The most surprising thing about the all-new 2014 Chevrolet SS isn’t any particular facet or feature of the car itself. Rather, it’s that General Motors built the car at all.
The Australian-built SS is the production version of the car that Chevrolet races in NASCAR. It’s also the first rear-wheel-drive performance sedan Chevrolet has sold in the United States since 1996.
Based on so-called Zeta platform also used on the current-generation Camaro and the Aussie Holden VF Commodore, the SS will be instantly familiar to fans of the late, lamented Pontiac G8, with power coming from a Gen IV Chevrolet LS3 engine similar to the ones used in the Chevrolet Camaro SS and 2013 Corvette.
The SS is big, reasonably nimble and quick and very, very comfortable. It’s also a limited edition vehicle with minimal options. There are but five colors offered on the SS – Silver Ice Metallic, Red Hot 2, Phantom Black, Heron White and Mystic Green Metallic – and you can have any interior color you want, as long as it’s black.
Base price on this bad boy is $45,770, with a tiny list of options, just a power sunroof for $900, a full-sized spare tire for $500 and some dealer-installed trim geegaws. Considering the base price of a top-of-the-line Chevrolet Impala 2LTZ is $36,715 and a loaded Chevrolet Malibu 2LTZ is $30,775, the SS is pricey, no question about it.
It’s little wonder that among the three Chevrolet sedans, sales volumes are inversely proportional to prices: Through April, the latest month for which sales data was available at press time, Chevrolet had sold 68,080 Malibus during calendar 2014, vs. 50,773 Impalas and just 1,148 SS models. Even the Chevy Volt outsells the SS by a margin of almost 5-to-1.
As noted, with such limited sales volumes, it’s a little surprising that Chevrolet and General Motors even committed the resources to build this car in the first place – especially since they could have simply continued to use the Impala nameplate in NASCAR.
With that caveat in mind, the SS is a very, very good sedan.
When I opened the door to our silver-over-black test car and sat down in the plush interior, my first thought was, “four-door Camaro with a much nicer interior.”
And as a former Camaro owner, this car makes an awful lot of sense. Certainly, the four-door SS isn’t as dead sexy as the sleek Camaro is, but unlike the Camaro, you can actually put live human beings in the back seat and you have excellent visibility at all four corners.
The big leather-covered bucket seats were roomy and comfortable, and the standard equipment list is indeed impressive:
- Color, in-dashboard touch screen that supports Chevrolet MyLink and the standard GPS-based navigation system Audio system with navigation – including SiriusXM radio (with 12-month trial)
- Bose 220-watt, nine-speaker premium sound system
- Color head-up display and color driver information center
- Dual-zone automatic climate control
- Alloy pedal covers
- Heated and ventilated front seats
- Leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel
- Keyless access and push-button start
- Remote start.
Although I’m not a huge fan of all-black interiors, the SS has enough subtle contrasts – a little bit of red stitching here and there does wonders – to keep the interior from being too dull and monochromatic. Make no mistake about it, this is an attractive, comfortable and functional interior that will easily swallow four or five adults.
From an ergonomic standpoint, the SS dashboard is far more intuitive and logically designed than the one found on the old Pontiac G8.
Wisely, Chevrolet made sure there were plenty of go-fast goodies. The Gen-IV LS3 powerplant is a wonderfully smooth and torque engine that provides plenty of power and a pleasing exhaust note at most any speed. The only transmission choice is a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
Massive 14-inch Brembo four-wheel disc brakes are standard, as are four-wheel independent suspension and big, fat Bridgestone ultra-high-performance tires on 19-inch alloy wheels. Chevrolet says the SS has a nearly 50-50 distribution of weight and a low center of gravity.
As noted, the SS has the same engine as the Camaro SS and, given that the two share similar architecture, it’s little surprise that the feel very similar on the road. Chevy claims 0-to-60 miles per hour acceleration of just 5 seconds flat for the SS, but like the Camaro, subjectively the SS doesn’t feel quite as fast as its objective performance data would suggest.
Predictably, road noise is higher in the SS than in an Impala and the ride is a little rougher, too. But the SS is light-years ahead on performance.
All told, the SS is fun to drive, powerful and roomy. The execution is spot on and it does what it’s designed to do exceptionally well. And if what you really want and need is a four-door Camaro, it’s damned near perfect.
VEHICLE TYPE: Five-passenger, four-door sedan, rear-wheel drive.
ENGINE: 6.2-Liter V-8, 415 horsepower, 415 pound-feet of torque.
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 114.8 inches.
OVERALL LENGTH: 195.5 inches.
CURB WEIGHT: 3,975 pounds.
EPA MILEAGE RATING: 14 city, 21 highway.Cars, Chevrolet