Monday, June 9, 2014


The new Chevy’s SS, is a classic V-8, rear-drive performance model for enthusiasts needing more doors, seat space, and trunk room than offered by the Camaro and Corvette. Built in Australia and based on similar underpinnings used for the GM’s previous thunder from Down Under, the beloved Pontiac G8, the SS is convincing evidence that bailing GM out of its 2009 bankruptcy was a shrewd move.

Like the architecturally similar Camaro, the SS has unibody construction supported by front struts and a multilink rear suspension. The SS’s 114.8-inch wheelbase is 2.5 inches longer than the Camaro’s and 3.7 inches shorter than that of the Caprice PPV cop cruiser. Thanks to reasonably tidy overhangs, a reverse-kinked quarter-window, and impressive design restraint, Chevy’s performance flagship convincingly mimics the BMW 5-series Pontiac targeted with the G8 just before that brand slipped into the abyss.

Just like the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in which SS-badged sleds compete, there’s a V-8 under the hood that borders on bawdy. It burbles at idle, howls to its 6000-rpm redline, and revs to its 6600-rpm fuel cutoff in spite of the pushrods that operate two large valves per cylinder. Because the SS is powered by an LS3 V-8 instead of the Corvette’s new LT1 engine, GM’s newer technologies—variable cam timing, direct fuel injection, and cylinder shutdown—don’t live here. As a result, the EPA brands the SS a gas guzzler and adds a $1300 tax to the $44,470 window sticker.

Actually, that’s a modest stipend considering the acceleration packed into this family hauler. Thanks to its relatively svelte 3931-pound curb weight, sticky Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires, and easy-to-launch six-speed automatic transmission, the 415-hp SS sprints to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds at 111 mph. That’s comparable to the times of the quickest stick-shift Camaros we’ve tested and only half a second or so behind the illustrious C7 Corvette. It would be interesting to see if a manual transmission might help the SS’s drag-race potential, but that alternative is not a part of this low-volume programTake solace in the knowledge that the SS handles like a Camaro on pain meds. The Bridgestones hug the earth to the tune of 0.95 g, body roll is nicely restrained, and there’s just a touch of understeer at the adhesion limit. Thanks to dampers that might have been pilfered from a BMW factory, the SS never falls apart over imperfect pavement. It jogs with a supple stride and, except for tread noise over patches and expansion joints, is a model of refined comportment. The body structure is solid and rattle-free, and the electrically assisted power steering is calibrated for quick turn-in and a linear rise in effort. The 153-foot fade-free stopping distance from 70 mph is only two-thirds of a car length greater than the best C7 Corvette performance we’ve measured.

In past Chevrolet instances, as soon as the focus shifted from go, stop, and turn, our enthusiasm often faded. The SS is an exception to that rule. The heated and ventilated front seats are appropriately bolstered to combine ample grip with a thorough range of rake and backrest adjustment. There’s a proper dead pedal, and the plastic shift paddles are ribbed for a satisfying feel. The mix of perforated leather, gray suede, red stitching, and minimal hard plastics wouldn’t be uncouth in a Cadillac. The polished-aluminum center stack and steering-wheel accents are the only touches that strike us as over the top. Also, it’s a pity the SS missed out on the rising touch screen that reveals a secret storage cubby in some other Chevy sedans.

The Chevy MyLink center stack includes an eight-inch touch screen, OnStar communications, navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port, satellite radio, and a nine-speaker Bose sound system as standard fare. A handy head-up display shows engine rpm, car speed, compass heading, lateral acceleration, or ambient temperature. This is the first bow-tie model to provide automatic parking assist. The list of safety gear includes a backup camera; front, rear, and side traffic alerts; and lane-departure warning. Brembo fixed-caliper front brakes, coolers for the engine and transmission, forged aluminum wheels, and a limited-slip differential are also standard.
A few thousand SSs will neither make nor break GM or Chevrolet, but considering its amiable, well-rounded personality, we’re glad the General went to the bother of importing this sports sedan. If we’re really lucky, there will someday be a successor with an LT1 and a manual transmission

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