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Take a Spin in The New Camaro (With GM's President)

CNBC's Phil LeBeau and GM President Dan Ammann discuss how General Motors has changed and then hop inside GM's' newest model to test how it handles. And Walter Isaacson, Aspen Institute CEO, shares his thoughts on Mary Barra's leadership.
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Chevy Camaro test drive

May 15, 201503:33
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The rain falling on a Grand Prix race track just a few miles from the headquarters of General Motors didn't dampen the enthusiasm on the face of GM President Dan Ammann as he slid into the driver's seat of the new Chevy Camaro.

"It's really a real big step forward from the previous car," said Ammann as he floored the Camaro on a straightaway before downshifting heading into a sharp right hand turn. "The mass reduction, the agility, the stiffness of the body structure will all contribute to a car that really handles wonderful."

The Camaro may be a niche model in a market where roughly 17 million vehicles will be sold, but this new edition of the sports car is a big deal for GM. Next to the Corvette, the Camaro is the most iconic model in the GM lineup, and Ammann believes it has the power to make people look at and, for some, bring them into Chevy showrooms when it rolls out later this year.

"The impact that this car has bringing people into the Chevy showroom, it really can't be underestimated," said Ammann.

It is a hugely important car for Chevrolet."

As he accelerated the Camaro out of a turn, I asked Ammann about critics who believe automakers overstate the power of halo cars to draw customers.

The 2016 Camaro, camo-wrapped ahead of its official debut this weekend.Phil LeBeau / CNBC

"No, I disagree with that entirely. It is a hugely important car for Chevrolet," he said

Ammann spent his career on Wall Street before joining General Motors. Despite working as CFO before moving into his current position, Ammann wants to make sure he fully appreciates the cars, trucks and SUVs that GM is selling.

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So he's become certified to test drive vehicles while they are in development. It's not unusual to see him, or other GM executives, such as product development chief Mark Reuss, at the GM proving ground in Milford, Michigan.

"We do a lot of testing; senior executives are all heavily engaged in the development process. It is very important that we get our points of view engaged in the vehicle throughout development," he said.

So what was it like being in the new Camaro as Ammann pushed it to speeds topping 100 miles per hour?

The agility of this sixth-generation Camaro can be felt with every turn. And yes, it does feel tighter than the current Camaro.

As for the sound of the Camaro cranking out 340 horsepower from a V6 engine? That never got old throughout the drive.

And just think ... I wasn't even driving it.