Camaro I remember from my teen years (those rumbled with the sound of loose parts and shaky door panels), this ride was all you might hope for: tight, fast and fun. So much fun I had to try out the automatic, too. Just to compare. And the automatic didn’t disappoint, either.
Non-Horsepower Thrills, Too
But then the guilt kicked in: I had to join my family for some non-driving thrills. I made my way through the park–dotted with Chevy displays and giveaway signups— to a tented area near the water park. My husband, who’d waited in line and at the exit of three roller coasters so far decided it was time for a break. The Chevrolet tent was perfect, if for only one reason: air conditioning. But they also stocked it with free sodas and popcorn, a magician, games and of course, cars on display. The tent was open to the entire park-going public and offered a great place to get a drink, cool off from the heat and perhaps even take a seat in one of the models on display. Which we did. Or rather, we stretched out on the load floor of the Traverse and watched the very funny magic show.
Ok, so yes, I was Chevrolet’s guest. But really, is there a better time to visit an amusement park than when there are free soft drinks, magic shows, video games and brand new cars to drive on a race track? It’s penciled in for next year.
Disclosure: Chevrolet provided park tickets, meals and our hotel stay; opinions and stories expressed here are all our own.